Saturday, 12 April 2008

First Post

Ok... so I've decided to actually write a blog after being on the blogging periphery for a couple of years. I first heard about blogging after stumbling across the excellent 'Policeman's Blog' a while ago when someone printed a post about detectives, and put it on the wall of our writing room. I have absolutely no intention of making this thing my life's work, nor will it be updated 8 times a day due to the ever decreasing number of rest days I get and the fact that I still have to do my fair share of the housework! I will be posting some stories about things I've dealt with and people I've met, things I generally consider to be both good and crap about The Job, occasionally commenting about other blogs and things I find interesting about life in general.

Firstly though, the blog name - Sheepdogs & Wolves. It is more than a passing nod to the work and thoughts of Psychology Professor Lt. Col (ret'd) Dave Grossman and I use it here as an acknowledgment to the excellent work he has done, and also to those he writes about. I first heard about his work when I read his first book 'On Killing' about 10 years ago which sought to understand and explain the psychological damage that combat and the act of killing has caused men and women through the ages, but more specifically since science and conditioning was used in training after the massive casualties experienced on all sides during the Great War.

As an Army Brat I've been subject to military life as a dependant and experienced the many things, both good and bad, that this life offers, such as travel across Europe and living with people from many many cultures, to being raised mostly by my mum and 'The wives club' and not actually getting to know who my dad truly was (or indeed how bloody funny he actually is!!) until he retired from the Army when I was around 18. Both sides of my family have a long military history in all the Services and all the major wars that the UK have been involved in since the Great War, and naturally I was always steering towards the Military career path. My Dad was an instructor for a great deal of his career and I spent quite a few weekends on the ranges with him and out camping.

I found the methods of training and why they actually work quite interesting and stumbled across Dave Grossman's first book a few years later. I eventually found my way into a Police career instead of the military, and having joined a county force I later found myself in The Met, to experience the considerable contrast in scale of just about everything I had dealt with before.

I was pointed towards Dave Grossman's 2nd book 'On Combat' by the esteemed PC David Copperfield who undoubtedly read it as part of his required reading before moving off to work in Canada. On Combat is a study on the psychological and physiological effects of extreme stress and combat that the Armed Forces and the emergency services experience through the very nature of their work. I would absolutely urge anyone in The Job to buy this book and read it, there is a reason that it is required reading in most Police Forces in the US and other countries, and that is because it is brilliant. It is a bit American from the 'warrior perspective' but if you can get over that bit then you'll find his studies and findings extremely interesting.

Dave Grossman looks at all the various factors that contribute to extreme stress levels such as sleep deprivation, hunger, training and a lack of understanding about how to deal with the psychological aftermath of incidents. The latter is all too common in the UK Police as it simply is not seen as a priority - we just get on with the job at hand and deal with it. The book goes into great depth about perceptual distortions, memory recall, breathing exercises, coping mechanisms and debriefing strategies to be enable the reader to handle the different jobs/incidents that we deal with. It has also helped me with a couple of things I have been through too, which was a welcome bonus!

One of Dave Grossman's observations is regarding the differences between the mindset of Police and military personnel, anyone remotely interested or active in trying to help other people and prevent criminals from prospering, and those who happily sit back and live their lives in ignorant bliss. He suggests that there are 3 different mindsets to consider, and the best way to understand their differences is to classify them as Sheep, Sheepdogs, and Wolves.

The Sheep go about their lives, vaguely aware that the Wolves exist, hoping that they never have to actually see or encounter one. There are considerably more Sheep than Wolves and the vast majority will live out their days having never seen one, although most will know another sheep that has had such misfortune, but they're not really too bothered, as long nothing happens to them. The Wolves prey on the Sheep, occasionally picking one or two off here and there, usually when it's dark so the majority of the flock don't know about it. The Wolves tend to lurk away in the shadows so the Sheep don't notice them, although they have no problem coming out in the open every now and then as they know the Sheep won't really do anything to stop them if they scare them enough.

The Sheepdogs however, know that the Wolves exist, they know where they live, sleep, eat and play. They know that the Wolves will prey on any Sheep, but that they prefer the smallest, weakest of the Sheep who can do nothing to protect themselves, and the Sheepdogs hate the Wolves for it. The Sheepdogs however, have a bit of a problem. As much as they want to protect the Sheep, they tend to look a bit like Wolves, and the Sheep don't really like that, and a few don't trust them because of it.

