Thursday, 30 April 2009

Gordon? Hello Gordon?? Can you hear us Gordon???

Don't mess with the reasonable people of Great Britain Here are some images of the sort of people we could well do without. Others are of those that we can definitely NOT do without. I do hope Gordon is able to differentiate - and I repeat a previous comment, that Jacqui Smiff will be gone by June, but it may well be that Gordo won't be too far behind at this rate. For anyone who needs to know what this is all about just click on this.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Land of Hope and Glory?
After posting this yesterday and receiving a few comments I decided to add my own little anecdote. Whilst working on protection duties around St James's Palace, just down the road from Buckingham Palace, I nipped into the guardroom for a brew. The Gurkha Regiment was doing their stint of Palace Guard duties. The duty officer had just been speaking to a young soldier, who seemed a little sad. The officer told me that this young Gurkha had just requested he be allowed to do 24 hours straight guard duty at Buckingham Palace, without relief, just for the honour of it. The officer told me he had to turn the request down, or they'd all want to do it.

Monday, 20 April 2009

The Perfect World We Live In

Real names not used in this post. Steve was a big bloke. 6`4", 15 stone, shaved head, arms as big as thighs, covered in tattoos so you couldn't see much un-inked flesh. He was the epitome of the expression, `built like a brick shithouse`. He was very handy with his fists, which made it a good thing if you were on his side, but it wasn't always the case as most of the time he was only on `his own side`. He'd been in many a scrap over the years and was even investigated once or twice, getting away with it - something most people involved in the case knew in their heart of hearts he was guilty of. He was a bully and made women feel uncomfortable in the way he looked at them, talked to them, invaded their personal space and chanced the occasional `grope`. Roger was was friendly, quick witted and jolly, always up for a laugh and pretty much the life and soul of the party. He also fancied himself as a ladies man and was also a bit of a `personal space invader` and would have a grope if he thought it would be OK. He was a bit of a charmer with women, but ultimately would treat them as disposable objects for his own amusement. When he was good, he was very very good, but when he was bad he hurt people badly. Dave was a loner who never really fitted in. He never socialised beyond a game of cards. He was always reading magazines that were on the stronger side of what is sometimes referred to as `soft porn` and which seemed to have a leaning towards whips, chains and restraints. He would always wear black kid leather driving gloves, even in very hot weather, and would often have them on when reading his magazines. If anyone commented that his magazines were `a bit strong` or make a derogatory remark about a particular photograph, Dave would simply say, "Nothing wrong with that" in a monotone voice. People just put it down to him being `a bit of an oddball`. He used to regularly visit a prostitute who specialised in his fetish and would wear a leather mask for him. It covered her mouth. He accidentally suffocated her in a sex and bondage session, panicked and decided to dispose of her body by burying it in some woods. It was eventually discovered, as was Dave's involvement. He was cleared of manslaughter and convicted of obstructing the Coroner and preventing the victims lawful burial. Eric was a very nice man indeed. Diligent, hard working, attentive, very good at his job. He was well known and popular. He died accidentally, dressed in womens underwear, stockings, suspender etc with an orange stuffed in his mouth, having suffocated in one of those auto-erotic asphixia cases. Who were they? Two were senior police officers, one was a police constable and one was an MP. The above examples were unusual. But as well as those 4 particular people I knew and worked with during my polis years, were many other equally unusual men and women. They paraded for work at all sorts of odd hours, often having rest days cancelled to do so. They did their diligent duty, resuscitated people, directed traffic, pulled people, or bits of them, from wrecked cars, rivers and railway lines; climbed bridge parapets to talk people out of jumping to their deaths; investigated the sudden and inexplicable deaths of babies whilst distraught parents looked on as their already shattered lives were poured over by these `agents of the Coroner`; investigated other deaths of infants whose parents had shaken them until their tiny brains bled but who pleaded ignorance; stood inside football stadia whilst moronic hoardes covered them in spit (I always hated duty at "The Shed"). One of my mates took a bullet going to the assistance of Princess Anne during the Mall kidnap attempt [the bullet's still inside, as is the would be kidnapper, no early release scheme for his sort]. Another friend of mine was killed trying to arrest car thieves. hundreds were deployed to Liverpool during the Toxteth riots; hundreds more were sucked into the Miners strike which was not of their making but which made following orders, on occasions, very difficult to reconcile with their own feelings. Some of them used bad judgement and arrested the wrong people; some used the right judgement but also arrested the wrong people - in both examples apologies and compensation followed; one or two got caught up in criminal activity and were prosecuted and sacked; Some faced discipline and weren't sacked, even though they should have been, but maybe their high rank meant that they weren't that bad after all? Some police I knew were a touch rough with people who didn't really deserve it, but there weren't many of their sort. Whats this bloody ramble all about? I don't know exactly, but going round in my mind are questions about the frantics in the media and elsewhere and the idealists and others who are hell bent on beating up the entire police service over matters that are arguably the responsibility of individuals who, like every other officer, have to answer for their individual actions. Very few people who turn up for work intend to do a bad job. The vagaries of work in the emergency services make it unpredictable and tremendously challenging. The police, on a daily basis, do not actually deal with constant `emergencies`. The bulk of the work is about the drudge, dross and general naff mundane ness of the bad bits of the human race as it bumbles and grumbles along its unpredictable path. Striving for perfection is a great goal but it leads me to the other questions buzzing around in my head, `what kind of perfect bloody world do these people think we really live in and how do they achieve perfection in their lives`? and if anyone is in the slightest bit interested in `who was who` amongst Steve, Roger, Dave and Eric...... does it really matter?

