Archive for January, 2012

Hate is all you need…

Meet The BeatAndrew Bolland, New Business Manager, Stop Hate UK

When it comes to police work it’s important to recognise that much of our success can be attributed to the fact that we work closely with other agencies. The fire and ambulance services, social services and the council are obvious examples, although equally as important are the many independent charities that we work alongside each day.

I’m keen to use these ‘Meet The Beat’ interviews to not only introduce people from different roles in the police, but also to show the range of other groups that we engage with, in order to show that addressing crime is a group effort.

Stop Hate UK is one of the charities that help support our ambition to fight hate crimes by providing education on the matter and offering victims support when it comes to reporting hate crimes. In this interview I speak to Andy Bolland, New Business Manager for Stop Hate UK, about the service that they offer.

Andrew Bolland

Okay Andy, you’re the first person I’ve interviewed for a Meet The Beat interview who’s not ‘in the job’ so to speak – can you tell us a little about your background?

I have lived in West Yorkshire Yorkshire all my life and started work for Rolls Royce Plc as an apprentice engineer too many years ago to mention. This was in the days when use of inappropriate language was fairly typical and I look back now realising how inappropriate this “banter” was and how it must have caused real offence to the people who were subjected to such behaviour.

Since then I have worked for Victim Support, West Yorkshire Police and now Stop Hate UK. In all these rolls my main aim was providing support to victims and witnesses of crimes to ensure that their journey through the criminal justice system was as good as good as possible. It is hard to come forward when you are a victim of crime and I feel the least agencies can do is provide effective support to people who take this step.

So you work for Stop Hate UK – can you give us an overview of what your charity aims to do?

The charity’s aim is to raise awareness of Hate Crime, the impact on victims, families and communities and to encourage people to report incidents in order that they can access assistance and support. We provide a free and independent 24 hour Help Line that operates in a number of areas of the country to compliment other local reporting methods e.g. direct to police or via Hate Incident Reporting Centres. The service is available 24 hours per day in a range of accessible formats including Phone, Text, Text-Relay, Web-chat and online Reporting.

We additionally provide training and awareness sessions to a wide range of organisations to increase awareness of Hate Crime. This can be delivered to any organisation to provide understanding that will enable delegates to recognise such incidents and advise victims on there options regarding support and reporting.

What exactly is a hate crime then? Who can be a victim of hate crime?

A Hate Crime is any incident which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hostility based on Race, Religion, Disability, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

Anybody can be a victim of a Hate Crime as everybody can be targeted relative to these Hate Crime strands. People can also be victimised due to their connections to other people or groups, for example a carer for somebody with a disability, may be a victim of a Disability Hate Crime if they are specifically targeted for this relationship.

It is important to realise that Hate Crime is about perception, so victims can feel they have been a victim of Hate Crime regardless of their own identity and personal characteristics.

How can people use your charity to make a report of a hate crime?

People can report incidents 24 hours a day via the methods mentioned earlier. When contacting the service, calls will be assisted by trained operators who deal specifically with Hate Crime. They will receive immediate advice and distance support at the time of reporting. Operators will also discuss options for sharing details of the incident with other agencies such as West Midlands Police and other independent organisations.

If the caller gives consent to share information, Stop Hate UK will pass details to specific contacts in partner agencies who will then be able to investigate the incident and provide ongoing local support. The service is confidential so if callers do not wish information to be shared with other agencies, no personal details will be passed to other agencies.

You have specific reporting services operating in Walsall and Wolverhampton – can you tell us a little more about these?

The Stop Hate Line is mentioned above is provided in a number of areas across the country including Walsall and Wolverhampton. This provides an additional service that compliments other local reporting methods, enabling local agencies to support victims and communities.

Sadly at this moment in time we are not commissioned to provide the service in other areas of the West Midlands, so people wishing to report incidents outside Walsall and Wolverhampton are recommended to report directly to the Police or via other local reporting services. If you would like to consider developing the service within other areas please call Stop Hate UK on 0113 293 5100

Do you think that hate crime is under-reported? If so, what might be the reasons for this?

Whilst it is impossible to state conclusively that Hate Crime is under reported, it is widely recognised that far more incidents occur, than are reported . This under reporting relates to all strands of Hate Crime so is not specific to one reason. Frequent reasons that are identified for under reporting include Lack of awareness of Hate Crime, Fear, Lack of confidence, Feeling isolated, Mistrust of statutory agencies, Victims who have become normalised to certain behaviours, compromising peoples privacy, cultural issues, communication difficulties and simply not knowing how or where to report.

