Wednesday, 17 June 2009


When I started writing this blog it was never meant to be more than a personal catharsis, in that aim I think it succeeded as I've managed to get a few things off my chest which some of you guys have read and commented on. I haven't posted much over the last 6 months due to work, I've been getting a lot more into stuff I can't talk about and have hardly worked on team, and public order duties have lost all appeal. They say a change is as good as a rest and I'm liking how things are going even if it has meant I've been absolutely knackered, it just means I get to enjoy doing the family stuff and enjoying my rest days all the more.

Due to a combination of my work role changing, getting lots of cancelled rest days, and now more importantly because of the Times, I'm going to be calling it a day. I won't be posting anything new on here for the foreseeable future.

The Times decided for whatever reason to expose NightJack's real identity. After a written warning, the deletion of his blog and now a lost case in the high court, NJ has been well and truly burned by the media and I've no doubt his career prospects are going to be extremely limited for some time, and I have no intention of putting myself on offer for that one now that a judge has ruled on it. Personally I hope the ruling on anonymity in a public forum comes back to bite them in the arse with regard to anonymous sources, especially as the law of unintended consequences seems to favour anything to do with the Police or media.

For the 100k or so site hits in a the last year I'd like to say thanks for your support again, I'll probably speak to some of you on some of the other blogs but in the meantime, I'm out.


Friday, 5 June 2009

Point Number Eight

Back in January I wrote this post about the appointment of our new boss. In the list of things I very much doubt we'd get (and thus far we haven't) was number eight's "specific targeting and extreme harassment of each divisions top 50 criminals until they are locked away, move out of London, or kill themselves." Now, the last bit may seem harsh to some people, but as I and all of my colleagues know how much pain and misery someone would have to have caused over a number of years to get into the top set of criminals for a given area, few of us would shed a tear if they were to turn up swollen and bloated after a couple of days at the bottom of the Thames.

When I was a probationer in my old force we had a new divisional commander who moved to us from a neighbouring force, and at one of his meet and greet sessions he outlined his strategies for winding a few of the local criminal necks in. Aside from more 'encouragement' for the local CPS prosecutors to actually work at putting some of them to court for the right offences (and not busting the offence down to get an easy guilty plea) he wanted us to harass our top twenty or so criminals. By harass he meant executing arrest warrants at the most inconvenient times possible like Christmas or their birthday, searching them when and where possible - but especially in public - if there was even the slightest grounds, and getting in touch with all known members of their family to trace them if they were named as suspects in a crime allegation.

The most encouraging bit was that in ordering us to assertively target people he knew that we'd be subject to complaints from the suspects as well as family members, and possibly members of the public. "That's my problem, not yours" he said "and besides, if they are complaining, then it's working"

This type of Policing is extremely labour intensive, it's not just a case of putting one or two officers on the suspect, you need dozens to get proper 24 hour cover for just one person. Overt surveillance is not as difficult as covert as you need many more, but you still need resources to put into it and you have to sustain pressure for some time before you actually see any effect, but as Essex Police have shown the time and effort IS worth it. By targeting known burglars and basically making their lives a misery for a change, they have drastically reduced the number of residential burglaries compared to the year before.

As a preventative measure - in lieu of burglars actually getting any meaningful prison sentences - harassing them works. They're not going to be able or willing to go out in the dead of night and screw someone's house or garage over if they know that outside their own house are a couple of Police officers ready to follow them. Their thieving burglar mates aren't going to want to hang around them, and other people will know that they are a criminal if they constantly see them walking down the street with a couple of Police officers a couple of steps behind.

There are inevitably going to be ECHR issues and some could (and probably will) argue that we are breaching their right to privacy, free assembly, family life etc but to be honest I don't care about that. My personal belief is that if you breach someone else's human rights by committing crime against them, then your protection under the human rights act should be forfeit.