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Roll up, Roll up: Get your videos of police being nasty, 50p each or 3 for a pound.

Twas ever thus.

Kevin Gately was killed in a demo that turned ugly after a co-ordinated attack on police lines (you could hear the whistles blowing to set this in motion). A blow to the head was deemed the cause, but exactly how was never established; a kerb from a fall? a police truncheon? a scaffold pole used by demonstrators to charge at the police? Either which way, there were fights, truncheons used, mounted branch called into action. I was amazed that only one person died.

Public order in the face of violence and cleverly orchestrated mayhem isn’t achieved by the police waving lavender scented hankies about and saying `calm down`in a soothing voice. A totally passive crowd would not result in police batons being drawn. Conversely, as a crowd ramps up the `use of force meter` so the police response rises to meet it. A large crowd is a great place for the skilled agitators to lurk and whip up a frenzy. Inappropriate use of force brings with it trouble for the officer who transgresses, as it always did except for the fact that such things were rarely captured on cctv or mini videos - but if they ever show this footage of the anti-Vietnam war Grosvenor Square riot in 1968 you may see some stick happy police officer who, ultimately, got the sack.

The deaths of Kevin Gately and, later, Blair Peach were the terrible results of crowd trouble. Even if their deaths were as a result of the use of excessive force by police, it would have likely been a single police officer in each case. That no one responsible was ever traced is a fact that probably remains as a painful, still open chapter in the lives of the loved ones of the deceased. But emerging incidents from the G20 demo's that allege inappropriate use of force by police officers should not result in every other officer in the land being pilloried in the process.

Insufficient policing can lead to a breakdown in public order. Heavy handed totalitarian policing brings with it untold damage to our way of life (whatever that is now). In between these extremes are thousands of police doing their best along side a miniscule number who, in moments of high drama, do their worst or give in, John Prescott-style, to a sudden, pre-emptive action that they will later regret once the adrenaline has dissipated. Apart from that its pretty straightforward. To forgive is human, to err makes you police? Piss off, please.

Come to think of it, that thing with the lavender scented hankies has never been tried. Now there’s a thought?

