Article originally written for the Police Oracle and re-published here for wider enjoyment.
Any former tutors or supervisors will recognise the format of Theresa May’s Federation Conference speech as the good old fashioned sh*t sandwich. Starting with how brave and hardworking those wonderful cops are and ending with a bit of ‘let’s work together’ to make the world a better place. Lovely stuff.
Okay the sh*tty bit of the sandwich contained some outrageously intelligence insulting statements, each one a little bit less believable than the last:
“The Home Office no longer believes it runs policing”
Saying neighbourhood police officers are an “endangered species” is “scaremongering”
“Our country has never been safer”
“Earnings are up”
“An HMIC that is truly independent..”
“The frontline service has been maintained…” (There was something else about 91% on the frontline but I was laughing so hard by then that I couldn’t focus)
Humility was in very short supply – gloating and smugness was the order of the day. I’ve not seen arrogance on that scale since the lady with the scary hair was in her prime.
I mean you can’t blame her for being confident. Let’s be honest watching the Police Federation take her on for the past five years has been a bit like watching a National Health bespectacled 7 year old kid from the remedial class challenging Garry Kasparof to a game of chess.
I’m not blaming the Federation she is a formidable adversary – smart, driven and ruthless. She’s systematically weakened, discredited and divided her opponent before moving in for the kill. She’s also had solid support behind her. Have the Fed had the same? Nope – we’ve been pretty quick to turn on you and stick the boot in when the going got tough.
One thing that surprised me was her ‘crying wolf’ line. It comes from one of the more renowned of Aesop’s Fables. ‘The boy who cried wolf’ was a shepherd boy who liked to exaggerate. Mrs May decided previous ‘wolf cries’ from drama queen Fed reps was a bit of irresistible ‘spin’ offering her the opportunity to be less than courteous to her hosts by giving them a couple more slaps for good luck. To be fair it was true though wasn’t it?
Personally I think she got a bit carried away there. To me it smacks of one of those lines that come back to bite over-cocky people in the bum. As we’ve constantly been reminded in the last few week’s politics is a very fickle business. I think the ‘cry wolf’ line might one day be up there with Gerald Ratner’s ‘total crap’.
The thing is it’s good to be grateful isn’t it? Like in Aesop’s fable: ‘The travellers and the plane tree’. In this story travellers rest under a plane tree that sheltered them from bad weather but as soon as it was fine they plucked the leaves and cut its branches. Bit short-sighted that, the weather can fluctuate just like crime rates and public disorder.
Here Goosey Goosey
And I know money’s tight but some things are false economy like in Aesop’s fable: ‘The goose that lays golden eggs’. In this story a cottager and his wife had a goose that gave them a golden egg every day. They supposed that the goose must contain a great lump of gold in its inside, and in order to get the gold they killed it. Inside they found the goose was no different to other geese. The moral of the story being that they didn’t realise what they had. I wonder if our Home Secretary does?
And let’s face it, maybe we the police could have displayed a bit more humility ourselves? We’ve been a bit greedy too in the past and took the money and done the Government’s dirty work without asking too many questions. Maybe we should have taken the learning from Aesop’s fable: ‘The ass and the pig’. This is a very sad story about a pig that was fattened on barley and then sacrificed. The left-over grain was given to the ass, who refused it because of the fate that had overtaken the one it had previously fed. I mean on the surface it looks like a totally illogical thought process on the part of the ass but if you replace the word ‘pig’ with ‘National Union of Mineworkers’ and you replace ‘ass’ with ‘Police’ then perhaps we’d have been smarter turning down the barley instead of buying all those extensions and new cars. (I guess the cops back then didn’t suss that they were next)
Come on Rocky
The British Police are debilitated, demotivated and divided. So what’s next – is that it, game over? The way I see it there are three options:-
None look very inviting do they? Let’s have a closer look:-
Give in? Carry on “shouting from the sidelines” while you wait for it to fail. Well at least you can have the somber satisfaction of saying ‘told you so’? But you do know what happened to the little boy who cried wolf in the end? The wolf ate him.
Work with? Jump into bed with Theresa (metaphorically speaking of course). Poor old Fed – wouldn’t that put you between a rock and a hard place? If you do go for this option please remember Aesop’s fable: ‘The mouse and the oyster’. That’s the story of the mouse who comes across an oyster and tries eating it, only for the shell to snap shut, bringing him instantly both death and a tomb. Oops!