There is also the cost factor involved and eventually justifying that cost. If we harass our most prolific criminals enough then they will either stop committing crime or move out of the area. This drop in crime is great for you and me, but not so great for those holding the purse strings. How can you justify spending a fortune on a crime reduction tactic when there is no crime to speak of? That paradox of proactive policing is one that the government have failed to grasp for so long, and it's the main reason for the removal of beat officers - a Police officer walking around is going to reduce both crime and the fear of crime but how do you measure prevention?

Annoyingly we can't say "well Billy burglar used to commit 1 burglary a day, so over the last year we've prevented 365 burglaries" because someone will just say "prove it" and we can't.

The only way is to look at what happened in the previous year, but if you are that successful and continue to reduce crime there comes a point where there is no crime year on year and someone is going to suggest that you don't need the money to continue policing that way any more. Harassing criminals, getting in their faces, ruining their weekends or parties and generally making their lives a misery is a proven method of reducing crime, not only from them but from other people who see what will happen to them if they get on the list. How about a bit of consequence to their actions for once?


PS, I will be revisiting the other points on that list but as Essex have proven the point so well I thought it only right to acknowledge it!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009


So, today has been another interesting day in the world of policing and general politics. It's taken long enough, but finally the evil wicked bitch - sorry, witch - of the east has decided to quit. Not because she has admitted that she has been the worst, most hostile , most anti-Police and generally incompetent Home Secretary in recent memory, but because she got caught milking the taxpayer (me and you) for money by calling a spare room in her sisters house "her main home" and the house where her family lives as a second house. That, and she claimed for some porn so her husband could knock one out a couple of times. I can't really blame him because his wife is pig ugly, but there is enough free porn on the internet if that's your thing, and there's considerably less chance of getting humiliated by a curious and diligent reporter.

I wonder if he was thinking the same as me? "don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out..."

On that last point about reporters, I have said many times that I'm no fan of the main stream press but I must admit that I think they have done rather well of late, what with exposing parliament for the hive of vulturous swine that they are, and the Met hierarchy for the S.44 stop searching debacle. If ever there was proof that we are no where near a Police state, the fact that we have a free and independent press proves that, no matter what the Daily Wail and their numerous misguided armchair experts suggest. I've never been an advocate of stopping and searching people who are soooo not a terrorist (as I discussed in this post) just because someone in SO15 thinks it's a valid tactic, and if I used any S.44 ops I've been on to target criminals instead then so be it. You can accuse me of being complicit by carrying out lawful orders and searching people at choke points, but as I've always tried to specifically target people who fit my own personal profile of "scroaty bastard" I make no apologies for making crime arrests during counter-terrorism stop searches, of which I have had many.

Now on to separate matters. A combination of work and FANTASTIC sunshine has made me inadvertently miss a rather large milestone on this blog - 100k site hits.


The old stat counter at the top gives me a bit more than just the number of hits the page gets, I get lots of other info such as what countries my visitors come from, what sites direct them here and who links to me etc. Aside from every country on the European continent I've had visits from all over North America and most of Australasia too which is rather nice. I've had links from left and right wing sites, news sites, Police sites, random blogs and even a World of WarCraft forum, which is odd, but again, Thanks!

I know I haven't had many posts on recently but as most followers know the world of response policing, public order and other stuff I can't talk about has been the cause of many a cancelled rest day as well as the occasional splat of overtime, and when I haven't been at work I've been trying to make as much Vitamin D as I can!!

We've been absolutely hammered for aid recently which has lead to teams being left unjustifiably and dangerously short. Thanks in no small part to the Tamil protests (or Op Mirandy as my various overtime sheets have known it) we've had loads of people abstracted from teams just because they proved at the very beginning that they could actually get a few thousand people on site in next to no time (unlike swampy) which has caused a massive headache - and bill - for policing it.

Contrary to popular belief we don't have huge reserves of public order teams on duty "just in case" and aside from the TSG units on Commisioners reserve (a few PSU's to provide emergency cover for public order, backing up response or life threatening/large scale incidents) if something kicks off our resilience is tested to the full as we have to scratch around for anyone currently on duty to don kit and make their way there. If you have all your units on all the time you'll have no one left within 24 hours as we're not robots and need breaks and sleep, so trying to plan for appropriate resources has been an absolute nightmare for the public order branch and relevant duties offices. It's also cost a fortune to the tune of over £8 million, and that was a couple of weeks ago.

