Saturday, 30 July 2011

A look back at Norway

I didn't comment on the Norway massacre. One tends to find oneself repeating previous comments on similar incidents almost ad nauseum; But in my profile I do mention that I spent many years as a tactical firearms team officer and I was an instructor and tactical adviser, so here I go again:

A good shot with a humble .22 sporting rifle (found in thousands of country homes up and down the UK) and pockets full of easily carried ammunition, could kill and maim dozens and dozens, including the responding police, be they armed response vehicle crew or the unarmed 99%,  just as Ryan did in Hungerford and he had an AK47 military rifle. Isn't a .22 tiny? Relative to full bore ammunition, yes, but its a bit like asking which bullet will kill you best. Range of a .22? If he could see you, he could hit you, its as simple as that. Once contained he'd continue to be extremely dangerous to the police who would do well to keep him contained and either starve him or let the negotiators bore him to suicide or surrender.
There are no police teams sat waiting to be deployed to such incidents in a Chinook helicopter or any other helicopter, anywhere in the world, as far as I know. If we want to improve the impression that we take public and officer safety seriously, we could provide quicker access to long arms for the non tactical firearms trained police, but its no cure and would require a big chunk of money (not that this is reason not to). Thats the way we live.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Operetta that is Trial by Jury

In my previous post I sang the praises of the Dutch police system. I casually mentioned that in The Netherlands, a great liberal democracy, there is no such thing as trial by jury. This case makes interesting reading
although no inference should be drawn from it.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Cheaper by half

In a piece I read over at `Calling England` this morning it seems that the nationalisation of the police in the UK is coming closer by stealth. Being carried in the Guardian of course meant that there was a sinister, big brother slant on it, but as anyone with any sense will realise, there have been specialist police surveillance units for ages.  I have no real view on this amalgamation subject beyond what I felt 20 years ago when I wrote a piece in the Police Federation magazine.

In that article I expressed serious doubt that a huge faceless organisation could be truly representative of the community it served and that making a complaint against a locally accountable chief officer was far preferable than being passed from pillar to post in some faceless, nameless office in London before ending up on an equally faceless mandarin's desk for a good rubber stamping. In terms of economies of scale, I had no problem with a standardisation of forces in respect of purchasing equipment, application of IT and the like, but I just wasn't sure about the potential loss of local identity and the application of a local policy for local issues ("we'll have no trouble here, we're a local shop for local people"). Frankly, the local accountability I thought we had then didn't, on reflection, add up to much and I think I probably made far too much of it. Perhaps idealism really is for the young?

Since writing that article, I have seen my last force's air support unit, surveillance unit and, in part, its firearms teams amalgamate with neighbouring forces. The head of the former, an old chum, wrote to me recently slating what had happened to his air force and citing appalling response times and equally diminished cover and loss of credibility with the boots on the ground. From my own observations and contacts in my own area, there is precious little cover at the moment and that is sure to get even thinner as the cuts roll over us all.

One police organisation that really impressed me during my academic studies was this one. We have a lot in common in that they police a liberal democracy, arguably far more liberal than ours (and there's no such thing as trial by jury either, a great bonus). If this country is to go `national police force`, we could do a lot worse than take a leaf out of their book. They have a direct officer entry system, something that was also debated during the Margaret Thatcher years when Ken `thats not a real rape` Clarke was Home Secretary. That debate was not well received by the police at the time and I hear it is being raised again, with equal resistance from many quarters, including the comment pages of Inspector Gadget.

I worked with direct entry officers in The Netherlands as well as those who got to senior ranks the long way and, frankly, the same debates and gripes as we are hearing now were had in police canteens over there as well. But the bottom line  was that good police leaders in Amsterdam were made of the same stuff as good police leaders in London, Liverpool or Skipton and the crap ones were there as well with the same detrimental effect on their subordinates. Human nature doesn't change that much just because you've gone a couple of hundred miles across the North Sea.

So this time around, if there are moves afoot to introduce a direct `officer` entry system in the UK police service, I for one would not raise any objections if it modelled itself on what I saw in The Netherlands - and if those that were clearly not up to leading and commanding were identified and dealt with accordingly, then not a peep would you hear from me on that, either.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Random Conversations with the News Media

Insp Hogday:   "Force Control Room, can I help you"?

News Agency Man:   "Hi Hog, its Dave from Leer and Smear News Agency. A little bird tells me of a sudden death in Sticksville. A detached house in Ruby Road, couple of middle aged male occupants. I believe one of them was found dead in....what shall I say... unusual circumstances. Anything you can throw me on this one"?

HD: "Hello Dave, who have you been talking to this time"? (hears chuckle, followed by smokers cough).

NAM: "Well, you know, we have our sources. So what's the deal on this one"?

HD: "There's no deal Dave, you know very well that sudden deaths are investigations on behalf of HM Coroner. As well as serving that most ancient of Royal Appointments we are also mindful of the sensitivities of the bereaved so I won't be divulging anything to you on this matter. Anything else I can help you with today"?

NAM: "Well can I put it this way, we've been told that the circumstances are quite unusual, so a little steer would be really useful".

HD: "Listen very carefully, for I shall say this only once. If you are thinking `bizarre homosexual or erotic intrigue`, forget it. Now, can you tell me why you are thinking its unusual, or perhaps you can tell me what happened in the Gulf War overnight"?

NAM: "Can't you give me something Off the record"?

HD: "Ok Dave, off the record, this telephone line is recorded for our mutual assistance and protection. On the record I'm never off the record, now piss off, please". (More laughter and coughing).
End of call.

