The Sunday People were proud to announce that their intrepid reporters have made full use of the Freedom of Information Act to finally solve the mystery of overweight cops – they’re eating too many pies.
There have been concerns raised, by some, that the Freedom of Information Act can run the risk of jeopardising national security but on this occasion I think that its use is entirely justified.
The headline read ‘Police canteens fuelling blobby bobby crisis’. To be fair I think they were pretty restrained, I’d have run with ‘Blimey Barmy Blobby Bobby Bonkers Mrs’.
‘Revelations’ unearthed by the Sunday People team included the fact that one police canteen offered ‘5 different types of pies!’ I’ll repeat that -‘5 different types of pies’! (This is way above the national average of pie options which is 3.142)
At the moment there are no calls for a full public enquiry but as the 5 pie offending force is my own, Humberside, and pies are a subject very close to my heart (literally) I feel I ought to respond. I can only hope that I’m offered more protection than other police whistle-blowers who have chosen to speak out.
I am…a cuddly copper, big-boned, a chubster – whatever you want to call me, and I hold the Humberside Police completely responsible. With their multiple pie and potato options (including ‘two types of fries’).
I first realised that I’d got a problem when my stab vest started to ride-up and look a bit like a crop-top, and then I knew that I’d hit rock bottom when I chased an elderly shoplifter around Tesco…and she lapped me!
Humberside Police have already tried to defend their position by saying that their pies are made from ‘low-fat ingredients’. Yeah right! I’m surprised that they didn’t suggest that as the chicken pie had mushroom in it that it qualified as one of the recommended ‘5 a day’.
Typical of our organisation not to accept responsibility for their shameful actions. It reminded me of atom bomb radiation tests being carried out on unwitting soldiers in the 1950’s. I’m outraged. Sometimes I look at my naked reflection in a full length mirror and have to squint to try and make myself look slimmer. When this story broke I was tempted to go straight to the Chief and complain direct, but her office is on the second floor…and the stairs are really steep.
My claims are being backed by the experts, Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said: “As far as I am concerned, one type of pie is too many, let alone five. Pies are loaded with salt and fat.” I’m just concerned that his scientific evidence might lose a bit of weight as looking at the Sunday People photograph he doesn’t look like the healthiest individual.
He’s backing Sir Bernhard Hogan Howe, who recently raised concerns about “overweight policemen” (although I think he meant police officers). Unfortunately looking at the People’s photograph of Sir Bernard, he looked even less healthy than Mr Fry.
Earlier this month Police Oracle reported that an officer collapsed during a fitness bleep test. I’ve had a similar experience, only in my case it’s because I speeded up excessively when I thought the bleep was the microwave going off.
In respect of my formal compensation claim against Humberside Police, I’ve already refused their first offer of a free meal token. Huh, eat another one of their pies? I’d rather support a job application by Nigel Farage as a Diversity Officer.
Sadly I don’t expect much support from the Theresa May or any of the Government. Indeed, even the Prime Minister has turned on us with his threats to take state benefits away from obese people, knowing full well that they won’t have a protest march!
In the meantime I’ve decided to start a campaign to get public support called ‘Public Love Expanding Bobbies’ or PLEB for short.
Originally written for the BBC website…..
Encountered every Friday night (aka ‘fight night’) in our towns and city centres. Usually drunk and always annoying, when informed that they are under arrest they quietly comply until the handcuffs are placed on them at which point they will repeatedly say to any police officers present, in a very loud voice, “take these handcuffs off and I’ll knock you all out.” Handcuff heroes will keep repeating this claim all the way until you reach the backyard of the police station, at which time an officer will remove the handcuffs and they will instantly become compliant and non-threatening again.
Have an unbearable teenage boy, often called Kyle. If they open the door to young Kyle standing with a police officer, their first line is either, “It wasn’t my Kyle, the others are all liars!” or, “He’s been home all night with me, officer.”
They ring in at least twice weekly (three times if they can’t get through to the council to complain about the bins). They will tend to report low level harassment which will either involve an ex bezzie friend called Tracey who’s been calling them names on social media, youths causing annoyance (“two teenagers have just walked past my house and one is wearing a hoodie”), or neighbour problems (“my next door neighbour keeps deliberately making my dog bark… by staring at it”).
These like to drive very badly, very quickly. They think that they’re excellent drivers and believe themselves to be genuine victims. They will always tell you that they themselves were overtaken several times and also ask, “Why aren’t you catching real criminals?” If they are politicians or professional footballers they will often enquire, “Do you know who I am?” The correct response is always “no”, although I have sometimes responded, “Are you the mysterious Stig from Top Gear, out test driving the reasonably priced car?”
Just like the similarly named TV show these unbearably cringey creatures are colleagues who can invariably be found talking down to innocent members of the public in a condescending manner, or telling fellow cops how good the job used to be in the old days. Embarrassing bobbies tend to have a black eye about 50% of the time due to their poor communication skills. This makes them dangerous to work with as well as boring. If you’re told that you’re ‘double-crewed’ with an embarrassing bobby for a full night week this is devastating news – you may even consider tasering yourself to take the easy way out!
