Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Sics munce ago i cudnt even spel `dective`, now i are wun!

Over at Gadget's place, his latest post (probably one of the last typed on his Sinclair Spectrum, until his new public sponsored computer gets delivered!) drew attention to comments made by Tom Winsor about the poor literary and grammatical skills of police officers. There were the usual hundreds of comments in response, many of which give concurring examples of what Mr Winsor was referring to after chatting to his barrister chums, so what can one conclude from this?

I worked alongside an officer who was so bad at spelling that I doubted he could get his name right without first checking his warrant card. He had GCE O and A levels coming out of his ears. I asked him how he managed such great exam results. His reply was simple, "At school they weren't bothered about the spelling, as long as the meaning was there". He made DCI eventually. At another station I worked alongside a Pc who had a doctorate, a former Royal Navy submariner officer who could have probably made it as a concert pianist and, in my firearms team days, former SAS troopers, paramedics, schoolteachers and bank clerks who had formed into a formidable team that were truly awe inspiring.  I once received details of a Met Pc's initial written statement made after he had been involved in a police vehicle accident. It read, "The black fella stepped out in front of me. I hit the brakes. Skidded. Bosh".  That was it. Not a whole lot of information there. Yet someone had passed that as suitable to be presented as evidence. I've also worked on the shop floor of a major supermarket where the workforce consisted of a similarly varied cross section of society, with intellects ranging from doctorate to Cro-Magnon . I have worked for a self made millionaire who could not write a single sentence that made sense - and as for spelling, wotz that?

I heard that the C/I who replaced me when I retired had two probationary officers posted to the division whose English grammar and spelling was so bad that he paid for evening classes for them, out of the divisional budget! Lucky them. In my day the C/I would have had a friendly chat and `let them go`, except in the 1970's we called it getting the sack, in fact I doubt they'd have been accepted in the first place and if they were, the recruiting officer would have been disciplined.

What do Winsor's comments prove? That anyone can get in? That there are no common minimum requirements? That the common minimum requirements are too low or that no one is bothering to uphold them? That the suitable gene/recruit pool is shrinking or the content is corrupted with mutations? I don't think the police are alone in this, yet Winsor (shouldn't there be a `d` in Win sor?) would  have us think otherwise.

(Please ignore any typo's, spelling, grammaticals etc)


Anonymous said...

There is now a relentless barrage of anti-police stories being planted in the media daily. I suppose that after the riots the government have decided that they don't need the police to deal with the threatened winter of discontent. I really don't know what their end game is, or if they have any plan other than relentless change for the sake of change so that they can be seen to be doing something. I have yet to see any politician come up with a comprehensive plan for 21st century policing beyond the constant repetition of a few soundbites designed to catch the attention of the public.
I don't know what the answer is. I have heard stories of officers being sent on English as a foreign language courses to get their conversational English up to speed. At the last borough I was on the street duties APS used to run remedial english classes to bring people up to speed and let them know what they had to write in reports. I should add that many were graduates and many were from Russell Group universities. I think it goes back to a change in teaching practice that said spelling and grammar were not important.
BTW some of the men who made the Industrial Revolution happen in the UK were self taught or barely literate but possessed of great practical knowledge.

Hogdayafternoon said...

Ex: Your comments add to what I've felt for quite some time.
Re your final sentence, I was once told, in my youth, that the head of ICI started life as an East End barrow boy and I bet Lord Saccharine gets someone else to type his letters, so I guess it could've been me, except I never had a barrow.

Sage said...

Help - I teach literacy and numeracy to adult learners who have been through the current school system yet are unable to work out how many 5's are in a 100 or to use their correctly instead of there.. we have to address the problems at the earliest moment, not be intimidated by dogooders saying should demoralise pupils by highlighting mistakes better by far to tackle it then before they enter the job market or can't enter it because of their lack of skills.


ps - how's the house move going?

Hogdayafternoon said...

Sage: Totally. My niece quit as head of a department at an f/e college because of the `bums on seats, all must pass` doctrine.

We've exchanged on both sale and purchase - out of here on the 28th. Thanks for asking :)

dickiebo said...

My senior partner, when we were both P.Cs on plain-clothes work, could not write a report without me having to correct umpteen errors. He ended up as Head of the Flying Squad!
Mind you, I don't know how this equates with my old pal - who was an Acting Chief Constable at the time - who told me that 90% of new recruits had the qualifications to be senior officers - but only 10% had the quals to be a police officer! Perhaps this explains something about current senior occifers!!!

Blue Eyes said...

I was really angry about this story because the implication is that because some idiots get in that everyone who has got in is an idiot.

And then I realised that Mr Winsor must have been speaking to senior officers and suddenly his point made perfect sense.