The picture is not all bad, whilst under reporting exists over 52,000 incidents were reported to police in the last available statistics, a higher level of reporting than in many comparable counties…we need to do more though and through services such as Stop hate Line we aim to increase peoples options regarding reporting.

How can people help Stop Hate UK? Are you looking for volunteers?

People can help Stop Hate UK in many ways. First and foremost when you come across Hate Crime report it…this can be anything from Graffiti to witnessing assaults. If you can, encourage victims to report incidents and seek support….use the Help Line it is free and confidential and a first step to accessing support. If you are able to promote the service to others please do so, we have a range of free to download posters that can be displayed to raise awareness of our work.

Equally we encourage volunteering within the organisation, particularly for people prepared to give up some of their time to take calls and support others.

You can also become a member of Stop Hate UK to keep up to date with our work and show support for the aims of the organisation. Equally as a charity we always welcome donations of any size that allows us to develop our work. Have a look at our website to find out more or join us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Do you also offer training for people about hate crime? Who do you work with?

We deliver training to a wide range of groups including within schools, statutory agencies, housing providers and community based groups. Whilst we normally have to charge for delivery of training sessions, please fee free to contact me at to discuss your particular needs.

It barks at no one else but me, like it’s seen a ghost…

What does the law say about dangerous dogs such as these?

Over the past few days a story has been developing relating to an unpleasant dog attack that happened last Saturday at a park in Chingford, north-east London. A six year old girl suffered severe injuries during the incident and police appealed for the dog’s owner to come forward. Yesterday he handed himself in and today he has been charged with an offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

In this post I’ll look at what the law says about dogs and the sort of offences police can consider to deal with dangerous animals.

The most common offence we use relating to dangerous dogs as in this example comes from S. 3 of the above Act. It states that a person can be prosecuted if they allow their dog to be ‘dangerously out of control in a public place’.

By ‘dangerously out of control’, the law means that the dog either injures someone or acts in such a way as to make other people worry that it may do so. By ‘public place’, the law means either anywhere where the general public have access or somewhere where the dog is not meant to be.

This means that if your dog is acting in a dangerous manner – jumping up at other people, aggressively barking and snarling etc – you may be liable if it injures anyone or if people feel threatened that they may be injured whilst it is out of your control.

The other key offence that the Act introduced relates to the keeping of fighting dogs – specifically the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and the Fila Brasileiro. These dogs are defined in relation to their characteristics and can not be lawfully kept, bred, sold or abandoned.

Other than the offences under the Dangerous Dogs Act, if it can be shown that someone deliberately used their dog to attack someone – by setting it on them for example – then they are liable to be charged with a serious assault and so to suffer the higher penalties that come with it.

Dog attacks are not uncommon and whilst most are not as serious as the case in Chingford, they should still serve as a valuable reminder to keep proper control of your dog when out in public.

As for what action we’re likely to take on arrival to a reported dangerous dog, the first thing we’ll probably do is to nervously call over the radio “Er… have we got a dog unit nearby?” so that someone trained in safely handling dogs can come over and bring the beast back under control. We’ll then establish the exact circumstances to decide whether we have any offences and if so, how best to deal with them.

You can find further information on dangerous dogs over at the Defra website including some interesting facts on how many postmen get their ankles bitten by dogs each year. You may be surprised!

Everybody was Kung Fu fighting…

A Day In The LifeParading at Walsall Police Station, Friday January 20th 2012, Tour of Duty – 08:30 to 15:30

Once every year all front line police officers are required to attend a ‘Personal Safety Training’ (PST) course to refresh their skills in restraint of prisoners, use of handcuffs, CS spray, batons and the like. Many officers refer to the course as ‘ninja training ‘ and having been a year since I last did a PST course, today was my turn.

First of all for any of you smarty pants readers, the courses are staggered throughout the year so that you don’t get all eight thousand West Midlands officers descending on the gym at Walsall at the same time. That cleared up, what does a PST refresher involve?

The course is two days long and prior to attending we have to complete an online learning package to go over the legal aspects associated with using force. The laws allowing us to use force where necessary and the force policies are then interwoven with the practical exercises over the course itself.

