Yesterday’s Guardian newspaper included an editorial entitled Plebgate: stop digging .  This editorial contains two recommendations, both directed at the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW):

  • that the Federation should drop its challenge aimed at preventing the IPCC from reopening the investigation into the meeting between Andrew Mitchell and his local PFEW representatives;
  • and that it should stop funding PC Toby Rowland’s libel action against Mr Mitchell.

On twitter I said that, in terms of political awareness, I considered this to be good advice, adding the caveat that “if I were a member of @PFEW_HQ, I would disagree”.

I said this from a non-policing perspective but with some appreciation of the pain that the chain of plebgate-related incidents has caused to the vast majority of police officers.  It seems to me that the public have had their fill of plebgate, that the position espoused by aggrieved politicians is in the ascendency and that the press laps up every opportunity to criticise this most high-profile of public services.  The front page of this morning’s The Times would appear to support the third point.

The decision to take the IPCC to judicial review in respect of the Midlands-based Federation representatives seems to me to be fraught with reputational danger.  Moreover, I was unconvinced whether the funding of PC Rowland’s actions, which is neither an investigation nor a disciplinary matter, was in the interests of the membership at large..

As I had anticipated, my comment was immediately met with a barrage of disagreement from prospective, serving and retired police officers. Every comment related not to the decision to go to judicial review but to the funding of PC Rowland’s defence and all but one comment was in favour of the decision to fund.  Here are some examples:

@j0annepsi stated: “The Fed must not back down on this. PC Rowland is entitled to legal funding for workplace incidents. He has been slandered by Mitchell for over a year now – I can understand why he needs to set the record straight.”

@BriW74 added “I believe PC Rowland has the right to defend his reputation not only from AM but his [AM’s] friends.”

And @Njg28 (an ex-Inspector and ex-Federation representative) explained “If Feds back down from supporting & funding PC Rowland there will be a huge backlash by members. Can’t have disgraceful AM press conf go unchallenged.”

 The sole dissenting view came from an officer who didn’t disagree with these principles but was extremely concerned about the possibilities of further public relations catastrophes and for that reason felt that PFEW should desist.

The press conference to which Mr Gunn is referring is that of 26 November 2013 in which Mr Mitchell said: “Police Constable Toby Rowland, who was responsible for writing these toxic phrases into his notebook, was not telling the truth.” (6:29) A written resumé of this press conference can be found here.

I was then contacted directly by a serving officer who told me:

“The editorial omits to recall that Mitchell called Rowland a liar on national television, no doubt conflating Rowland as an individual with the acknowledged stuff-ups of other officers and the sheer awfulness of the whole affair. There seems to be no proof whatsoever that Rowland acted dishonourably, yet his character has been publicly impugned. 

 Why should he drop his action and why should the Federation not fund it? Mitchell could just issue a public apology and that would probably be that, but he seems to have lumped everyone together and lost the plot.

 The Guardian editorial, taking a lot of time to specify certain details, misses this important fact in order to make the whole thing look like a stitch-up that is all police wrongdoing.  Mitchell doesn’t emerge from any of this smelling of roses: it seems to me he should be held accountable for his shortcomings in this whole affair, which he has now whipped up into a condition of victimhood.”

 My initial support of the Guardian editorial was from the stance of political and media awareness and a concern about the PR aspect of both the judicial review and the libel action. However, I am also a staunch supporter of trade unions and of the rights of employees.  The very recent Independent Review of the Police Federation, chaired by Sir David Normington, highlighted that that police officers “need a highly effective representative organisation to be their safeguard” and that the Federation should aim to be an organisation that “genuinely serves … its members’ interests”.

So the question is whether the funding of PC Rowland’s libel action by the Federation “genuinely serves… its members’ interests” and it seems that police officers believe that it does. Despite the waning public interest, despite the scorn of politicians and despite the scepticism of the press, it seems that, in funding PC Rowland’s defence, the Police Federation is doing what is right.  Not for the press.  And not for the politicians.  But for the constables, sergeants, inspectors and chief inspectors who comprise its membership and who rely on the Federation to safeguard their interests.

A few years ago, I worked for an engineering company that sold machines to customers all around the world. These were large, complex machines worth hundreds of thousands of pounds each. Getting one up and running on a customer’s site, known as ‘commissioning’, was often a difficult job in the best of circumstances. 
 
It was not uncommon, when a customer was making a nuisance of themselves, to send an engineer to site to placate the customer even if it was known that the engineer would be unable to fix the problem. Sometimes this was about buying time until a solution could be found, sometimes it was to hold the customers’ hand until they became more familiar with the machine. Often though, it was done to “fly the flag” when no solution was forthcoming. Customers often got less vociferous as soon as they knew an engineer was on their way.
 
This process became known in the ranks as “the warm body” routine. In nearly all instances, we could have sent someone with no engineering skills whatsoever (hence the “warm body”), stuck a company shirt on them, and the customer would have been happy. For a while at least. As George W. Bush once said, “You can fool some of the people some of the time”.
 
Well, it seems that the police system in the UK is developing its own version of The Warm Body routine. Experienced, paid officers are being compulsorily retired in accordance with police regulations. PCSOs were introduced by Labour to fool the public that there are more police on the streets than there actually are, at a reduced cost. Volunteer (i.e. “free”) Special Constables are being used increasingly despite their comparative lack of training. Now Avon & Somerset (surprise, surprise) are talking about having volunteer PCSOs, thus taking the worst aspects of the PCSO and the Special Constable and ramming them together in a match made in hell.
 
Only someone totally out of touch with the requirements of policing in the UK today would conceive of such an idea. The only motivation for doing this, if we leave aside personal career advancement, is to put more uniforms on the streets for almost no cost regardless of the skills within the uniform.
 
Think of it this way. If Manchester United put red shirts on two of their accountants, they’d have 13 players on the pitch. It might look great, but do the extra two player actually add any value? Or are they just a warm body in the right outfit?
 
It might seem harsh to describe Specials as a “Warm body”, but in my opinion the Special Constabulary has reached the end of its working life. I will give reasons why I believe this. Some are to do with practicality, and some are – admittedly – political.
 
The concept of a Special Constabulary goes back hundreds of years, to the reign of Charles II. The initial model was a temporary swelling of police numbers during times of public unrest. It was not until 1835 that Specials were sworn in outside times of disturbance, and they were a crucial role in dealing with public order during the police strikes of 1918 and 1919.
 
Today, there are approximately 15000 Special Constables in England and Wales and around 1600 in Scotland. The amount of time given up by these volunteer officers varies considerably. In my own experience as a Special with Bedfordshire Police for eight years, I knew of officers who worked in excess of 100 hours a month, and some who were seldom seen, if at all.
 
On the face of it, the Special Constabulary is a noble thing. You could perhaps compare it to St. John’s Ambulance, a band of trained volunteers who wish to serve their local community in their spare time. This is certainly how I viewed it when I joined, and I also wanted to fulfil a lifetime ambition of being a police officer. There are other motivations, for sure, including those who want to take the role for a test run before applying to be a full-time, paid officer. It can be good preparation for that.
 
The first reason is that I no longer believe that it is possible to uphold the law, and to do so well, based on an average service of 16 hours per month. At the time Specials were first conceived, most engagement with the public would have been on the grounds of Common Law, a well-known and uncomplicated platform. Compared to even 40 years ago, the law is so complicated, compartmentalised, and specialised that a part-timer simply cannot expect to grasp it. This is not so much of a problem if a Special is crewed with a “regular” officer, but in many areas now Specials are the routine patrol face of the local force. The law changes in many subtle ways, and new ones are frequently added. It is less than 10 years since I left the Special Constabulary, and yet many fundamental laws, including the power of arrest, have changed significantly. Something as important as the law requires, in my opinion, full time immersion. A Special with 20 years service, having worked an average 16 hours a month, will have less time worked, or “experience”, than a PC who has just completed their probationary period.
 
