Posts Tagged 'YouTube'

Words we never use…

Chief Superintendent Rachel Jones 8443.

An open letter from Birmingham North Police Commander Rachel Jones.

No-one can fail to have been shocked by media reports this week accusing two Birmingham police officers of inadvertently leaving an abusive voicemail recording on the phone of a domestic abuse sufferer.

I was devastated at hearing the recording, not least for the complainant who I’ve apologised to in person and reassured this will be vigorously investigated, but also for other victims who may, on the back of this, have reservations about reporting abuse to police.

Understandably, accusations like this risk undermining public confidence in the police – but I would seek to reassure members of the public this alleged conduct is quite exceptional and in no way reflects the attitudes of our officers or the force generally.

I’ve worked as a police officer for 18 years and this is one of the most disturbing allegations I have ever encountered.

The shocking words found on the lady’s phone are a slap in the face for the thousands of police officers who serve communities across the West Midlands with professionalism and respect. These are people who signed up to become police officers to protect the public and keep people safe…and they, like me, are appalled at the claims.

I have worked in police Public Protection – the unit that deals with abuse cases – for several years so I appreciate how difficult it can be for sufferers to take a stance and contact police. We need to repay their bravery by offering a caring service that not only offers support and help to break free from abusive relationships but which secures justice against offenders.

In the majority of cases we achieve that. In fact, only last December a domestic abuse victim agreed to take part in a video where she spoke about how a Birmingham North PC helped her and her young child escape a “life of fear” with an aggressive, manipulative partner.

Examples like this illustrate where West Midlands Police officers have helped victims turn their lives around. And they show that, overwhelmingly, domestic abuse victims can trust West Midlands Police to treat them with sensitivity and compassion.

Last year we launched Operation Sentinel, a high-profile campaign aimed at helping women who were suffering at the hands of abusive partners.

It saw a widespread marketing campaign urging victims to “report it to stop it”, promotion of a poem penned by an abuse sufferer, and collaboration with support agencies like Women’s Aid who took part in an online debate with our specially trained domestic abuse officers.

And in Birmingham North we’ve worked hard to significantly increase the number of victim referrals to support groups in order to make counselling and support available.

Our combined efforts are working because more victims now feel empowered to speak out against domestic abuse: we’ve seen a 21 per cent increase in the number of domestic abuse related crimes reported to police.

If victims didn’t have confidence in us to take their complaint seriously, to act with sensitivity and integrity, and to push for prosecutions against perpetrators then we would not be witnessing increased reporting numbers.

We’ve made huge strides over the course of the last few years to develop our working relationships with support groups to encourage victims of domestic abuse to come forward and not to suffer in silence.

I would be devastated if this shocking, isolated episode deters just one victim from reporting abuse to police.

Alongside domestic abuse support agencies we are here to help and I would urge anyone enduring a coercive relationship – be it physical, emotional, psychological or financial abuse – to call us on 101 and we can help them break away.

Rachel Jones – Birmingham North Police Commander

Melody calling…

When Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876, he probably thought it was a neat bit of kit that could be used by folk to call distant relatives with news that they’d brought a new ox, or got a bicycle with a massive front wheel or maybe grown a new moustache.

What he might not have figured was that come 2014, we’d not only be using our telephones to spread the news about ox purchases but also, unfortunately, to con vulnerable people.

The way they work is this – there’ll be a call from someone official, maybe claiming to be a bank employee or a police officer, telling their victim that their bank card has been cloned.

The fraudsters may encourage their victim to phone the police or their bank’s fraud department but will block their phone line meaning when they redial, they unwittingly end up speaking to the same fraudsters again.

Thinking they’re now speaking to someone they can trust, the victim is encouraged to give their personal details and are told that a courier will attend their address to pick up their bank card as ‘evidence’.

Someone claiming to have been sent from the bank or police then turns up and takes the card, after which they make withdrawals now in possession of both the card and the PIN.

It’s a horrible little con and particularly cruel as the victims tend to be older and are being exploited by malicious criminals not caring about the damage they cause.

In reality, neither us police or bank staff would EVER request the disclosure of banking details over the phone and nor do we EVER send couriers round to people’s houses to collect bank cards.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of one of these types of calls, you should end the call immediately and then phone the police straight away, preferably using a different phone if you can.

