Sunday, 11 May 2008

Speed Kills!

Actually, it doesn’t. Where speed is a contributing factor to deaths on the road, it is the inappropriate use of speed for the circumstances or prevalent environmental conditions that has lead to an incident where the risk of death is more or less likely. The problem is, you can’t fit that explanation easily onto a poster with big yellow writing to scare people. This also leads to other complications such as perceived double standards and blatantly inexcusable fund raising through speed cameras.

You only have to read through the papers or look at news stories involving speeding and the police, or traffic matters to see that large sections of the public are unable or unwilling to separate PC’s on the street whose job is solely to respond to 999 calls and the council run ‘partnerships’ responsible for enforcing speed restrictions. Personally, I hate speed cameras. I think that they are divisive, ill placed and serve no purpose other than revenue generation. I can’t remember which paper it was in otherwise I would link to it, but I read a story about a year or two ago where an undercover reporter went to Gatso stating that they were from a council considering putting up speed cameras. Part of the sales pitch from the company was along the lines of “if you target school runs and rush hour, you’ll make more money in a week than you’ll know what to do with”

If Gatso were all about saving lives and the nobility of penalising drivers, then I would think the company would donate all their profits to charities like Brake. They don’t though, they are a very profitable company that has had a boom since the major role out of cameras in the UK by councils. The only reason that the councils run the ‘partnerships’ with the Police is because only the Police have the jurisdiction in law to enforce traffic legislation and without the Police partnership (of which they cannot opt out of as the Home office requires them partake) the councils could not enforce the speed cameras. It doesn’t take much to see that the reputation of the Police in the UK has been almost damaged beyond repair thanks to the introduction of speed cameras and the reduction of traffic departments. All people see is the word Police, they don’t think that it’s the local council that is sitting back rubbing their hands together and counting the cash. The local Police force only get a small percentage of the revenue made from cameras, almost as a token gesture or so they can say "look, the Police make money from it too"

Where I live there are a lot of schools and a lot of 20mph zones, if there was a speed camera outside the schools to catch the taxi drivers and idiots who blat along the roads outside them at 60mph plus then fine, I think the majority including myself would accept them. But they are not, they are on the main arterial roads and on the slip roads out of the city. When was the last time you saw a speed camera in a 20 or 30mph residential zone? And even if you have, I’ll wager that there are considerably more on the main roads in and out of the town or city than where your kids play in the street or where you take the dog for a walk.

The main roles of traffic (or roads policing) departments is to cut road deaths, enforce traffic legislation, to educate other drivers and to deny criminals the use of the road. It is a considerably more effective deterrent to bad driving and criminal behaviour having a marked Police car driving along the road with experienced officers who will watch how you drive, or where you have come from and can stop you at any point to see how much you’ve had to drink. By getting rid of traffic officers and replacing them with static cameras or unmarked mobile units whose sole purpose is to prosecute speeding motorist the roads are left open for people who don’t have driving licences, have no insurance, get drunk at the pub then drive home or use their cars for criminal behaviour.

The first two might not seem like a big issue, but just think how pissed you'd be if your other half was in an accident caused by some kid with no licence? Or if your child was run over by someone with no insurance? The latter part of using it for criminal behaviour is another one that people rarely think about - funnily enough no one walks around with bags labelled swag and a balaclava. I know traffic officers who have arrested more burglars than most response officers, simply because they find them in their cars on the way out while we are scouring back gardens looking for the start of the trail for the dog unit.

As a response officer I use traffic as a means to get my head into peoples cars, have a nose around and find out who they are and more importantly what type of people they are. Any copper worth their salt can tell usually within seconds if someone is going to be known to Police either having been stopped lots of times previously or having previous convictions. This is usually because of stereotyping and I make no apologies for that, if I’ve stopped someone it’s for a reason and I’m rarely wrong about someone having a criminal history. If I do stop someone who is a genuine normal member of the public who has never had any dealings with the Police or the courts, its usually a pleasant surprise (for me anyway) and is the result of some indiscretion that I am usually able to deal with by having a chat with them. The only time most of us ever process someone is if they fail the attitude test or are simply driving like a knob and don't care. We stop people in cars all the time, and to be honest, it’s more of a pain to write out tickets or a summons book than to have a chat and just remind some people that there is a reason for speed limits or traffic lights and that they need concentrate.

As far as traffic legislation and prosecution goes, the Home Office don’t count it for anything which is why they put pressure on forces to reduce the expense and personnel in traffic departments. Contrary to popular belief (thanks to speed cameras) we don’t get any points/stats/bonuses or figures for issuing speed tickets or any other traffic process. If we stop someone and they are unlucky or unless they are seriously taking the mick by doing double the speed limit in residentials or jumping reds while on the phone, then the chances of actually getting stuck on by a Police officer is remarkably slim. This is in stark contrast to speed cameras which don’t care if you’ve never been stopped before, that you pay your taxes and don’t burgle your neighbours. Once you’ve been caught you need to be able to afford an extremely expensive solicitor otherwise your licence (and insurance premiums) is in jeopardy.

