Posts Tagged 'law'

On your own…

Minesweeper!

Time to update your operating system? Support for Windows 3.1 ended years ago, XP has now gone the same way.

Anticipating the mood swings, messy bedrooms and questionable hygiene to come, this week Microsoft did what most parents can’t and cut loose support for their thirteen year old ‘child’, Windows XP, before the troublesome teenage years really kicked in.

This means that they’ll no longer be releasing security updates and bug fixes for the still popular operating system and users will be largely on their own.

Using a computer without any sort of security support is a bit like lion-taming without a whip and a chair – it’s generally not a good idea and whilst you stand less chance of being eaten by a lion, you could be gobbled up by the digital equivalent.

As such, the large numbers of people still using XP, maybe a quarter of all users, are now realistically left with three options -

  1. Upgrading their operating systems
  2. Paying Microsoft several million pounds for extended support on an individual basis as some governments have done
  3. Continuing on XP and hoping for the best

The reason you don’t want to go for option three is that the the internet bad guys are now free to exploit any vulnerabilities in the operating system for their own malicious ends, safe in the knowledge that nobody at Microsoft is countering them.

Option two is largely ruled out by the whole multi-million pound thing which really only leaves option one, abandoning XP in favour of a new program.

This could mean a newer version of Windows, 7 or 8 comes to mind which may require a hardware upgrade or new computer to run, joining the hipsters at Apple or alternatively, checking out one of the FREE open-source Linux operating systems on offer such as Ubuntu.

Whilst XP will still work, the lack of security support means any computer running it is now much more vulnerable to malware, viruses and other bugs that could see your files compromised and transactions across the interweb possibly open to interception.

Sure, updating your operating system isn’t particularly convenient but less convenient still is having your computer’s front door left wide open to the internet by a hormone plagued teenage operating system so please, act now to secure your PC from the criminals!

P.S. There are a couple of useful guides here and here on upgrading/securing your PC in light of the XP move, you’re also advised to change all website passwords after a recent bug found in the encryption that many sites use.

 

How low are you willing to go?

Stolen in a recent charity shop burglary, can you help with enquiries?

Stolen in a recent charity shop burglary, can you help with enquiries?

The below press release was issued by our Corporate Communications department recently following a burglary at the St Giles Hospice Shop in Walsall Town Centre, I’m republishing it here too in case anyone missed it.

I’m in charge of the case and with the victim being a cancer charity, I’m obviously keen to do all I can to find out who was responsible.

Please feel free to forward on this appeal and as per the below, if you have any information that may help then please let us know or pass it on anonymously via Crimestoppers.

Walsall Town Centre Charity Shop Targeted

Walsall Police are appealing for information following a burglary at a charity shop in the town centre.

Thieves smashed their way into the St Giles Hospice Shop on the High Street at some point between Saturday 22 March at 3:40pm and Monday 24 March at 8:20am.

A grey Navman iCN320 sat-nav was stolen from a display cabinet before the thieves made good their escape.

PC Stanley, from the Walsall Investigation Team, said: “This was a particularly cruel break in with the victim being a charity shop run by volunteers.

“The St Giles Shop raises money for people suffering from cancer and other serious illnesses, we are keen to catch and prosecute the persons responsible as soon as possible.

“We urge people in the local area to think if they have been offered such an item for sale in recent and if they may have information to pass to the investigation team.”

Anyone with information is urged to call PC Stanley on 101 or information can be given anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

He’s going to take me to that little room…

Wiley

As Wiley will tell you, previous arrests might see you turned away from the USA or Canada if you’re not prepared (Image from Clozone)

Unlike three hundred years ago when to get to the USA or Canada would require a six month sea voyage during which you’d probably have to eat half the crew, things are much easier these days.

You buy a ticket, hop on a plane and you’re there by the time you’ve watched Meet The Fockers twice over.

The exception to things being this simple, as rapper Wiley has recently found out on a failed trip to Toronto, is if you’ve ever been arrested or have previous convictions.