About 20 years ago, you could perhaps have argued that Pareto applied – namely that 80% of a police officer’s time was in dealing with 20% of legislation. That is perhaps true to some extent today; the “bread & butter” work of a Special might well be with common offences such as theft, public order and assault. However, the police are now being called to a much wider variety of incidents now, in their assumed role of “last line of defence” and are dealing with things that they shouldn’t have to.
 
My second point is related to the first. Even since I left the Special Constabulary, the complaints culture seems to have changed, and much for the worse. Many officers, even without breaking any laws or codes of conduct, will find themselves facing complaints or allegations of misconduct. A proportion of these will be malicious or without foundation. An incomplete or out of date understanding of the law will leave Specials more at risk of complaints or misconduct allegations. Specials are – rightly – just as likely to be examined by Professional Standards Departments as their full-time colleagues. The distinction is that regular officers can rely on the support of their Police Federation representatives in these cases. However the Federation does not currently support Specials although I understand that this may change in future. Even this is a contentious issue. It seems no more fair to ask volunteers to pay subscriptions to the Federation for work provided to the State gratis, than it does to provide such cover to Specials free of charge, as this must by definition dilute the cover available for fee-paying members. Members should not be asked to subsidise the cover of their unpaid colleages. Maybe police forces should pay membership fees on behalf of Special Constables.
 
In the 1970s and 1980s, Special Constables were not popular with their regular colleagues as it was perceived that Specials were an untrained liability, and prevented full-time officers from earning overtime. It is true that historically, Specials were practically thrown a second-hand uniform and put into a police car. Training has improved greatly since then, although by necessity it is still far less than even a probationary PC. In my time as a Special, I was only ever met with enthusiasm for my attendance; never frowned upon for costing overtime.
 
Since the Coalition came to power though, things have changed. Police numbers have dropped, and whatever the Government says, the number of officers in response roles has dropped dramatically. Some areas, are able to put a mask over this problem by deploying Specials in frontline roles. This is a pragmatic step, as it increases “strength” with almost no budgetary impact. It might even allow the sacred response targets to be met. In my opinion, though, this is not the right thing to do. The most obvious reason for this is that, from a supervisory viewpoint, you can’t plan this. Specials, by their nature as volunteers, cannot be compelled to turn out for duty and may well – for valid reasons as well as otherwise – cancel at the last minute or simply not turn up at all. In my own personal experience, this has left operational plans in disarray for something as “simple” as road closures on Remembrance Sunday.
 
From a political point of view, not only to all of us pay our taxes partly so that the Government can supply an adequate number of police officers, but why should any of us do – for free – what this Government refuses to pay properly for, or even value the role of Constable? It’d be like hiring a builder and carrying all their bricks for them whilst being charged the same amount. The esteemed Inspector Gadget remarked on Twitter “No worker, no matter what sector, should be happy when people arrive on the scene who will do their job for free.” Wise words.
 
The St. John’s Ambulance organisation does a wonderful and useful job. It is mostly staffed by volunteers with reasonably basic medical training. How would you feel if your local Health Authority started making Paramedics redundant and using St John’s Ambulance for A&E duties?
 
This is not solely a dig at the Conservatives. I believe Labour started the decline of the Special Constabulary by creating the Police Community Support Officer. This was a golden opportunity to put the Specials on a similar footing to retained firefighters and the Territorial Army. Like so many things though, Labour blew it, and went for a dishonest policy of creating more people in police uniforms – thus reassuring the public – but without any police powers.
 
Lastly – the physical risk of being a police officer has, in my view, never been higher. The penalties for assaulting an officer – or even killing one – are no deterrent.
 
So – as a volunteer police officer – you are effectively risking your life and future earning capacity, investigation by DPS or maybe even prosecution, whilst covering up (by masking resource issues) the damage being done to policing by an ideological Government. It is an equation I can no longer justify, and with some regret, I say it is time that the Special Constabulary was wound down.
 
By Martin White @martinwwhite72

‘When a policeman is doing his job, often difficult and frequently dangerous, he should be supported to the full by his senior officers and all law-abiding members of the community. When he breaks the rules, which he knows all too well, he should be dealt with according to the law. Until he does transgress, for God’s sake get off his back. He is doing a vital and responsible job, and he needs your support.’ Frank Williamson

 

On Saturday, 29 November 1969, The Times ran a story headed, “London policemen in bribe allegations. Tapes reveal planted evidence.”  The article alleged that three South London detectives had taken bribes, given false evidence in exchange for money and had “allowed a criminal to pursue his activities”

This story would, eventually, engender three major inquiries into corruption in the Metropolitan Police, producing in turn five major trials of London detectives. These revelations of deep rooted corruption forever tainted the myth of the incorruptible London bobby and a tradition of detective work that reached back to Victorian times, a tradition based on the tolerance, almost encouragement, of close intimacy between detectives and criminals was almost totally destroyed. Nearly 400 detectives left the Met in disgrace and hundreds more returned to uniform. The period became known as “The Fall of Scotland Yard” and the effects of that crash still reverberate today.

The Times journalists, Gary Lloyd and Julian Mounter, had secretly tape-recorded a small-time South London criminal and three detectives in conversations that left no doubt as to the extent of corruption that existed among sections of the Met’s Criminal Investigation Department. The conversations between Detective Sergeant John Symonds and the criminal featured the now infamous

 

‘… don’t forget always to let me know straight away if you need anything because I know people everywhere. Because I’m in a little firm in a firm. Don’t matter where, anywhere in London I can get on the phone to someone I know I can trust, that talks the same as me. And if he’s not the right person that can do it, he’ll know the person that can. All right?’

 

It was this ‘Firm in a Firm’ phrase which gave the Times allegations its horrific impact. It implied that there was a whole network of ‘bent’ detectives on the take, who were prepared to do favours to any criminal who could be induced to pay for them.  The Times feared that the allegations would be brushed under the carpet if they went straight to the Yard with them, so publication was seen as the only way of ensuring the story came out into the open. The material the newspaper had, including some thirty hours of tape recordings, was duly handed over at Scotland Yard. ‘A little firm in a firm’ was taken as the headline for the Times leader which stated, that the allegations constituted

 

“The most serious charge that has been brought against the Criminal Investigation Branch of the Metropolitan Police for some years…. It is important in justice to the Metropolitan Police, and in particular to the plain-clothes branch, that the most stringent inquiry should now be made.”

 

The Metropolitan Police of 1969-1972 was a police force riven by internal power-struggles between its most senior officers and a deep mistrust between the uniform branch and the detectives of the Criminal Investigation Department. Created in 1879 (The Met’s earlier Detective Branch had been disbanded for corruption) the CID enjoyed prestige, had a separate system of promotion, higher rates of pay and its own command structure.  

At its apex was the Assistant Commissioner (Crime) at Scotland Yard. Under him were four Area CID commanders also based at the Yard. Under them were twenty three detective chief superintendents, one in each district, controlling a total of 2300 detectives with another 1,000 detectives based in the Yard’s specialist squads answerable to the ACC through their own commanders. The CID operated with no outside control as a force within a force with all the loyalties and codes of a closed, elite body.

The most extraordinary aspect in the Metropolitan CID of this period was that since 1879 there had been no code of conduct for detectives in their relationships with London’s criminals. To know what was going on many detectives decided that they had to mix socially with the criminals they might want to lock up. Over generations a culture of mutual favours grew up between detectives, their informers and criminals; These two latter groups were often interchangeable This culture of mutual obligation in turn led to collusion between wide sections of the CID and London’s criminals with major players securing a virtual immunity from prosecution by providing detectives with information on the “small fry”.