The other major problem that the 'Speed Kills' slogan creates is it leaves us (the Police and other emergency services) wide open for calls of hypocrisy and double standards as we regularly use the legal exemptions from the speed limits in order to attend calls. All Police and emergency service drivers have degrees of training that permit them to drive at certain speeds or in certain conditions such as patrol, response or pursuit. The contrast in training and experience between Jo Bloggs who passed his test a few years ago and drives to and from work every day and an advanced Police driver who clocks 500+ miles a week as a Police driver in addition to their own, is like someone who is a weekend fun pilot versus a professional pilot.

In order to remain in complete control the driver needs high levels of training and continuous exposure and has to be able to handle the car beyond its own limits in the conditions that it is going to be used in. Driving at 130 miles an hour on a race track is easy, wide smooth un-cambered tarmac is very different from a council maintained two lane B road where 60 miles an hour can be hairy, and as such all Police driver training is done on the road to give as much realistic exposure as possible. Another point to consider is that the exemptions are only permitted in situations where the Police (or Ambo/fire) driver is using them in the execution of their duty. Outside of work or even at work and outside of a situation that enables the exemptions, we are just as liable if not more than everyone else, regardless of what the papers say with inflammatory headlines like “150 Police drivers caught speeding AND NOT ONE PROSECUTED”

If we get caught speeding outside of work we go through the same process as everyone else and usually higher penalties if we go to court. We then have to advise the professional standards departments who will consider whether discipline is needed. If we get caught at work and it was a perfectly legal use of the exemptions then the ticket is scrubbed, it would do no one any favours at all to prosecute every emergency service driver for every legally breached camera or red light, there would be no one left to answer calls within a weekend. With no one able to drive emergency vehicles with the legal exemptions, road deaths would increase exponentially if live saving first aid is delayed even by a few minutes, purely because we would be unable to use speed or traffic exemptions appropriately to the conditions and the circumstances.

Metcountymounty

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm not in law enforcement, but I enjoy your blog. I had never thought about speed cameras vs police officer and I'm glad that you have written about it so perceptively -- you're right, the cameras should NEVER replace traffic officers. I appreciate your conscientious attitude toward possible miscreants being scared away/apprehended by the presence of the traffic officer. I definitely want these people off the streets!
Classof65

blueknight said...

The average motorist associates speed cameras with the Police.
Rightly or wrongly speed cameras are seen as a revenue raiser that do not have anything to do with road safety and as such they are one of the main causes of the breakdown of the relationship between Police and public.

Metcountymounty said...

absolutely agreed blueknight.

Mark UK said...

My God! What a thoroughly good blogging. I cannot see that anyone with a modicum of intelligence could object to anything you say.

On Nottingham's ring road there are loads of Gatsos and some average speed jobbies. The average speed ones are OK by me, as they are placed in the 40mph zone where doing more than that (except at 2.00 am on a Monday night) could well be dangerous.

The Gatsos are on the 70mph bit where there are no side roads, few roundabouts and even fewer pedestrians. The road is motorway standard except for the roundabouts and the cameras are there for revenue generation only.

Having driven 250-500 work miles a week for 22 of the last 23 years, I've seen some really atrocious driving - very little of it speed related.

Bring back the traffic cop with common sense. Gatsos, and many councillors, don't have any.

Bryn said...

I have often argued against the revenue raising argument in relation to police involvement but I would be interested to know what actual "profit" that people elsewhere make out of it.

For what it's worth, I have book marked the article for future linking on a few car/bike forums that I frequent in order to show how (I believe) most front line officers stand on the speed scamera enforcement route.

Nys

Metcountymounty said...

Bryn - my local constabulary used to get a 10% return on the charges (a few years ago, no idea what it is now) that would go back into training, kit or showers for superintendents offices, it could absolutely NOT be used for overtime or courses for frontlineofficers who a) want to nick someone and get the ovies or b) put an op together to nick lots of proper criminals and then get some fancy donuts to celebrate.

As for the speed scameras (like that, gonna use it) some of the criteria for placement are so flimsy it's unreal, 3 deaths or serious injuries in a 5 year period with a half mile of a given spot. The fact that those deaths could be someone driving the wrong way down a motorway, jumping off a bridge or a pedestrian taking shortcut through the central reservation instead of the underpass 100 meters down the road (happened twice) and have nothing at all to do with speeding is completely and utterly irrelevant.

I really cannot emphasise how much I hate speed cameras, and I honestly do not know a Police officer (let alone front line) who does actually genuinely believe in the cause.