Fight back? Back your Federation. Take the learning from the last five years and formulate a plan of attack. You’re weak and wounded but are you beaten? Time for a big finish. Time for me to energise and galvanise the underdog in the face of adversity. Sadly ‘David and Goliath’ wasn’t one of Aesop’s fables, neither did he write any of the Rocky films and I couldn’t find that motivational speaker so looks like it’s over to you Police Federation – what have you got left?
If you want to know what I’d do to resuscitate the ‘thinner than ever’ blue line then come and see my Edinburgh show this August A FAIR COP STANDS UP.
Article originally published in Police Oracle and republished here for wider enjoyment.
In a bid to give up slagging off Winsor and May for Lent I’ve cast my eye over some notable police related news stories of the last few weeks and suddenly realised that they nearly all have one thing in common – especially when you apply the filter of modern day philosopher Jessie J and ask the big question: Is it all ‘about the money money money?’
There’re the obvious examples like those discs containing information from three of the UK’s most sensitive inquiries which have gone missing after being put in the post. The post? Critical sensitive data in the post? Anybody else thinking that was probably cheapest way to get it from A to B? We weren’t exactly rolling in dosh in Humberside but we managed to have a part time civvy driver called Ron who was pretty reliable on a mail run. Fortunately the panic was soon over when a copy was found being used as a coaster in Ministry of Justice canteen.
Then we had, ‘Tasers for all front-line officers’ – suggested the Police Federation. Good idea but unless they’re about to be stocked in that magical mystery middle aisle at Aldi between own-brand Irish Cream Liqueur and the wood turning lathe – then we almost certainly can’t afford them. Especially as after being stung (oops) for millions in litigation in the US the manufacturers have now suggested using the suspect’s back as the target area. That seems simple enough then – just wait until people are running away from you before you discharge your taser…
Another no brainer was this BBC website shocker: ‘Complaints against police at record high’. Wonder if it’s anything to do with starting pay down £4,000 and 35,000 less staff? My favourite quote from the article was from the IPCC, “Some of the increase was due to the broadening of the definition of a complaint….” Imagine – Dear Chief Constable, I was a recent victim of crime. I was very happy with the service but now you’ve broadened the definition of a complaint….
If the cap fits
Sometimes cost is concealed behind the thin veneer of ‘practicality’ like the West Yorkshire force scrapping the traditional custodian helmet. Whoever is making that decision please have a word with yourself. I know that the police service aims to be representative of the community it serves – but flat caps for Yorkshire cops?! Let’s at least try and hang on to some of our valued traditions even if they are a few quid dearer.
Then there’re the really heavy ones like the simmering Rotherham abuse enquiry where no one dare mention the cha-ching cha-ching. All the talk is about fear of racism, incompetence, poor police work – no talk about money and resources being a factor in not picking up the investigation at an earlier stage.
We don’t talk about money when it comes to investigations you see we only talk about ‘proportionate investigation’. It’s a media friendly sound-bite that some insiders would tell you really means ‘how can we do it cheaper?’
As long as the public are safe though right? Fifty five year old, Paul Kohler wasn’t safe in his own home – where he was the victim of a sickeningly violent attack which left the lecturer “unrecognisable”. Listen, I don’t want to go all UKIP on you but the 4 defendants had a total of 32 previous convictions in Poland between them including violent disorder? Is that fair on UK victims? I don’t pretend to know what filtering system and controls we have in place but I bet it’s a ‘proportionate one.’
Life of Brian
On a much lighter note plans to name a Thames Valley Police horse ‘Brian’ caused a stir. I know I was shocked too – that we still had a police horse left. I’d name him ‘Call me Dave’ as a reminder why he has to work alone these days.
Some forces are trying to save some money though by recycling a load of old photos to facilitate facial recognition technology. Apparently we forgot to ask anybody first and so it wasn’t very popular with some. There was a bit of a kerfuffle on Newsnight, when Chief Constable Mike Barton, had a bit of a ding dong with posh Police Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird and former Home Office minister Norman Baker, who said ‘we don’t keep non convicted peoples fingerprints and DNA.’ You sure about that Norman? The last I heard we keep it for 12 years. Unlike Police Scotland who are following the Strasbourg directive and destroying their samples – but I reckon that’s just because theirs is a bit too flammable to store.