With little supervision a detective could and did operate according to his own rules, confident that the courts would never accept the word of alleged or convicted criminals and that his own senior officers only concern was about maintaining high rates of arrests not by the means by which they were achieved. It is possible to separate those detectives who took the perks that criminals offered and traded favours into “Grass Eaters” and those detectives who aggressively pursued criminals for corrupt payments “Meat Eaters”

The “Meat Eater” could get criminal charges dropped against the guilty or ensure their acquittal for a price. He could ensure the conviction of criminals who wouldn’t pay bribes or who got in the way of the major players who did. He could protect bribe paying criminal gangs by preventing their detection. He could directly participate in setting up armed robberies for a share of the profits. He could establish a protection racket for those trading in pornography and drugs by demanding money and favours from the dealers in return for the privilege of being allowed to operate an illegal business.

Another aspect of the way the CID operated was that since 1879 any allegation of criminal behaviour among police was investigated only by the CID. As most situations of serious corruption involved detectives rather than uniformed officers, this placed the plain-clothes branch in a position of extraordinary privilege.

In 1963 the allegations of systematic perjury, evidence planting and brutality centred around the former SAS war hero Detective Sergeant Harold Challenor had been internally investigated and he had been found to be only a lone bad (and insane) apple. To many outsiders, including many senior officers in provincial constabularies and Home Office civil servants the Yard’s handling of the Challenor case confirmed that the will and capacity of the Met to investigate allegations of corruption made against it was very limited.

In 1969 the concerns surrounding the extent of corruption within the Met made Home Secretary Roy Jenkins to seriously consider a plan to return the entire CID to uniform duties and to draft in a new body drawn from provincial forces. However it was felt that public confidence in the virtue of the Metropolitan Police had to be maintained and the plan was dropped.

At Scotland Yard itself the highest echelons of the Met were riven with cliques; Under the Commissionership of Joseph Simpson graduates of the short lived direct entry “Trenchard Scheme” had been favoured for all senior appointments and they now dominated the highest ranks.  Created in 1933 and closed in 1939 graduates of the Special Course of Hendon Police College had been appointed directly at Inspector level. The scheme favoured privately and university educated applicants and these graduates faced deep resentment and ridicule from an overwhelmingly working class force. These “Trenchard Men” were regarded as administrators rather than as operational officers, inexperienced and aloof from the harsh realities of policing.

The Home Office felt the time had come when the Met would benefit from the introduction of senior officers from outside forces. In 1967 against the opposition of Commissioner Joseph Simpson, Robert Mark, Chief Constable of Leicester was appointed Assistant Commissioner. Mark later said of the reception he received from his new Met colleagues

 

“I was made to feel about as welcome as the representative of a leper colony at a colonial governors garden party”

 

On the death of Simpson, John Waldron, another “Trenchard man” was appointed as Commissioner. John Waldron was in ill health and was generally regarded as a well meaning mediocrity. Home Secretary James Callaghan made clear that he regarded Waldron as a stop gap and that newly promoted Deputy Commissioner Robert Mark was the favoured successor. However John Waldron refused to retire and remained as Commissioner for four years. Robert Mark remained in post as deputy commissioner although he was effectively excluded from influence by Waldron who was in turn dominated by his fellow “Trenchard Men”.

The attitude of Sir John Waldron and his top Yard officers to the Times allegations was that of disbelief. How could The Times rely on the word of a professional criminal and on tape recordings which might easily have been forged or edited? Worst of all, how could The Times of all papers stoop to denigrating the reputation of Scotland Yard? The inquiry demanded by The Times was established but far from ‘most stringent’, the Met internal inquiry was regarded as a damage limitation exercise. The inquiry was given to Detective Chief Inspector Fred Lambert to conduct but with few resources.  

The earlier experience of the Challenor Case had convinced the Home Office that independent oversight of any corruption investigation in the Metropolitan Police would be vital. The Home Secretary James Callaghan contacted Frank Williamson, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary for Crime and offered him the role of independent advisor to the Met inquiry. With his status, an unimpeachable reputation for honesty and his availability – as an Inspector of Constabulary he was not a serving police officer – Williamson was seen as the obvious man for the job.

Williamson accepted the appointment but warned Callaghan that the only effective response to the allegations would be a wholly independent investigation. Callaghan appointed Williamson to “advise” the existing Met internal inquiry but without the agreement of Waldron. The involvement of any outside “Provincial” officer was slap in the face for the Yard hierarchy, but the injection of Frank Williamson was truly explosive.  

Frank Williamson was born in Northampton on 24th February 1917. His father was the local Chief Constable. As a boy, Williamson was visiting his father’s office one day when the Chief Constable was instructing a senior detective on how to handle an investigation that required a visit to London. Instead of advising the customary course of enlisting the aid of Metropolitan detectives Williamson Snr said,

 

‘You go to London Mr Blake, and take two sergeants with you, and you make the inquiries yourself. Because if you do not make them yourself, they won’t be made!’

 

After being educated at Northampton Grammer School Williamson joined the Manchester City Police in 1936. During WWII Williamson served in the Royal Military Police before rejoining the ManchesterCity force gaining a considerable reputation as a painstaking detective and rising to the rank of Detective Chief Superintendent.  In 1961 Williamson was appointed Chief Constable of Carlisle and in 1964 Williamson oversaw the final amalgamation into a single Cumbria constabulary which he headed as Chief Constable.

In 1965 Williamson’s reputation for integrity  saw the Home Office send him to Southend to investigate the conduct of its Chief Constable William McConnach; A venal drunken bully later described by Williamson as a “dipsomaniac and megalomaniac in that order ” McConnach had paid for his daughters lavish wedding out of his own force’s budget.

The investigation of the Chief Constable of Southend was conducted with ruthless efficiency and William McConnach was subsequently tried for stealing as a servant of the Crown and for false pretences. He was found guilty on thirty-two out of thirty-three counts and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.

In l967 Williamson was appointed to the Home Office Inspectorate of Constabulary as Inspector for Crime. During lectures at detective training schools across Britain Williamson made clear his views on police corruption

 

“Until the words ‘except police officers’ are written into any statute in this land, policemen must be dealt with in the same way as everyone else”

 

During his career Williamson had developed a deep mistrust of the competence and integrity of the Met CID. Many other senior officers in constabularies across Britain shared his concerns.

 

“I had served in provincial forces for 30 years, and though I had known wrongdoing, I had never experienced institutionalised wrongdoing, blindness, arrogance and prejudice on anything like the scale accepted as routine in the Met,”  Robert Mark

 

At police conferences and conventions Williamson made no secret of his views and had frequently raised his concerns to Home Office civil servants. However his concerns were never publicly acknowledged and his solution to break up the CID and reform it under the direct control of senior uniform officers was considered politically unworkable.

Williamson felt that the only way the Times allegations could be dealt with satisfactorily was through the appointment of a whole team of outside officers to serve directly under him but his terms of reference were circumscribed:

 

‘To advise as to the nature, scope and direction of the inquiry into allegations made by The Times newspaper.’

 

From the moment Frank Williamson arrived in London he faced open hostility from the highest levels at Scotland Yard. Before the amalgamation in the mid-sixties of many small town and country forces into more sizable units, it had often been necessary to call in the Yard to take over investigations of major crimes which these tiny constabularies could not handle. This had created contempt for any “Provincial” detective. The CID rank & file viewed Williamson as a “Swede”. Their senior officers more politely implied that Williamson may very well have been a distinguished detective in Manchester but that such experience could not be remotely compared to serving in the Met. 

No senior officer expressed this attitude more firmly than the Assistant Commissioner (Crime) Peter Brodie.

Peter Brodie was an old Harrovian who had joined the Met in 1934 under the “Trenchard Scheme” another of the privately educated class of senior officer who had graduated from the Special Course at HendonPoliceCollege and had risen to dominate the force’s top ranks. Brodie had been the first Assistant Commissioner (Crime) to have been promoted from within the CID and he felt he knew the everyday problems of his detectives. Brodie’s trust in his officer’s integrity was unquestioning and he simply did not believe that corruption among his 3,000 detectives was a serious problem. Alongside this belief was the fact that he was also engaged in a power struggle with Deputy Commissioner Robert Mark who had began a process of internal reform designed to curb what Mark saw as CID excesses.