For The People said...

Traffic enforcement is one of the best tools a police officer has in his chest. When someone disagrees, i ask this simple question. How do criminals get to places they commit the crime?

Happy Met Copper said...

Everything you say is absolutely true. I don't see how anyone can argue when you put things the way you do.

I love traffic, I don't write many tickets, but as you say it is the best "In" that we have. I also think that it does well for our image. Members of the public remember getting a ticket, but they also remember being stopped, a friendly word of advice and being sent on their way with a thank you for listening, especially as many cannot argue what they have done.

Only today I was part of a traffic operation using the ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Reader) camera. I was with another officer actually operating the camera, using the computer and calling on the radio the vehilces that needed stopping by the officers further down the road.
These cameras pick up everything, from no tax to stolen vehicles and are a great bit of kit for picking out illegal vehicles and drivers. However, during our time on the street I was approached by numerous members of the public, some passing and some local reisdents, and was given a fair ear bashing by many about our "money making tool". Once it was pointed out what it was actually for many were impressed and thankful that we were trying to get rid of people who can create so many problems for others.

Traffic units play a valuable role in not only keeping the UK's roads safe but also, in the course of their normal duties, deterring and detecting a large volume of crime.

XTP said...

MCM - you are getting bloody good at this! Have you considered (and if you haven't, you should) submitting this to the Telegraph for publication? They fairly regularly reproduce stuff of this ilk and I think that it would go a long way to informing the decent people of what is really happening here.

For what it's worth, I drive to 89 and, although I'm not "Traffic" any more (as my moniker suggests!) I always drive to The System and try to instill the highest standards in the young'uns. For the most part, they really don't see that every mile they drive is scrutinised by some MOP and that they should be setting an example. Once this message gets home you can really see the difference. It'll never happen, obviously, but the best thing - Police driving-wise - would be for every response bobby to do an Advanced Car. the standards would rise hugely. What would they have to complain about then huh?

Also - you're spot on. I have never met a rsponse bobby who agreed with cameras. Not one.

P.S. How a copper who works with a camera "parnership" and sits in the back of an unmarked van all day making peoples lives a misery can actually call himself a Police Officer is, and will forever remain, a complete mystery to me. If you are one, and are reading this, then hang your head. You should be ashamed. Get back on the street and do some proper policing would you?

Anonymous said...

You mentioned exceeding the legal speed limit to answer calls and claims of double standards. I can accept going over the speed limit for an emergency but can not accept speeding for speeding's sake. Last year I was behind a 'Policing Partnership' type camera vehicle from a fairly large South Western force on the M4. We had come out of a temporary 40mph limit due to road works and the traffic started accelerating to the national speed limit (70mph). The partnership vehicle reached 70mph and kept going faster! Remaining behind it at a constant distance for well over a mile, my speedo was showing 86mph before I bottled it and slowed down. After writing to complain about such hypocrisy (and the suggestion that NIPs were sent to the driver) I was told that no one else had complained and without any corroboration, NIPs couldn't be sent out. The crew in the vehicle, I was told, were both experienced officers (which really meant they knew how to get out of situations like that) and both claimed they had kept within the speed limit. I have never had a speeding ticket in my life so had no axe to grind but was just p*&%$d off at devil may care attitude, knowing that this crew would be setting up somewhere and blatting as many cars as they could, possibly to obtain a huge bonus. It's at times like that which cause the public to voice their concern of double standards. When travelling through this force area I now stay at least 5mph below the speed limit 'cos you never know who's watching!

Metcountymounty said...

hmc - I had exactly the same thing a little while ago when we were doing the ANPR training, lots of scathing sarcasm along the lines of "good police work lads catching those nasty speeders" but like you said, a couple of people actually had the bollocks to stick around to see what we would say and apologised when they found out what it actually was.

xtp - other than this blog which is my own personal catharsis, I'll be keeping my head just around the parapet so won't be sending anything off to any newspapers. Venting at work is one thing, at least the people know me already and know I will say exactly what I think when something pisses me off or it's wrong, if anyone else wants to read my views on things they'll be here. As for every front line officer being an advanced Police driver, Sir Ian Blair would sooner shit a whole rhino before signing that budget off, as much as I would love to get an advanced course and do agree with you!

anon 2241 - irritatingly situations like you described do happen and all they do is reinforce any misgivings that already exist, or simply create them if they didn't.

Although the exemptions in law do not specifically require Police drivers to actually be on blues or with sirens in order to exercise them (again a common misconception but it does make justifying the use more difficult if you're not on blues and twos) I have no doubt the situation is exactly as you've described and I'm certain this is not the first time that you've told someone about it which again puts us in a bad light even though the other people never actually saw it.

