Monday, 4 October 2010

Police "Pay and Perks", vfm and the Scramble for a `By`-Line

After a short break from posting anecdotes and the occasional bit of spleen-venting I have been moved to switch on my computer and tap out some assorted words, randomly arranged in the hope that some sentences may actually string together. Well, the little green light is on and the valves have warmed up* (*It's an old-guy thing; you youngsters wouldn't understand - but valves aren't affected by an EMP so there's sense in old technology).

I picked up on a short piece in The Times yesterday. Those of you who subscribe to that paper's online reading fees can read it here. I don't subscribe yet so I bought the paper - how quaint. The article made quite a lot of sense, but I expect similar pieces in the more strident, tatty, tabloids will gloss over the truths behind such lines as, "Others can earn four hours overtime for taking a phone call when off-duty".  I'm sure the big-hitter police bloggers will already be responding to this sort of thing in their own style, so I have taken a more personal slant on what these articles mean to me.

In my thirty year stint in community protection and service I earned overtime, had my rest days regularly cancelled at short notice, got paid my allowance for extra food when I'd worked said overtime and finally took my pension, the one that is often flagged up as a good`un, but which cost me a very hefty chunk of my monthly pay, over the aforementioned 30 years. I always thought I'd had a fairly easy time as I'd never been hospitalised for more than an overnight observation and I'm still pretty healthy and active. But then something happened that made me reflect on my survival. I recently had cause to go through my medical records and found things in there that I had completely forgotten. There are many others out there, police pensioners like me, who probably have had it much worse, but here is a little extract from mine. There are others, but I didn't want to go on about it:

     `Hit on rt. heel by paving slab`
This was at a large demonstration in central London, following the “Bloody Sunday” shootings in Londonderry. I was in a cordon across Downing Street at about 7.30pm when rioting started amongst the 5000+ crowd. They were breaking up paving stones and hurling them into the police lines. I was rescuing a downed colleague when I was hit by a lump of paving stone. Got a badly swollen foot.

L Hand; L shoulder was twisted backwards….`
This happened when I`d stopped a stolen car. The occupants attacked me as they attempted to escape. I believe the vehicle clipped me as they decamped but can’t be sure. I may have had a few days off, but nothing of significance beyond that. Ironically, a close friend and colleague was involved in a similar incident a few months earlier. He was killed. I was lucky.

       `Attended  Hospital Casualty on …..`
I was in plain clothes as part of an armed observation team at  tube stations because some IRA bombers M.O. pattern at that time suggested they were using the tube. We were chasing two men with a holdall. As I ran down the steps I tripped and fell the last few and jarred my lower back. My Walther pistol also fell, from its holster, and slid along the platform, which had the effect of clearing all the sober people from the scene very quickly.

  `Kicked in scrotum around 5pm yesterday….`
I remember it well! Attempting to arrest a very violent man, who was threatening people with a knife. He almost choked me unconscious but I got some help from a huge, Barbadian hot dog seller who bent this man in all sorts of horrible positions on my behalf. The notes say I had a stiff lower back and a bruised right shoulder, along with the tender parts. I only recall the latter. Had a week off. No after effects.

        `Motorcycle injury` 
I remember it well. On a police motorcycle. The engine seized, locking the rear wheel, causing me to leave the road and land on the grass verge. Taken to hospital as precaution, because my back hurt. Notes refer to general backache including R trapezius (the large muscle centre/upper back). As I recall it hurt when I took a deep breath. Full recovery after a couple of weeks. It was the bike that was retired.

   `Injury to back, assaulted in police station`
I cannot remember how this happened except to say that there were always fights in charge rooms and by this time I was a patrol/charge room sergeant. Just another back strain from a punch up. Normal for the job.

     `Seen at police stn by Dr....`
Dr ...was a retained `police surgeon`. I had been kicked in the groin again, during yet another struggle with a violent prisoner, and Doc was on hand and so was able to examine me. Notes suggest no blood in urine so I suppose I was ok. Must remember to keep groin out of the way.

      `Pain Rt trapezium and neck. Injury x 2 during past 4 months`
I cannot recall these. At this time I was an instructor at the force training school and this was just after the miners strike so I was definitely `non operational`. I was playing sports and regularly weight training 3 times a week. I do, however, remember the medication. Diazepam and Dyhydrocodeine. Doc told me to take one of each immediately I got home but to be sitting down when I did. I thought she was joking as she was quite a sport, but the effect was quick and I was flat out, floating 2 feet above the bed, feeling no pain. What a combo, but avoid Jack Daniels chasers.