To be fair in some cases money doesn’t appear to be a factor at all. For example the cost of surveillance on uncharged suspect Julian Assange has now hit £10million! That’s more than the investigation into the Iraq war. Let’s be clear the allegation that Assange sexually assaulted two women in Sweden is very serious. Just checking Sweden are picking up policing tab? £10million can buy a lot of tasers.
The police bean counters in Blackpool seemed to be counting the wrong beans when the Metro ran the story: ‘Bean flicker admits assaulting police officer’. After spending a few seconds trying to figure out if ‘Bean flicker’ was an anagram of ‘Ben Affleck’ I went on to discover that the offender had flicked three baked beans from his breakfast through the hatch of his police cell and they landed on a detention officer’s shirt. Howard Green, defending, said, “This was not a serious act of violence”, (You don’t say Howard?) If he’d have stuck his tongue out as well would it have been an aggravated offence? The defendant was fined £75 (I’d have fined him 57) and £20 victims surcharge (presumably for Post Traumatic Bean Disorder).
But not everyone wants to tie up the criminal system with petty business that’s why they are about to start trialing the first ‘online court’ and even a system where the judge delivers verdicts by texting the defendant. Presumably something like “I find U guilty of stealing & sNteNc U2 6mths incarcer8tion innit x”
Just when we were hoping for better news the Daily Mail ran with the story ‘One in five police stations closed to the public since last election’ – Can that really be true? Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kevin Hurley, wants to close some more. He says that “43 forces are an unforgivable waste of money”. I agree let’s have just one force and move it further north, and don’t think you’ll be eligible to claim travel expenses as we’ll only need one PCC.
Well I say ‘need a PCC’ – I’m not sure the public quite agree since elections attracted just under 15% turnout to vote which is a lot less than the Celebrity Big Brother final. Considering that the last 3 CBB winners have been Jim Davidson, Gary Busey and Katie Price, I really can’t see the general election going wrong can you?
My favourite headline of the month was nothing to do with policing and came much closer to home for me in the Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph, who were reporting that we were finally getting a new town centre toilet with: ‘All Cisterns Go!’ Well done Scunny Telegraph that’s a great splash!
To finish on a positive note Policeoracle.com reminded us that we still have some friends when it reported that Tory MP Damian Green plans to “defend” officers at the Oxford Union debating society in respect of the alleged loss of confidence in the police. A Tory MP defending the police?…….. Can’t we ask if Brian the horse is available?
Article originally published in Police Oracle following the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris – republished here for wider enjoyment
This has started a great debate which I think was summed up beautifully in Frankie Boyle’s tweet: ‘Glad everyone’s celebrating free speech in Trafalgar Square, and not in Parliament Square where they’d be arrested’.
It’s often said that ‘comedy is the last bastion of free speech’. I don’t know about that as there surely has to be limits in what can be said and published but I feel fortunate that even as a cop I’m allowed to flex my satirical muscles. I think it’s a positive thing and I think it’s a healthy reflection of our society. So here’s my personal take on a few issues close to my heart.
Credit where credit’s due
2015 started with a very popular award – “Arise Sir Thomas Philip Winsor” sayeth the Queen “Now go out there and inspect my constabulary, quick sharp, as I’ve heard morale is a bit patchy”
I like the Queen but I’ve worked for her for 18 years and she’s never brought cream cakes in on either one of her birthdays.
Between you and me I heard a strong rumour that it was a straight toss-up between me and Tom Winsor for a knighthood but he just sneaked it on charisma. I’d rather that Captain Birds Eye had been honoured for Services to Findustry – at least he’s entitled to wear his uniform.
Sir Tom is of course leader of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), who are a bit like a police version of Ofsted and a lot like the Terracotta Army, inasmuch as, loads of them turn up at once, they all look alike and they don’t really serve any useful purpose.
Humour is very subjective but I would invite Sir Tom to grade the above gag as outstanding, good, requires improvement, or inadequate using the new PEEL assessment.
Sir Robert Peel’s mantra was “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime”. Whereas Theresa May’s apparent mantra is “The test of Coalition efficiency is the absence of police”.
I’ve heard that Sir Tom never visits Robert Peel’s resting place in Westminster Abbey as he has a secret fear that Sir Robert will jump out of his grave and punch him on the nose. To save any possible embarrassment it will be one of the 1:5 crimes not recorded that day. Which is a shame as dead people are good value for clearing up loads of old jobs.
Former Home Office minister Norman Baker was reported in policeoracle.com as saying that “Politicians are stupid to claim credit for falling crime”- that’s one of those rare sentences that could have been accurately stopped after the first three words.