In customer service it has long been known that someone who receives good service will tell a couple of people they trust, someone who receives bad service will tell any dozen who will listen, the situation is exactly the same with us and practically everything we do. The major problem we face with driving standards is everyone else uses cars too so they at least believe there is some level ground, but as I said in the post the difference in training is incredible when you've been through it.

It doesn't mean taking the piss is right though, personally I think if someone is going to drive 'progressively' then they should be doing it with the minimal number of people around (ie preferably no one but certainly not in the middle of the day on a motorway with a few hundred vexed spectators) ultimately the only way to keep skills up is through constant use, which is why we do it in Police vehicles while at work as often as legally possible. In our own cars off duty there is no exemption and we get utterly creamed if found out and go to court, same goes if you act like a twat and get photographed giving a thumbs up to a speed camera while on a shout.

Anonymous said...

Your latest posting could have been written by me old fella, I have had this conversation with the public on numerous occasions, our force got rid of the traffic replacing them with gun toting mothers, the result is they lost significant levels of knowledge and professionalism as a result. Most of the old school for want of a better word did enforce driving standards and I'm sure made a difference. The trouble is the Gatso syndrome and this "road safety partnership" approach is akin to having opened Pandoras box. I detest the whole distorted viewpoint and outright lies associated with this. I recall watching some MP on Top Gear defending the stats and stating that the medical association who disputed their findings were talking out of their ascending colons, only to recant this some while later and then admitting the govt. were actually the ones doing so. What were the repercussions to that ? Bugger all, and of course the march of gatsos continues. I like you have no sympathy for individuals who drive at excess speed in towns, built up areas etc.. , speed doesn't kill dickheads driving in the manner you describe in the opening paragraph do...

Anonymous said...

I strongly support the speed averaging cameras that are becoming prevalent through roadworks on major roads; but I actually think that GATSO cameras can be dangerous in some circumstances. As an example, there's one in a 40 mile an hour zone not far over the brow of a hillon an A road in Kent, where an awful lot of drivers assume that it's a 30 mile an hour zone and break sharply, if the road's busy that could be bad news. I also think that councils are too inclined to slap on a 30 mile an hour limit & put up a moneybox rather that spend a few thousand pounds on sorting out a relatively minor hazard - no cash in the second option. It would be better too if all of the cameras took pictures or rear number plates; there are some maniacs in cars, but there seem to be an awful lot on motorbikes too.

Metcountymounty said...

anon 0916 - I agree with you about the average speed cameras, they've been in use for a while on a motorway I use quite a bit and they do work as they are supposed to. Apart from the heavy braking right at the first camera site at either end, the vast majority do stick to the limit and then blat off at the end of it. My route to and from work is littered with gatso's when I get inside the M25, even though I know where they are I stick to the limit but I'm in the minority, most people do around 70 - 80 in the 40 and 50 zones then throw the anchor out at the camera site, then carry on as normal afterwards, completely pointless and considerably more dangerous.

Sam Tyler said...

another great post MCM. You do have a skill at saying it the way it is.

I will rarely stick someone on when they are a geuine law abiding citizen, the exception of course is drink drive but that's a different matter entirely.

Most law abiding citizens will remember being stopped and bollocked by a cop as much as they'd remember 3 points on their license. For example, my mother (non-job) still talks to this day of when she got a bollocking from a traffic solo who she cut up cos she didn't use her mirrors, this happened years ago.

Anonymous said...

A little off topic, but spare a thought for the colleague who was nearly killed last night in Northern Ireland by an under car booby-trap.
3rd Police officer to be attacked off-duty in Northern Ireland since November.
Its a shame that it barely made the national news. I guess the life of a police officer is cheap.

Metcountymounty said...

anon 1920 - thanks for bringing that one up, I read the news every day and don't normally check Northern Ireland. I guess I'm not surprised that the incidents haven't made front page over here although being blown up by a fucking bomb is a huge deal, the problem is that because he wasn't on duty people don't care even though he was more than likely targeted specifically because of his job. Certainly brings some of the grief I've had off duty when I've been clocked into perspective anyway, and yet again reinforces that we are never free from all the shit at work, even outside our own homes which should be the safest place. I wish him and his family the best of luck with his recovery.

Anonymous said...

Thanks,
Yea, the fact that he, like the two previous police officers who were shot, were targeted specifically whilst off duty makes it all the more disgusting.
And hats off to the member of the public who pulled him from the vehicle. I guess in our ire, we sometimes forget that members of the public can sometimes be the ones to do the right thing.
OD

blueknight said...