Starting off in the morning – after we’ve drunken some tea – we will have just about got used to the sight of each other wearing tracksuits when we do a few warm up exercises which involve walking in circles, waving our arms and then doing both at the same time.

Sufficiently warmed up/dizzy, we then looked at the correct application of handcuffs. This involved me experiencing a rather skillful ‘take down’ from my partner and hearing the ratchet sound of the cuffs as they locked around my wrists. It’s always a bit of an odd feeling being on the other end of the cuffs but it was a useful reminder of how they feel for when I go back to putting them on other people.

We then start a consolidation exercise building on the inputs from the previous day which involved being given foam batons, training CS canisters filled with water and then being attacked by an aggressor armed with a martial arts pad and a mean attitude. I yelled “GET BACK, STAY BACK”, he didn’t and so I gave a quick burst from my ‘CS’ and then delivered a baton strike to his leg, allowing me then to handcuff him and bring him under control.

Lunch follows and then in the afternoon we spent some time looking at how we can encourage people out of motor vehicles when they’re not keen on joining us on the roadside for a chat. We also did exercises involving ‘cell extractions’ – how to safely put people into or remove people from custody cells – and then we spent some time on searching skills.

The point of the training isn’t so much to teach us how to do things as skills like handcuffing we do all the time, nor is it carried out with the aim that we’ll use every technique we’re shown. Rather it helps ensure that we’re able to use our kit in a safe and effective manner and that should we need it, we have something to fall back on to protect ourselves.

As the trainers say, they give us a ‘box of tools’ which we can pick from as we see necessary. Many of the techniques, especially those involving batons and CS, we hope we never need – I’ve never used either of mine – and it’s quite rightly stressed that the best PST skill of all is talking your way out of a situation.

The day finished with the authorisation cards allowing us to carry our batons and CS being handed out and with this done, we are able to leave the gym and admire the red marks lefts on our wrists by the cuffs!

Cool for cats…

121 cats stolen last year after being left to defrost. Don't risk it!

Each and every winter in the West Midlands a series of entirely preventable crimes take place. These crimes leave the victims distressed, without any source of comfort and often without the compensation offered by their insurance policies.

I am of course writing about the large number of cats that are stolen after they’ve been left to defrost on icy mornings.

Now we all know that after even a light frost the average moggy’s fur will become far too iced for it to be used safely.

We also know that a blast of cold air always hits you when you leave the house, you’ve not had your breakfast and the last thing you want to do is spend precious time chipping away at your cat with an ice scraper*.

What do you do? You turn your cat’s heating up on full blast, give him a quick squirt of deicer and head back into the house to gobble down a nice bit of toast. Toast that doesn’t have Marmite on it because it’s horrible and no one likes it.

This is okay because you live on a nice street, there’s never been any crime in your area and anyway, what are the chances of someone walking by, noticing the cat is running and nick it? Pretty slight?

Unfortunately not. Last year in the West Midlands between October and March 121 cats of all breeds were stolen under exactly these circumstances. It’s a big problem and what’s more, it’s so easily preventable.

Your cat is precious to you, you need him or her to go about your daily business and it’s an embarrassing phone call to make to your boss to explain that you can’t make it in today because your cat’s been stolen.

It’s also likely to be a fairly fruitless call that you’re then going to make to the insurer of your cat. “Left him to defrost, did we?” they’ll ask – “I’m afraid that means the policy is voided, sorry”.

Whilst it’s inconvenient – not to mention cold – many of last year’s victims would tell you that sitting with your cat for ten minutes whilst he defrosts is a small price to pay for not having him nicked. Sure he gets all icy, and probably pretty grumpy too, but this is no reason to abandon him to the criminals. Go on, spoil their day by not giving them an easy ride!

* This is clearly not a recommended method for deicing a cat.

On a serious note, it was actually 121 cars that were taken over the same period last year after being left to defrost. Don’t risk it!

With a little help from my friends…

West Midlands Fire Service - one of the many organisations seeing the benefit of social media

Yesterday I was lucky enough to have been invited to be a keynote speaker at an event arranged by Neil Griffiths and hosted by Simon Barry at Walsall Fire Station.

The aim of the session was to help show senior staff from around West Midlands Fire Service of the benefits of using social media to communicate with the public. I had been asked to speak about how we’ve been successful in West Midlands Police using social media to keep people informed about what we’re doing.