Norman Baker used to work with Theresa May until one day he acted way above his station by putting his hand up and asking if he was allowed to speak. They eventually had a big bust up after Mr Baker sat her down and tried to gently explain that May Day wasn’t a bank holiday to celebrate her. Mrs May was fuming, and after three minutes on the naughty step Norman was sent home – permanently.
The only reason that she’s not Dame Theresa (yet) is that staff at the palace feel it will be really embarrassing when she starts talking down to the Queen and telling her how to hold the sword properly.
I’ve always struggled to remember names and I often get Theresa May confused with Mother Teresa. The way I remember it is that one is ‘the Angel of Calcutta’ and the other is the police budget cutter.
Free speech isn’t free
Here’s a top tip Home Secretary – the police are in clear and present danger on the streets of this country. Not a good time to reduce pay and pension entitlements.
Every experienced cop in this country will tell you that a substantial police presence in your neighbourhood is far more effective at cutting terrorism than a snooper’s charter. This is the worse time in history to cut police budgets and drag neighbourhood officers off the streets.
Why aren’t you listening? Is it because you think you know best?
No offence but any chance we can try a ‘direct entry’ Home Secretary next time? I think I’d rather have a bit less experience and a bit more common sense.
Article originally written for the Police Oracle and republished on Plod Blog for wider enjoyment…..
It’s 10.17pm on Saturday 24th November 1990. Sheffield’s Herol ‘Bomber’ Graham, one of the finest boxers Britain has ever produced, is about to win the much revered WBC World Middleweight title. His opponent, Julian Jackson, whose left eye is completely closed (one vision:)), hasn’t laid a glove on Graham in three rounds. The doctor enters the ring, examines Jackson, and the referee tells him he has one round maximum before he stops the fight. Bomber Graham is easily the best defensive boxer in the middleweight division, he is one minute way from the title he has trained for all his life. All he has to do is keep his head down, continue to be professional, keep his class and carry on with his stick and jab tactics.
At 10.18pm Graham is star-fished on the canvas unconscious. That image is burned into my memory and continues to be one of the most frustrating things I have ever witnessed. There could be no logical reason for thinking that was a good time to lose your class and go in swinging.
Carnoustie, Scotland, 6.42pm Sunday July 18th 1997. Jean Van de Velde is standing over his ball, it’s in the rough but he’s been fortunate and it’s a good lie. He’s got shots in hand and they’re already engraving his name on the Claret Jug. Jean Van de Velde is about to be the Open Champion. All he has to do is keep his class, continue to be professional and lay up in front of Barry Burn with a short iron and his name will be etched in the history books for ever.
At 6.44pm Van de Velde is rolled-up-trouser deep in the burn and his life’s dream is over. For reasons that will never be satisfactorily explained he thought that the rough on the 18th with shots in hand was a good time to attack and he reached for a 2 iron….
Two of the most stunning examples of attacking at the wrong time and grasping defeat from the jaws of victory.
I want to ride my bicycle
London,10am Friday 21st September 2012. Recently appointed Tory Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell, is forced to apologise to police officers for being “disrespectful” to them at the Downing Street main gate two days earlier. He disputed some of the words used but without doubt was apologising, and without doubt had embarrassed himself, his party and the Prime Minister. An opportunity had dropped in to the lap of the police to gain a rare victory over a government that had been twisting the knife for a few years. All we had to do was to keep our composure, be professional, accept the apology with grace and allow ourselves a gloat from the moral high ground.
Twenty six months later, newspaper leaks, 8 people arrested and bailed including 5 police officers, 3 dismissed officers (one criminally charged and subsequently imprisoned – rightly so), a whole enquiry team of detectives on Operation Alice pulled from daily business, Commons Select Committee appearances, CPS ditherings, even calls for the Met Commissioner’s resignation….. and the purulent scandal that is Plebgate still festers on with no end in sight.
I want it all and I want it now.
Why? Because we lost our class, lost our professionalism and decided to come out swinging and attack at the wrong time. We ‘refuse to accept your apology Mitchell’, ‘we demand your resignation’ and if we have to do a bit of wheeling and dealing to make it happen so be it. Over the coming weeks and months the police quite spectacularly managed to turn Mitchell the Perpetrator into Mitchell the Victim. Managed to turn victory into defeat and in the process discredit 10’s of 1000’s of officers on the front line for no good reason. The cops on the street suddenly had a more difficult role.