This is because any arrest, even one not resulting in any charges, means you may no longer be eligible for a visa waiver and so will have to apply for a visa from an embassy.

Canada and the USA deal with previous arrests and convictions slightly differently but if you’ve any doubts over whether you may be considered ‘inadmissible’, you need to check with the immigration authorities before you go.

Not doing so may mean that as soon as you arrive, you’ll be turned straight back round and returned at your own expense.

To find out more about immigration to the US, you have to speak to a wizard (!) who will guide you through a set of simple questions to determine if you’ll need a visa or not.

The Canadian Government doesn’t appear to have a wizard (boo) but they do have a website that tells you a little more about their immigration criteria.

Previous arrests or convictions aren’t an automatic bar to travel and whilst the disruption to travel isn’t quite as inconvenient as being eaten during a crossing of the Atlantic, it’s much better to check visa requirements prior to booking rather than being turned away at customs when you land.

P.S. You can find out more about visa issues specific to the USA on the Ask The Police website

Bend me, shape me…

Republished via BBC News

Police to abandon traditional helmets after research shows they alter officers’ head shapes

"It's stuck!"

The Custodian helmet is to be replaced.

Police forces across England & Wales are to replace the traditional Custodian helmet after researchers published data showing that over time, the helmets caused the shapes of their wearers’ heads to change.

Academics at the College of Policing demonstrated that over the course of several years, some officers’ heads were up to five inches longer than they had been when they had been measured as new recruits.

The Custodian, first adopted by the London Metropolitan Police in 1863, will be replaced by flat caps.

Long running research

The study into head shapes took place over twenty years with researchers gathering data from over 10,000 beat officers working in forces around England & Wales.

The data, published in the International Journal of Police Science, demonstrated a trend for officers’ heads to gradually assume the same shape as their helmets and to become noticeably more cone-shaped.

Changes in air pressure to blame

Report publisher Justin Lofter has said that the effect can be explained by “small changes in air pressure” within the helmet.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, he said: “The air pressure inside the helmet is slightly lower than outside causing a small suction effect on the top of the head which after several years, begins to pull the head into the shape of the helmet”

Tradition important

But Police Federation leader Dixon Green has argued that the ‘cone head’ effect has long been known about and that many officers are proud that their heads get reshaped by the traditional headgear.

“It’s a sign of experience”, he said.

Police forces are set to phase out the helmets by the end of the year.

 

Chev brakes are snarling as you stumble across the road…

Tyres_2

Sundays are a good opportunity to check your car over including tread depth (Image from ProjectManhattan)

Whilst Sundays are traditionally reserved for hangovers, eating roast dinners and ploughing through papers swollen with supplements, they are also a working day for us police.

This means that when our shifts dictate we’re on duty on the seventh day, rather than sleep in and then get dragged around the park by the dog, we all get up super early and head to the station to solve crimes.

As good as Sundays are for solving crimes (or at least, they’re no worse than any other day), we find they’re also a good day for checking over our vehicles to make sure the wheels aren’t about to fall off.

A periodic check up is always a good idea to keep your motor-vehicle safe and Sunday represents an excellent day to use as a sensible period.

Here’s what you’ll want to check for in a list that’ll eat up no more than five minutes of your valuable Sunday -

  • Grip – Have the tyres got enough tread? 1.6 mm is the legal minimum, peek at the wear indicators to quickly see how deep your tread is
  • Tyre pressure – Is the tyre pressure right? The correct pressure should be on the wall of the tyre, check it for free at the garage
  • Illumination – Are all of your lights in working order?
  • Visibility – Are your windscreen wipers showing any sign of wear? Have you got screen wash?
  • Seatbelts – Are they in good order ready to prevent you doing an involuntary Superman impression through the window during a collision?

The above are all road safety-orientated checks that take moments to complete and help keep you and other road users safe.

Less essential but still important checks are as follows -

  • Apparel – Are your manly leather driving gloves frayed? If so, replace them!
  • Snacking – Do you have a ready supply of non-brand specific circular mints in the glove box?
  • Tunes – Are any of your ‘Classic Driving Power Ballads’ CDs scratched?