Peter Brodie openly regarded Williamson’s appointment to the inquiry as resulting from a misguided mania to clean up the Met which was a symptom of Williamson’s lack of understanding of the complexities of policing London. In Frank Williamson’s opinion Peter Brodie lived in an ivory tower and was loyal to his men to the point of stupidity.

 

“He accepted the advice of his senior officers; Anything they said was gospel and they were twisting him right, left and centre. They were putting the umbrella up over the dishonest troops in the CID in London. They had nothing worry about because Peter Brodie would say to me “You’ve got it wrong, my chaps wouldn’t do this to me” “

 

DCI Lambert had started an honest attempt to investigate the Times allegations and was pursuing leads of inquiry involving some 30 detectives across London. Williamson provided Lambert with advice and they developed a close working relationship. Their efforts though faced constant obstruction; Files were removed, witnesses proved unwilling to provide statements. Suspect officers were pre-warned. The inquiry offices telephones were bugged. When Williamson demanded that suspected officers be interviewed Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ray Chitty told him bluntly that no Met officer would be allowed to be interviewed by a mere “Provincial” no matter how high his rank. Despite this opposition Williamson and Lambert continued their inquiries receiving information from criminals, journalists and the wider public.

On 21 May 1970 Commander Wallace Virgo, head of C1 Department and in charge of the Mets specialist crime squads took Lambert off the inquiry and gave him a desk job handling his correspondence, an effective demotion. Virgo’s words to Lambert were chilling 

 

“You have backed the wrong horse. You have backed Frank Williamson against your own senior officers.”

 

Commander Virgo now appointed Bill Moody as senior investigating officer; The Times inquiry was now in the hands of an Detective Chief Superintendent who, in 1977, was himself to face corruption charges at the Old Bailey and be sent to prison for 12 years. Even as he probed the ‘Firm in a Firm’ allegations Detective Chief Superintendent Bill Moody was, in his other capacity as head of the Obscene Publications Squad; receiving tens of thousands of pounds in bribes from Soho’s porn barons.

Indeed the totally corrupt Bill Moody had merely improved on an earlier protection racket organised by his predecessor as head of the “Dirty Squad”; Wallace Virgo. Bill Moody can accurately be described as the most corrupt officer in the history of the British Police Service.

Moody and his aide Detective Sergeant Cyril Jones (known throughout Soho as Moody’s bagman: DS Jones was later to stand trial with his boss in 1976 and be sent to prison for seven years) ensured that the Times inquiry achieved nothing for not only were the later convictions of two detectives secured on evidence secured by the newspaper itself, but no other detective – except Symonds who jumped bail and escaped abroad – was ever charged.

Although Williamson had no idea of the sheer scale of corruption Moody was up to in Soho as head of Obscene Publications, the many rumours surrounding Moody provoked his disgust: Williamson had a puritanical style of living; Moody lived in style, wearing tailored suits and running two impressive cars: a 2.5-litre petrol-inject Triumph and a 1.5 Lancia which had been bought for Moody by a Soho pornographer. One day in the car park at Scotland Yard Moody walked over to Williamson and pointing at his car, an Austin 1800 two years old, and said, ‘Is that the best you can do?’

Williamson sought out ACC Brodie and after finally managing to see told him about Moody’s expensive cars. Brodie shouted “I am not interested in what cars Moody drives!”

Williamson replied “You bloody well should be!”

By this time Williamsons worst views on the depth and breadth of corruption in the Met CID had been confirmed; The problem be summed up in three short, sharp verdicts on the three sorts of detective he believed to exist in the Met: those who were themselves corrupt, those who knew that others were corrupt but did nothing about it, and those who were too stupid to notice what was going on around them.

Every attempt by Williamson to replace Moody or to bring in selected officers from outside forces had been blocked. Sir John Waldron was “unavailable” to meet with him. Other senior Yard officers followed suit. Robert Mark avoided any contact with Williamson and wouldn’t be seen to provide any support to the inquiry.

 Every effort by Williamson to brief the Home Office on the inquiry’s obstruction was countered by Waldron informing them that Williamson’s suspicions of widespread corruption were that a “Provincial” out of his depth in the particular policing environment of London; Williamson had alienated the honest hard working men of the CID by giving undue credence to the malicious allegations and rumours of criminals and naive journalists. Repeated demands by Williamson to meet with the Home Secretary now Conservative Reginald Maudling proved fruitless. In an interview with author James Morton Williamson said

 

“If I had a dozen good men I could have beaten them. If I’d had 20 senior officers from the provinces I’d have beaten them.”

 

The impossibility of making any progress on the inquiry had brought Frank Williamson into a mood of deep despair. By the end of 1971 he was so ‘fed up with banging his head against a brick wall’ that he resigned from the police service altogether, eleven years before he might otherwise have been expected to retire. It is generally acknowledged that in doing this Williamson threw away his appointment as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary and a certain knighthood.

Williamson had convinced himself that the Home Office was simply not prepared to instigate the fundamental reforms of the Met which he knew were necessary. What he could not have foreseen was that within four months of his going a series of sensational events were to highlight the very corruption which he knew to exist but which others, including top Home Office officials, were reluctant either to believe or to publicly acknowledge.

The first was the Sunday People revelation on 27th February 1972 that Commander Kenneth Drury of the Flying Squad had gone on holiday with Soho’s best known pornographer. Second; Robert Mark took over as Commissioner on April 1972 and immediately implemented the reforms which Williamson himself had recommended to the Home Office.  On 23rd April Mark announced that the autonomy of the CID was over with all detectives on divisions placed under the control of the uniformed commander. A shattered ACC Peter Brodie taken wholly unawares reacted thus

 

“Nine days later the Assistant Commissioner Crime went into hospital for observation having obviously suffered a long period of excessive strain. He never returned to duty though we were all relieved to hear that there was nothing fundamentally the wrong with” Robert Mark

 

Mark instigated further reforms; He created a specialist Anti Corruption unit A10; He ordered mass transfers of detectives of all ranks across London; He implemented the systematic interchange between CID and uniform branches. All reforms designed to destroy the closed mentality and corrupt traditions of the “Firm within a Firm”

Finally there was the massive investigation by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Gilbert Kelland into the allegations of systematic corruption in the Obscene Publications Squad. This resulted in the trial of 15 detectives including two of the most senior police officers ever to be prosecuted, ex-Commander Wallace Virgo former head of the Obscene Publications Squad and later C1 Branch and ex-Commander Drury of the Flying Squad; Also in the dock was DCS Bill Moody. 13 of the officers were jailed for a total of 96 years. Wallace Virgo later had his conviction overturned on the grounds that the judges summing up had been unduly harsh.

Frank Williamson subsequently worked as a security advisor to the Co-op and ICI but received no official recognition for his role in fighting the cancer of corruption that had eaten its way into the soul of the Met’s detective branch. Robert Mark wrote in his autobiography

 

“He was thoroughly disillusioned and depressed by continual disagreement and obstruction by policemen who didn’t share his very high standard of personal and private integrity”

 

In 1996 Frank Williamson has finally gained the wider recognition he so richly deserved when the BBC series Our Friends in the North covered the events of the Times inquiry. The actor Tony Haygarth portraying the honest upright Chief Constable “Roy Johnson” gave a heartbreaking performance of a man disgusted by the corruption around him and resigning in protest at the obstruction he encountered. Frank Williamson died on 25th December 1998.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playing the ball: the real risks of Direct Entry into the Police.