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

On the roll of the dice

I was puzzled. There I was, just off duty and changed into civvy clothes, having finished a hard week behind a desk trying to come up with a conjuring trick to save 4% of my division's annual budget in order to keep the HQ accountants happy. I'd been specially selected by the superintendent to do this - well actually he'd been told to do it but shit rolls downhill. I was amazed at being asked, because I'd never been sent on a course in accountancy or how to save money. I'd done many firearms courses, tactical adviser (firearms and public order), managment of disasters and civil emergencies, police instructor training (2 very hard months in Harrogate), then there was counter terrorist search and I even spent a month at the Army Staff College on `low intensity warfare and counter-insurgency`, so I really felt puzzled as to how I could end up trying to come up with a plan to save £115,000, especially after I'd pointed out to the superintendent that I'd failed GCE Maths - twice. I was puzzled because not only had I succeeded in completing my allotted task with a lot of help from some good friends who'd already been there, but also, I'd managed to save £135,000, a cool 20 grand more than was required. My puzzlement was because having proudly presented my work to the super', who'd checked all the proposed facts and figures, he promptly told me to re-work it so that we just saved the required £115,000 (where he got the we from I'll never know). He said that we should keep that bit back so that we had a head start for the following years savings plan. As you can imagine, I was underwhelmed. I believe that my old force has since employed divisional accountants or `budget managers` who are probably much better trained at fiddling the figures and not saving too much money at a time. Anyway, this was playing on my mind as I strolled across the town centre car park towards Sainsburys. I'd decided to get me and Mrs Hogday a bottle of Soave, so I was taken slightly aback when from out of my line of vision, a lanky scrote stepped in my path and said, "Oi mate, can you do us a favour"? "No I can't", came my rapid reply and I kept on walking. I recognised him as a local lowlife substance abuser. My snappy rejection of his opening line was clearly not what he'd been used to getting from the poor unsuspecting public he'd previously harrassed and seemed to take him unawares, because he looked a tad puzzled before he made a recovery and came back at me with, "No mate, you don't understand". We'd had several complaints, of late, about `aggressive begging`in the town centre and I twigged that this was probably one of them. I couldn't remember his name but I knew the face from my frequent visits to our crime management unit and from reading the daily incident reports of druggies, drunks and brawlings. This bloke was a pain in the arse. I was tired and wanted to get my wine and go home and drink it with my wife and my dinner, so I spelt it out for him in simple words; "No, you're the one who doesn't understand, I am not your mate and I won't do you a favour, so get out of my way". He started to walk alongside me as I continued across the car park and try to engage me in more of his banter but by now I was getting seriously pissed off. I stopped and told him once more to bugger off. He said, "Give us some change" and stood right in front of me leaning into my personal space. I stepped back and turned discretely sideways on to him, whilst slowly rolling up my evening paper tightly - very effective if you need to prod someone in the solar plexus which, I started to perceive, might be necessary. I said, "Listen carefully, get out of my way and stop demanding money". This drug influenced dreg then said something that almost made me laugh, "D'you want some then"? I have to say it was said a bit half heartedly as I suspect even in his mildly addled state he realised that at a well proportioned 6`3" and 14 stone, with my left foot leading, I did not look like his usual pushover victim. I said, "Do I want what"? He just clenched his fists and stood there, slightly rocking in the breeze. I decided to spell it out to him again and, to my recollection this is pretty much what I said (and which I later entered into my police pocket notebook and which later entered a police investigation log, for reasons that will become obvious if you stick with me and keep reading): "Look at you, a skinny, pasty, heavy-smoking, drug-using wreck. You don't look like you could run 25 yards and yet you are seriously considering taking me on? You must be joking. Do yourself a favour and get back behind those bushes over there where you spend your wasted days. I am now going to contact the police control room so do yourself a favour and piss off out of my way". I moved back half a pace, keeping a close eye in case he did decide to assault me which I though was possible but, with me having taken the initiative, now seemed to have receded for the moment. Time to move away. I walked off and was immediately onto the police control room via my mobile. Being a job issue phone I had a direct dial straight to the control room console that covered our area. I relayed the incident, told them to ensure the CCTV was running and monitored and requested a local unit attend and turn the guy over (job slang for stop/search/obtain details). He loitered in the area of the bus station with several of his cronies, which is where I was eventually heading, so I was pleased to see one of my guys checking them out as I emerged from the supermarket. The whole thing was over in less than 3 minutes and the end result was I got a lift home in the area car. Two hours later, Mrs Hogday and I were walking the dogs prior to our wine and dine when my mobile phone rang. It was the duty sergeant at the control room, an old mate of mine. "Hi Hogday, free to speak? About that bloke you had the problem with in the car park earlier, well I thought you'd like to know he won't bother you anymore". "How's that?" "Well actually he won't bother anyone anymore, He's been found dead in the multi-story car park". I was shocked! "Fuck me! I never touched him" . The Sgt replied, "We know that. Its all on CCTV. It looks like he just collapsed. CID are dealing so can you ring the DS". I relayed my story to the DS and later faxed him the copy of my pocket book entry, pretty much as I've written here, which he found quietly entertaining in its frankness. I never minced my words. It would appear that this guy had indeed been in the multi-storey for reasons we'll never know and could only speculate on, and had been found by a member of the public, dead as a doornail. There was a post mortem and the Pathologists report painted a very sorry picture of his overall state of health. A long term chronic drug abuser and alcoholic, his death was due to some sort of pulmonary embolism or other very nasty, sudden, no hope, goodbye cruel world thing. The Pathologist further stated to the investigating officer that this guy's organs were so shot and his overall condition so poor that he was, in effect, `a dead man walking`. The following week I spoke to the Detective Sergeant and went over the incident again. The thing that always stays with me (and this wasn't that long ago) is that had I felt it necessary to fend this man off with my rolled up newspaper in his gut, thump him or even just give him a firm shove, he could very well have dropped on the spot and any subsequent conversations with the Detective Sergeant could well have been under caution, in an interview room, turning my entire evening into a world of shit. With everything done correctly and with my entire encounter with this aggressive street person captured on CCTV, coupled with the pathologists findings, I would have been exonerated from any blame, but the fact that I did not have to lay hands on him, or at least chose not to even though I was coming close, made this a very close run thing. Please do not draw any inferences between my telling this story now and the unfortunate death of Mr Tomlinson at the end of the G20 day in London.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Mighty Oaks from little acorns grow