For the people, - I agree that traffic enforcement is a good tool, but a gatso camera cannot stop villains or search car boots. The crim might get a fine and points but only if he has registered the car to his current address.
Anon 12th May 22:41
"this crew would be setting up somewhere and blatting as many cars as they could, possibly to obtain a huge bonus"
Please tell me you are joking. For the record, the Police do not get bonuses or promotions based on the numbers of people they arrest or stop for speeding.
ANPR is a great bit of kit, but sadly the public do not understand it hence all the "I saw 10 PCs on cars and bikes stopping cars for speeding" type stories

Anonymous said...

An absolutely refreshing blog highlighting that there are good coppers out there equipped with common sense. Shame that this message never gets any further than blogs and posts on internet forums by odd coppers who actually give a damn about how they are perceived by the public. The police powers that should be standing up and saying this to the people, challenging the lies and propaganda spread by the government/councils in order to persecute the motorists at the expense of proper traffic policing and road safety.

The reputation of the police has been massively damaged by legislation in recent years. They need to do something about it or have the public, rightly or wrongly, become ever more distrusting of them.

Anonymous said...

Sudden outbreak of common sense!

I only hope there are more like you.

Whitean3 said...

Common Sense- It's clear that you have it. Excellent blog, I just wish more of the general public were exposed to this sort of rational opinion. And as other posters have said, the speed camera partnerships tarnishes the image of traffic policing. I worry more about poor driving standards (observation and driving according to conditions especially) than someone going 10 mph over the speed limit on a clear, straight road. And I would have no complaints about speed cameras if they were located in urban areas by schools and areas with heavy pedestrian traffic as an aid to safety.

sarah said...

You say earlier that you can accomplish much more as a PC for the next 20 years than you could as a Sergeant?


Like what?

Metcountymounty said...

anon 0948 and 0955 - there are lots of us with common sense, in fact virtually everyone I work with and have ever worked with. The problem is being a disciplined organisation there is only so much we can resist against without getting stuck on and sacked for various discipline offences, as for my views about working with the system instead of completely against if for whatever reason, have a read of my 2nd post about being called a Vichy. I completely agree that our bosses need to actually grow some bollocks and speak out about the rediculous things brought in by the government (like safety partnerships, NCRS, sanctioned detections etc) the reason they don't is because they are all looking after themselves and the ever closing retirement. Police officers have for years been complaining through the proper channels (our federation) about how bad it was going to get and has gotten, we're not stupid and can smell bullshit a mile off, and the majority of the public and media told us to stop whinging about a bit of paperwork and get on with it. It's just taken the best part of ten years of labours interference for the public to see how completely wrong most of their ideas have been.

sarah - I never said accomplish, I said do, read what I actually put instead of what you wanted to read. If I want to say something I'll say it, there is no point in trying to imply anything, if i think something is shit I'll say it's shit. By the way, you're getting pretty close to being a troll with your last comment that I deleted.

If I were to go for promotion I would get posted out to a borough that I can't get to as easily, I would be working considerably more hours than I do already and I like to actually see my family once in a while, I would spend most of my time in custody booking in prisoners, the rest of the time I would be supervising the admin created by the shift. I would not get as much opportunity to go for driving courses, public order courses or anything else that interests me, nor could I actually be outside nicking criminals on a regular basis which is what I joined to do. Being a Sgt is a completely different job from being a PC by virtue of the extra levels of supervision and statute authorities and its not something that interests me for the time being, as I said I have 20 odd years of my career left and I actually like what I'm doing at the moment thanks very much.

TheBinarySurfer said...

MCM, you're entirely right about the camera pitch to local councils. My ex-girlfriend sat in one of their sales presentations a few years ago and made almost exactly the same comment you did (with slightly more swearing - and she was pro-camera before that presentation too!)

You're damned if you do damned if you don't really in the eyes of the public too with regard to blue lighting it on shouts though...

Someone hurry up and invent a teleporter! Or find a way to give the newspapers some conscience, balance and accuracy in their stories.

I know which one i'll be expecting first!

Metcountymounty said...

even with a teleporter we'd still turn up late as we nearly always get called after its happened, unless you are thinking about pre-crime like in minority report!!

Anonymous said...

All sounds quite rational and sincere , but , call me a skeptic if u like , I aint convinced !!!
There r a few give aways , eg: "fails the attitude test" !!!
So , the general public r being tested without their knowledge !!
What if the poor unfortunate suffering this scrutiny has had a bad day , or is going thru some difficult life situation ?
Fundamentally , road traffic offence enforcement now contributes massively to Police
funding , and the victims are easy targets !!
Before I'm accused of mindless ranting , I can say I've suffered the consequences of this policy. On various occasions I've had reason to call the Police regarding Burglaries from our business premises and even when they can be bothered to attend their general demeanor is one of ' we can't b bothered with this'.
Last year I had an item of my personal property ,of substantial value ,taken by deception , and apart from taking a statement from me, nothing happened despite the fact I knew who the offender was !! The various parties involved were not even interviewed !! The constable handling the case merely phoned them !!!
Sorry , but when the handling of criminal offences is a joke in comparison to motoring offences ,which are virtually automatic convictions due to legislation and offence definitions, then the motive is all too clear !!
This without mentioning the farcical and outrageous pursuit activities engaged in by your traffic mates !! The scenes depicted in the TV PCA programs are appalling !! They chase down a snot nosed kid in a 15 year old Escort who is fueled by testosterone , risking the lives of numerous innocent members of the public in the process and expect praise !! There are huge amount of high tech methods that would apprehend the offender without risking anything , but they still indulge in high speed pursuit , and for what ? So , he stole the £50 heap , big deal ! The property I had stolen was worth £1500 , but they couldn't be bothered with that !
So , please don't expect adulation and respect form the public , you don't deserve it !!