 

In January, the Government went out to consultation on their proposals to introduce Direct Entry into the police.  The consultation closed at the end of March and the Government’s response to that consultation was published on 14 October. http://t.co/kUR9PkM131

 

The Government’s response states that the consultation process attracted more than 900 submissions but it is not evident that those submissions have had much effect on the original proposals.

 

The response makes clear that the Government remains committed to implementing fast track (to inspector) and direct entry (to superintendent) schemes which it believes will “offer an opportunity to attract the best talent to the police, bringing in new skills and ideas from other professions”.  There is also a plan to enable Police and Crime Commissioners to employ Chief Constables from overseas.

 

This places the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in something of a bind.  They are unable to contradict openly the Government’s position but that position in itself threatens the promotion prospects not only of existing federated ranks but also of ACPO members themselves, blocking as it may their own access to the jewel in the crown that is the position of Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service. 

 

ACPO’S National Policing Lead for Workforce Management, Chief Constable Mike Cunningham, said:

 

“As a profession, policing has nothing to fear from being open to these ideas. There is every reason for confidence that the abundant leadership talent within policing can compete with the very best from outside” crucially going on to add thatthe advantages of first hand day to day experience of operational policing to those in command roles is not underestimated.”  http://t.co/bO0jR115p3

 

The best of the publically available consultation submissions is probably that of Policing for All. http://t.co/RZtRLQ2Ks8   I agree with PfA’s submission almost entirely, though I feel that it is sketchy on two important aspects:

 

•           the relationship between individual police forces and the College of Policing in respect of the management and, more specifically, the funding of fast-track and direct entry officers;

•           the question of the personal and operational credibility of Direct Entry Superintendents. 

 

The lack of detail around the relationship between forces and the centre in respect of the management and funding of fast track and direct entry officers threatens to reproduce some of the problems that have dogged the current High Potential Development Scheme.  In researching this piece I spoke to a number of HPDS-experienced officers, most of whom felt that the tension between the NPIA (and now the College of Policing) and their own force needed to be resolved if best use were to be made of scheme members’ skills and abilities.  One officer told me “My Chief hated being told what to do by the centre”.  Another told me: “I’m fortunate as I work for a metropolitan force where there is still movement for HPDS members. I genuinely feel for those from smaller forces, as most will get no chance.”   Whatever fast-tracking scheme is adopted, it seems to me that it is vital for it to be run and funded from the “centre”, be that the College of Policing or an alternative, to ensure equality of access and opportunity for all participants.

 

The issue of credibility is less tangible.  All the submissions and comments that I have read focus on operational competence:  the ability of an inspector or superintendent to carry out their tasks, to exercise their authorities, and the consequential risk to public safety.  Some commentators have gone so far as to refer to operational credibility but I have seen no commentator unpick this concept and that of personal credibility to a satisfactory level, though Nathan Constable came close in this excellent blog: http://t.co/YDxzOE4Qxj

 

It is this very issue which underpins the disappointing if predictable response to today’s announcement from serving officers on social networks such as @Twitter.  As has happened more than once over the past year, many have chosen to “play the man instead of the ball”, criticising those as-yet-fictional Direct Entry Superintendents rather than the Direct Entry scheme itself.  Even the eminently sensible @Boscorelli55 was incensed enough to write that Direct Entry was for “lazy, unmotivated people who want a quick power trip and good money handed to them on a plate” while the generally sanguine @30onfrontline referred scathingly to “direct entry types” being “shuttled off on projects & secondments”.  There is no evidence that those who apply for Direct Entry schemes will be any less committed to public service or policing itself than those who are currently in post and many serving officers may well have taken advantage of such a scheme were it already in existence.  However, these comments adequately validate my chief concerns about the scheme as it is proposed.

 

As Irene Curtis, President of the Superintendents’ Association, regularly points out, superintendents are senior operational leaders, not desk-bound administrators and, in my opinion, the key weakness in the proposed scheme is that, regardless of their competence, Direct Entrants at Superintendent level will have no operational or personal credibility.  They will not have completed the two-year probation period which marks an officer’s rite of passage and as a result staff will have no confidence in them (and their supervisors are likely to be similarly sceptical).  These superintendents will be persistently undermined as inspectors and chief inspectors repeatedly second-guess them, seek second opinions or ridicule decisions made without what is perceived to be an adequate knowledge of either the policing or the community landscape.  This continual undermining will destabilise a system based on mutual trust and respect.  It will also lead to a form of persistent bullying which will in itself have a detrimental effect on the ability of the Direct Entrant to perform his/her task effectively as s/he becomes increasingly reluctant to trust their own judgment and confidence ebbs away.

 

I write with no little knowledge of what I speak.  I joined Her Majesty’s Prison Service on an Accelerated Promotion scheme.  I had a degree and four years’ work experience in three different countries.  The expectation was that I would reach the grade of Prison Governor V within three years and IV within 6 years, which I did.  However, the fundamentals were learned during the two years I spent as a prison officer at HMP Brixton.  I won’t pretend that these were the best years of my life.  Far from it.  But they were the years in which I learned the craft of being a prison officer, knowledge and skills which even today stand me in good stead. 

 

I learned the rules and regulations and, more importantly, how easily these could be abused.  I learned how to relate to prisoners, what made officers tick and how to manage upwards.  I learned the tricks of the trade, the Spanish practices and where the skeletons were likely to be buried.  Two years was long enough for officers to occasionally forget that I wasn’t one of them, that my name was written first in the red ink that marked me out as a female officer (in common parlance, a “slit-arse”) in an almost wholly male environment and with asterisks to indicate my much-despised accelerated status.  It was long enough for me to experience the nervous energy of an alarm bell, the boredom of a night shift, the jitteriness of unlock, the endlessness of a day at court, the black humour of a bed-watch, the complexities of the relationships between prisoners, between staff and between staff and prisoners as well as the formal and informal hierarchies that impact so profoundly on institutionalised lives. It was long enough for me to learn how to talk the talk and walk the walk.  It was long enough for me to have to choose between my principles and an easy life and so experience the terror of being “sent to Coventry”.  It was long enough that, when I was promoted not to senior but directly to principal officer, there were very few duties that I had not undertaken and very little wool that could be pulled over my eyes.

 

These are irreplaceable skills and the suggestion that such formative experiences should be ignored is fundamental to my concerns about direct entry.  My fear is that because Direct Entry superintendents will lack familiarity with policing and with police officers, there will be an automatic if unjustified absence of trust and respect, leaving a vacuum that will fill itself with envy and suspicion.  This is where the danger lies, not just for the police but also for the public at large, and it is in no way evident to me that the Government has taken this aspect on board during their consultation. 

 

There is still time to change the plans but I have little expectation that this will happen.  The College of Policing is due to report back in five years and it will be interesting to see if this aspect forms part of their re-considerations.  There is the risk that, by then, much corporate wisdom will already have been lost and many promising Direct Entrants will have been quelled into mediocrity but there is still time for those with an interest in good governance and excellent leadership to keep on playing the ball.

 

Rachel Rogers

@DorsetRachel

 

 

 

Last week I published a blog (reproduced here on manyvoicesblog to aid new readers of this piece) on my visit to Lincolnshire Police HQ to see how the partnership with G4S was coming along, one year in to the ten year contract.  I was surprised by what I found because the overriding impression of G4S is that of a company doing as little as possible to get the most profit available.  I definitely did not find that in Lincolnshire.  I asked someone who works for G4S, in the Policing arena but not under the Lincs contract, if they would write a little bit about their own experience of transferring to G4S. It is important to remember that this person already worked for a private company providing outsourced services to Police.  Neither my own writing or the piece below has sought to discuss outsourcing or privatisation.  Rather they seek to open a window on the reality of it – the good so that we might celebrate and replicate, but also the bad so that we might improve and change. Increasingly, I am learning that a good contract is a powerful tool.  Public services must learn to write, negotiate and control contracts, if they are to successfully outsource.  The words below are the result of a poor contract where the needs of the staff (and very possibly the service users too) have been forgotten in the ‘business model’.  Public service is all about people and it is the responsibility of modern leaders to ensure outsourcing contracts protect the human element of the business. I hope the following words are read and used as inspiration for betterment, rather than used a stick to beat one side with and an embarrassment to dishonour the other side with. Only by listening to each other can we improve ourselves…

 

“I was asked by Cate to write about my experience of G4S takeover of the company I worked for as a reply to her blog about how things are going with their new contract with Lincolnshire police. You will have to excuse me as I’m not the best when it comes to writing hopefully Cate will make it look good for me.