It’s a con and as ever, if you are suspicious that something isn’t right then hang up and talk to us by dialing 101.

You can find out more about Courier Fraud here and I’d encourage people to spread the word to older relatives to make them aware of the issue so that they know what to do if they are targeted.

Overall, telephones are great for ordering coronary disease-inducing takeaways or telling your friends about your new handlebar moustache and top hat combination.

They’re less great when being used by fraudsters so please alert people to the Courier Fraud scam and help hang up the line on the criminals.

It’s a good call – Alexander Graham Bell would approve!

And just like the movies, we play out our last scene…

Not a common offence but against the law all the same, recording films in the cinema can end people up in court.

Because it’s 2014 and pretty much now the future, nobody is content with experiencing life through the the medium of their boring old eyeballs.

That’s what people have been doing since we crawled out of the sea back in the day, and as this video shows, it’s not the way things are done any more.

The kidz (we spell thingz with a ‘z’ in 2014) much prefer to ‘dual screen’, experiencing things second hand through the relay of their phone camera rather than actually watching what is going on in front of them.

Whilst this may be annoying to musicians performing to an audience of glowing screens held aloft, usually the worst that is likely to happen from paying more attention to your phone than what is going on around you is an unexpected encounter with a lamp post.

An exception though, and one that the Investigation Team dealt with today, is when people sit in the cinema and having ignored the warnings about not using recording devices, decide to do just that and end up getting arrested for trying to bootleg films.

Now it’s not a particularly common thing we deal with but something that cinema staff are increasingly on the lookout for with the knowledge that culprits can be arrested and sent to court for even trying it.

The law we depend on comes from the Fraud Act 2006 (S. 6 if you’re interested) and also, if material is then distributed, some exciting offences under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Whilst I’d like to be able to ‘patrol’ cinemas all day watching films, munching popcorn and keeping my eye out for people trying a spot of ‘camcording’, it’s not something we can really do so we’re dependent on not only cinema staff, but also members of the public being vigilant.

Bootleggers sometimes use cameras disguised as other objects (a tub of popcorn, as an example) and can stitch together images from one performance with audio from another (providing it’s the same film!) so if you see someone with a microphone, it’s a safe bet they’re up to no good.

We’re always keen to know when folk are up to no good so please bare in mind that if you happen to see someone in the cinema recording the film with more than just their eyeballs and their memory, it is a criminal offence and you should let the cinema staff know!

Trust Vs. Mistrust

As a police officer, on an average shift I tend to wear a range of different bits of kit to help assisting me in achieving my daily goal of punching crime on the nose.

Trousers are a given. I have a radio nattering in my ear, a can of CS spray that hasn’t been used once in four years, a torch, a USB stick for downloading CCTV footage, police-issue ‘bracelets’ and a range of other bits and pieces designed to make the job easier.

All in all and including the stab vest that I wear to prevent an anti-social skewering of my organs, the kit weighs about as much as a very small child, a large cat or some other object of equivalent weight to that of my kit.

Now it may seem strange that considering the less than pleasant experience of wearing all of the above on a hot day, I’d be keen to have another gizmo to carry but there is something that I’m keen to be issued that I don’t yet carry.

To quote the Gadget Show, the ‘tech’ I’m interested in is a body worn camera, a subject that I’ve visited before after the story last year about someone wearing an unfashionable pair of Google Glasses witnessing an assault.

Their issue to officers has been in the news again recently in light of the Mark Duggan inquest with the Met suggesting that they’d be worn by their firearms units to help boost transparency.

This can only be a good thing and similar steps have been taken by other forces with Hampshire Constabulary now using them as standard issue and trials of badge type devices being ran in Birmingham and as I understand it, to be extended to other areas of the Midlands too.

I think the feeling amongst many officers is that they’d be supportive of their use as the evidence that they gather is mutually beneficial to both the officers and the public.

For officers, they’d help cut down allegations of misconduct and incivility as interactions would be documented and there’d be no disputing who did what and who said what following incidents.

For the public, they help gather strong, valuable evidence that can be presented to the courts and the benefit of this would likely be fewer not guilty pleas and time saved for both police and the courts accordingly.

Now their introduction wouldn’t be cheap – the bill in Hampshire alone was over quarter of a million pounds – but as an investment considering the potential for future savings and not to mention the public reassurance associated with the transparency that they’d provide, I’m argue that this is worth the cost.