Congratulations Plebgate you made my top 3 all-time list of embarrassing defeats that should have been victories.
Another one bites the dust.
Mitchell had to resign of course and the reason is pretty clear – not even his politician mates believed him either. To me that speaks volumes seeing as they knew him better than anybody. They didn’t care which gate he left out of as long as he cleared his tray and left the premises.
The Tories must have been kicking themselves because all this could have been avoided if they’d had simply voted for cycle lanes for the privileged.
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
The whole incident was shockingly mismanaged from the very start. Now this question goes out to the cops on the streets out there. The proper ones working 24/7 – in a world where a meal-break and finishing on time are just folk-lore stories handed down from previous generations.
You’re on public order foot-patrol in the town centre tonight and some silly toff comes up and tells you you’re a “xxxxxxx pleb”. Now I know we were told to be collectively offended and all that but tell me honestly just how upset would you really be? Bear in mind there are no members of public in earshot.
Would you (a) be very upset and start official logs and demand satisfaction or (b) Tell the stuck-up xxxx to get off his bike and push it through the correct gate before you shove the bicycle pump up his xxxx and marched him through yourself?
I have to be honest and say I’m going for (b).
Too late. A log has been created so it’s now official.
Here’s a question for the Sergeants. The proper Sergeants not the keyboard warriors like me but the ones out there in the thick of it making those sensible decisions that keep the cart on the wheels.
Okay Sarge you’re on late turn when one of your PC’s come up and says “Sergeant one of those politician blokes has just called me an xxxxxxx pleb”.
Do you (a) say this is very VERY serious, clearly your feelings have been hurt and this incident needs escalating”.
Or (b) say “Oh dear that’s not very nice, my gaffer will have a word with his gaffer now put your big hat back on and get back to that gate there’s a good lad”.
I’m going for (b) again. I’ll scribble a few backside covering lines on the log, close it as ‘confidential’ with ‘authorised viewing only’ and the job’s a good ‘un.
But no, that’s far too simple and this Plebgate baby’s now starting to roll.
Then the press leaks started. I do remember them saying at police training school that leaking info to the press is a smidgeon naughty (flouting the Official Secrets Act or something…). Although, to be fair that led to the Mitchell apology, which in turn led to the perfect time for us to walk away and savour the victory.
Don’t stop me now
Alas no. It snowballed out of control, lots of people chose to be offended on other people’s behalves, lots chose to get angry. No-one overseeing ever got a firm grip and this silly little thing was allowed to become the most damaging and discrediting police scandal for years.
It all got very confusing and witness evidence was swinging one way then the other. The enquiry team even received a statement from the gate itself now denying it was ever there at the time.
This was starting to get very messy and before long soon swallowed up three police officers and one political career – although it’s widely tipped that Mitchell will one day return as minister for cycling proficiency.
No time for losers
Bomber Graham never won that middleweight title. Van de Velde never won the Open and we will never rescue a victory from Plebgate. Okay, PC Rowland was vindicated in the November High Court libel action (Mitchell v News Group Newspapers) when Mr Justice Mitting said he was satisfied that the MP did say the word “pleb” – but nobody was really paying much attention because the damage had already been done a long time ago.
Do I think he used the word pleb? Honestly? I couldn’t care less – I’ve worked the streets of Scunthorpe for 18 years and if the worst thing to happen in a 10 hour shift is to be called an ‘xxxxxxx pleb’ – pretty good day at the office!
Over the next six weeks Alfie will bring his trademark hilarious blend of comedy and insights into the law to the airwaves as IT’S A FAIR COP returns to BBC Radio 4 in the coveted 6.30 pm comedy slot. The studio audience are ‘sworn in’ as cops for the night and get to have their say as they are challenged by the various dilemmas that arise as Alfie takes them through a real-life case that he has investigated – with plenty of laughs along the way! Experienced cop Alfie weaves anecdotes from his eighteen years on the streets together with facts about the law, police powers and how they may be exercised, as the case unfolds. This series the topics Alfie covers include harassment, TWOC taking a car or ‘other conveyance’ without owner’s consent), reasonable use of force, drunk and disorderly behaviour, lost and found property and the emotive subject of stop and search. Tune into BBC Radio 4 every Thursday at 6.30pm and decide what you would have done as you laugh along…… ‘This is offbeat, revealing and very funny’- Daily Mail