Hogdayafternoon said...

dickiebo: That made me larrf! A paddy I had out in the area car and who radioed IR a `number plate` on a van (CVI check) as Hotel, Oscar, Romeo, Sierra, Echo, Sierra made it quite big in SB. Horses for courses?

Blue: QED!

TonyF said...

Well, it makes me feel better. I failed English Lang and Lit at school. Shame really, I wanted to be a fast jet jockey for the Queen, but because I only had 6 'O' levels, and none of them being English, I wasn't to be trusted in flying the damned things, just fixing them. Of course, some years later I re-took the exams and passed. Daft really, because all the other subjects I passed in required reasonably good English.

How can spelling and grammar not be important?
Good read: 'Eats, shoots and leaves'

Hogdayafternoon said...

Hi Tony. I used to tell my young trainees that a defence lawyer will try anything to discredit them and their evidence in a witness box and if all it came down to was a mis-spelled word or bad grammar, they'd be in, with the knife a-twisting.
As for flying, I got a grade 1 `O` in physics but maths always eluded me :(

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

Not really grammar related, but this is a Piggy-Wig oriented blog, so it sort of fits. I just saw this on the Federal Signal website, I WANT ONE!

Watch the first video.

TonyF said...

Hog, it's weird isn't it? You got a good grade in a subject that uses maths, and yet actually struggle with maths. I had the same problem with English. Our Geography teacher was a bastard if you English was bad. You would fail a test (essay, you know , where you have to write 500 - 700 words per question) even if you were factually correct.
He used to give 'impositions' usually 500 words on such diverse subjects as 'The sex life of a drawing pin' or similar.


Hogdayafternoon said...

TonyF; Weird indeed. My mate Pete joined the RAF in 1969, the same year as I decided to try the Met Police. I almost tossed a coin to decide if I should join with him. Still, I am content in the knowledge that I successfully flew an F4 to and from a carrier and caught the wire first time in. All he managed to do was keep their engines spinning! PS: I only did it here, though

Scott: That Federal kit is good. We first had a Federal unit fitted to one of our cars in 1978 and it woke up the entire county.

Anonymous said...

Winsor is a plant for further decimation Hog, and the reduction of wages. The truth on this 'play wot cops rote eatlier' stuff is about the return of police work as 'low caste,low pay' as when size and the ability to do what bosses say without question.

My own left-wing tendencies are more to do with soccewr and rugny than politics, but I've noticed over the years that lots of smart-set people aren't literate and that some wot talk and on't use either grmmar-spell checkers or a literate secretary (as here - all guaranteed accidents) or talkers of 'street' are actually better critical thinkers than those who act smart through better schooling. Labov put all this well in the 60's.

If good schooling wasn't more important than being born bright in social success, we wouldn't see 7% of kids in private schools and more in the selective state schools.

The old promotion exams (wot we dun Haggie) wuz harder than any non-science A level or university entrance. No doubt this has gone (in)competence-based so any half-wit can pass these days.

If lawyers are so bright explain the current half-baked reasoning of Keit Stammerer the dopey DPP. How backward atre we in the age of science to think ability with a spell checker or words generally is the mark of much. We scientists barely read the Beano on our way to hot fusion or building life with computers and chemical goo.

Anyway, take a look a Windso - he's just the kind of pinch-faced weasel we'd nick on sight on three beat. He'd probably try amd confuse our poor spelling until we introduced him to Sgt Challinor for some deep Calendonia Road therapy. It's clear the only way to get a worthwhile idea from him would be to beat one out of him, or get his signature on a few of our own!
That honesty doesn't come with literacy is evident just looking at Windbag and his lawyer pals.

As ever, the Dutch do better. The above is about as well as I do without spell-grammar checking and proof review.

Hogdayafternoon said...

Hi Archy`. Sgt Challenor MM, now there's a name that was much bandied about during my days at Hendon (the old Nissan hut Hendon, not the concrete mushroom factory). I learnt a lot, not least being that it was not appropriate to say "You're fucking nicked my beauty" although I confess to using variations on the theme (never touched a half brick mind - although I was struck by one on Feb 5th 1972 in Downing Street). The good thing about those days were that the Judges seemed to understand that the requirements of `their` rules often benefited from clarification when delivered at a spitting, fighting thug bent on killing you. Monosyllabic Anglo Saxon being upheld on a number of occasions that spring to mind. EG, Lag: "Your honner, he never cautioned me, he just said `fucking shut up`" Judge: "I think that under the circumstances the officer was giving you excellent advice." Yes, I have to agree with you, the old tory propaganda machine is at it again.

BTW I see that you can get a pristine 1st edition `collectable` of Challenor's book on Amazon for a mere £150.

Anonymous said...

For many years I assumed Chall had worked in Leeds or possibly Salford Crescent - having handed over prisoners to tender care! My guess is the problems require solutions beyond policing itself, as does the literavy issue.