Us officers are proud of the job we do, we want to do that job to the highest quality we can and contrary to what some people might think, the handful of untrustworthy examples brought to light in recent news stories do not represent the other 99% of us.

I’d like to see officers wearing cameras as standard as I know that by doing so, they’d prove what I’ve said above is correct.

P.S. BBC-style disclaimer – Above video used as an example of how the cameras are used only, other brands of camera are available and I’ve no intention of endorsing this camera over any other that is available now, will be available in the future or that could have been brought a hundred years ago when photography was more exciting with hoods and explosive powder.  

I don’t care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree…

Dear Santa,

This year I feel I have been exceptionally well behaved. I have arrested lots of bad guys, I have kept my pocket note book up to date and I’ve even done my best to stick to my ‘fewer doughnuts’ resolution.

As such I hope you don’t mind me sending you a little Christmas list, seeing as I should be on the good list and all?

I’m not asking for a Dreamcast, a Furby or whatever else it is that the kids are wanting this year – what I’m actually asking for is you to do something for me.

I know that each year you zoom around the planet at 1,800 miles per second, diving into people’s homes and distributing presents to all the (good) boys and girls.

What I’d really, really like is that whilst you’re disregarding the flying sleigh speed limits, you take into account the following few requests and help ensure that you make this my jolliest Christmas ever.

Here’s what I’m asking that you do:

  • I know that to make things a little easier on yourself you sometimes leave presents out a little early. Do you think you could put them somewhere out of sight until the big day, just so that no naughty elves walk past and spot them through the window?
  • When you’re nosing around people’s houses for mince pies, carrots and brandy, please check that people’s doors and windows are closed and locked
  • If when you’re up on the rooftops you happen to spot suspicious folk loitering around below, could you give the police a call on 101 and let us know so we can check it out?
  • Should you have time between mince pies, maybe you check out our 12 Days of Christmas website and find out more about festive crime prevention?

Thank you!

(PC) Richard

If you’d call me now, baby, I’d come a running…

Metal theft – give us a call and help us scrap it!

Just a quick one this to say how much difference it can make when you good people (the general public) take the time to pick up the phone and let us people (police types) know when something just ain’t right.

I’ve spent today dealing with a prisoner arrested for metal theft.

It’s a big problem in the Midlands, metal being nicked, and we’re keen to tackle the problem as we know nobody likes their roof leaking when the flashing has been taken, or their train being delayed because some silly sausage has taken the cabling.

My prisoner became a prisoner because a vigilant member of the public had noticed him up on a factory roof acting in a suspicious manner, ducking down when cars went by.

Thinking ‘Holy smokes, something’s awry at the old foundry!’, our goodly member of the public dialled 9 on his phone. Then 9. Then finally 9 once more. 999. My number.

The operator took the details, agreed with him that something wasn’t right and dispatched officers immediately.

As officers happened to be patrolling just around the corner, they arrived literally about two minutes after the call had been made and bumped into a dodgy chap who just happened to be covered in what appeared to be lead. Oh dear, oh dear.

He’s arrested, he’s charged with metal theft shortly afterwards and as I don’t much like letting prisoners go, I ensured that he’s been kept in our dingy cells until court on Monday morning.

Without that initial call, the above might not have happened and the same dodgy chap may well be out and about now causing misery for someone else.

If something doesn’t seem right to you, the best thing you can do is call us either on 999 or on 101 in a non-emergency – you never know how valuable your call could be.

P.S. Apologies that the flow of bloggles has eased off a little recently, it’s been a busy period but will try kick-starting things again after Santa has been!

Tommy, can you hear me?

I’ve written about the Proceeds of Crime Act before (oh yes I have, see here) and as it enables us to strip the bad guys of their ill-gotten white tigers, it’s definitely one of my top five Acts.

The above video illustrates why the powers afforded to us by ‘POCA’ can be so pleasing to use as they let us confiscate large amounts of cash on the spot and apply to the courts to strip criminal assets too.

Rather than being a gangster ducking and diving amongst foggy London Town’s docklands back in the 50s as his name suggests, Tommy Scragg was actually a conman living in leafy Solihull who was convicted of a multi-million pound tax fraud last year.