This isn’t to say that the fire service are not already using social media to good effect – several stations have their own twitter feeds on which information about incidents is published and there are many staff operating accounts too. Oldbury Fire Station is a good example, as is the station in Erdington and their official twitter stream, @WestMidsFire.

In planning my presentation, the reflection on how we are using social media I found very useful in summing up how it has benefited us and how, given the right approach, it can help further the aims of any organisation willing to embrace it.

I’d talked about how we use it and gave some examples of what sort of accounts we have operational. Twitter was a given, also mentioned were our accounts on YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, our blogs and even some presence on Google+.

We’ve used social media to promote initiatives, give information of major incidents, make appeals and much more. As for who uses it, we have officers from PCSOs and police staff right the way up to the Deputy Chief Constable signing up to Twitter and writing blogs, and also a range of accounts for specialist departments such as the helicopter.

I’d discussed the uptake of social media by forces around the country (over six hundred officers and rising, not to mention corporate accounts) and how successful our Twitter streams had been in terms of public response and recognition in national competitions.

As some of the commanders were new to social media, we also discussed some concerns over the medium – that updates might be taken out of context or accounts used unprofessionally and hopefully made some progress with regards to offering assurance that the capability of social media for positive benefit far outweighs any potential negatives.

I think that the meeting took place at all demonstrated the power of social media for communication and bringing people closer together as my only contact with both Neil and Simon beforehand had been through our Twitter accounts.

I’m hopeful that I’d been able to influence those present that further embracing social media could be of a real advantage to organisations such as the fire service and want to thank both Neil and Simon, as well as the delegates themselves for being so open minded.

I think any feedback about how organisations like the fire service could use social media would be very useful. Would you, for example, like to see more fire stations or firefighters using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to communicate? What sort of content would you be interested in and what do you think you’d find useful?

Please feel free to leave any suggestions as a comment on this blog post or instead, contact directly via Twitter either Neil or Simon and give them your views.

People help the people…

Above is a short video relating to the investigation into the double murder of Avtar Kolar and Carole Kolar in Handsworth Wood on Wednesday January 11th.

As has been stated in the press release issued recently, a large team of detectives are working on the case and are keen to hear from anyone who spoke to or heard from the couple at any point after 19:15 on Tuesday the 10th, or were in the area at the time.

Detailed forensic analysis is currently being conducted at the crime scene and a postmortem due to take place to establish the exact cause of death.

Anyone with information that could assist the enquiry is asked to call Force CID in Birmingham by calling the new non-emergency telephone number, 101, and asking for officers working on Operation Tiler, or by calling the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Thoughts are with the family at this very difficult time.

It was twenty years ago today, Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play…

Meet The BeatSergeant John De-Hayes, Walsall Police Station, Walsall LPU

In this Meet The Beat feature I put some questions to another of West Midlands Police’s social media ‘superstars’, response supervisor Sgt. De-Hayes.

If you’re interested in what he has to say, please check out his regularly updated Twitter feed.

Sergeant De-Hayes

How long have you been in the job and what have you done before you joined your current role?

I joined Leicestershire Constabulary in 1993 and after three years on the streets I moved into CID, where I remained for six years. I then transferred to West Midlands Police in 2002. I was posted to Walsall and apart from a year long stint at Lloyd House (WMP HQ), I’ve been here ever since.

Why did you join the police? What had you done before joining?

Before I joined the police, I did quite a few different jobs, amongst which were working for a finance company, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and the DSS (as it was then).

I joined the police to get away from the grind of a 9-5 job and to get some proper job satisfaction. I think it’s safe to say I’ve managed that. The experiences I had in those other careers has proved invaluable during my service.

Tell us about your current role, where do you work, what do you do and what does the work involve?

My current role is as a Response Team sergeant. I’ve been a sergeant since 2004, during which I’ve been posted to the custody block as a custody sergeant and I also did a stint as the Licensing Sergeant for the borough of Walsall. Now, along with a number of colleagues, I am responsible for the support and deployment of one of the five response teams based at Walsall.

On a daily basis, I make sure that sufficient officers are deployed to manage the calls for service that we receive. I also ensure that incidents are managed properly, either by going there myself (which is my preferred method) or by speaking to officers on the radio. Although I’m a supervisor, it doesn’t stop me going out and getting involved in jobs and in the last few weeks I’ve had cause to exercise my power of arrest on a number of occasions!

