Society Magazine

You Can’t Win at Cards If the Dealer Picks Your Hand

Posted on the 10 November 2011 by Minimumcover @minimumcover

For what seems like an eternity now the Police Forces in the UK have been trimmed down, hollowed out and had most of the goodness that remained squeezed out of them by budgets, reforms and an obsession with turning what should be an efficient Emergency Service into a lean and target obsessed business.
In my area we still have to meet “informal”, but expected, standards of performance with regard to arrests, detections and intelligence submissions, whilst being  berated constantly about customer satisfaction and doing everything in our power to ensure that those customers (which include everyone we lock up) are encouraged to complain about their experience. In fact in many instances a victim or suspect is given more information about how to make a complaint than on how to prevent them becoming a victim or suspect again in the future.

Morale is at an all-time low

The Neighbourhood Team:

Police officers on the Neighbourhood team in my area do very little actual Police work. They appear to have been allowed, through weak management within the team and a fair degree of selective blindness by the SMT,  to create their own role, agenda and responsibilities which generally involve cherry-picking quick fix jobs with a result on the end of them (a detained shop-lifter in the shopping center is their favourite) or fobbing the job off to the response team as they are “just about to go to a community meeting” or are “just about to go off duty” after informally varying their shift by six hours without letting anyone know and failing (yet again) to tell the Ops desk or the Response Sgt when they actually came on duty.
The PCSO’s on our Neighbourhood Team are much more effective. Unlike the PCs in the office, they joined the team to do that role rather than moving there as a way of hiding away from Policing for as long as possible. As a result they work hard and make a genuine difference. Unfortunately, they too have their enthusiasm chipped away by the Neighbourhood PCs who actually believe they are in charge of the PCSO’s and that it is acceptable to throw them any menial work that is considered beneath them and swan off to have lunch at one of their houses.

My preference would be to disband the Neighbourhood team and bring the officers back to the shifts. If they truly like the community based Policing they gushed about on their application to the Neighbourhood Team, then let them take on the protracted local issues that come to light but do it from the supervised confines of a shift rather than doing what they want, when (and if) they want.

The Prisoner Handling Team:

Custody based investigation teams are being expanded and re-structured in April of next year to remove the issue of front-line officers being kept away from the front-line by huge delays in custody. All officers are being asked to express a preference between becoming full-time investigators or patrol officers.
This is a good principle as it allows for those who want to go along the CID route the opportunity to do so, and those that like going out and nicking baddies that option too. I understand that there will be mandatory terms in both roles for new officers when (or should that be if) we start recruiting again.
Unfortunately, because of the freezes in recruitment and increased levels of sickness we have experienced recently (apparently not caused by any of the above) there aren’t enough people left on shift to resource the investigation team properly without leaving the response team exposed to risk; operating with dangerously low numbers.
This has a further implication as there will only be  70% of the required numbers in the custody team when it is formed next year. They will not be, therefore, able to deal with the volume of work which the shifts will generate for them. The result: The shift will have to retain half the work that should have been taken from them and the problem remains unsolved.

The Loaded Deck:

With the numbers as they are, and set to become lower next April when the PHT comes into being, we have asked that those higher up the food chain look at the way that the work is allocated and responsibilities are distributed.
At the moment, someone above the rank of Inspector (or sometimes at that rank to be fair) will sit bolt upright in the middle of the night in their well starched pajamas and scribble the next best thing down on a notepad beside their bed. The next day a well worded email will get sent to the lower management with instructions that this revelation will be the sole focus of the district.  Everyone will be instructed to stop what they are doing and to “make it happen”, with no excuses accepted and, apparently, no consideration to the effect this might have on other areas of business (although of course, it will be expected that those other areas of business will be completed with no negative impact).

After a couple of months there will be a further email stating that, although we are not being measured on our performance (after all Teresa May insists that reducing crime is our only aim), a consultant or outside agency has been paid the same as the cost of three Police Officer salaries to analyze the degree by which we have failed to achieve what was expected (note the lack of use of the word “Target” there?).
There will follow a half-hearted rejuvenation of that “next best thing” before, sure enough, another Chief has a wet dream followed by scribbling and we move on to the next “next best thing”.

What we have asked for is that officers strengths and weaknesses are catered for. Those that like the involved Fraud jobs should be allowed to concentrate on the involved Fraud jobs. Those that like getting in amongst the drug users and dealers and brining in intelligence to back up warrants etc be allowed to do that. Those that are happy to site at the side of the motorway and pick off criminals moving from county to county should get the kit and the blessing of the bosses to do this.
On my team we have a fantastic balance of skills but we are constantly being forced to take on work that we have no passion or excitement for. The policy is, you deal with what you go to and that’s the end of the argument. If there are officers who genuinely thrive on the community based work let them do that from the shift and maintain a balance based on skills rather than the “he’s got less jobs than her so he gets it” culture that we have at present.
There is a little of this that goes on between members of a shift, but it should be wider than that. It would work across the station, across the district and in some cases across the force. Let the players have some say in which cards they keep and which ones they give to someone else. You never know, with a bit of teamwork everyone could get a better hand!

The government are forcing us to become more like a business than an emergency service, but I truly believe that in order to maintain some degree of efficiency with the dwindling resources available to us, and to give a much-needed boost to morale then some radical changes need to be made. If we don’t do something then the number of complaint forms we hand out that end up get returned is only going to rise.

 

NB My comments about the Neighbourhood Team and other officers are specific to my experience of those working in my area. I am sure that there are amazingly well managed and proactive teams out there. Unfortunately the quality of the officers and their management in my area may differ from those working in yours.


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