Officers looking into the fraud noticed Scragg was living way beyond his means and so have been able to get the court’s permission to sell off his stuff to help raise money for local community projects.

If you like the idea of criminals rightly losing all of their assets to the auctioneer’s hammer then it’s worth remembering that many successful seizures take place in the first place because members of the public have let us know something isn’t right about the finances of someone in their area.

Should you live next to someone with no identifiable source of income to explain the Fabergé egg collection you can see in their window then please give us a call, you never know how helpful your information might be!

You can call us on 101 or alternatively, give your information anonymously via Crimestoppers and let us know your suspicions.

Moving on up now…

What’s the process for constables wanting to get their hands on a set of these, other than ‘borrowing’ some off an unattended coat?

As far as police forces go, the Westshire Constabulary is one of the worst around.

Officers from pretty much every other force will agree that particularly when it comes to Westshire’s Sandford Division, their bobbies are some of the laziest in Britain and it comes as no surprise that the public are not happy.

Pretty controversial, no? Well actually, no.

You see, whilst from reading the force’s extensively detailed profile, you may think that you’ve stumbled across England and Wales’ 44th police force, Westshire is actually a completely fictional police force used as part of the police promotion process.

Yes, Jeremy Sarno hasn’t really been the chief constable since 2009, Kristina Metz isn’t the force’s PCC and there aren’t 98,000 people living in West Ferry, which doesn’t exist.

It’s all part of the catchy ‘Objective Structured Performance Related Examination’ (OSPRE) which officers have to pass to qualify for promotion to the ranks of sergeant and inspector.

The examination process is – or at least to date has been – split into two separate stages.

The first is a 150 question, multiple choice law exam lasting three hours and capable of causing even the most prepared officers’ heads to explode right there and then in the examination hall.

This is OSPRE Part I, if successful officers are then able to progress onto Part II which if you’re reading this around mid to late October 2013, officers will be sitting about now.

This was the exam I took last Friday at the College of Policing’s Ryton campus.

With even more head exploding capability than the first stage, Part II involves constables assuming the responsibilities of a sergeant or inspector for five role play scenarios.

Each involves meeting an actor playing a dissatisfied member of the public or an officer with a discipline issue, the candidate has five minutes to resolve the issue with an assessor scoring them on competencies including decision making, professionalism and leadership.

It’s an odd, nerve-racking exam and one that officers hope they pass mainly so that they avoid having to put themselves through the exam again the following year.

With Part I and Part II both passed, an officer can consider themselves qualified for the next rank and then awaits promotion boards – formal interviews – at which if they are successful, they then are promoted permanently.

Promotion to ranks above inspector takes place via interviews rather than funny role playing as above, it is also possible that officers not to have passed their boards can ‘act’ up a rank temporarily to gain experience.

As I’d suggested earlier, the above framework is up for some imminent tinkering with Part II of the process due to be scrapped and replaced with something called the National Police Promotion Framework (NPPF).

This means goodbye to the role actors with the funny costumes that they don’t wear but should do, and hello to a work-based assessment lasting twelve months with a set of stripes of pips at the end of it.

The change is taking place as under the old system, many more people were passing the exams than there’d ever be room to promote hence fostering some unrealistic expectations for those completing the process.

Personally, I’d add that Part II always seemed an obscure assessment that offered no guarantees the successful candidates would be suitable to undertake the rank and as such, appeared to fail in its purpose of vetting potential leaders.

The new system has been trialled in a few forces already and should be introduced nationally from next year.

So there’s police promotion as it is, and as it will be, in a nutshell.

It’s an exciting step to take and daunting too, some of the officers sat in exams now will be future Chief Constables and hopefully will be fortunate enough to lead forces performing a little better than Westshire!

Anyone interested in the finding out more about the NPPF can have a look at the College of Policing’s Police Promotion Framework and also at the NPPF FAQs.

I just can’t help believin’…

Hoax public safety warning purporting to be from the police are unhelpful to say the least…

If you follow crime prevention advice apparently ‘FROM MET POLICE’ that you’ve seen reposted on Facebook, you’re probably on the lookout for the following -

  • Criminals leaping into the rear seat of your car as part of a gang initiation
  • Serial killers using recordings of babies crying to lure people out of their houses in the night
  • Fraudsters impersonating official ‘wallet inspectors’ operating at Games Workshops

Now as someone who often dishes out the crime prevention advice and working for a force that’s rather keen on educating the goodly public on how to avoid becoming victims, I’m generally quite in favour of giving a heads up when there’s something the public ought to know.