Easy to spot security guards working at a supermarket near you. They will have big black boots, a blazer that’s slightly too big for them and a non-issue utility belt containing a Swiss army knife with 146 functions. They specialise in following the young and the elderly around shops whilst pretending to be talking into a walkie-talkie. Retail Rambo’s are frustrated souls because they really wanted to be cops but failed the selection process – they say, because they’re colour-blind, in reality they turned up for the interview wearing a camouflage headband and were unable to correctly name the capital of France.
These are regular low-level criminal ‘customers’ who are genetically predisposed to deny everything, regardless of the strength of the evidence against them. If you find their blood sample on broken glass at the scene of a crime they will say they saw the broken window and cut themselves leaning in to see if everyone was alright. They come in all shapes and sizes which can make for even more entertainment – when you show them CCTV of a shoplifting incident and ask, “Can you confirm that 4’10”, purple-haired, one-legged shoplifter is you?” and they reply, “It looks a bit like me, but it’s not me.”
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
It’s a well known fact that Scotland only has two criminal offences: a) Breach of the Peace and b) Behaviour likely to cause a Breach of the Peace! There was also murder but this crime has plummeted in recent years, the general consensus being that these were only actually occurring to give Taggart something to do.
Scottish forces have now amalgamated into one force known as ‘Police Scotland’. Whenever I hear the term ‘Police Scotland’, I’m tempted to say, “I wish somebody would! Have you seen the parking in Edinburgh?”
I’m in the unique position of being both a cop and a comedian. During the Festival many local police attend my shows, since buying them a ticket is much cheaper than a training course. The massive differences in our two legal systems (England’s and Scotland’s that is) are soon highlighted: corroboration for example – meaning unless two Scottish police officers laugh at one of my jokes at exactly the same time, then it never actually happened.
We sometimes go for a beer afterwards and it’s always very entertaining to see whether it’s the Scot or the Yorkshireman that gets to the bar last. With the pride of my county at stake I’ll usually feign some mobility injury and come out on top. It’s then that we really get into the glaring differences between English and Scottish laws and policing.
For example, the English police’s ‘caution’ is quite wordy – ‘You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention…’ Which is in contrast to the Scottish formal police caution, ‘You looking at me, pal?’
Scotland also has some little known quirky laws which I adore:-
• “Any Scotsman found to be wearing underwear beneath his kilt can be fined two cans of beer”. One reason why glass dance floors have never caught on north of the border.
• ‘It is illegal to hunt haggis between 1st April and 30th July’. (It would be inappropriate for me to joke about this one as there has been deep concern from environmentalists about the depletion of wild haggis stocks in recent years).
• ‘In Scotland, if someone knocks on your door and requires the use of your toilet, you must let them enter’. Could be worse – in Russia you have to smile and give them your house!
It’s probably fairly obvious that I am a big fan of the Scottish legal system and I think English law should adopt it – and for that reason I don’t like to hear all this talk of independence.
My other concern with independence is that, just as Vladimir Putin is bullying his neighbours and threatening to cut off the gas supply to the dissenters, I worry that Alex Salmond will also become a tyrannical dictator and cut off the Irn-Bru supply to the South.
Scotland is so politically charged at the moment that comedians have been advised to be very careful not to use any discriminatory material. I have been very meticulously and sensitively editing my jokes to be absolutely certain that they do not offend. For example, “An Englishman, Irishman and an alcoholic walk into a bar…”
I know it’s not my place to say, but please don’t give us the elbow, and get all pally with Europe instead, Scotland.
Europe have even sillier laws that they will impose on you. Please keep your history and tradition, William Wallace was hanged, drawn and quartered – far more dramatic than being hanged, drawn and 0.25′d.
Having just read the Bernard Rix story about lack of interest in the upcoming first police and crime commissioner (PCC) by-election in the West Midlands, I found the lack of interest interesting.
If I said PCC to a passing member of the public they would probably say ‘Press Complaints Commission’, possibly ‘Primary Care Commission’. And, if I’m still shaking my head, they may have a stab at ‘Pembrokeshire County Council’.
Let’s not just single out ordinary folk in the street. I’m usually promoting some show or other and am often interviewed by local BBC types. One of their favourite questions, (albeit off air), and usually delivered with a slightly screwed up face is “What do these police and crime commissioners do?” To be honest I’m sick of responding by screwing up my face and saying “I’m not really sure”.
I know that we used to have something called a police authority. This was an elected committee that had representatives from the local authority and also independents that had the same voting power. Then we replaced it with one person. But why? I needed to make some enquiries to stop embarrassing myself.
I tried to keep it simple by asking serving cops but they didn’t seem to have much of an idea either. Even a superintendent’s best effort was “they’re politicians who hold the police budget”.
Politicians? Hang on I thought the government keep banging on about depoliticising the police? This being the case, surely PCCs should be completely independent. But they’re not are they? In fact most of them are directly affiliated to a political party.
I needed further research. As an experienced cop (with 18 years’ service) obviously I take active measures to avoid reading any mind-bending online drivel that has the letters .gov.uk/ anywhere in its address.