The Sheepdogs also serve to remind the Sheep that Wolves exist - something they would rather ignore and forget. Most of the Sheep know that the Sheepdogs aren't Wolves and whilst most tolerate, a few welcome them, as long as they never have to actually deal with one. The few remaining older Sheep know that the Sheepdogs are around for a reason and like to see them, because most have seen or experienced over the years what the Wolves can do if there are no Sheepdogs to help them. They also know that the Sheep can become a Sheepdog with the right attitude and a bit of training but the majority of the Sheep don't like to think that they could ever become something that looks like a Wolf and so they distance themselves from the thought.

The Sheepdogs accept that most of the Sheep don't really like them or want them around, but they hang around on the outskirts of the flock anyway because they know all too well what the Wolves will do if they didn't bother. The Sheepdogs try and walk through and speak to the Sheep, to reassure them that they will do everything they can to keep the Wolves away, but still the Sheep are wary of them.

Every now and then the Wolves come and the Sheepdogs try to fend them off, most of the time the Wolves leave after seeing the Sheepdogs, but occasionally there'll be one or two Wolves that think they can take the Sheepdogs on and they'll have a go. The Sheep will see the fight between the Wolves and the Sheepdogs and it scares them, with teeth and claws everywhere, it serves to remind most of them that the Sheepdogs can be just as vicious as the Wolves (if not more so) and that they were right to keep a distance from them.

Even though hardly any Sheep get involved in the melee, most will look on and continue to not trust the Sheepdogs, a few of the Sheep who are saved by the Sheepdogs will be happy as they realise how close they came to becoming supper to the Wolves but they'll mostly keep it to themselves as they know the rest of the Sheep don't like to hear too much about it because it scares them. One or two of the Sheep might get injured by the Wolves despite the best efforts of the Sheepdogs, a few will occasionally blame the Sheepdogs for not protecting them enough, some will blame the Sheepdogs for their injuries after they had stepped in to protect them and fought with the Wolves on the Sheep's behalf in the first place.

Despite this though, the Sheepdogs continue to try and protect the flock, all too aware that the Sheep don't really like them or want them around, no matter how often they try and tell them that the Wolves are about and that the Sheepdogs are there to try and help them. The Wolves included people such as Billy Burglar, Tommy Twocker, Roger Rapist or Darren the drunken friday night fighter.

So, Sheepdogs & Wolves it is then. I hope I can help shed some light on why we do the things that we do, why we continue to try and protect the flock against ever increasing pressure and bureacracy from the Council of Sheep, and why I absolutely love Paramedics, but more on that later.



Inspector Gadget said...

Great to see you on the web. I am very happy to be the first top comment, and I will link to you and give you a plug on the front page soon!

XTP said...

A decent start buddy. I like the title and the explanation and hope you get a few of the "regulars" reading and posting.

flyingpicket said...

I wrote once on DC's blog that you should start up your own blog after you gave me, what I can only desribe as, an online slap around the head, told to shut up, listen and learn. It worked. I will look forward to reading your blog, i'm sure it will be a great read and wont just be the rant fest that at that time you thought it would turn out to be. Even if it does, i'm sure it will be entertaining. All the best with it.

Anonymous said...

Reading isn't an occupation we encourage among police officers. We try to keep the paperwork down to a minimum.

Anyone know when the film 'On Combat' is coming out?

Is 'Shaun the Sheep' an adaptation?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the lead.
In my ignorance I classify 'umans as various species of the animal world, it be not unlike the Serengeti plain, with Jackels ann Hyenas and other carrion around to eat the left overs of a successful catch of the day, as all life has to eat life to survive.
These carrion remind me of the Media, as they enjoy ripping up the lives too.
From one who hides in the brush [a dik dik ], staying away from the Gnu [ might get trod on] and leopards as that like to chase the fleet of foot on pathways from feeding grounds to their lairs.

Wish you the best in expanding our knowledge here in the forest of fodder as we await the wolves..

TotallyUn-Pc said...

Hello MCM - Glad to hear your starting up, saves me having to keep going, I'll just read yours as you always sum up what I'm thinking anyway.

No doubt you'll be visited by that tiresome twat, he's currently posting everywhere with my name.... I think its sexual gratification or something....

Anyway, best of luck mate....

See you on the streets !!

Noddy said...


TheBinarySurfer said...

Nice to see you've started blogging, and a good starting post, i await more with interest...