Take rogue callers or a localised rise in burglaries as examples, you’re likely to see a tweet from one of our official twitter feeds advising people to be vigilant and not leave pies to cool on windowsills.

This is sensible advice – it comes from a reliable source as officers like myself know from first hand experience that the issue we’re advising on ‘actually happened’.

Unfortunately not all of the advice that’ll come to you through the pipes of the internets ‘actually happened a few weeks ago’ as claimed.

Looking at a small selection of the many bogus warnings you’ll see floating around in Facebook posts, emails and blogs, you’ll quickly realise that unless advice is from an official source such as our own Facebook page, you should be incredulous about it at the very least.

Many of the warnings are variants of similar horror stories that have been circulating for years in various forms, they’re malicious and rather than serving to inform, they panic and mislead.

Hysteria aside, they also dilute the messages that we put out and distract attention from the information that members of the public would really benefit from having.

As such, unless the advice comes from an official source rather than ‘some I know who actually saw it’, it’s always a good idea to steer clear of it and not forward it on.

Rather than helping with public safety, by sharing none-sense about criminals using cranes to kidnap people and the like, you’re more likely to do the exact opposite.

P.S. From this article, the pictured example warning about people leaping into back seats at service stations apparently originated in Australia a few years ago and spread from there. It’s completed fictional. If you see it posted on your wall, feel free to post a link to this blog to set everyone right.

I can make you ice cream, we could be a sweet team…

Some of our fine country’s most important ice cream regulations are changing, read below for the details you NEED to know! (Image from Rept0n1x)

Today I have learnt two things about a subject that previously I had considered myself somewhat of an expert on.*

First of all, there are regulations covering the use of jingles by ice cream vans.

Secondly, those regulations are changing.

Yes, unbeknown to almost anyone who doesn’t happen to be an ice cream man, for the past thirty one years the ‘Code of Practice on Noise from Ice-Cream Van Chimes Etc. 1982‘ has governed the playing of Greensleeves in our land.

Rather than being law as such, the Code rather is there for advice as to what’s reasonable when it comes to promoting the sale of delicious frozen goods to excited, well-rounded children.

To sum up the guidance, the Code’s key points are as follows -

  • Chimes can only be played between 12:00 and 19:00
  • Chimes shouldn’t be any louder than 80 dB**
  • Jingles can’t be any longer than four seconds
  • Said jingles shouldn’t be played any more frequently than once every three minutes
  • They shouldn’t be played more than once every two hours in a particular length of street***
  • Care should be taken not to play chimes within fifty metres of a hospital, school or church

So the above summarises my first bit of new ice cream knowledge for the day, now for the second – the Code has been subject to a revision ordered by none other than Number Ten.

Yes, apparently ice cream vending regulations are such an important issue as to penetrate the deepest, darkest levels of government and no doubt have also been brought up in emergency Pentagon briefings across the Atlantic.

Last year a consultation was launched in which options were proposed to either keep the Code, make it less restrictive, keep it but take it out of legislation, or to just bin it all together.

Perhaps reflecting the lack of knowledge of the Codes in the first place, let alone a consultation on them, a grand total of fifty seven responses were received which included representations from the powerful Ice Cream Alliance.

Despite the cool response, generally flavoured was the proposal to make the Code less draconian and just let the goodly ice cream men get on with the job of dishing out whipped ice cream to one and all.

As such, the Code will now generously allow the following -

  • Jingles played for up to TWELVE seconds
  • Time between jingles reduced from three to TWO minutes
  • Greensleeves can now be played a single time whilst vehicle is stationary

So now you know, we have a code covering ice cream jingles with knowledge of which you can spend about as long interesting your friends as the jingles themselves should be played for!

* My qualifications include Magnums, Cornettos and the Pizza Hut ‘Ice Cream Factory’
** The measuring microphone should be at a height of 1.2 metres above the ground, and at a distance of 7.5 metres from the loudspeaker. The microphone should, where necessary, be fitted with a windshield and the meter should be calibrated prior to use
*** A ‘particular length of street’ should normally be interpreted as being a length of street between 100 and 150 metres long.

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