And if you happen to be driving a police car, you’ll also want to check -

  • Are you carrying a scene log and tape?
  • Have you got enough exhibit bags and tags?
  • Does the police Airwave radio work?

Whilst I’m happy to accept that a lot of the points off the latter two lists are probably not all that important, the same can’t be said about those on the first list.

Poorly maintained vehicles, worn bulbs and a lack of visibility are factors that regularly crop up as contributing causes to accidents so it really is a good idea to follow our lead and lend a little of your Sunday to making sure you and your family are safe when out on the roads.

 

You’re the devil in disguise…

There’s been a slight rise in ‘distraction’ burglaries in Streetly and Aldridge – beware!

To write this blog, I’ve had to battle with several competing distractions. They were in no particular order as follows -

  • Looking out window to see if there were any interesting shaped clouds to be spotted
  • Watching some videos of geeks completing ‘speed runs’ of old video games (‘Zelda: Ocarina of Time’ to be specific)
  • Browsing the Krispy Kreme doughnuts website

All in all, none of these distraction actually helped me write the blog. You could say they hindered me.

Anyhoo, the reason that I’m now writing this blog rather than searching YouTube for a ‘perfect’ video combining cats AND bacon is that I need to bring to your attention a slight rise in ‘distraction’ type of burglaries that we’ve experienced recently in the Streetly and Aldridge areas of Walsall.

The exact method varies but often it’ll be some heartless miscreant knocking on an elderly person’s door claiming to be offering roofing insulation, gardening work or maybe even stating that they’re from the police.

Having gained entry, they’ll then use the opportunity to take what they can before making a swift exit with some of their victim’s property.

As I’ve written about lately, a recent variant of this type of crime is the ‘Courier Fraud’ scam whereby the victim is phoned by someone who obtains their bank details and then sends round a courier to pick up their bank card claiming it’s required as evidence.

These crimes are particularly cruel and so I’d ask that everyone remain vigilant for suspicious persons in their neighbourhoods and keep an eye on elderly neighbours in case they receive unwanted visitors.

Please spread the word to those folk not yet wired into the internet and remember, if you do notice something or someone that happens to set off you ‘there’s something about this that isn’t right’ alarm, please contact us straight away.

You can phone us on 101 or in an emergency, dial 999.

Gather as much detail as you can safely do – descriptions of people, vehicles, registration plates etc – and let us know so that we can swoop in and investigate before another local person falls victim to the scammers.

Fight crime by PUNCHING IT ON THE NOSE at the following websites:

Why don’t you be the writer?

wiki

We’re hosting a Wikipedia ‘editathon’ tomorrow at the West Midlands Police Museum, fancy getting involved?

Do you have an interest in the history of the police, a little Wikipedia know how and a few hours free tomorrow afternoon?

If so, you may just be interested to know that between 10:00 and 16:00 tomorrow we’re throwing open the doors of the West Midlands Police Museum in Sparkhill so that editors wanting to write about policing history can examine the museum’s artefacts close up.

If you’re interested in joining local Wikipedia Wizard Andy Mabbett at the event then please head over to the event’s page and register your interest, there are only a few places left so you’ll need to be quick!

You can follow the event on Twitter by using the hashtag #WikiWMP if you can’t make it yourself to see what’s happening during the day.

I’ll be particularly interested to see some improvements to our own main Wikipedia page as after editing a fair amount of it myself last year using my nerd skills, it is now in need of a bit of an overhaul to bring it up to date and maybe even a little closer to featured article status.

I’d remind anyone who thinks they could contribute to any of our Wikipedia pages but that can’t make it tomorrow, please to consider that anyone can edit Wikipedia and if you think you can help please feel free to get involved.

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

Tell it like it is… (2/2)

good

Playing with fast cars and fancy kit is definitely one of the better bits of joining the police.

You were thinking of applying to join us as a police officer, you then read yesterday’s blog about the drawbacks of policing and are now feeling depressed and are thinking about giving up, right?

Wait there, potential student police officer!