`Beaten up at weekend, seen at casualty A&E
Remember it well.  I was attacked and repeatedly kicked in my mid to lower back, forcing me to release my prisoner to defend myself. They then decamped and I pursued one of them who, at a distance of about 20 feet, turned and hurled a piece of rubble, which struck me on the head. I suffered concussion and a badly bruised middle and lower back and was off sick for a few weeks. No occupational health then. This injury is still with me, over 20 years later.

Pain in back/l shoulder
           Can’t remember what this was about specifically, other than I would get neck pain occasionally. This      was later put down to my pelvis being slightly out of alignment, the most likely cause being a previous assault . By now I was nearly 41 years old. I had previously, as a sergeant,  been a firearms tactical team leader, trained to hostage rescue capabilities. I had also been involved, both strategically and tactically, in large-scale public order operations. For tactical firearms operations I would, where appropriate, have to carry a firearm and other tactical equipment for personal protection. Regulations required me to regularly pass the firearms officers physical fitness qualification quarterly, a vigorous test involving a high level of upper body strength and general fitness.  I received quite a few knocks and strains during this period and cannot remember any that caused me to take time off work, but I would get the worst ones looked at as a precaution. This note on my records was probably one of those. A firearms response officer does this kind of work voluntarily. There is nothing in the regulations that says you must carry a firearm in the course of your duties (yet).

Walking back down this particular stretch of memory lane was not a nice experience for me. It was the first time I had ever done such a thing. Seeing a written record of a particular aspect of one's life, seeing in black and white your own diary written by someone else and then to suddenly realise that there were so many more occasions when you took hits which required a few days off but where you didn't actually bother to see a doctor, was actually a bit of a shock. So when I saw those articles in the press, telling of all the `perks` and allowances the police get, I just felt the mild urge to publish a little peek behind my own particular scenes. 

There will always be those who will strive to be challenged, to be tested, to be the best they can be, just as there will always be those who just strive to be paid the most they can get in return for the minimum of effort and the most mediocre of service provision. The former must be protected and rewarded, not flushed away in the same dirty bathwater as the latter.


Conan the Librarian™ said...

"Kicked in the scrotum yesterday"

Lucky he missed your ba's then.

Hogday said...

It was just a load of bo***cks, Conan. Fortunately it didn't affect my part time job as a mezzo soprano for the police choir.

CI-Roller Dude said...

It sounds like a few creatins you delt with needed a good ass whopin'.
I have two strong rules:
1.) Don't try to hurt the cops
2.) Don't try to hurt the cop's vehicle

If they violate either of those rules, they earn the rath of my writing instrument and they suffer badly in court...that's a modern day ass whopin'.

Hogday said...

CI-RD: With you there, 100%. Pity our Courts aren't, when we need them to be. My general guideline was, `You throw a punch, I can now choose to draw my stick`. `You pull a knife......I call up one of my gang to pull a gun whilst I re-group` - assuming I was alive, that is :-/ Funny, but in all the armed tactical entries I did, and there were lots, no one pulled anything on us - how strange ;)

TonyF said...

It makes my bursitis seem a bit naff....

Hogday said...

TonyF, the biggest impact injury I've had was post Old Bill,fairly recently, doing a nice,non-violent, `hobby job`. Good health and happiness to you, sir!

Blue Eyes said...

"As I ran down the steps I tripped and fell the last few and jarred my lower back"

I expect it was your pride that came off worst!

"The former must be protected and rewarded, not flushed away in the same dirty bathwater as the latter. "

The question is "how"? With modern management techniques where the procedure is more important than the outcome, people who can "play the game" will always win over those who just want to do a good job. Oh wait, then it's easy: tear up the modern management techniques..!

Hogday said...

Blue: "In one final sentence young sir, you have it....".

There were always uniform carriers/empty uniforms, call them what you will. Most of the time the rest of us just worked around them. Very occasionally you'd get a sergeant (the most important rank in the structure)who would see it and fix it. What gems those skippers were.

As for my trip down the tube steps, I'm sure I rolled out of it like a rugby star, grabbing the Walther PP as I straightened up, slipping off the safety catch in one seamless movement, before snapping off a quick double-tap and then dusted myself down as the villain ate platform - or was that in a Dirty Harry movie?