I've no doubt that a huge part of the hesitation to kick them out of the square has been fall out from G20 (and yes, officers HAVE refused to use force to move people because of the threat of media witch hunts and suspensions even though it's EXACTLY what we are trained for) and the threat of their community rallying to swamp Westminster with tens of thousands of people in a very short period of time. If anything it shows that a determined group of people can bring central London to a standstill in protest with very little actual violence. Surely another sign that we aren't as much of a Police state as some think?

I will try and get some more posts up soon but to be honest if the sun stays as it is (thanks to El Nino no doubt) then I'll be out there in the garden, on the beach or on the water like everyone else when I'm not wearing a polyester shirt with body armour or a couple of stone's worth of riot kit. In the mean time, thanks again for visiting, thanks for the comments and thanks for the support when some jobs have made me question why I actually do it, and others why I should carry on doing it.

Now, get off the bloody computer and go and get some sun while you can!!


Monday, 4 May 2009

Peaceful Protest..... yeah... of course it was.....

At the Mayday! demo organised predominantly by SmashEDO around 1000 (police estimates are usually lower and organisers usually much higher) turned up for a supposed peaceful street carnival. Because of the massive amount of negative press surrounding the G20 and police tactics, a more low key and standoff approach seems to have been adopted in deference to containing from the outset.

It didn't work, and it kicked off.

There were probably over 7000 people at the G20 on the 1st, I really have to ask myself what would have happened if we had just left them all to it, considering only around 1000 appear to have got the initiative in Brighton. Frankly, considering the huge lack of support we received from our bosses, numerous politicians and the majority of commentators in all the mainstream press, I think we should have just left them to it and I definitely think we should at the next big one, if only to prove a point. The lack of assertive action in containing a crowd that had violent intent has made the Op Commanders in Brighton look likes dicks and has caused the guys and girls on the ground to get more grief and suffer attack for the SMT's fear of looking bad on youtube and on Newsnight.

If you were one of the officers there then let me know how you think it went compared to G20 as I know there were a lot of teams from all over the place with us at Bank, so the comparison would be nice, especially so close to the last one.

There hasn't been much coverage on the news yet, but here's a couple of snippets about today's festivities down in sunny Brighton.

Fitwatch -

FIT teams have been forced to retreat from the Smasho EDO/ITT demo in Brighton. Due to a large number of participants engaging in Fitwatch tactics, they are not able to get any footage. People have physically pushed, shoved and kicked them out of the demo. A mobile CCTV van was blocked and forced to drive away. Two FIT officers trying to stop someone from doing graffiti were pushed away.This shows what can happen when we collectively resist our oppression. We no longer have to be passive victims to this policing - we can fight back and we can shut them down.

Congratulations to all those involved in Brighton and good luck for the rest of the day.

Indymedia -

After meeting by the Palace Pier, the protest moved through the centre of Brighton cheering and chanting. Four young anarchists climbed to the top of the Barclays building, where they hung a banner reading “Arms Dealers Out Of Brighton’. Barclays is notorious for being one of the banks most complicit in the international arms trade. The people responsible for the banner were welcomed into the crowd as heroes, and avoided arrest. After passing peacefully past the Clock tower, down Queens Road and through North Laine, the protest clashed with police on London Road.

A heavy police presence blocked part of the road outside McDonalds, and minor scuffles quickly escalated as mounted and riot police forced through crowds to protect the building. A smoke-bomb lit by protesters, combined with a push forward from mounted police, frightened shoppers and nearly split the protest in two.

From then on, the protest became a game of cat-and-mouse - although it was sometimes hard to tell who was the cat and who the mouse. Protesters managed to force back mounted police several times, while police hastily re-grouped around the protest as it moved into residential districts and through Preston Park. However, neither protesters nor police seemed to have a plan as such, and after much walking and a few minor scuffles - including the arrest of one man by riot police - the protest moved back into the town centre. On the seafront, for the first time in the day the police attempted to ‘kettle’ protesters by surrounding them on all sides.

