Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Harsh words.


"Critica" by Julio Ruelas (1870 - 1907) – Painter (Mexican)Born in Zacatecas.

A discussion, a debate, a lecturing, a telling off, a vent; criticism.  There is, absolutely rightly a lot directed at the police.  I like being in a country where we can do that.  I also like to think that we, the police are professional and thick skinned enough to pick out and adopt the pearls of wisdom from the criticism with good grace. It's how we have grown in to the UK's police forces we are today.  But it can sometimes feel as if there are no pearls; just moans and venting surrounding even more "directions and recommendations" that show a less than brilliant grasp what we face in the situations we are called on to deal with.  It can start to feel like being the employee of a mildly abusive employer who likes to publicly criticize your best efforts.  Perhaps my skin has just been worn a bit thin, and as in so many other situations I have been distracted by the language used.

This is an extract from an open letter one of our Chief Officers wrote when working their last tour of duty in the police. 
“I need to share with you that I have found myself frustrated, angry and disappointed when I see and read others, at a local and national level, being too quick to criticise policing without first taking the time to understand and engage with those delivering the service. These detractors and critics would do well to remember that much more is achieved with a smile, politeness and appreciation than is achieved through criticism and sharp words. It is easy to criticise others when you do not tread the same footprints and experience the same challenges as those you choose to attack.
The balance to this is of course the public confidence we enjoy, our local communities are not aligned to the national newspapers views or those within the regulation or inspection regimes. They have a much more intimate relationship with us and it is our public that we need to invest our energies focussing on serving and building relationships with them. In the villages, towns and cities of Devon and Cornwall we enjoy great support and people who believe in us and want us to succeed. This is, and always has been, the bedrock of British policing and I am grateful to have shared this most special profession and my journey within it with all of you.”
Thanks for the letter Boss.

I have not picked out examples of the headlines, the every day sniping and ridicule officers face. You will have seen them.  I have found my best way to deal with them is to stop reading them, or just change the channel (I'm not allowed to throw bricks through the telly screen).

But I will share this link, just for balance: Thanks Russell for the video.
PS – And as ever, I ask that you please take care on our roads, be considerate of others and honest in all things.”

Friday, 9 February 2018

Now you see me.

I have been wondering who it was that first got me thinking about Modern Slavery.

For me it needs a toss of the coin to decide between US President Obama or The Guardian newspaper. (There we go, turns out it was President Obama).

This terrible activity prompted action here in Cornwall; yesterday.  There was a situation that looked like something had to be done.

It was not only the police who stepped up to do what looked like it needed doing.  The people of Cornwall Council, the Salvation Army and I am sure others that I don't know about faced the early alarm, cold hands, muddy boots and nerves.  It was a busy day for them, and what they did caught the interest of the media.

To those that carried out the operation, thank you.

And today, after seeing another headline I wanted to share some things that have crossed my mind.

The most obvious one is that this was a significant event in Cornwall.  But we are not unique.  The are hundreds if not thousands of migrant workers her in Cornwall.  It's exactly the same in Devon, Dorset and the rest of the UK; town and country.

Another is that there are those who come to the UK looking for better paid jobs.  Some just like the idea of living in the UK, for lots of reasons. There are those looking for an opportunity to help their families. Some have to travel here to be able to support their families, or escape from some really tough situations at home.  I admire those that make a choice and put in the graft to do what they believe is the right thing.

But there are those who do not get to make that choice.  Some are lied to about what it will be like in the UK and what they will be doing.  Some people are bought or taken from their families. Some are smuggled in nasty, harmful conditions.  Some are forced to travel to make money for organized gangs, bullies and thugs.  Far too commonly they travel under the threat that their family will be harmed if they don't.  My heart goes out to those that have dignity and choice taken away from them.

It is also really difficult to know which story lies behind and what future lies ahead of those migrant workers and modern slaves who find themselves in the UK.  It is often not as simple as fitting neatly into a "migrant worker" or "modern slave" box. So it shouldn't be surprising that there is a mixed reaction.

But there are most definitely warning signs and situations that really should get us asking more questions.  This exhibition coming to Plymouth will hopefully help some of us get better at spotting those signs and situations.

And as we continue having our "awareness raised" we will do what communities and the police have always done.  That is, what looks like needs doing.




PS - The roads are more treacherous this time of year, kindness is cheap and other people's stuff often isn't.

PPS - I like the Boss's comment about democracy!

Monday, 22 January 2018

Would you believe it!


Whilst I am still in the mood to “swing the lamp” I thought I would share just one more story from days gone by.