If things were as bad as all that, I don’t think I’d be doing the job myself and that I am and doing so happily suggests actually, there are some pretty good things too about being a police officer.

What are they then?

Why here is a random list designed to emphasise that whilst there were definitely some things highlighted yesterday that you need to consider, they in no way take precedence over the below -

  • Make a difference – You’ll be in a unique position in which you will be able to make people’s lives considerably better. It’ll be down to you to help people put their lives back together and it’s easy to underestimate how much of a difference you’ll be able to make to people at their lowest ebb by providing to them the best, most professional service that you can. You may see problems in your community – drug dealing, vandalism, anti-social behaviour – here’s your chance to do something about it.
  • Chance for personal development – With the opportunity to step into people’s homes and meet a wide cross-section of the community, you’ll find that your world view is challenged and perceptions you may have held about, say, prostitutes and drug dealers, is challenged when you find yourself speaking to them and seeing the circumstances that lead people into crime in the first place.
  • Excitement – Driving a police car at high speed, diving through red lights and then chasing a suspect on foot with the helicopter hovering above you can be just a little exciting. You’ll get to do things in the first weeks of your service that most people won’t do in their entire lives and whilst it’s not Point Break every day, some shifts come close.
  • Help serve the public – Whilst it may not feel this way all the time, everything you do in the course of your role as an officer will ultimately benefit the public and be worthwhile as such which is a hugely rewarding feeling.
  • Opportunities for progression – West Midlands Police is the second largest force in the country and as such, there are roles inside the organisation that even I don’t know about having done the job for a few years now. We have dog units, firearms units, detective teams, a group of officers whose job it is to ensure planes don’t get shot down at Birmingham Airport. We have football spotters, gang specialists, officers specialising in conducting searches, a helicopter, collision investigators. The list goes on and on and if you fancy, there’s a chance to progress up the ranks also.
  • Important work – This is the reason I joined, I wanted to do something that I felt to be important and to do it well. I can finish work with the satisfaction of being able to say someone who has been making a victim’s life a misery is going to court entirely because of my own work on the case. I used to work at a hotel and satisfaction would be ‘I laid the tables quite neatly’ or ‘I refilled the printer pretty well’. There’s no comparison!
  • Responsibility – You’re often going to be the first person on the scene of major incidents, it’s going to be down to you to quickly assess what’s happening and decide what to do. You may have to prepare cases to go up to Crown Court and give evidence, you’ll likely be sent to serious crimes in the first instance and the actions that you take in the first few minutes of arrival can make a huge difference to how things progress further down the line. This amount of responsibility may feel daunting at first, you’ll develop the confidence to feed off it though.
  • More than just a job – Teams tend to be quite close and there’s a fair amount of socialising too. Colleagues are friends and if you’re feeling active, there’s plenty of sports and social activities to pick from. It’s a tight-knit community and one that you’re likely to be very happy as a part of.
  • Good conditions, pay – The take home pay isn’t too bad and there are chances for overtime, there’s a decent pension waiting at the end of your service too for when you’re a bit longer in the tooth and telling all the new recruits about how things were in ‘your day’.
  • The X Factor – Police officers get discounted tickets to go and watch The X Factor being filmed. Joke! In terms of the things that you’ll see and do, from your first arrest to the moment you put on the Chief Constable’s epaulettes (when he’s not looking), there is simply no other job that comes anywhere close to The Job. That’s why they call it ‘The Job’.
  • Sexy uniform and handcuffs – …

What I’d want you to take away from both my ‘think carefully’ and my ‘join immediately’ lists is that policing is a worthwhile, exciting job and whilst  it’s not for everyone, the people who it ‘is for’ are very happy and would likely recommend taking the opportunity to join.

If you think it is for you then, go and express an interest on our recruitment website and as I’ve said, if you’re still not sure and want to know more then please ask and I’ll be more than happy to try answer.

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.


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PC Stanley’s Twitter Feed

  • Productive shift, highlight was the incredibly helpful @WalsallCouncil CCTV controller who gave me a free sweet. 1 day ago
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