Metcountymounty said...

Anon above, a few points there so
I'm going to go through each one.

1) The attitude test is a simple one, it's not the public being tested without their knowledge, it's simple common sense, sincerity and a bit of mutual respect - IE you tell a police officer to fuck off and get a proper job before he/she has even said 5 words, you're gonna get a ticket, or you lie about everything then you're only talking yourself into a hole. However if you're polite and don't lie through your teeth the chances are the Police officer will let you carry one depending on the offence if they can - much less writing that way and it's always better to give someone a bollocking than issue a fine - as you pointed out every fine issued is usually one more person who won't help the police ever again.

2) funding through tickets is a myth, it all goes to central government with a small portion going back to the Police as funding but not necessarily the force who issued the tickets. In a way it is a stealth tax as commonly described. As for cameras, it's the councils who get the money, they then give back a small percentage to the Police because they have to. As I said in the post, I do not know a Police officer (front line especially) who thinks they are a good idea, they do nothing but wear down confidence in the Police as you obviously have found. I cannot emphasise it enough when I say WE HATE THEM.

3) Handling of crime reports - I don't know what happened in your specific cases but I'm not at all surprised, read my post about the national crime recording standards - they are the main reason that crime is dealt with so badly now, basically we are overwhelmed by shit we simply shouldn't be dealing with that gets just as much focus (and those priceless detections) as the proper crime reports that we should be dealing with like the ones you said. I'm a copper and I've been on the receiving end of shit police jobs having been burgled, had bikes nicked and had a car torched. The situation isn't the way it is because we want it that way, to be honest its a pain in the arse getting complaints like yours all the time because we know that they could be handled better, if only the government didn't criminalise everything and force us to deal with the pointless reports through threat of losing funding - and not the ticket funding but actual funding for officers and equipment.

4) Traffic offences DO NOT HIT ANY FIGURES. we don't get sanctioned detections or bonuses or prizes or even a pat on the back for issuing any traffic tickets. Front line Police officers use traffic in order to get into peoples cars to see what they are doing, and in some cases to seize the things off them. Someone driving with no insurance or without a licence is a danger to other people on the roads and most of the time they are already convicted criminals. Denying criminals the use of the road is an extremely effective tool, most of them are too lazy to walk half a mile so they drive everywhere, we take their cars off them to make life as a criminal more difficult.

5) Police pursuits. If the Police never pursued a vehicle then criminals would have free reign to do what they like. People complain that we don't nick enough burglars, I know traffic officers who nick more burglars than response officers because burglars use cars, they store things in them and they transport things with them and we have got to hammer them to make life as difficult as possible. The 15 year old joy rider is still going to break into someones house, steal their car and drive on footpaths and through parks whether the police chase them or not. If we let them know that the Police are never going to pursue them...... do you think they are going to suddenly stop screwing houses and nicking cars because the fun is gone?! No they'll do it as often as they want!!
By getting after them and catching them all we can do is send them to court and let the infinite wisdom of the courts deal with them as they see fit.

6) huge amounts of high tech equipment to catch them without risking anything.... such as?? People slag off the Police for being too risk averse as it is, do you honestly believe that if there was a quick and simple way of catching a car thief without engaging in a pursuit or dragging the little shit through a window that we wouldn't do it already? The majority of pursuits are sparked by the driver either being seen or having been circulated as driving badly/dangerously already.

We use choppers to track the stolen cars so that the police vehicles can back off and not put any pressure on the driver being chased - they still drive like complete wankers!

we use stingers to safely deflate tyres so the car can't be used instead of shooting them out like many other countries.

We don't generally ram cars off the road like in the US because its too dangerous. Some forces don't even use the TPAC (tactical pursuit and containment where they box a car in then force it to slow down, having created a rolling road block with other cars to keep members of the public away from harm) because their chiefs have deemed it too dangerous.

We can't roadblock in the UK unlike in the rest of Europe without the authorisation of someone at the rank of assistant chief constable because its too dangerous to the occupants of the stolen car.