However, protesters quickly skirted down onto the beach and back onto the road behind police lines. The protest moved on peacefully and, after more skirting through narrow lanes and moving around police lines, settled on the grass outside St. Peter’s Church to dance and relax.

Daily Mail -

A May Day protest descended into violence today as anti-war demonstrators clashed with police in Brighton, where thousands of visitors had flocked to enjoy the bank holiday.
Three police officers were injured after scuffles with mask-wearing activists who organised a march through the city's streets. One man was arrested.
At one point activists climbed up scaffolding onto the roof of a Barclays bank branch and unfurled a banner as part of the protest against an arms factory in the city. Graffiti was scrawled on windows and paint bombs were pelted at buildings marked out on an ‘anti-militarist’ map that included more than 30 banks and businesses.
The American Express building, police stations and several McDonald's restaurants were targeted.

Protesters chanted 'Whose streets? Our streets' as they marched through the city, while police officers on horseback cleared the way ahead of them.
Organisers had instructed protesters to wear red, but many wore black with masks covering their faces, which they said was a stand against the country's surveillance society.
Daytrippers and tourists, many down for the launch weekend of the Brighton Festival, were forced to run into back streets for cover as the crowd surged through the busiest streets and police tried to cut them off.A police spokesman said: 'The protestors having been attempting to target some premises and there have been some flash points of violence.
'Missiles have been thrown at police officers and police horses by the demonstrators.
'Three officers have suffered minor injuries - I do not believe they need hospital treatment. The group of 500 or so is still moving around the city.'
Activists from peace campaign group Smash EDO were protesting against EDO MBM Technology, an arms factory in Brighton.


Police have criticised May Day anti-war protesters for pelting officers with missiles and causing criminal damage. Sussex Police said three people were arrested, including one for assaulting an officer, amid some violent scuffles during the demonstration in Brighton.
Police say three officers suffered minor injuries like twists and sprains.
Campaign group Smash EDO, which wants local arms factory EDO MBM Technology closed, organised the protest which it described as a "huge success".

Smash EDO estimated about 1,000 protesters had gathered on Monday, but Sussex Police said it was about 500.

Brighton and Hove City Commander, Chief Supt Graham Bartlett, said: "Once again... we have seen unjustified acts of violence aimed at premises and police officers.
"Members of public including many visitors to the city have been clearly frightened and intimidated by a small minority of the group who have been verbally abusive, and throwing missiles at police.

Sussex Police said three officers were slightly hurt and three people arrested
"One member of the public was struck in the face by a missile and had to be treated by a police medical team." Police also criticised organisers for not telling them how many protesters were expected and what route they would take. Protests began with a street party in front of the Palace Pier before moving through the city centre and on to the factory to the north of the city. A small number of demonstrators surged towards officers in riot gear and flares were let off. And one small group scaled scaffolding in front of a branch of Barclays Bank and unfurled a banner.

Later groups of protesters gathered in the grounds of St Peter's Church and listened to music.
A number of others returned to the pier where they were surrounded by police in riot gear.
Smash EDO spokeswoman Chloe Marsh said the day was a "huge success".
"Large crowds arrived on foot and on bikes, bringing sound-systems, banners and a carnival dragon," she said. At least 30 protesters had reported injuries and some were struck with batons by officers concealing their identity numbers, she said. The march was a larger version of a demonstration regularly staged against EDO MBM Technology. The weapons manufacturer has never commented on the protests.

Lets see how many 'Police brutality' stories come out and short clips hit Youtube.

Same shit, different day.


Tuesday, 28 April 2009

I owe you a less than five...

