Wednesday 17 July 2019


I once worked with a chaplain from the US Navy who in thoughtful or challenging times would use the phrase, "This too shall pass".
Right now is a thoughtful time for me as I look to a new position; my time in this job has passed.
I am moving on from my current role in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to go and work for a while in the UK's College of Policing.
I hope I still get to help out on the front line and that I do some good helping prepare those who choose to join the thin blue line for the challenges they will face.
It's been good to be able to share some of my thoughts and if you have been reading this, thank you.
I would also just like to say thank you for your kindness, honesty and driving with care.

Friday 31 May 2019

Alpha One Zero

Alpha One Zero.
It's a radio call sign, a handle, an identifier.  It belongs to the Inspector on duty as the Critical Incident Manager for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly police.  Just over the Tamar Bridge in Plymouth it's Papa One Zero.  If you drive far enough along the A30 into North, East and West Devon it will be November One Zero looking after you.
The One Zero role is essentially a challenging mix of supporting officers and supervisors as they do their job, assessing and authorizing the more contentious searches and powers that police use and managing those "critical" incidents that have already or may have a significant impact on individuals and the community.
When I was doing it as a full time job, which I did for a handful of years as both Papa and Alpha One Zero, my wife asked me if I was happy working as a One Zero.  It was a good question.
I would belly ache about the shift hours and the difficulty in getting time off. I would generally look grey and washed out and occasionally, when I needed to, I would recount depersonalized stories of what the team had dealt with during the shift. But it did get under my skin.  It was the single best job I have had in both of my careers.  It was only when I finally had my "wobble" that I changed jobs.  I will be eternally grateful for her quiet, non-judgmental support.  But as I have said previously, I have been working towards getting back in the fight and have started covering a few shifts again.
The last shift I worked was relatively "Q".
There was not too much handed on from the night shift.  There was a search of refuse sacks we has seized and had at a police station following a sickening sexual offence, an open area search for evidence involved in an attempted murder, two fourteen year old Mispers or missing persons to locate who may or may not have been targeted by predatory offenders, a high risk offender for a violent domestic to locate and arrest, a person to safeguard following some worrying stalking and a fatal road traffic accident to follow up.
The support group officers, patrol officers, neighbourhood teams and local investigation detectives searched, enquired, suspect hunted and safeguarded their way through that lot. At the same time the radio drove patrol and neighbourhood officers around the county to the never ending calls for service.
My admiration for those that still do that job full time was renewed, and I hope my hand over to the late shift didn't miss anything important.

PS Your kindness, honesty and safe driving is appreciated by us all.

Thursday 2 May 2019

Moor Beasts of Bodmin. The big black cat.

I was sat at a terminal in Bodmin Police Headquarters when I got the email from our Press Office.  They were looking for an "urgent response" to a news report that a panther like "big black cat" had been seen in a garden and scratched a dog.  As the newly appointed Wildlife Crime Lead for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly I thought I'd better respond urgently.
On this occasion, unusually, someone from the police had gone to see the reporting person.  Even more unusually a plaster caste had been taken of a foot print that had been carefully protected under a dustbin lid.  I think the fact that we attended and took that plaster caste is what made this particular incident newsworthy.  That and also I guess the fact that most of us are a bit fed up of the "news" that has filled our papers, web browsers and tellies for the last few months.  Putting out a bit of a story about big black cats prowling around Cornish villages probably sounded like a really good idea to the news hounds.
I did not hold quite the same view, and after running my thoughts passed some of the more experienced Wildlife Crime Officers  I found they had the same views.  These were, in summary, that the risk to anyone from being attacked by a panther in Cornwall, or any other rural part of the UK, appears to be quite a bit lower than the risk of being hit by lightening.  Also that the poor beast should be left alone to get on with its life as best it can, and not be subjected to the unwanted attention extensive press coverage could very well bring.  Hence the hopefully really dull response we wrote for our Press Office.
As an aside, I used to do the same as the duty Inspector when I'd get phone calls from crime correspondents calling me "mate" and asking for updates on anything "interesting" that had happened overnight.  Since the 1980s I've found a "nothing to see here" type of response works best at protecting the privacy of those who would otherwise find themselves subject to unwanted attention.  If they want that attention, that's fine and they have every right to step into the spotlight.  I just don't point it at people, or big black cats.
Does that mean I don't think there is a big cat out there, somewhere?  Absolutely not.  I am as sure as I can be that big cats are scratching a living out there somewhere in the UK.  When I was working in the Control Room just over a decade ago I took more than one call from concerned members of the public about big cats.  At least two I remember were from farmers, good solid practical people who had seen them on their land.  And during one night shift get together (we'd got a take away to share) one of my colleagues opened up his conversation with, "You'll never believe what I just saw driving here.....".  It turned out that on a quiet and secluded country lane a panther sized, panther looking, big toothed, big black cat had jumped over a Cornish hedge in front of his patrol car. After a split second caught in the headlights (and I like to think a locking of eyes with my colleague - but that's probably poetic license on my part) it jumped over the opposite Cornish hedge and was never seen again. That is unless it's the same one that turned up six years later and scratched a dog in someone's garden.
Anyway, that's it from me about big black cats.  Other than to say don't go approaching one if you see it, do let us know it if you are worried about your or anyone else's safety, but don't be surprised if we just take a few details and don't send a helicopter to you with blue flashing lights.