We can't pursue motorbikes or scooters if there is any element of danger to the rider (no helmet, passengers, juvenile etc) We can't ram bikes off the road like in most other countries because its too dangerous to the rider.

If the control room inspector or even the operator believes that the pursuit is too dangerous even though they have no eyes on or TV coverage then they will cancel the pursuit, any Police driver who carries on and is found out will be grounded and they'll try to stick them on to make sure the public see that the police don't tolerate that kind of behaviour from their officers.

7) the kind of person who fails to stop is 99% of the time the same kind who will screw over your house, steals your things and act like a complete twat in public because they can. They know that nothing severe happens to them once they go to court, does that mean we should just give up because the judges won't do their part in give them proper sentences? They aren't afraid of what will happen to them when they get caught even if they kill someone in a car so they have to be stopped as quickly as possible.

Short of saying to every criminal in the country "crack on boys, the roads are yours to do with as you please" there is no way we could make pursuits any safer. You said that we don't deserve any respect or adulation but seriously, give a us a break there is only so much we can do with out hands tied, the reason Police officers started and continued blogging is to tell the truth behind the reason the system is so badly broken!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks r due for that comprehensive response to my comments.
You have concentrated on the vehicle pursuit issue , I would like to clarify my position .
No way do I advocate that offenders should be ignored , my point is that the risk in using pursuit is far too great to justify this method , in most circumstances.
The consequences of when it all goes wrong are evident to us all , people die or are permanently injured. Surely the CCTV network in combination with choppers and ground patrols can monitor the offender without their awareness until they can be safely apprehended ?
Unless the offence is of serious magnitude surely the above or some other method could be devised to safeguard the very people the Police should be protecting ?
The most serious issue I feel the Police confront as a result of what a large proportion of the public now feel is hostile law enforcement is lack of our support , cooperation & respect. Your training and alleged expertise should provide u with the ability to tackle issues without aggression & prejudice.
All too often though , we hear of and see Police acting like twonks , threatening and bullying members of the public. That is just unacceptable , regardless of the circumstances. The downward spiral of negative public opinion is just perpetuated by such behaviour.
Apart from my previously mentioned experiences of our Police force , I have suffered hostile treatment by some of your colleagues. The most worrying aspect is that I am anything but a scally , tea leaf , offender or whatever label u would care to use, bit, when I have tried to express my opinion of the prevailing issue I received threatening rebuke , despite my calm but assertive manner.
Your training should prohibit the need for such behaviour , we should not have to worry about being how we respond to the Police.
For most people , being stopped by the Police is a stressful experience , so forgive us if we shout our mouth off or act defensively , your big boys with lots of training and experience behind you , deal with it as you should !!
Regretfully , my experiences with the Police have left me with little trust or respect for them , it will take a huge change in their image and attitude to change that.
My view's are shared by the vast majority of my family & friends , this is bad , you need us on your side.

R. S said...

I'm glad i read that blog as it has opened my mind in to what Police officers think about their duties. I got caught speeding by a mobile van 3 years ago and that was the first time in 15 years driving. what caused me so much grief was it was on a road with at least 1 mile of clear vision of site doing 5 mph over and the van that caught me was hidden half behind a bush in a layby. I admit i was in the wrong doing 5mph but over the years have seen people do 130 - 140mph down the motorways driving like complete nuts yet i got down for a slight misjudgment going slightly over.
Great blog and i know have slightly more respect for general policing - but more for traffic cops than i have ever had before.

Metcountymounty said...

anon - ok couple of points again so I'll answer them separately.

1) Very very few pursuits actually end in a crash, its just the ones that do end up on the news. In our vehicles we have the pan-london channel and you will easily get a dozen 'decent' ones a shift. Sometimes they don't even get put up over the mainset because they are ended quickly. I fully appreciate that when it goes wrong people can get killed or even injured - i've been to a serious RTA following a pursuit and its not nice for anyone, especially the officers involved. The last thing anyone needs is police officers second guessing themselves next time and either bottling it (in which case they shouldn't be on duty) or making a mistake which leads to more tragedy. If we don't pursue where we can with all the checks in place the we will simply have a pandora's box when it comes to road crime. Drink drivers will go up as they know they won't be stopped, burglaries and acquisitive crime will rise and incidents of unlicensed/underage and uninsured drivers will also rise.

2) CCTV is massively, massively over rated. I actually responded about CCTV to someone else why it is so over rated on the post before this one, about half way down if you want to read it. It is a handy tool but relying on it as your main tool is wrong which is why we don't. If we were to rely solely on them then it will encourage more cameras and reduce the experience officers get in actually tracking and going after suspects. More cameras might seem like a nice easy option but as I put in the response on the other post without the infrastructure in place behind them they are worthless.