I’m based at Walsall, but our team covers the whole of the borough. Just because some of our stations are closed to the public at certain times doesn’t mean there aren’t officers out there on patrol. Part of my job is to make sure we’re covering the priority areas, where crimes have been committed or there has been an increase in antisocial behaviour for example.

As well as looking after my team, I have to manage their allocated crime reports to ensure they are investigated promptly. This would be a lot easier if we had the right software, as the current process is very time-consuming and inefficient.

I’m also a public order trained officer, so that means I get to supervise officers deployed to things such as football matches, demonstrations and large public events. During the recent riots in Birmingham, I was in the firing line, having been in two vehicles that were attacked by angry mobs. I don’t think it was anything personal!

When I’m not doing all that and the other stuff we have to do, I’m also a representative for the Police Federation, which is the staff association for all police officers below the rank of superintendent. As a local rep, I help officers with welfare and discipline issues, as well as meet with the senior management team to discuss issues that affect our members. It’s been a very busy few months as we have been active in trying to lobby the government to reconsider their plans for police reform. The Police Federation have been very proactive, suggesting alternative cost cutting measures that don’t reduce the number of officers in forces.

Let’s talk paperwork and files – is it proportionate to the work we do or do you think some of it is unnecessary?

Paperwork is a constant thorn in our side. When I first joined, a prosecution file for a simple case consisted of about five sheets of paper. Over the years, despite the promises that bureaucracy has been cut out, the size of files has increased.

A lot of stuff is now done electronically, but the problem is that our different systems don’t talk to each other, so there is a lot of duplicated data entry. There is a lot of unnecessary administrative work that police officers do, which could be resolved with better IT solutions.

I know there are plans to make our crime recording system virtually paper-free, but this will have a huge impact on some officers who don’t feel comfortable unless they’ve got a clipboard under their arm as they walk around the station.

There are much better ways to record everything we do, rather than commit it to paper. Unfortunately, a change in system always costs money and there isn’t much of it about these days.

What would you say has been the most memorable thing you’ve done or been involved with since you joined the police?

Over the years I’ve been involved in a lot of interesting jobs. The most satisfying was when I worked in a major incident room trying to trace a man responsible for a series of rapes up and down the country. A lot of legwork and months of effort resulted in the suspect being arrested and subsequently convicted.

The problem with police work is that most of the time, we get to see people when they are at the lowest point in their life. Either as a victim or an offender. Very few people are pleased to have us turn up on the doorstep, as it either means something bad has happened or they are about to take a little drive with us.

What does help is knowing that the vast majority of the public support what we do and are pleased to see us out and about. Twitter has been a real eye-opener for me, especially during the riots. The messages of support from all quarters were very welcome and made me realise that there is a huge section of the population that silently support our work and want to appreciate the difficulties that we face sometimes.

The police stereotype is that we all love doughnuts and coffee – is it true?

You’ve asked about doughnuts – I have to say that on my team, there is a bit of a cake culture! We have some very talented pastry chefs and cake makers on my team and it is rare that we have a briefing without some form of sweet confection on offer. It’s a little morale-booster and in moderation, does no harm at all.

In my opinion, the ethos of police officers has changed dramatically since I joined. Officers are now more aware of their physical health and a lot are involved in sporting activities to keep fit. Our team play six a side football whenever we can and I can occasionally be seen on a cycle outside work hours.

Have you ever done any of the following – foot chase across rooftops, driven through a pile of cardboard boxes down a narrow alley, had a rough shift with a partner who only had one day until retirement?

I’ve never run over rooftops, but I did once do a night shift with a dog handler and ended up chasing two burglars through woods for about four hours. We didn’t catch up with them, but as we drove back to the station to finish, we saw two very wet and bedraggled men walking away from where we’d been searching. They had been sitting in a pond for ages to avoid detection and thought it was safe to come out. I’m not sure whether they just gave themselves up so that they could have a lift out of the woods and into a warm dry cell!

Disappointingly, no-one ever seems to leave boxes in any of the alleys I drive down. I think the increase in awareness of recycling may have something to do with it. I was posted to a small market town in Leicestershire that had a very narrow alley running between two of the main streets. It was a standing challenge for all new officers to drive a patrol car through the lane without scraping the wing mirrors. I passed the test, but then the force changed our patrol cars from Fiestas to Escorts, which are a bit wider. You can guess the rest!

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