Having had a week off to chill out, see some sunlight without wearing body armour and let my skin get used to breathing instead of being covered in polyester, I'm feeling much more normal again. I was looking at my duties the other week and was actually shocked to see the amount of cancelled rest days and non voluntary overtime (as in had no choice because of prisoners, sudden deaths etc) that I've done since January. For some reason the last couple of months worth of shifts have been nightmarish, in the last month we've had a couple of weekends that have directly compared to New Year with the number of urgent calls and prisoners, loads of which are for decent jobs like robbery, GBH and burglary.

It's nice to get a busy set of shifts to make the 12+ hours go faster, but you need a break afterwards to recover which hardly anyone has had due to the amount of aid commitments the we've been hit with such as the Tamil demos, G20 and the Israeli Embassy - the vast majority has been done on cancelled rest days meaning we get sod all but a day in lieu, that we'll have to fight to actually get back. The shift pattern we do works really well if you have the time off in between shifts but getting that thrown up in the air by being required to work just leaves everyone knackered.

I've no doubt the up coming Mayday protests down in sunny Brighton will put more officers in the spotlight, I really can't see some of the protest groups missing an opportunity to have a go at some Police officers and then film the aftermath to give to the Guardian.

The media and political storm after the G20 has definitely taken its toll on morale on frontline officers, the murmurings of dropping out of public order training has turned into outright corridor conversations with no care to who is in earshot. I'm not going to go into the Ian Tomlinson incident anymore, there has been enough speculation and comment on blogs like the Coppers Blog and Fitwatch from people who know what they are talking about, from people who haven't got a speck of a clue, and people who just want to throw their twopence in.

One thing that has come out of the G20 is the issue of public order training and exactly what we are trained to do and in what circumstances we are authorised to use certain tactics. Take for example the 'Nicky Fisher' incident - large crowd getting too close to a line of officers putting in a cordon, they are pushed back by other officers, someone takes exception to being pushed back and gobs off because she's a 'woman' and doesn't think a man should push her. She pushes the officer who again pushes her away, she shouts and swears at him and moves forward grabbing his arm, he swipes her away hitting her in the face with the back of his hand (personally I would have gone for a single or double handed push and thrown her up the street) and she STILL gobs off. All the time the officers are being surrounded by media photographers, protestors with cameras and people shouting abuse them.

The officer gives a couple of very clear 'get back' shouts to everyone and turns away from Fisher. She decides to go forwards AGAIN and the officer escalates his use of force having already given her multiple and very specific opportunities to remove herself from the situation. He draws his baton and gives her a strike to her legs (and not even full force hit because the bruise would have been different) causing her to fall over. After that the video footage shows lots of people going into 'shame on you' mode - which by the way I've never heard until the Israeli embassy demos in January, just like the new fashionable trend of throwing shoes at demos that they've adopted.

The main issue with the Fisher incident appears to be that the officer is tall with a large build and she was a munchkin. Does that mean that as Police officers we are only supposed to use any form of force on people of equal or larger size to us? Considering that most public order officers are tall males with a large build that rationale would mean we shouldn't be dealing with 90% of people at demos just in case we are larger than them, so what's the point in us being there. Do the public really want a plethora of extremely short and slightly built officers for public order duty so we don't offend other people's sensibilities by having to use force on people smaller than us?


She had more than enough chances to go away and didn't and the officer rightly - and as trained - used a single strike to the legs in escalating the use of force. How many times do people think that he should have been pushing her away before she got the hint? what if she never got the hint and refused to get back? Everyone knows the slur of 'small man syndrome' but one thing this job has taught me is that 'small gobby woman syndrome' is just as bad if not worse, and you're more likely to actually get injured by them because no one wants to start manhandling a small woman. And they have nails and pointy shoes, and like to use them.

This incident and a number of others from the G20 have really put public order policing in the spotlight along with the tactics used overall. The problem we've got is certain tactics require different levels of force from the officers on the ground. The tactic of containment requires us to be up close and within body contact distance with people who invariably don't want us there. The only way to control a crowd that doesn't want to be controlled, and is at the very least being obstructive and at most violent, is to use force. This can be anything from pushing to strikes with shields and batons, right through to a running line with long shields as we had at the Israeli Embassy.