Caption reads: Citizen Soldier: "Now then mate, why don't you join us?" Loafer: "Not me. I like my liberty. This is a free country" Citizen Soldier: "Well it won't be a free country much longer, if everybody goes on like you"
After a few years service, most police officers will look back and find that they went through a number of phases as the vagaries of the job added to their experience and their `box of options` for dealing with the strange anomalies thrown up by that most complex entity - people. Of course people are the police officers' main commodity and the basis for their very existence - the protection of life and the preservation of public order and the prevention of crime. One of the biggest shocks to my system on being posted to my first station in South London, was not seeing my first stinking corpse, my first mutilated car crash victim or attending a cot death, it was discovering that there were one or two officers on my shift who actually avoided work, to a greater or lesser degree. As a lot of us must have done when we thought about joining, I had this mental picture of the police officer as a sworn protector of the public, upright, noble and honest with both the moral and physical courage to stand up for what was right and to do the right thing. To find that this mental image was, in some cases, flawed by the reality of a small number of shirkers shocked me and I can still remember that feeling to this day. I want to say that these people were in the minority but, nevertheless, they were definitely there, as they are in all walks of life. These uniform carriers would go to great lengths and devise devious excuses to either not answer their radio, come up with a reason why they couldn't attend or wait until someone else accepted the call, then say they'd back it up but take their time arriving to ensure that they didn't arrive first. They often put in more work avoiding the job than if they'd just got stuck into it in the first place. Shirkers were not popular and would be quietly resented by the rest of the shift who saw them as empty shells. They were very much a minority, but it always amazed me that quite often their personal `game plan` would be well known, often by supervisors, but the appropriate action to remedy the problem was more often than not shied away from. This was tragic, because often the problem really could be remedied, as there was often an underlying cause that wasn't based on laziness and a good supervisor could have probably turned the situation around. Failure for a supervisor to act appropriately or just pretend the problem didn't exist, added to the resentment felt by the majority. When a supervisor does nothing to fix it, they, in turn, are held in ridicule and are resented even more than the shirkers, because supervisors draw extra pay to lead, manage and inspire. When they don't, the feeling of isolation felt by the rest of the shift can cause all sorts of problems. By contrast, being part of a well led, well motivated and trusted team is a great feeling that can rarely be surpassed in one's professional life. I have worked in some superb teams and cannot find the words to express how much respect I had for those particular colleagues. Having seen uniform carriers early on in my service, along with supervisors who just couldn't be arsed to do anything about them, I decided that if ever this became a responsibility of mine, that I would front-up the problem and do my utmost to fix it. It's difficult to handle such things when you are in your first 2 years probationary period because so many other factors are at play; establishing your own credibility amongst your peers, trying to gain experience, trying not to mess things up and generally trying to become accepted. Rocking a boat when you've just stepped into it can make you very unpopular until the others work out that you aren't intent on capsizing it and take them all down with you. But one thing I did eventually learn, at some considerable personal cost, is that fronting up to problem officers is a lot harder the longer they have been left to establish their ways and the more supervisors who have ignored them, the bigger the stink you uncover when you find yourself trying to stand up and do something about it, especially when a lot of those previous supervisors have got themselves promoted a few times along the way. The police has experienced a succession, nay, a generation of officers promoted to very senior positions, many of whom have quite likely been in the supervisor category I have just touched on. They have become `the system`. The system has been allowed to become what it is because good remedies have been ignored in the face of an easier path, keeping heads down and under no circumstances pointing out what everyone else can see, that the Emperer's New Clothes do not exist and he is, patently, bollock naked. I have a few tales to tell on this particular subject, but I'll have to think about them before I decide whether or not to share them because they inevitably touch emotional nerves. In the meantime, I'll finish on a lighter, slightly cynical note with the below, which was sent to me a while ago by an old, ex job friend. It's been poached, so I don't know who to attribute it to, but it's definitely written by a police officer, that's for sure. Don't take it too much to heart if you recognise someone, because police humour is sometimes a tough one to understand unless you've been there or in a similar role: The Stages of Police Service FASCINATION STAGE Years 1 - 4

