Posts Tagged 'blog'

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…


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 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…


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.

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.

Take it where you find it…

Should your stuff be stolen, what can you do to help increase the chances that you’ll get it back?

The first question I’m often asked when taking a report of a theft concerns how likely it is that the victim will get their stuff back.

The likelihood sometimes comes down to how ‘clever’ (relatively speaking) the thief has been in disposing of the goods, although there are steps that it’s always a good idea to take in the short term as they can only increase the chances of recovering goods.

When we arrest folk under suspicion of theft, we have a power to go and search their homes and this is something that we do to see if they’ve been stupid enough to leave behind any evidence of their crime.

We’re not always lucky when it comes to searches and this is because when it comes to offloading stolen goods, it’s something that criminals will want to do as soon as possible to avoid getting caught red handed.

Wanting to be rid of the ‘hot’ goods, it’s a buyer’s market and the items will be sold for a fraction of their value.

With goods being quickly offloaded, there are some sensible steps that you can take to follow the trail yourself and help raise the chances of seeing your stuff again.

Said sensible steps that I’d be looking to take following discovering a theft are as follows:

  • Have a search around the local area: Particularly in burglaries, criminals sometimes stash goods in hedges etc so that they can return at a later point and ‘find’ them with it then being harder to connect them with the crime. Have a good look around local undergrowth, wastelands and woods to see if there are any signs that something has been stashed.
  • Browse online: I recently dealt with a job where the victim found his stolen goods for sale on eBay and was able to alert us so we could follow up the lead. Check the auction sites, message boards, local papers etc and see if your goods have appeared.
  • Check the pawn shops: Most respected pawn brokers take photographs of people bringing in things to sell and ask for ID too, this isn’t to say that it’s not worth checking though.

The above tips go hand in hand with the advice I’ve given before and will continue to give until I’m about to retire with a long Gandolf beard, this is that you should make a list of all of your valuables and register them on Immobilise.

It’s simple enough – without serial numbers, identifying features or photographs it can be frustratingly difficult to tell who things belonged to when they’re been recovered suspected stolen.

Immobilse is a totally free online property register allowing you to put together a list of your valuables that we can then check and use to get goods back to you.

Pawn shops check serial numbers against the database also and in another real life example I’d dealt with recently, a pawn shop had stopped the sale of a PS3 when they found it was nicked.

We then checked ourselves, confirmed the theft and contacted the rightful owner to arrange its return.

So there they are, a few handy tips for property recovery and there’s little else for me to add than another reminder, this time in shouting capital letters and bold font, that if you take nothing else from this blog, it ought be that you should GO AND REGISTER YOUR VALUABLES ON IMMOBILISE – please, please, please!

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