I refer to the final, short, paragraph of my previous post.

Addendum: Having just listened to some of the Gov't committee proceedings, it occurred to me that not only would I still not use that paper for the purpose I said, but neither would I want to employ anyone associated with it, but then I was never in the business of recruiting people into a police media relations department and neither, would it seem, was the former commissioner or assistant commissioner. For the bulk of my service there were no ex journalists working within the job, in fact we never had a media relations department at all in my county force until the 80's. Such naïveté . (I wonder how much these media departments cost and could the police manage without them?)

(and in case you were wondering, the poor deceased died with his head down the lav'. The news leak could have only come from the police or the ambulance service or the undertaker  or a relative of any of the aforementioned who may have been told. I'm sure the news agency wasn't hacking into the police radio net, I mean, even when they got to incidents before we did, I'm sure it was just down to a journo's instinct)

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Saddle Happy

Haven't been here for a while. Jumped on one of the motorbikes last week (I haven't yet mastered how to ride them both at the same time) and scooted off to East Anglia for a few days recce. Thanks to some good friends who were away up North, I was able to use their home on the Norfolk/Suffolk border as a base and save myself a lot of money in a B&B.
Back roads of Suffolk

Border country - Norfolk on the left bank, Suffolk on the right

Dustbin day at the church

The 210 mile run started at 6.30pm and I arrived at 9.30pm. Travelling in the UK can be quick and easy, you just have to be careful in choosing the time you travel and not be too greedy for speed on the roads so as to avoid drawing attention to yourself. Averaging 70mph on a 3 hr hop, with one quick fuel stop, is bloody good for this country. After viewing a house I headed to the south coast, another 150 or so miles. Not quite so quick, as I had to travel during the day, cross the Thames on the Dartford Bridge (bikers don't pay, thanks to MAG campaigning) and then run the gauntlet of the M25, at times arguably the worlds largest car park. I hate motorways and so came off on the A3 only to find that the new Hindhead tunnel, which I heard was officially opened a few weeks ago, wasn't actually open at all although a member of the Royal Family had in fact `opened` it. Well some bugger had re-closed it after they left.

It's a fake!

I crawled through some lovely Surrey countryside but by now I had a need to work some feeling back into my gluteus maximus. Against my principles, I stopped at a McDonalds near Petersfield. I just had a coffee and ate a Crunchie. I sat there watching young mums with that `thousand yard stare`, slumped at various tables, their heads propped up by an arm, as their junior citizens-in-training sort of ran amock, creating a havoc for all the other customers that mum seemed either oblivious or indifferent to. I heeded the McDonalds handy warning that my coffee was hot and braced myself against the mayhem until it was cool enough to drink. Then I was out of that hell hole of hyperactive, indisciplined kids and off down the road, thinking that the brats should have been in the bloody burgers. Shit, am I turning into a Nazi?

I spent 4 days at my son's pad, kindly offered to me whilst he and his gal enjoyed a week on a Greek Island. I had a good time catching up with my daughter and the two grandchildren. It was great meeting the grandson from his morning at pre-school. It was even better when he asked me to meet him the next day, without his mum! I was honoured. Catching up with an old friend, eating fish and chips with him in his caravan and watching "Longitude" on dvd whilst enjoying a Bishops Finger (no Papist jokes please, it's a great English beer) was wonderful.

And so home on Sunday. Thanks to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, I was diverted through some delightful Northamptonshire villages, some I'd never seen before and some where I used to play the local schools at football during my childhood. It reduced my average speed but improved my state of mind, an excellent trade-off.

Whilst I was away, I couldn't watch  news bulletins because they had all been hi-jacked by something called the `News of the World`, a paper that I wouldn't even use to pick up a dog turd. If that's all the world has to offer in the way of `news`, then I was clearly better off on my bike.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Tourists - Please read this road safety warning

During my recent trip to London I was shocked to see so many tourists stepping out in front of traffic. We drive on the LEFT over here!

Monday, 4 July 2011


In Flanders fields the poppies blow 
Between the crosses, row on row, 
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below. 
We are the Dead. Short days ago 
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
Loved and were loved, and now we lie, 
In Flanders fields. 
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

What General Weygand has called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.

But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour.

We've over 50 RAF careers. Tell us your age, qualifications and salary expectations and we'll show you what your next move could be.

The Royal Navy isn’t just about ships and submarines. We also fly the world’s most advanced military aircraft, including Harrier fast jets. We also have three types of helicopter – the Merlin, Lynx and Sea King.

I also understand concern over immigration controls. We will put in place strict controls that work. They will be part of our first legislative programme if we are re-elected on May 5. These controls will include the type of points system used in Australia for example to help ensure our economy gets the skills we need.

“The biggest threat that we face comes from terrorist attacks, some of which are, sadly, carried out by our own citizens.”

“The assumption with the Carter years was that it was a failure of the elites, not the system. We thought the people in charge screwed up. We didn’t blame ourselves. Every institution in America has gone through a collapse. The Church is not what it was, thanks to all those religious scandals, the media is much less trusted today than it was 20 or 30 years ago. Big business does not have credibility.”

Firstly you must always implicitly obey orders, without attempting to form any opinion of your own regarding their propriety. Secondly, you must consider every man your enemy who speaks ill of your king; and thirdly you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil.

Gentlemen, when the enemy is committed to a mistake we must not interrupt him too soon.

Our country will, I believe, sooner forgive an officer for attacking an enemy than for letting it alone.

and, seeing as it's the 4th of July, I think the last 268 words should go to dear Abe:

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.