When you compare our tactics with virtually ever other country in the world we have considerably less serious injuries. The main reason is because the preferred option in most countries is to leave well alone and then step in once trouble kicks off. The problem with that approach is that you have to use much higher levels of force in order to get control because any delay in assembling resources just gives the crowd time to cause more damage. The increased media attention on the results of having officers up close and personal where videos of people being punched, hit with shields, batoned and pushed has caused an outcry and prompted calls for a national debate on public order Policing.

Some people have been saying in the media "well I don't care what they do in other countries, the is the UK and I only care about how we do it here". Well they should care because doing nothing is not an option, so we either do it our way and look forward to more videos of people being punched, pushed, hit with shields and batoned, or we do it like everyone else in the world. This means full complete deployment of shield teams (no messing about with half kit, then short shields followed by long after we've been attacked repeatedly) and creating stand off distance from the shield lines to prevent people getting close enough to attack officers.

The only way to do this is to extend the range of your use of force beyond that of shields and batons by using projectile weapons such as baton, rubber bullets, live rounds, CS grenades and water cannon. Do we really want that over here? I know I don't, especially if the current trend of suspending is going to continue if officers are seen on video doing things that doesn't look nice, regardless of whether or not they are trained to do it. To put this into perspective for you, if a firearms officer shoots and fatally wounds someone in the course of their duty then they are removed from frontline duties pending investigation. They aren't suspended, they are still on duty and working just not in a public facing role.

During the briefing with IPCC chairman Nick Hardwick to the Home Affairs Select Committee, he said that he supported calls for a national debate on public order policing but also that "we can't train our Police officers to use certain tactics and then completely wash our hands of them when they use those tactics because we don't like how they look"

This last comment has been the point that is seriously destroying morale amongst officers at the moment, especially those who volunteer for public order roles. I've watched an awful lot of videos on youtube and on the various news sites and blogs, and I really have not seen anything that we are not trained to do in both normal officer safety training or public order training. Police officers volunteer for any specialist training such as driving, firearms, public order, searching or CBRN, and we can just as easily un-volunteer from those posts. If the everyone did that, I've no doubt the wheel would come flying off within a shift, let alone over a couple of days.

If it is going to become the norm that officers are suspended for doing what they are trained to do, how many people are likely to put themselves forwards for that? A suspension stays with you for your whole career, and no one is going to want a suspension for excessive force plaguing every promotion board or course application, especially if you just did what the instructors and the job trained you to do.

While I was working over the G20 my shifts were changing literally on a daily basis, a couple of times I was actually getting changed as I came on shift or just as I was going off. It was ridiculous. Our job absolutely relies on the goodwill of officers to both put themselves forwards for training in specialist roles and to put ourselves out to actually make things work. If that goodwill is going to be completely abused and all support is removed then no one is going to do it any more. In one of the many phone calls I had over the G20 week from the duties office (who were pulling their hair out having to chop and change at literally the last minute) I spoke to one of the Sgt's I've known for years -

"Mate, I need you to do me a favour, I need you to do a quick swing tomorrow, I know you're finishing late tonight but I need you on an early start.

Have I got a choice?

Not really, but I'd rather you agreed to do it than having to force you or someone else to.

Fair enough, if you can put me on a team that's going to get off on time that would be appreciated.

I'll try, but I owe you a less than five for helping me out.

You owe me more than that Sarge after this week, it's been shit

True, serves you right for volunteering to do the courses though, see you later"


Friday, 3 April 2009


Along with the vast majority of my colleagues in the Met, and those from the county forces, BTP and the City, I'm absolutely shattered. It's been a long couple of weeks - thankfully with some variety - but that was mainly because we didn't have enough people or kit to fill all of the posts. As a result public order serials went short, search teams went short, vehicles were plundered and all teams but predominantly response, were decimated.

Those who were on were constantly retasked at the last minute, many came on with no idea what they'd be doing or what kit they needed because their duties had been chopped and changed so much that no one had a clue. The vast majority didn't care anyway, we just got on with it. If you have infinite resources then you can cater for most eventualities and keep a good body of personnel available for fluid and spontaneous incidents.