Monday 25 February 2019

Beasts of Bodmin Moor

"Get on". The farmer nodded to the platform at the back of his quad bike.  The ford focus patrol car had gone as far as it was going to go down the dirt track that wound its way through the woods from the road to the fields.  I left the car at the gate to the field.  It was splattered with mud from the track, and I thought about the 100 yards I would have to reverse back down the track before there would be enough room to try a three point turn.  But that was a problem for later, after I'd investigated the report of worrying livestock.  So I clambered onto the back of the quad and the farmer bumped and splashed his way across his field towards his isolated farmhouse.  It was the remotest and muddiest property I had so far visited since joining Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, and the owner could have doubled for Compo on the telly show Last of the Summer Wine.  As we arrived at the farm buildings he stopped with a jolt and pointed at the carcass of a sheep, its face and throat badly mauled.  The farmer had found the dead sheep that morning, the animal that had attacked it being long gone.  There were a couple of other sheep with injuries, but they had survived.  And they weren't pregnant. That was the last time I personally dealt with a sheep being killed, and I never did manage to find out who was responsible.  And to be perfectly honest I'm not sure we would even be able to attend an incident like that these days; we'd probably have to take the report via the internet or over the phone.  When I later spoke to the farmer to let him know I was going to file the crime as undetected he said, "Well I'll shoot the begger if it come back, even if 'tis Beast of Bodmin."
Attacks on sheep are far too common, particularly on Bodmin Moor where since last April there have been reports of 54 sheep being killed, 22 injured and 11 that had to be rescued after getting trapped in a quarry. And it's the Beasts of Bodmin that have four wheels or are "man's best friend" that are doing the damage.  Bodmin Moor is a common and sheep and ponies graze there, sharing the moorland and its roads with dog walkers and cars.  The challenges the sheep and ponies face are hard enough without having to cope with cars travelling at inappropriate speeds or dogs off the lead and worrying livestock. But we can all make their lives that bit safer with a little more care and attention when driving, and keeping our dogs on a lead between the beginning of March and the end of July, and at any other time of year when we are near livestock.  There's also a bit of a day of action on behalf of the livestock on the moor this coming Saturday 2nd March, with awareness events being held at Minions at 11.00 am and Pensilva at 3.00 pm.  You will definitely be able to get to them without getting stuck on a dirt track or taking a muddy ride on the back of a quad bike.
prevent livestock worrying on Bodmin Moor

PS. We wish you safe travels, and thank you for your kindness and honesty.

Monday 4 February 2019

How fast?

I am now the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly representative on the Roads Policing Strategy Group.  It's great.  For the most part it involves trying to work out how to reduce "KSI"s, take dangerous and uninsured drivers off the road, get communities involved in making our roads as safe as they can be and that type of thing.  Oh, and in case you were wondering KSI stands for Killed and Seriously Injured.  I had to ask when I first heard that. I'm not a traffic cop.
I also had to ask about another phrase, "The Fatal Five".  It was being thrown about by my colleagues in white cap covers. The "fatal" bit was pretty obvious, and I figured there were five things to do with roads that would end you up that way. But I didn't want to assume what those five things were, hence I asked about that too.  I fear I might be getting a reputation for asking too many questions. Anyway, the answer is here -  The Fatal Five .
I was not surprised to learn that number one on that list is inappropriate or excessive speed, the results of which I saw early on in my career.  The first time that I remember consciously seeing the results of excessive speed was when I was looking at the engine block of a Mk1 Ford Escort in the middle of the carriageway, next to a small tree it had knocked over.  The debris that had once been the Mk 1 Ford Focus containing that engine block and its proud owner was spread in lumps and chunks quite some considerable distance either side of the engine block.  I was on a cordon whilst a  Traffic Police Sergeant with an awesome moustache and a clip board took measurements and made notes on his beautifully drawn map of the crash scene. Whilst I was holding one end of the tape measure next to a lamp post and he walked the other end out to the front axle, I asked him how fast he thought the car had been going.
He gave me one of those, 'stop asking sfqs [silly flaming questions] looks' before answering, "I'll tell you exactly how fast he was going.  He was going too bloody fast.." Then as he wound the little handle and the tape measure disappeared back into its black leather case he continued, "Now get back on that cordon and make sure some dozy berk doesn't drive through the road closed sign and run me over."
That was a while ago and cars are now generally safer to drive (but just as dangerous if you are unlucky enough to get hit by one) and better at staying on the road.  But they do still crash. Here in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly there were over 460 reports of damage only and personal injury road traffic collisions last month.  Going too fast will have been a factor in almost all of them.  I sincerely hope that you are not one of the next 460 or so reports.  Driving at appropriate and safe speeds helps.



PS Please drive safely, and as ever your kindness and honesty are appreciated.