 I’m pleased it seems to be going well so far in Lincolnshire but my experience of G4S has been far from good.

In July 2008 G4S bought GSL which included the company I worked for (Accuread) things seemed to go well at first then within 4-6 weeks they had managed to lose one of our biggest contracts by trying to be clever – never a good idea with two branches of the same company this was followed by cutting of a lot of staff the team I worked for at the time in London went from 68 to 43 a big hit for the size area, inevitably we started to fail our targets this was followed by an inordinate amount of disciplinary action,  in my opinion aimed at getting rid of us permanent staff on the original contracts.

The next idea was to offer everyone 0 hour contracts not a popular option as those not in working in town centres can often have up to 30 minutes drive time in between jobs so technically working a 7 hour day you could possibly only get paid for 3 !  

We are like the poor relation of the group, uniform replacement is almost impossible to get we’re told we are entitled to replacement every 12 months, yeah ok, it took me 2 and a half years to get some and then it was only certain items and most of that was the wrong size. The raincoats we have are worse than useless and seem to be designed to let you get as wet as possible great help when you work outdoors. Needless to say I have been looking for other employment for quite a while now and the sooner I find something the better.

Thank you to Cate for the opportunity to get this out there.”

 

What is clear to me from reading this very honest account is that the level of care for existing employees in this particular setting is not the same as that for those I visited in Lincolnshire Police.  I suspect this is because the contracts are very different. The change in employee conditions has been felt keenly and mainly in a negative way and the overriding impression is that employee terms are going to be much worse on new contracts.  I would like to use this blog as an opportunity to discuss the thinking behind zero hours contracts and valuing employees. Thoughts, opinions and experiences most welcome. 

This time last year Lincolnshire Police were at the beginning of a journey many did not want them to embark on.  The groundbreaking contract between the Force and G4S had just begun, to a background of Olympic controversy and impending PCC elections.  Policing was in flux. The people of Lincolnshire could be forgiven if they found themselves worrying about the service they might receive from their Police Force and the officers and staff were rightly nervous but also demoralised. The partnership was in a harsh, unforgiving spotlight and the pressure for both sides must have been intense.  Privatisation of Public Services became seen as a stick with which the Government was beating the people and most especially, public servants.

 Reality is almost always a hop, skip and a jump from popular supposition.  Lincolnshire Police is still Lincolnshire Police.  It has not been privatised. Outsourcing has been common practice in all Public Services for many years now.  So why the furore over the Lincolnshire/G4S partnership?  Well, the partnership is extensive and the timing of the new contract really couldn’t have been much worse. The reputation of G4S was taking a very public hammering and Political manipulation was playing right into the hands of the majority of public service workers and users who were ethically opposed to private companies making profits in public services.

Time passed and other scandals took the limelight.  One year into the ten year contract, I wondered how things were coming along in Lincolnshire.  I spoke with a few officers, a few Lincolnshire residents and I spoke with John Shaw, who is Managing Director of G4S Policing Services and Health businesses.  John suggested I visit and see for myself how the partnership was working out, one year in. So I did.

Upon arrival at Police Headquarters, I drove along a row of parking spaces with shiny signs saying ‘Reserved for Visitors of PCC’.  The next row said ‘Green Card Visitors’ or something similar.  I knew I didn’t have a blue card, so I assumed I wasn’t one of ‘those’ visitors.   Logically, I thought I must be one of the ‘other’ type of visitors and I parked in the former row.  At reception I was hastily told to move my car into the other row, as that first row was exclusively for the PCC and his staff.  So I trotted back to the car park and put myself in my correct place….further away from the building than the PCC and his staff.  This was pretty much the only time the presence of the PCC had any influence on my visit.  It didn’t leave a good impression with me and one of the first things I asked John Shaw, was about his own parking space.  He looked a little non-plussed then said ‘I don’t have one.  If I get to work early enough I get a space easily. If I’m not here early enough, like everybody else I have to look for a space.  Why should I have a space over anybody else?’ 

The lady at reception who hurried me out of the PCC parking space talked to me about how it had felt to move over from being Police Staff to G4S staff.  There was a definite ethical and personal identity issue and these should not be negated but the reality months later, was that things had gone smoothly and in her particular role she had noticed little if any change.  After making me a cup of tea and chatting with me in his noticeably modest office, John took me to meet Helen Wilkie, the Firearms Licensing and Explosives Licensing Manager.  I have to say from the outset that I really liked Helen and her enthusiasm for her job and Lincolnshire Police was infectious.  Helen retires this month having worked for Lincolnshire Police since she was 16.  Personally, I’d have tried every bribe I could to keep someone like Helen for a few more years.  Both John and Helen would probably agree that neither saw the other as a likely ally this time last year.  Helen told me that she was extremely upset when she first heard that Firearms Licensing was going to be put out for tender. She expected things to go from bad to worse.  She already worked long hours under great pressure.  She was understaffed and the unit was permanently behind with the workload.  Sounds familiar to many I am sure.

The contract between Lincolnshire Police and G4S ensures high standards from the outset with an expectation of continuous improvement from G4S. Targets (I know, I know) are monitored monthly with G4S having to pay Lincs Police if they fall below the agreed level of attainment.  Helen told me that almost immediately she felt a positive difference with G4S, in that all of the personnel side of her job was taken away.  She was freed up to get on with the active part of her role, allowing someone else to now manage the staff in her department.  Helen is also the chair of Unison.  She was opposed to the outsourcing both on a personal and on a professional level.  Yet today, Helen is enthused and reinvigorated.  She described G4S as espousing a ‘tighter’ work ethic to the staff in her department.  Something which she thought came as a bit of a shock to the team, but which has ultimately brought positive results for the majority of staff.  She told me that her fears have not materialised, that she is personally happier and that people in her team now understand that they are accountable – something which had not been so clear before.  She also told me that she encountered as much fear from the public as from the Police when G4S took over and that she still fields calls from worried members of the public from time to time.  Helen said to me ‘I’m about solid evidence – all the stories I’ve heard are not evidenced.  My experience is highly positive.  It’s pepping up everybody.  We are spending public money, so let’s do it the best way possible.’  Very soon after G4S stepping in, the unit was ahead of demand on all licences and has remained so ever since.  The public are getting a better service than before.  Surely that can’t be all because of a ‘tighter’ work ethic? Well, not entirely.  It was agreed that a new computer system would be provided and G4S had an idea which system they intended to buy.  Helen wanted a different, more expensive system and she found she was able to explain her reasons and make a case for the better system.  Helen got her more expensive system.  That’s a relatively rare experience in Policing. I could have happily spent all day with Helen, listening to her talking about the before and after of her department and her personal experience.  ‘I’m excited by this relationship. I believe Lincolnshire will be a leading Force in Firearms Licensing in the future.  We will secure local jobs and bring more jobs to the wider community by bringing in more contracts through the IT and our expertise.’ For a Unison chairperson and lifelong Police employee, that’s quite a statement.