Not even the Met is big enough for that, especially in the current economic climate with budgets very tightly controlled in lieu of paying for plenty of back up. Standing at the forward command area at the ExCeL and seeing how much was involved from Level 3 PC's for area security through to the SFO's, helicopter crews, public order teams, search teams it was quite awe inspiring really. Christ knows how we're going to deal with the Olympics, that's going to be ten times bigger and will go on for months and not just a couple of weeks.

I've no doubt an awful lot will be arranged at the last minute and will be sorted out on the hoof, that's how we usually do it anyway.

Most officers were on extended shifts (12 hours minimum though most did 16+ each day) and when things went properly pearshaped we had no relief and were just kept on, regardless of when we were due to start the next day. On the 1st for example, most of the serials were on an 0800 start, they didn't finish until 0200 and were then due back on for 0430 - so much for a minimum of 11 hours between shifts. After spending 14 hours getting battered with bottles and poles in one of the cordons in the City we were retasked to clear and take the climate camp.

Before we cleared the camp I was walking around trying to find somewhere to sit down and the streets were littered with shattered public order teams trying to get some food and fluids, others were trying to get a couple of minutes shut eye before we went back in. When you're that knackered you don't really care that your new found pillow is a kerb covered in broken glass and debris.

Before anyone says we milked the overtime so why complain, we were all on cancelled rest days so no one had any overtime except normal time+3rd after 12 hours. After two weeks of extended shifts, no one wants the overtime anyway, we all just need sleep.

When I can get my head together and sort my very knackered legs and feet out I'll be putting some more posts up, in the mean time I'm going to enjoy the family stuff, go to the zoo and get some much needed rest. In lieu of some decent vids of some of the action, here's a brilliant vid I was told about whilst getting rained on by bottles of Becks -


Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Meet James Cleary

A little while ago I wrote this post following a briefing slide we were shown at work asking for help identifying a burglar who preyed on sick children at Great Ormond Street Hospital. After some decent work by the guys and girls in the crime squad the suspect was identified as being 47 year old, James Cleary -

On the 24th of February 2009 Cleary pleaded guilty to four counts of burglary, admitted two more and asked to have them taken into consideration - by admitting further unsolved or unreported crimes they can be given leniency in sentencing.

Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith sentenced Cleary to 20 months in custody and said -

"Your counsel is absolutely right. The financial value of these matters is less than £2,000 apparently, but the sentimental value of a play station and games for a sick child is far greater.

'But I am bound by the guidelines from the Sentencing Guidelines Council.

'It seems to me that when you committed these offences you targeted vulnerable community premises, that is to say hospitals, but your entry into the children's ward or children's hospital is a further aggravating feature as I see it."

Considering that the maximum sentence in law for a single non dwelling burglary (with no violence or weapons) is 10 years at Crown Court, you have to wonder exactly what a burglar would have to do to get that if repeatedly preying on sick children inside a hospital attracts only 20 months - even if he did plead guilty. If you think now that he automatically gets half his sentenced reduced on anticipation of being granted licence, and then up to a further third of whats left for good behaviour, Cleary is going to back out on the street long before Christmas this year.

That'll teach him..... won't it?

Cleary is a prolific and habitual burglar with numerous previous convictions for burglary and other offences. For each offence he would have been found by, arrested by, investigated by and sent to court by the Police. How can we possibly be to blame for the rise in crimes committed by people like Cleary when the Police officers who have dealt with him have done EVERYTHING they could possibly do on every occasion? It's not our job to sentence people, that is for the courts. I've seen people with over 200 previous convictions out and about committing crime, and getting caught by Police officers.

That is us doing OUR job over 200 times for one person and yet they are still able to walk the streets freely. We rarely get people arrested who have no previous convictions, nearly everyone we deal with has already been caught and convicted several, if not dozens or sometimes even hundreds of times before.

