Archive for the 'West Midlands Police' Category



Tell it like it is… (1/2)

bad

The constant watch – one of the less appealing sides of ‘The Job’.

So you’re looking to join the police as an officer because you want to fight criminals and punch crime on the nose, right?

Great! Is that what you’ll be doing all the time? No!

Designed to be read in conjunction with the following blog on the positive sides of being a bobby, this blog is designed to set out some of the drawbacks of doing the job so that new applicants have an accurate view of what the job really involves.

It’s in no way designed wanting to put people off, only to present the honest information that any potential applicant needs to know to ensure policing is the career for them.

In no order other than a rambling, whatever came to mind first type order, here are some of the less appealing sides of ‘The Job’ -

  • Going home on time – A 15:00 finish time on the rota means that, right? Oh no! There will be times when you’ll find yourself come finishing time still at a custody block on the other side of the force area with a list of things to do longer than both of your arms put together. Your advertised finishing time is best seen as a ‘suggestion’ and you’ll join knowing that from time to time you’ll be sacrificing your evening plans.
  • Flexibility – Leading on from the first point, you can be called into work at short notice and shift patterns changed with a snap of the Chief Constable’s fingers. This won’t be a regular thing but in response to extraordinary events (riots etc), you can very quickly find days off cancelled and hours extended.
  • Danger – Something that lurks around every corner, the work of a police officer is inherently dangerous and we do sometimes get hurt as a result. You will at some point get attacked, car accidents are always a risk with response driving and in the course of saving life and limb, you’re going to face some very risky situations.
  • Abuse – There are plenty of people who will hate you for no reason other than the uniform. Shoplifters will abuse and spit at you. You’ll be taught new swearwords by prisoners in the cells. It isn’t personal but it’s not nice either – a thick skin is a must.
  • Crime in reality – You may think a police officer saves good people from the bad criminals. We do, also though we have to attend when Person A with seventy previous convictions calls to make a very suspect report  that Person B with the same amount of convictions has wronged him in some way. Many of the calls you’ll attend will be very dubious in nature, you’ll not be told the full details by either side and often will find that when you delve a little deeper, there’s not a crime in the first place. This can be frustrating but it’s part of the job, for every ‘genuine’ call there’ll be several ‘I’m calling the police because I’m locked out of Facebook’ jobs to sort out.
  • Stress – One minute you’ll be in a patrol car talking about doughnuts, the next you’ll be faced with twenty people brawling in a pub and it’ll be down to you to sort it out, all whilst the radio is chattering away in your ear and you’ve got twenty different accounts of what’s happened. You’ll be required to make decisions there and then and everyone will be looking to you to know what to do.
  • Boredom – Think standing on a crime scene for ten hours is exciting? How’s about watching some sleep in the corner of a cell for an entire shift whilst on constant observations? It isn’t! Whilst there will be exciting moments, you’ll have some shifts where the clock moves very slowly indeed.
  • Missing breaks – A busy night on a response shift might mean your meal will be a petrol station sandwich half  eaten on the forecourt being being sent to the next job. Break times are set out but as with finishing times, they are ‘suggestions’. Overall the busy times are balanced out by other shifts during which nothing happens but even so, this won’t make any difference to you on the shift that you don’t get a moment’s rest.
  • Dealing with the injured and the dead – If you don’t feel comfortable with the sight of blood, policing may not be right for you as there can be a lot of it. I’ve seen people with stab wounds down to the bone, I’ve had to help funeral staff lift a cold body onto their trolley and I’ve seen crime scenes that give the Saw films a run for their money. Crime isn’t pretty and you’ll be faced with this reality up close.
  • Taking the job home -  Again leading on from the above, you’ll see some things that will stay with you beyond your tour of duty. They’ll come home with you and whilst there’s plenty of good support available, you may find some experiences looking to set up camp in your head.
  • Workload – Policing can be a busy occupation, the workload can be high and it’ll be down to you to manage your time effectively and ensure that the four court files you have are submitted on time as well responding to jobs on the radio and making everyone a lovely cup of tea.
  • Frustration – Things won’t always go to plan, sometimes you’ll meet people who you know full well are guilty but have to let them walk free without charge. There’ll be nothing you can do about it and you’ll have to grin and bare it as you let someone out the cells as they cheerfully boast and tell you that they’ll ‘see you soon’.

So those are some of the drawbacks to consider but don’t despair, there are good points too which I’ll write about tomorrow!

I’d also add that even the above considered, I’d still recommend the job without any hesitation at all.

It’s not for everyone and the above give an idea of why it’s a ‘job like no other’, this is not to say that it’s not an excellent job as I think most officers would agree that it very much is and a privilege to do.

Found a job…

Police Class Photo

It will shortly be recruitment o’clock for new police constables – what do you need to know?

According the cheap Casio digital watch that I wear to work, the time is currently ‘recruitment o’clock’.