JuliaM said...

"Oh wait, then it's easy: tear up the modern management techniques..!"

Have never understood how the sort of techniques that are supposed to work with the girls in the tping pool and the boys in the sales team are supposed to work equally well with people who do this sort of job...

Anonymous said...

I don't remember ever thinking, 'curse, I'm not having enough paid into my pension to fund it properly' while I was in any number of holes around the world Hoggie. It was true though - they weren't making proper provision for us.
Nearly everyone I meet is grateful to police and all our services for bravery and professionalism, but we now see quite a bit of the dark side too.
I think the honest thing would be to get the pay and conditions right for the front line (pit face if you like) and civilianise the rest, including management.
Sadly, for every couple of guys asking a Black Panther what's in his bag and ending-up wrestling with a shotgun whilst unarmed, there seem to be 100 jobsworths and chocolate-dipped strawberry suckers.
The total number of police officers who seem to have come clean with the public on what is really going on appears to be around zero. Many can't admit it to themselves.
When I had to finish (injury on duty) policing was (statistically) a much safer job than many others, and certainly the shipyards and construction. Don't know what the case is now, but the current mob don't work on their own anything like as much as we old farts.

I don't believe the police are a special case for pay, conditions and pensions these days - but there is a special case within the police for a small number of officers at the real sharp end.
What seems to be missed in my view is that the place to start in CJS reform is elsewhere. Did DH ever use a Walther?

Anonymous said...

Apparently Dirty Harry's gun was supposed to be the Smith & Wesson 29 (44 Magnum) but the actual model in the film was a S & W 57 (.41 Magnum).

I think we can safely conclude from this Hog that I'm a pedant and it was you rolling off the stairs with the Walther!

Hogday said...

JuliaM: Yes, difficult to quantify, but, like Allcopped`, I never wanted to be a `special case`, particularly, just wanted my `no strike allowed` job to have its just desserts!

ACO: With you there. As for the Dirty Harry reference, my mistake; Insp Callaghan DID use a Walther PP, but only to pick his teeth.

Area Trace No Search said...

Well said HD.

It made me think, and I reckon my medical notes (if the job have kept them all) would be interesting reading.

I know that I have physical scars that are with me for the rest of my life that remind me of some nasty incidents and will continue to do so every time I go swimming or make the mistake of exposing my pallid naked torso to the general public.

I've also had at least one injury that required six months of treatment - although I was back at work days after the injury occurred.

For me the most traumatic have been AIDS/HIV shots or similar when I've been forcibly exposed to nasty bodily fluids. Months of no sex, no open wounds, scared to kiss family members goodnight in case you infect them with something nasty or potentially fatal... a really horrible experience, and it's happened to me twice so far. I may even blog about it one day, but despite those not being as long lasting (once the all clear has been given) they are definitely the hardest to deal with.

It's not easy being a month into a new relationship and having to have a sit down conversation with your new squeeze and explain that sex, kissing, sharing toothbrushes are all out now, and that I need to check for cuts and scratches before holding hands.

I know people say some of those things are OTT - the holding hands thing for instance - but I'm not alone in taking it that seriously. I've taken the Queen's shilling so take the hits, but my family and loved ones haven't and shouldn't.

11% plus from my pay packet every month is part of the compensation for going through that.

Rant mode = over.

Anonymous said...

My best mate died 15 years after we were both bitten by the same goon in a big bar fight (Hepatitis). I tested negative. Indeed not nice stuff Area Trace. Some though are only at risk of 'needle-stick' injuries from paper clips.
Keep paying in though AT - you ain't funding your own pension, just paying for mine and Hoggie's odd pint as we lick our wounds. It may be that our honed obduracy and refusal to die early before the bad guys is causing the country's pension nightmare!

Hogday said...

Area: Good to see your moniker again. Real horror stories like your XXX are out there - what a bloody nightmare. Like I said, I think I was pretty lucky yet reading my notes shook me. Almost as much as the 11% a month I also paid for the privilege ;) I just ensure I keep waking up alive to `beat the clock` :))

ACO: A drugs worker lectured me on Hep B. I didn't realise the virus could live for ages on `environmental surfaces`. I got my shots asap after that little chat and it also cured me of putting a biro in my mouth:-/