For most officers, this is their first time outside of the middle class bubble. They have never seen a dead body, never seen life threatening injuries, never dealt with a family disturbance, never witnessed the shit some people call "home life", and never really understood the phrase "Man's Inhumanity To Man" until now. Everything is new to them. You can identify them by the amount of fancy new equipment they carry. A ten billion candlelight power torch, pens that write in the rain, a ballistic vest rated to stop tomahawk missiles, and an equipment bag large enough to house a squad of marines. They love it, they show up early for their shift. They work way past the end of their shift without even considering an O/T slip. They believe rank within the job is based only on ability and those in the upper ranks got there by knowledge and skill in police work only. They believe everyone is competent; everyone is on the same page and working towards the same high minded goals. When they finally go home to their significant other, they tell them everything they did and saw. Some of the more "eaten up" purchase a police scanner so they can hear the radio calls while at home. HOSTILITY STAGE Years 5 - 6

They now show up for work about 2 minutes before their shift, and they are hiding about 30 minutes before end of the shift, writing reports so they can just throw them in the sergeant's in-box and leave ASAP. They have to get to their second job to earn money to pay for the divorce that is pending. They gripe about everything, drink excessively, chase women, and hate the public, politicians, media, etc. They feel they have more in common with the hookers, thieves, druggies, etc. but hate them too. Those pens that write in the rain are no longer needed. Writing traffic tickets can be a lot more trouble than they are worth, even on a nice day. To write one, or to write anything while standing in the rain, is a sure sign of an insane person. Their spouse is no longer interested in hearing about all the gore and heartache. They get the "you spend more time with the cops than you do with me" speech.

SUPERIORITY STAGE Years 7 - 15 This is when cops are at their best. They have survived changes in administration. They know how the political game is played, both inside and outside the job. They know who they can trust and who they can't. They have select friends within the job, and stay away, as best they can, from the nuts and boot-lickers. They know the legal system, the judges, prosecutors, defence solicitors, etc. They know how to testify and put a good case together. They are usually the ones that the gaffers turn to when there is some clandestine request or sensitive operation that needs to be done right. These cops are still physically fit and can handle themselves on the street. They will stay around the station when needed, but have other commitments, such as a second spouse, a second girlfriend (sometimes both), and most of their friends are non job.

ACCEPTANCE STAGE Years 16 - Now the cops have a single objective... retirement and pension. Nothing is going to come between them and their monthly payslip. The boss, the force, the idiots around the station, and the creeps on the street can all go to hell, because they could come between them and "sitting on the beach". There is no topic of discussion that can't somehow lead back to retirement issues. These guys are usually sergeants, detectives, scenes of crime officers, community, or some other post where they will not be endangered. They especially don't want some young stupid cop getting them sued, fired, killed, or anything else causing them to lose their "beach time". They spend a lot of time having coffee, hanging around the station, and looking at brochures of things they want to do in retirement. The retired cop usually dies within five years of retirement, saving the force a bunch of money. Of course, nothing is ever 100% true, but if you are a cop, were a cop, or know a cop, then you will certainly recognize some of the above statements.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Believe it or not.....