3) who is to say which offence is not serious? obviously it would be stupid to risk a pursuit for a 50p mars bar and when officers are given the full facts then all of the times I've known they will bin the pursuit themselves contrary to what the news readers say, however most of the time we aren't given the full facts. We can only deal with the information we have at the time. If we are told that a burglary has occurred and the suspects have made off in a car, they might have walked out with nothing, they could have walked out with £500k of jewellery, they might have murdered/raped or beaten an occupant (more common with beatings given the number of burglaries committed with the householder at home has increased along with break-ins to steal cars) we don't what we've got until we get them and if we don't pursue anyone let alone burglars then they have free reign and you can be certain they will take advantage of it. As I said earlier, the people who run aren't the people who shoplift a couple of quid of sweets, they are persistent offenders with lots of previous convictions. The only way will ever get them locked up is to document their actions (which they will and do carry out regardless of whether we are behind them because they can) and then constantly put them in front of a judge. People seem to forget that we live in the same place as everyone else unlike MP's with their gated second homes paid for by us as well as everyone else. The difference is that we know what goes on and how bad the situation is, the public get to see hardly any of it until it goes wrong or happens in front of them because most is at night.

4) ok, dealing with aggression. In principle it's nice for everyone to think that a police officer should be able to turn up and then use the jedi mind trick on people without any from of aggression however it doesn't work that way unfortunately, I would absolutely love it if that were the case. Have you ever tried getting a drunk/drugged person you don't know to do something they don't want and is invariably going to make them look bad or lose face in front of their mates? The sugar coated text book ideal is great but sometimes you need aggression just as much as sympathy and empathy, they are at either ends of the communication scale and all are valid tools, some more desirable to the public than others though. The other question is how long are we expected to try and negotiate with someone? If you go down to your local nick and actually ask a police officer how many are on duty you will be appalled. I live in a city with just over 400k residence and I know for a fact (just called my mate who works here) that no more than 14 officers are on duty right now, and that is normal. With so few officers to deal with the massive number of calls we get, sometimes we simply cannot afford to pander to people and sit there waiting for them to decide whether or not they are going to comply (drunk or not) there comes a point where we have to deal with it or leave, and occasionally aggression is the tool that is most effective. It just doesn't look nice to other people and their opinion (as you have again shown) is that the officers are like that all the time. If they were then I guarantee that they would have been stuck on or binned long ago as it only takes a couple of complaints of excessive force or incivility for the professional standards head hunters to come and have an unpleasant chat. The last bit to add to that even in the 80's when I was a kid and way before as everyone I know will say, you could still get a clip round the ear for getting gobby to a police officer and if you actually did something serious then you were likely to go to prison. Nowadays the majority of the people we deal constantly with KNOW that nothing will happen, they have no respect for anyone (me, you, courts, paramedics, teachers etc) and force the situation. It's not a downward spiral that we have created, it's the people who are brought up to have everything their way and as soon as someone tells them otherwise they can't deal with it and kick off as that is all they know.

5) back to the attitude test again. Stressful is understandable, we know that the law abiding majority don't get stopped by the police as we see it all the time when stopping cars and are used to it. I don't know what happened in your cases and if you met some bad officers then that is unfortunate but being defensive is one thing, being abusive is shouting is another. The other thing to consider is how does it look to other people if they see someone shouting and swearing at a police officer who then stands there and does nothing? weak? unwilling to act? shouldn't really be doing the job perhaps? Look at it this way, if you were to walk into a restaurant and say to the waiter "oi, c&nt, table, NOW" what do you think their reaction would be? Same goes for us, and if someone walked into my wife's place of work and talked to her like that I'd be pretty happy and probably certain to put them on their arse, just as I expect you would, so why should we have to put up with it as well?

6) I am well aware that many people don't like or trust the police, some from having actually experienced, others from family who have and more still from what they've been told by a mate in the pub or on the news. Without the support of the public we're done, it's only after ten years of seriously bad government direction that the public are finally beginning to see how bad things are, years after the police said that most things they brought in were bad or that the paperwork was too much, we were told to shut up and deal with it by the public and the media. So we did.

I and everyone I work with would love nothing more than to be able to actually be out on the beat, dealing with criminals properly and seeing them go to prison. It will make life considerably better for everyone and again, don't forget we live in the same streets, and towns as everyone else and we see how bad it is every day. As soon as we can get rid of the targets and the penalties for not achieving those targets the sooner we can crack on with hammering the shit out of proper criminals, the problem we face is we simply can't pick and choose which laws to enforce or which targets to ignore, but the officers on the ground who I have worked with over the years still exercise discretion and we deal with people how we find them. If that is drunk and fighting, loud and aggressive or quiet and apologetic then so be it.

A H said...

fantastic blog, whens the next one? waiting in anticipation .....