Now lots of people over the past few years have asked me ‘when will recruitment o’clock be?’ and I’ve always had to say ‘I’m not sure’, the reason being that I wasn’t sure.

Now though, times have changed.

As you’ll see from the news flash over on our website, Bob Jones, our Police and Crime Commissioner, has confirmed that over the course of the next two years we’ll be looking to recruit 450 new police officers.

This is exciting as it’s been five years since people have been able to apply to join as constables and I think it’s fitting that I am able to write about the new vacancies considering that I was on one of the last intakes before recruitment closed last time round.

Because I’m sure that there’ll be a great deal of interest from people wanting to become rozzers, I thought it might be useful to give some insight into what the role is actually like (good and bad) to help potential applicants make an informed decision.

As such, I plan to write this blog (I’m writing it now, watch!) in which I’ll give a few general considerations and then two following, one of which will highlight the positive points of being an officer and the other which will show some of the drawbacks.

I’ll write honestly as it’s a huge step to join the police, it’s a big commitment and with the job not being for everyone, it’s only fair that people interested in the vacancies know what they’re letting themselves in for.

Right then, in bullet point format here are some general considerations you’ll want to ‘considerate’ -

  • Physical fitness is important. You’ll need to not only pass a physical assessment but also maintain a decent level of fitness so that you’re able to pass the annual fitness test.
  • It isn’t all paperwork but a lot of the work we do is on computers. A decent grip of IT would be a great benefit as much of the work you do in the station is digital.
  • The application process can be a long one. I don’t know how things will run this time round but for me it was two and a half years between posting my form and putting on my uniform.
  • As I’ll stress in coming blogs, it’s not for everyone and nor is it easy. It requires a real commitment and you join knowing that you’ll meet people who will hate you from the off, that at some point you may be abused, attacked and still have to respond professionally when you find this happening to you on the wrong side of a long night shift.
  • You’re going to be held to a very high standard and will be expected to act accordingly. Wearing the uniform may enable to arrest someone, at the same time though the uniform expects of you that you act with the integrity, honesty and professionalism.

You’ll be able to register you interest in joining West Midlands Police from February 10th and can find out more about the applications over on our recruitment website.

The site has a FAQ and enables you to ask questions also which on the topic, I’m happy to answer questions too if you fancy leaving a comment on this blog, tweeting at me or going onto The Facebook and leaving your query there.

I can’t answer specific questions about the application process as I’ll not know the answers (use the recruitment website for those), but I’ll try to accommodate general queries as best I can and over the next few days, will be uploading the two aforementioned blogs about the realities of doing the job so stay tuned!

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.

Wolf at the door…

How far is too far when it comes to demonstrations? A review has been ordered following this Unite protest (Image from BBC)

If I owned a front drive then on it I’d probably expect to see my car, some weeds and possibly next door’s cat.

An auto-mobile, dandelions and a feline are all perfectly acceptable things to have on a driveway and so wouldn’t cause the owner of said drive to phone the police, or at least if they did then attending officers wouldn’t be particularly impressed.

Replace the visiting cat with thirty demonstrators waving banners accompanied by an inflatable rat though and it’s a different story.

As you’ll probably have noticed in the news recently, this was the form a protest by Unite union members took during the course of the dispute over the closure of the Grangemouth refinery last month.

With industrial relations at a low point and job losses threatened, Unite members had turned up at the home address of one of the refinery bosses to show that they had “nowhere to hide”.

The PM described the union’s tactics as ‘shocking’ and now Bruce Carr QC is going to conduct an enquiry into the demonstration tactics used by the union and whether the law needs changing to prevent harassment and intimidation.

The inquiry I find interesting as I’d been wondering about the course of action I may have taken had I been one of the officers sent to attend the protest when it happened.

The right to peaceful protest is an important one – I’d describe it as a legal ‘biggie’ – and is rightfully protected in law as one of the basic human rights.

Infringements on the right to protest have to be very carefully considered and us police have a duty to ensure that people are able to hold demonstrations to uphold their views, even in cases such as BNP whose views and values the same officers will totally abhor.

Set against this though, the right to protest doesn’t equate to a right to bully and nor does it allow people the right to cause people fear and upset in their own homes.

The articles of the Human Rights Act 1998 set out the balancing act that needs to be achieved, it guarantees freedom of expression and at the same time, the right to respect for privacy and family life.

As such the first thing I’d have done on arrival would probably have been to grab my legal scales, throw on an Old Bailey-style dress and to think how to weigh up the two competing demands.

The decision I’d make would be based on the understanding that whilst the right to protest is important, I’d feel very uncomfortable should this right extend so far as to allow a ‘mob’ to descend on a person’s home and no doubt cause great distress to young children or other persons completely unconnected with the dispute who may be present.

Targeting a demonstration outside an office is one thing, taking a giant rat to someone’s front door quite another.

As such I’d be requesting the demonstrators dissipate which I’m sure they’d do peacefully, hopefully that could be considered the end of the matter.

As a bobby it can be tempting to look at such incidents in relation to what criminal action could be taken.