Next I visited the Force Control Room, which is overseen by Andy Jolley, an ex Chief Inspector from a different Force who was specifically employed by G4S for this role, thus utilising Policing expertise and knowledge.  I liked Andy and I can see why he was chosen for this role.  He bridges a divide between the private company and the public service.  Quite a challenge, I would imagine. The Force Control Room (FCR) is, in my opinion, a very important area.  It is the first point of contact for many service users and the time it takes for their call to be answered and then how that call is handled, sets the scene for the rest of the user experience.  The G4S plan was to lose 35 staff from the FCR whilst changing some systems and increasing the work ethic.  It soon became clear that this would not work and due in quite some part to the very tight contract written by Lincolnshire Police, it is in the interests of G4S to provide the very best service they can.  So the decision was made to only lose 9 staff from the FCR, with G4S absorbing the cost of the remaining staff.  They did this because ‘it was the right thing to do’.  They were able to look at how the FCR functions are make some changes to aid the staff, for instance they increased the dedicated 999 call takers by 50% and introduced more movement between roles, so that staff become omnicompetent.  The baseline measurement in the FCR is a 10 second call pick up and this is much improved on the last two years.  The room is operationally overseen by Police Inspectors, with one Chief Inspector in strategic control for Lincolnshire Police. As with Helen in Licensing, the Chief Inspector has lost all of the HR work in the department, freeing time and energy.  To this end, Lincs have been able to extend the role of the Chief Inspector from simply FCR to an umbrella Criminal Justice role, benefitting the organisation and the person in that role.  A new Chief Inspector is taking on this wide remit and it might be interesting to revisit this situation in 6 months to see how things are going. Andy told me that he arranged for regular meetings with Sergeants from across the county and that fears and worries were largely alleviated.  He explained that ethos is to recognise a problem and then solve it. The Sergeants don’t bring issues to him anymore and they are generally happier than they used to be.  Andy was proud that the FCR is achieving increased public satisfaction alongside happier officers.

The FCR felt happy and industrious – I could have spent longer in there chatting with staff, but lunch beckoned, where I had the slightly surreal experience of sitting with John whilst watching Chris Grayling live on TV exercising his Parliamentary privilege to make damaging claims against another branch of G4S, the ramifications of which will rumble on for quite some time.  To discuss this ‘as it happened’ with John, allowed me to see another side to the story.

Parliamentary intrigue and lunch dealt with, I was taken to meet with the Federation representatives.  This was interesting as I was at first quite surprised to hear a positive view even here, in the Federation offices. I spoke with Jason Kwee who told me he felt G4S have a ‘can do’ attitude, that IT was already much improved and the use of video conferencing had been extended to negate extra travelling hours across the county.  The r message I picked up from him was that ‘things happen quicker now’.  I then met with John Hassall, who had a slightly different view.  He acknowledged the changes and positive aspects of the strategic partnership that had discussed with me, but concentrated more on details that he felt weren’t working.  The “Street to Suite” custody van introduced by G4S to enable officers to stay out on the streets rather than spend hours transporting and booking in prisoners has proved popular and beneficial.  However John explained that he did not like the battenburg livery on the van as it looks like a Police vehicle even though it is not manned by Police Officers.  He felt this was misleading the public.  His cautious air cut an intriguing comparator with the generally positive tone that I had hitherto heard within the building.

I spoke with Chief Constable Neil Rhodes who told me he was finding the relationship with G4S a positive one and that he was looking forward to further benefits as the contract continued.  It was a rather comical meeting as I trotted down several flights of stairs with him and out into the car park, in an attempt to gain some insight.  Whilst interesting, I found far more useful information from staff in departments physically effected by the partnership.  That being said, his strategic view of the partnership was reassuring to hear.

John then took me to see Sergeant Adi Wootton in the Commercial Partnership office. He told me the general feeling was that this partnership had been forced upon them, in that the budgetary constraints meant they had no choice as a Force but to look at extreme measures.  He said that if the situation had not been forced upon them, ‘dialogue may have been more gentle’ and they ‘wouldn’t have lost the extended Police family’.  I questioned him on this, as the same people are largely doing the same jobs as before.  He agreed that it is largely an emotional response rather than something which can be evidenced.  He said that historic staff still see themselves as Lincolnshire Police staff even though they are outsourced and that this is largely because the change has been very well managed.  He explained that the contract ensures that G4S ‘is the fall guy instead of Lincolnshire Police’ if standards drop and that the benefits outweigh any problems or concerns. 

Back in John’s office, we chatted about what I had seen and heard during the day. John was open and welcomed any subject I brought up.  I sat at the desk with the contract in front of me. It is so huge, it was almost higher than my head! We talked about the difference between customers,  service providers and partners.  John sees himself (or the company) in partnership with Neil (or Lincs Police) and Alan (Hardwick), the PCC is a customer.  I’m sure we could all get hung up on the rights/wrongs or otherwises of this but I am equally sure that it really doesn’t matter.  What matters is whether the staff and officers are feeling the benefit and most importantly whether the people of Lincolnshire are getting a good or hopefully improved service.  The contract has 236 KPIs (performance indicators) written into it and these have to be met by G4S each and every month.  Failure to meet any of the KPIs results in payment from G4S to Lincolnshire Police.  This arrangement was described to me by several people as a ‘win-win’ for the Police.  The contract is written as a continuous improvement model and G4S have to reach higher each year of the ten year contract.  Some of the KPIs are already much higher than many other Forces are achieving and G4S are consistently meeting these targets.  Some former police staff have benefitted from becoming G4S employees too. I met Angie Driver, who has been put on to the company’s high potential scheme.  She is benefitting from this, taking on extra responsibilities and can confidently expect a much brighter future than would have been likely previously.  Obviously this is not the story for everyone, but I wanted to find good examples of personal and professional progression and Angie certainly filled that role. 

I asked John what Lincolnshire Police could learn from G4S and he immediately replied that they can learn to manage budgets and to live within budgets .  Financial management training is an important part of the ongoing development for staff who run departments and this was not a common practice prior to G4S involvement.  I then asked John what G4S could learn from Lincolnshire Police.  He immediately brought up the situation in the Force Control Room where he realised that the plan to drop so many people was inappropriate. He talked about the need to be flexible and although G4S thought their plan would work, it became obvious this was not the case.  They learned, readjusted and moved on.  He then talked about ethos and about trying to be as efficient as possible so that time and money can be freed up.

Whilst I and I think the majority of people who are drawn to public service feel ethically opposed to the profit driven private sector having any part to play in the public sector, it cannot be ignored that outsourcing has been happening for many years now. The concept is not new and the debate had already passed us by before we realised.  It is not the lucrative contract I had imagined it to be.  Profit is capped at 8% and anything over and above that mark is ploughed back into Lincolnshire Police itself.  The contract is key and this contract is a tight one which Lincs should be very proud of.

 

Yesterday, HMIC highlighted Lincolnshire Police as one of five Forces who will struggle to meet further budget cuts.  The Force undoubtedly faces challenges but the partnership with G4S provides a bolster which HMIC, in my opinion, fails to understand.  G4S are providing Lincolnshire with modern IT solutions, better business practices, more engaged staff and a flexibility as yet unseen in policing.  I believe that the next few years, although challenging, will allow a small Force which quietly outperforms many bigger, brasher Forces around the country to shine and become a model for others.  This would not be possible without the contract with G4S and the goodwill the company are showing over and above the contract requirements.  I will be watching with interest and rooting for them all, as ultimately their success will be realised in better public services for the people of Lincolnshire.

As he steps out of his vehicle, snow crunches underfoot, the crispness of the air irritates his sore throat, this is the time of year he does not mind wearing the bullet proof vest despite the  bulkiness, it adds to keeping warm a bit, coughing slightly he heads into the imposing structure preparing to start his workday.

The doors close behind him but this is not where he stops being just a member of the public, that happened years ago, when he joined the force.  That day was the last day that he could ignore the problems of others if he wished, or speak out openly about his workplace, or bosses, just to give a couple examples of how life changes in the pursuit of the desire to serve the public.  That day he swore to uphold the law.