This one is not mine but my colleague swears up and down that it is true.  It all happened in a distant police force where many of the officers still have British accents but the weather is much warmer.


“The Incident”


A frighteningly keen officer whom we shall call “Rich Tea” was on foot patrol one night.  It was a dark warm night and it was in that part of town where the street lights and made up roads give way to darkness and dirt tracks.  Rich Tea saw two men, dressed in flip flops and colourful shirts turn down a deserted, dead end side road. He decided to follow them.  (I interrupted the original story teller here to see if our hero had anything more than a radio and if it was in the days before stab vests were worn. He did and it was.) The two men stopped a short distance ahead and Rich Tea hid in the bushes to keep observations on the pair.  After a muffled conversation, the exchange of something and some fist bumping and back slapping they went and got into a nearby car.


As the car turned and started to head out of the side road our man stepped out of the shadows and with a crisp number one stop sign brought the car to a standstill.  Rich Tea walked round to the driver’s door, opened it, smelt alcohol and then told the driver to get out of the car because he was being arrested on suspicion of driving a car whilst incapable through alcohol.  I was surprised for the second time in the story to hear that the driver, and his friend did actually get out of the car.


Events followed the natural course of things.  The driver and his friend started to beat the living daylights out of Rich Tea.  Just before Rich Tea fell into unconsciousness he heard a conversation about whether to cut his eyes out to stop him identifying his attackers at a later date.


Apparently a passing taxi driver stopped to help; help Rich Tea that is, not the two attackers.  He persuaded the two that the sorry looking bundle on the floor had had enough and that they should leave.  They did.


Rich tea woke the next day still with his eyes in his sockets.


“The Investigation”


The two were known to the taxi driver and quickly located and arrested. There was no forensic evidence tying them to the scene. No knife was found but one of them had a decent stash of drugs in his car.  But with an eye witness and a damming collection of previous convictions they were remanded in custody by the police and at the bail hearing.  Simples.


“The Collapse”


A trial date was set.  Rich Tea’s bumps and lumps started to heal and he felt confident.


The taxi driver withdrew his statement.  Rich Tea’s bruises had started to fade and he felt less confident. 


On the day of the trial Rich Tea discovered the defendants had secured the services of a defence barrister known as “The Beast”.  Rich Tea was the picture of health and was nervous.


Rich Tea took to the stand and the prosecution guided him through a re-telling of his story, sparing none of the colourful details.  Then The Beast stood.


The exchange between The Beast and Rich Tea, I am told went like this.


“Officer, do you consider yourself a professional member of the police service?”


“Yes your honour”. (Slightly insulted expression.)


“Officer, I know it is your force’s policy that you carry your pocket notebook at all times when on duty.  Do you adhere to that policy?”


“Yes your honour.” (Straight answer to a straight question.)


“Officer, let me take you back to the events of that night.  You have given an extremely detailed account in your testimony haven’t you?”


“Yes your honour”. (Slight tenseness in the answer.)


“And you say in your statement that this was because you referred to your notes whilst writing that statement. Further, here you say made those notes of the incident at the “first available opportunity”.  As a professional officer who carries his notebook I am guessing you made those notes in your pocket notebook? Did you?”


(Pause and a “weighing up my options” look.)


“Officer, to have that much detail in a statement you must have taken notes. Did you record those notes in your pocket note book?”


“Yes your honour”. (An expression of intense concentration.)


Rich Tea can be seen to sink up to his chest in the evidence box in the manner of a bad mime artist doing the comedy elevator move.


“Have you still got that notebook?”


(Rich Tea can be seen by the whole court, chin level with the top of the witness box, to be reaching for something in his back pocket whilst keeping his eyes fixed directly ahead).


“Ummmm, no your honour.”


Rapidly following this answer Rich Tea pointed with his left hand at something in front of him, exclaiming “What’s that?”  At the same moment he threw a police issue pocket notebook behind him out of the witness box.


“Officer, why have you thrown your notebook away?”


“I haven’t.”


“Yes you have officer, the whole court room saw you.”


“No I haven’t”.


The Beast didn’t get to ask any more questions. Rich Tea, in a magnificently John Cleese turn of events swooned in the witness box and collapsed dramatically on the floor.  He could not be roused from his “feint” until well clear of the courtroom.


The case was dismissed.


I did not find out what happened to Rich Tea.



PS - please drive safely, be kind, respect property.

PPS - there was an armed robbery in Truro a few days ago.  Our thoughts and support go out to those affected.  Baddies have been caught.