Due to the sensitivities outlined above I’d be reluctant to go down this route although for serious occurrences, such demonstrations may drift towards being considered to represent a public order offence or perhaps give grounds for an allegation of harassment.

Arguments over the public interest to bring about prosecutions and whether the protests were ‘reasonable’ would then invariably spring up left, right and centre.

It’s hard to judge how appropriate considering criminal charges would be when it comes to policing demonstrations such as that in Scotland, rather though it’d be much more preferable were the organisers of the demonstrations to conduct them in such a way that these questions need not be asked in the first place.

Witness the fitness…

Birmingham_Skyline_by_Tony_Hisgett

On December 16th our own Superintendent Fraser will be scaling Brum’s thirteen tallest buildings to raise money and awareness for the SuperJosh Charity, care to help him out with a donation or two? (Image from Tony Hisgett)

Stairs. The nemesis of mankind. Jutting, jagged obstacles forcing even the fittest of us to tremble at the thought of their ascent.

Stairs are why lifts were invented. And escalators. The travelators. Three mechanisms designed entirely so that us poor humans need not risk life-threatening exhaustion putting one foot in front of the other in an endeavour to haul our ill-prepared frames up a forty five degree incline.

Well, that’s what I think about stairs anyway.

But enough about me, you’re probably now thinking what other police officers think about stairs and the challenge they present?

Former Walsall officer and now HQ based Superintendent Fraser for example?

Well, either out of a love of stairs or a hatred of the convenience offered by the good people at Otis, on the 16th of December Mr. Fraser will be ‘manually’ climbing the thirteen highest buildings in Birmingham.

He’s doing this to raise money and support for the SuperJosh Charity who assist children with brain tumours and post surgery disabilities.

To suit the superhuman endeavour that this challenge represents, Mr. Fraser will be dressing up as a super hero himself and whilst Spider-Man is the most popular choice at the moment, appropriate suggestions are welcome for alternate costumes.

You can support the challenge in a number of ways depending on how athletic you’re feeling.

First of all, you can consider making a donation to the event by heading over to the funding page and giving whatever you feel you can spare.

You can also help by promoting the event giving the #Brum13peakchallenge hashtag an airing or two on Twitter and hitting the share buttons on the event’s website to let people know it’s happening.

If you’d like to take part yourself – and other members of the emergency services are particularly welcome as are members of the public – then please send an email to superjcharity@gmail.com with your contact details.

Any help would be greatly appreciated by the benefactors of the charity so please, dig deep!

If you’ve got trouble…

Andrew_Mitchell_MP,_Secretary_of_State_for_International_Development_(4603106939)

The ‘plebgate’ affair has brought to light police misconduct regulations which are not necessarily straightforward to understand (Image from russavia)

As the ‘plebgate’ story progresses, many of the recent controversies have surrounded whether officers should have faced police misconduct proceedings after they had given an allegedly misleading account of their meeting with Andrew Mitchell .

To outline what had happened, following a suggestion that Mr. Mitchell had referred to officers as ‘plebs’ following a dispute on Downing Street, he had agreed to meet with police representatives to set the record straight.

Following the meeting, officers had given an account of what Mr. Mitchell had said during the meeting which, so the implication is, was different to what had actually been said according to a recording made of the conversation.

A complaint had been made about this and it concluded by a police Professional Standards Department following an investigation that this did not amount to misconduct and that there was no case to answer in terms of disciplinary action.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) however reviewed this conclusion and disagreed with it, suggesting instead that there had been a case of misconduct to answer.

The framework against which these decisions are made is The Police (Conduct) Regulations 2008 which set out how disciplinary matters are addressed and applies to police officers in England & Wales.

Police officers are held to a set of ten standards published in the Regulations, they indicate how officers are expected to act and behave.

One of the most important standards is that ‘police officers are honest, act with integrity and do not compromise or abuse their position‘.

When misconduct proceedings are proposed, it is because an officer is alleged to have fallen short of one of the standards expected of them.

If it has been decided that there is a breach of the standards, it then has to be decided whether the breach constitutes ‘misconduct’ or ‘gross misconduct’.

‘Misconduct’ is a breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour whilst ‘gross misconduct’ means a breach of the Standards so serious that dismissal would be justified.

IPCC Deputy Chair Deborah Glass had suggested that rather than concluding there was no case to answer in respect to the officers’ actions, she thought rather the outcome ought to have been a finding of gross misconduct for which the officers had to answer.

To address misconduct where proven, officers can be offered management advice, a written warning, a ‘final’ written warning that could lead to dismissal and in the most serious cases, dismissal.

Officers have a right to appeal decisions made should they feel they have the grounds to do so.

As the 116 page Home Office guidance suggests, the Regulations are not the easiest to digest and so the above summary is only really a starting point to understanding how the process is intended to work.

I’m keeping an eye on the story and will look at blogging again when able to try and clarify how police misconduct regulations should work in the context of the story.


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