Anonymous said...

Good to see another strong voice posting. I have blogrolled and stuck a link on the front page for whatever good that may do.

Good luck, I look forward to some good reads.


Anonymous said...

Great first post and well written. Small issue though...who are the shepherds? Gordo, Jacqui and their like? Time to take the muzzles and leads off the sheepdogs and stop promoting Wolves as a Protected species!!

AnneDroid said...

As a humble sheep and a non-cop I would just like to be really cheesy (to mix my metaphors) and say I'm really glad you lovely sheepdogs are looking after me!

Farfromok said...

good news! Liked a number of your comments over the months on other people's blogs so I'm looking forward to keeping up with your blog.

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic comparison. Think Im going to enjoy this blog, especially when you are going to start flattering us ambulance folks ;)
I have a really funny mental image of a Border Collie in a Police helmet now tho. he he
Good luck with the blog

Anonymous said...

As a fellow sheepdog, just had to say that I enjoyed your first post on the blog and look forward to the updates! You've also inspired me to purchase 'On Combat'.
As an ex-met Police Officer originally from 'ooop north' and with a county Police Force (not service - ever!) for the last few years, I still sing the praises of my Southern brothers.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, what an unfortunate analogy. Y'see, sheepdogs don't protect the flock against the wolf, that's down to the man with the gun. The dog's job is to keep the flock in line. This mainly by bullying them and preying on the sheep's natural fear of the dog's authority.
- Come to think of it, maybe that is the idea after all.
I know this stuff 'cos my old Dad won the County sheepdog trials year upon year and I used to help him school the dogs.

Here's hoping Dave Grossman's pychology is better than his choice of similes (or your hard-earned will be wasted on the book)

Cum 'bye

Metcountymounty said...

anon 1918, fair comment!!

Ash said...

I guess it depends on the sheepdog anon.
German Shepherds, for instance, were bred specifically to attack and drive off wolves on sight as part of their job description.....

Anonymous said...

MCM Great blog and thanks for such enlightenment, which no doubt will serve as valuable guidance for many a young "pup", and indeed the lambs, if they bother to read. It's very true what you said, and has given me much food for thought.

markc said...

What an interestingly paternalistic view of the world. "You just get on with your lives, little sheep, while us serious heavy-duty higher-up-the-food-chain-than-you police look after your poor little selves". Like Kaa the Snake - "Trussssst in Meeeee, Jusssst in Meeeeeeee".

I'm not sure this sheepdog view of the world doesn't clash embarrassingly with some of the Peelian Principles, either; perhaps you unwittingly underline your point in that they appear to have been cut'n'pasted from an American source (spelling).

Perhaps the wannabee-sheepdogs should acknowledge that the so-called sheep may only be poor stupid defenceless things, only dimly aware of the world around us, but that we do pay handsomely for the services provided. The dogs, therefore, might want to have a care to what it is the sheep actually want, which is why locally-elected Chief Constables would be an idea worth examining. Now. Perhaps we don't want Gatsos and CCTVs; perhaps we want action when some poor elderly, frightened, sheep phones the kennels to ask nicely if a dog mightn't come round to sort out the bunch of toerag "were-sheep" (?) who're making people's lives miserable or throwing stones at cars or pissing in their gardens.

The self-styled sheepdogs, after all, are privileged to retire to their comfy basket and index-linked supply of juicy bones and walks in the countryside much, much earlier than us private sector sheep (who pay for them) get to retire to a gentile poverty. In return I think it's fair to say we'd like to feel the sheepdogs are our friends, supporters and confidantes, rather than a sort of only-slightly-preferable alternative to the mouthbreathing knuckledraggers who infest our towns and cities.

Oh, and by-the-way; I'm on your side, mostly. Or would like to be.

Metcountymounty said...

markc, the problem is, most of the people we encounter can't actually run their own lives and they think that the Police should sort their problems out for them!!

please also remember that a) we pay tax as well, b) we pay for our pension with 11% of our pay from day 1 and c) the average life expectancy for a retired copper is 5 years.

That is the only reason that our pension system has actually lasted as long as it did before they recently changed it (requiring an extra 5 years to recieve less payout) as they never tied it to the stock market or bonds, it is and always has been a large pot of money that police officers pay into and hope to get a decent lump out the other end. Every year of shifts takes a year off the other end so if I hear about an ex-copper who died after drawing 40 odd years of pension then I'm well happy.