So I tried to do it the easy way and watched a recording of Channel 4’s ‘copumentary’ entitled ‘Meet the Police and Crime Commissioner’ (originally broadcast in May). As I’m a bit ‘street’ these days I’d sum up my response in contemporary fashion – OMG! Less eye-opening and more sadistically cruel retinal abusing.
Now I know we’ve all made mistakes (I once volunteered to chair a multi-agency anti-social behaviour committee in Scunthorpe) but when I watched this show I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or self-harm. And at the end of the experience I was little the wiser in respect of the actual role of PCCs.
I ought to just add that I’ve been a ‘candidate’ on a reality TV show and so ‘there but for the grace of God’ and all that but really, what’s the first thing a basic plod learns about the media? Answer: Their agenda versus your agenda. Maybe if Kent PCC Ann Barnes – the focus of the Channel 4 show – had been a tad more approachable then one of the cops would have whispered that basic piece of info into her shell-like.
My search for the meaning of PCC continued. Perhaps I needed to start at the beginning. Why did we need them? Were police authorities underperforming? Were PCCs proving a big hit elsewhere and we wanted some of the action?
We tried it first in London. Obviously somebody considered that Mayor of London was only a part-time job and someone thought we could tag on the role of PCC. That astute academic strategist in fools clothing Boris Johnson was the first, and clearly Theresa May was of the opinion that he had done such a superb job of eradicating police scandals, building trust and keeping public order problems to an absolute minimum that it was a no-brainer to churn out PCCs on a national level.
In fact Boris is so community conscious that he’s decided to keep Londoners nice and cool this summer by ordering some big mechanical water sprayers just in case we have a heatwave.
How forgiving those Londoners are. Boris didn’t even rush back from his jolly holidays when rioting broke out in 2011 but as soon as he picked up a sweeping brush and grinned for the Evening Standard the avuncular one was a shoe-in for re-election using the old absent fathers line of ‘I know I wasn’t always here for you but I was thinking of you and…I’ve bought you a new bike (well quite a lot of them actually but you do have to pay to use them).’
Information is power
There was a slight flaw in The Home Secretary’s strategy of imposing PCCs on us. Her biggest error was in assuming that in the absence of readily available (and more importantly palatable) information the public would be interested enough to do their own research. No chance – I’ve had to motivate myself just to enter PCC into the search engine, let alone get off my arse and go to the ballot box.
So now we have our first PCC by-election in the West Midlands and the same air of apathy prevails. Will people cast their vote? No of course they won’t because they don’t understand what they’re voting for or why. You won’t ‘sell’ PCCs until people understand what they are ‘buying’ Mrs May and it’s no good saying loads of information went out blah, blah, blah. If the ordinary person in the street doesn’t understand the purpose of PCCs then you have failed – no excuses.
I know that you know best Home Secretary but the public aren’t naughty children to be told what to do. If you want to get us on board then treat us like grown-ups and make us feel involved in the process. Until then my search for the answer to question what do those PCCs do continues.
As this article will be online I’ve asked PoliceOracle.com not to use the word PCC in the title in case it confuses people trying to locate the Pocklington Cycle Club.
Article written originally for the Police Oracle – 19th August 2014
I grew up on a diet of exciting American cop shows like Starsky and Hutch and Miami Vice, while our own home grown TV offered up all the excitement of Inspector Morse gurning over a pint of Dancing Dog real ale. So I guess that although I always wanted to be a cop I actually wanted to be an American cop. I knew I couldn’t be of course, I don’t look American, and I don’t sound American. I haven’t got a cool cop name like Baretta, McGarrett, or Dirty Harry. Dirty Harry – cool as anything isn’t it? Dirty Alf? Not quite got the same ring to it!
I had to settle for joining the blighty ‘boys in blue’ and got stationed at Skegness. Skegness is on the coast and so a bit like Miami Vice only….. with socks, persistent rain and fairly aggressive tattoos (not all spelled correctly).
Don’t get me wrong – I had my moments but it wasn’t quite like those exciting American TV cop shows I’d grown to love. The Californian Highway Patrol had Harley Davidsons – we had Hondas and push bikes. Our American counterparts also know how to sort the bad guys out, they’ve got chain gangs – we’ve got litter pickers on community service helping out the Big Society. They’ve got ‘three strikes and you’re out’ – we’ve got three strikes and we’re going to start counting your strikes soon if you’re not careful.
The US cops also seemed to have a stronger work ethic. When they get suspended they’d put their gun and gold shield on the Lieutenant’s desk and then go out and solve the murder in their own time. I’m not prepared to do that – if I get suspended I’ll just stop at home and watch Ready Steady Cook. If they want me to investigate a murder I want time and a half!
Then of course there’s that dangerous last week in the job, you know the one where the veteran cop gets drawn into that big case and gets shot two days before he was due to retire. I wasn’t risking that one and put a sickie in. That’s one I’ve got over Dirty Harry – he never rang in with gastroenteritis.
Article published in The Scotsman – 11th August 2014