Over the years he has been shot, stabbed, beaten, threatened, had various disgusting liquids thrown at or on him, more than a few Officers die in the line of duty or the ones who took their own lives, and those are just the things I know, there are others I can guess at, but you see it’s not often discussed.  Work mainly stays at work.

When you hear someone bad mouthing the Police, you want to point out to them what they don’t see.  You know he won’t. They don’t. In some instances they can’t.

It is not that they exclude others from their day, so much as they need a break from it, home is a happy place and well there are just things you can’t share, if there were not, there would be no rules about what Police were allowed to say when not on the job about the job. Would there?

How was work?  Gets you a raised eyebrow and “it was work, the usual.”

Yes, that is why you have bruises, cuts and other Officers are calling to say “hi” (check on you more like).

It is not that he does not wish to share, but unless your working in the same type of environment, your reactions are not going to be theirs, grounded, accepted, and less emotional.

Yes dear, two guys came at me with knives, bit of a scuffle but it all came out right in the end…your not going to calmly ask if he wants a coffee and tell him how soon to dinner.

That only makes the next day more difficult because he is going to step out that door again, to go to work and he doesn’t need you envisioning imminent demise or fussing at him to change career.

The most interesting trick, is when you stop worrying as they leave, because it is possible you will never see them again, but you trust them and their fellow Officers, to do their best so they, more importantly he, will return home.

You depend on them to make sure they look after themselves, in whatever situation they face, so that they come home.

Trust.

That is a big word trust.

Years ago when he took the oath, put on the uniform, the public trust in him as a member of the Police was established, but also his trust in those he protected, others who issued the orders, and the ones who make the laws…it’s a circle…of which he willingly became a member, a public servant.

I can not speak for everyone, I would never dream of it, everyone lives, performs their jobs and enjoys the world differently…this is just a small slice of…this one ant, in the throng of thousands…not to be confused with any other worker ant.

What people do not see, or think about, is the intense firm belief in public service that he feels.  He is not alone, but everyone will have it in different hues.  He did not leave the military to join the Police force to make money, or gain prestige, he wanted to make a difference and he saw this as the way he could.

Of course the reasons that people do things, vary from person to person, this is merely what is so, in this instance. Ahh you see, it has trickled in, the awareness of how someone reading this views the Police and what they might say….shoo that’s not wanted here.  This is my post, my blog and I am allowed to say things that he can not.

He is a Police Officer, a LT no less, and unless he is on deaths door, or shot/stabbed/put in hospital, he goes to work.

He is very grounded, he does not take things personally that are said/done to him because he is a Police Officer, wearing the uniform. Sometimes the teflon slips and you see hurt but he shakes it off and continues his day.

He is a good person, he is not perfect, but he is good…he cares.

On the way home from work, stopping on the expressway to grab up a dog before it gets hit and taking it to it’s owner, a worried senior who feared her sole companion was gone forever.

Having neighbors rush out to him to get their dog from under the porch, because she is a senior citizen, she can’t and that dog is her life.

Calling the fire department before rushing into a neighbors house who has fallen asleep and set his chair on fire, getting both seniors out of the house and into his while the fire department sorts out the rest.

Going to work, as the higher ups cut back on staff and conditions deteriorate, meaning your Officers are at risk and some start getting hurt because someone higher up, does not know what they are doing.

During the heat wave, he goes out to do wellness checks, in winter it’s pulling people out of stuck cars during blizzards.

He goes to work when others are purposely staying off to protest the seriously unsafe conditions, not because he is not in agreement with his Officers but because he joined to be a Police Officer, and the public are his first concern.

He swore an oath.

He lost hours with his family to uphold it, which cost him in time with wife and kids, put a strain on relationships and yet he still puts that oath first.

Over 25 years on the job but he is going to lose his house because of the housing market dropping the value of the house to 1/3 of what it was when he bought it.  No perks or extra benefits, he is actually considering what he will do after retirement because his pension is not going to be enough.

He has not taken a vacation in a coons age.

Recently there was a horrific crime committed, the person accused of doing it is awaiting trial, and he was going over the reports, records and he had to stop, because the horrors he was reading upset him.  He has seen and been there enough, to be able to play the pleas for mercy over in his mind, and the sadness that children had to suffer, that the victims never had a chance to call for help…never had a chance at all really…brought tears to his eyes.  No you don’t get to know that because he doesn’t show it to anyone.

25 years plus on the job.

People like to generalize, tar the whole with the sins of the few, unless there is a fad or risk of seeming prejudiced.

The Police do not make the laws, that is what Politicians do, and Judges rule on.

So these people that most of us trust to protect us, to be there in crisis, usually depending on the other half to look after the family until they can get home…to enforce laws they do not make as fairly as possible, they are discriminated against due to their uniforms and career choice.

It is okay to generalize when you speak of the Police, where usually people will accept that individuals in any walk of life can and do make mistakes and it does not besmirch the whole.

It is okay to say and do things to Officers, that they would arrest you for if you did them to another private citizen.  That is finally changing however, in some instances turning the other cheek has been made redundant and unsafe by false public perception and over enthusiastic media wanting to push those headlines (unless they are about the media themselves all hinted wrongs by public servants are front page news).

All Police are not bad, the majority are good.

They step out their door knowing the uniform they are wearing immediately changes the perception of everyone they come in contact with.

Lately that perception has not been so favorable.

Lets try this for a second.

Allow me to put a dress code on you, give you a job to enforce rules I make. While I cut back on what you are paid, lessen the numbers of others who are performing that job with you, “trim” your support system and silence your ability to actually make anyone aware of how I am changing things so they are not safe for Officer or public alike.

Let people call you names, abuse you, threaten you, and yet require of you polite, courteous and diligent in service and response to the public.

I shall then say things that reflect negatively on the service in general, not because you have done a bad job, but because it suits whatever ends I have in affecting the viewpoint on the service.

You see I know that you can’t stand up and say, Hey folks…look at what is going on…and give examples.

Do you know what else I know?

That the character of the majority of the people in those uniforms is such, that they will continue to do their jobs, despite everything that says its going to crap and getting more dangerous, because they actually know what honor is.

They took an oath.

Their families did not, but they support them, because that is what families do.

Trust.

The Officers who take that oath, trust the public, the bosses, the politicians and the system because as they join it, support it, try to make it better, they are giving up more than just time to a career.

They are taking on what society needs them to, so the rest of us can sleep, eat, work and play in relative safety.

They do not cease to be human because they swear an oath but seeing how they are often treated, I start to wonder about that.

The public complain about the Police, but the PUBLIC are the only ones that can make the Politicians and bosses do what is necessary to allow the Officers to do their jobs to the public’s benefit.

However the public can’t make fully informed decisions because those in uniform are not encouraged to share what they know, see, and feel would make things better or complain about what is making things worse.

He is not complaining.

He knows better.

He considers it all, another day at work.

I am a member of the public, I am complaining, because if this was any other segment of the public, people would be openly discussing things from both sides, and the public would be able to be informed, and not have to trust that a politician or lackey is telling us the truth.

See I was raised to believe that they are “our” Police, and as they are responsible for our safety, we are responsible to ensure they as a part of the public, are treated fairly and are safe as well.

There is not much to be said for being in the minority, except that eventually what you ignore, like that leak in the ceiling, is going to become a bigger issue and cost you a lot more money.

And like the estimate for the roof or the medical opinion, things that matter, should not all come from one side, one evaluation or without the sharing of information.

The average Police Officer is not saying anything, for the most part they are required to be silent, or else.

Argumentum ad baculum.

When those who enforce my rights and freedoms when another is physically impeding either, or my safety for that matter, are not allowed the privilege of the rights to free speech and safe work environment…

…who do they have to go to but me, and the rest of us, to give voice where they have been silenced?

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by @Pulchritudynous

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