The reality though is that most don't and it certainly isn't all peaches and cream and a nice spanish villa to boot. Thanks for your comment.

markc said...

Thanks for the reply. I know you don't want this to become a rolling debate so just let me make a couple of points:

Yep, I know you pay tax; and for that you want what we all want. The right services delivered at the right price at the right time in the right manner by someone who understands that they're delivering a service, not a favour. That's the value of the Peelian Principle that says the Police are members of the public first and foremost. It's been, by and large, forgotten. Most of us out here think so, anyway, it seems.

On the pension front, I can assure you categorically that 11% contributions is a drop in the bucket compared with the cost of delivering an index-linked pension from age 50. Trust me on this. There's no pot of cash covering it for the same reason that there's no pot of cash to cover other public sector liabilities. The Government pays today's Police pensions from whatever fund there may be, generously topped off by today's tax contributions. Now that's not an 'umble copper's fault or even problem, but don't please get the idea that your pension contributions are anything like enough to cover the benefits.

Your pension rights, by the way, are absolutely guaranteed. It's not a question of whether there's a big enough pool of cash and not a question of "hoping for a good lump". Depends on salary at retirement and years of reckonable service. The copper who dies just after retirement subsidises the lucky one who lives 40 years.

(As an aside, there was something of a milestone on this the other day; figures show that for the first time non-public-sector employees pay more of their income to subsidise much, much more generous public sector pensions, than they spend on their own pensions schemes. This is not a matter of choice).

I didn't know that the average retired copper lives 5 years, and I admit you do surprise me. To the extent where I'd have to say, I'm sorry, there's been some sort of misunderstanding of the figures - can you point me in the direction of your sources? It's been a good many years since male life expectancy was 55.

I wouldn't want you to think I'm just have a carp at your pension rights. The reasons for my cynicism run wider than that. Looked at commercially, for a moment, "HM Police - The Brand" was a dream ticket years ago. Universally recognised, universally trusted to be the voice of reason and common sense, universally liked - except by criminals - and the hell with them anyway.

But then the police - seen from where I stand - have become over-centralised and too inward-looking. They've forgotten who they work for. The outrageously stupid way the Government seems to use targeting to measure "effectiveness" and the shameful acquiescence to those targets by the most senior levels of officer (the ones, I have no doubt, with political ambition, MBAs from Harvard, on £150k a year, and scrambled egg on the hat) means that people like me feel more like your potential victims, than we do members of your fan club. And if I do get whisked off down to the nick for some reason, you're going to have the colossal effrontery to take my DNA and store it on a database, without my consent, for ever - regardless. You'll spare no cost or effort - over weeks, and several Forces - to track down a prick on a motorbike who shoots the finger at a speed camera at 100 mph on an empty road at 0500 hr, but when someone needs you because a bunch of toerags is vandalising his car in the evening, you've no one available to respond.

I don't envy you many aspects of your job. I'm glad you're there. But I do wish we'd get to see more of you and the common sense you used to be famous for.

Metcountymounty said...

markc, the 5 year average life expectancy is from the Police Federation. It's something we all know and hope to live past which is one of the main reasons a lot of people try and get themselves a desk job for the last 5-10 years to ease off big style. As I said, shift work literally kills you and you're lucky to get more than a few years.

Yes someone else might be 'lucky' enough to get the pension handed over to them but after being a coppers wife/husband (or life partner, whatever you want to call it) for 30 years and dealing with the all the shit that goes with it as well as the bereavement I think that's the least that should happen. At the end of the day our families all go through as much as we do, if not more because a large part of what we do is unknown to them, even if we tell them everything, it's not the same as experiencing it for themselves.

As for your criticisms about the Police, I fully share them. A massive part of the problem is the target culture that we've had forced upon us. The government want us to be an organisation that produces something for the taxpayers cash which we aren't.

Our main job is supposed to be deterrent and protection but how can they justify (to themselves) the amount of money it costs to have a Police force that at optimum working efficiency appears to be surplus to requirements because there are no criminals or crime to deal with? It's a paradox that is literally killing the Police and in a lot of cases the lives of millions of people because the politicians refuse to accept that.

I have said many many times before, I and a great many people I work with would love nothing more than to be out of the office getting in criminals faces and making life for them as difficult as possible, but until the government (and their puppets in ACPO) accept that they can't micromanage what we do and accept that we need to be able to use discretion as much as possible then it isn't going to happen.