Regular British police blog readers will have seen many photographs and much comment and personal viewpoints regarding the policing of the G20 demonstrations last week. It cost millions to police and thousands of police officers were involved from across the UK. Not just from the Metropolitan Police but those who were sent to the capital on mutual aid. There were also those left behind to police their own cities and towns with diminished numbers - life goes on regardless, but policing freedom is expensive and this country of ours has a mere 136,000 officers to look after over 65 million of us plebs. As a minor diversion from last week and of the earlier posts of the violent clashes outside the Israeli Embassy a couple of months ago, I thought I'd post up a few pics I took with my mobile phone on Saturday. This is a nice little spot in London where, if your feet are hot and tired, you can paddle in an oasis of tranquility and Victorian splendour, not 5 minutes walk from Harrods, not 200 paces from the busy Brompton Road. It doesn't get much more `London` than this. Yet no traffic will you hear. Cost? Nothing. Value? Priceless. Oh, and a meal at The Star of India, what a day.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Bankers in Disguise

I see that all the city slickers in London today have been allowed to come to work dressed down and nondescript, scruffed up in off-duty gear or whatever floats their boat, so as not to be singled out by nasty anarchist types who might want to bash them up for being personally responsible for causing the credit crisis, ripping off depositors, leaving genuine borrowers struggling to borrow and throwing countless businesses and their employees onto the dole. I can understand their caution. For those who will be turning up for work in anything but nonedescript clothing and by that I mean the thousands of police, drawn from not only the capital's rest day reserves but from forces all over the country, I'd like to say a heartfelt, `have a nice day` and to ask a favour: Mrs Hogday's boss and her friend are in town to see the stage production of "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert", having had to come down to the smoke a second time because `Priscilla` broke down the other week causing the show to close after only 10 minutes. I wanted to ask if the police could keep an eye out for them. They will be dressed `in character` complete with red high heels, big hair, big lashes, big lips, lots of feathers and some very naughty ping-pong balls. Being as the regular city types have dressed down today, they may be difficult to spot amongst the scardycat bankers, so do try. My local police force, numbering a bare 1580 officers (it still only adds up to 1580, even if they are clothed) have sent a contingent of public order level 2 officers to London. Now this might be a shock for some of them. I once took out a newly transferred sergeant from the really rural shires up town on foot patrol and he kept on bumping into lamp posts and pedestrians from constantly gawping up at the high buildings (plus I don't think they had pedestrians or lamp posts where he'd come from). But they're good guys and gals these county coppers - I know, I joined them after I was forced out of London in order to try and buy my own home. Whenever the county forces used to get involved with us up in the Metroplitan, we would refer to them affectionately as " The Swedey", often accompanied by, `ooh- arrh` and other accents that would have done "The Archers" proud. They, in turn, would accuse us of all being on the take. To the day I retired from my county force, I was still referred to as `the bloke who transferred from The Met`, yet I spent the majority of my service in `the County`. I would often be jokingly singled out as a suspect if anything went missing from the station or if a prisoner arrived in the cells with a black eye. Unlike the prisoner, I always took the joke on the chin, whilst pointing out that a good Met copper never leaves marks or scars, only psychological ones, as a jolly retort to this canteen banter - oh how we, really, we did laugh, genuinely laugh, because it didn't mean anything to me and was just part of the vagaries of police humour - I think someone banned it eventually, humour, that is. So, I prepare to do my civic duty in a very different manner to that of my former colleagues. I'll be off to work on my motorbike very soon, across the Moors and into Poshnortherntown where there will doubtless be even fewer police on duty than usual. I'll keep a sharp lookout for lawbreakers and anarchists but will be mindful of the fact that the response time for this and any other crimes reported in my lovely county will be further increased in the cause of someone else's freedom to protest and of the violent and dangerous among them, running amuck causing damage, injury and disruption to property, life and limb in our capital city. Well at least I'm going down at the weekend, so maybe I'll just see some of them being released on bail by then. So stay safe my local cops now in London. Come home soon because we need you up here - plus there's already a huge backlog of pointless forms for you to start filling in upon your safe return.