If someone receives the maximum sentence for each crime they are convicted of the prison population will go through the roof very quickly, but once they are in, there aren't going to be as many convicted criminals out on the streets able to commit crime. If anyone is stupid enough to commit crime such as burglary, theft, assault etc and then loses several years of their useful life because of it, well that's their fault isn't it?

Why should we feel guilty about having a large prison population when they are the ones who put themselves there?

If someone is in prison, behind bars, he cannot be breaking through your back door as you sleep, or breaking into your childs hospital room while they are recovering from life saving surgery. That is a simple fact, but one that people still refuse to grasp when they call for community sentences, or leniency over long custodial sentences.


PS. I've a few things going on and a course coming up so will be off the grid for a few weeks. Stay safe.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Very bad day in a bad couple of weeks.

Work has been stupid busy recently and I've spent the few days off I've had mostly trying to forget about it and live in the normal world. My list of days that I'd rather never happened is reasonably small considering some of the things we have to deal with, most jobs just go into the work box and get locked away to be dealt with as and when, but unfortunately I've had another one added to the list quite recently. I'll have to wait until the inquest and investigation is concluded to give you a better picture of exactly how utterly horrible and fucked up the whole situation was. Watching a kids heart get ripped apart and watching their entire world turned inside out in the blink of an eye is bad enough, but knowing that Police bureaucracy, bullshit accountability and arse covering protocols dragged it out needlessly for the family still makes me feel sick.

We, the people on the ground did everything right. We do it all the time and we are good at what we do, we work well together and don't have to ask each other to help out, we all know what needs doing and we crack on and do it. We don't like getting other people involved as we can deal with the vast majority of jobs ourselves, and we can deal with them quickly. The problems come when we have to get other people involved who aren't there and who don't really give a shit - to them it's just another call to make, another list to check, another CAD to update.

They can't see the childs tears. They aren't talking to the next of kin and hearing the distress as every possible outcome is running through their mind and ripping it apart by the second. They haven't seen the worlds best paramedics and frontline trauma teams doing everything they can to stop the person they've never met from passing. They can't see the once feeling and loving eyes glass over to nothing, to emptiness, to pain for those they will never see again. They don't care.

To us thirty seconds is a lifetime in a situation like that. To them thirty minutes just is another step closer to going home on time, and it can't pass quickly enough.

I've always said that it's the one job in a hundred, or even a thousand, with a proper victim to help or a proper criminal to catch that makes the others worth dealing with. I joined this job to help those people when I can, and it makes me sick to know that some people I have to work with don't share that view, or have forgotten it if it ever existed, or that distance themselves from it to make sure their arse is covered. I know people who are terrified of the thought of getting put back out onto the street having festered in an office after getting off the frontline as soon as their probation finished. Others we work with have absolutely no concept of what we actually do, and they don't care about that fact either because they'll never have to deal with it.

They don't want to deal with the things we do and they have no incentive or motivation to do things with a sense of urgency when we ask them, as that invariably means cutting corners or stepping on toes and they won't risk it.

I make no apologies for hating a very large number of people both inside the Police and outside, this job has given me more than enough evidence to justify every stereotype or prejudice that I've got, but I still care about people who are in situations they never asked be in or did nothing to bring on themselves. These are the people I want to help; the people who are unable to do anything to help themselves. Proper victims.

I know that sometimes, more often than not in some places, we can't get to some calls from the public. A lot of the time we don't even get to hear about them as there are always more serious things coming through to us, even though it occasionally turns out some of them aren't exactly as we were told because someone has deliberately lied about the incident to make sure we get there. I'm sorry that we can't get to your burglary report because a shop has lied about how 'violent' a low value shoplifter is because they are sick of us saying we have no units to deal, or that someone has called in a hoax knife/gun threat just to see how long it takes us to get there "if they ever actually need us" or because they think it's fucking hilarious.

The Police officers who are still on the frontline teams, working 24 hours a day answering 999 calls want to help people. We care about the fact that normal tax paying members of the public, who are no different from our own families, are victims of crime, or victims of fate through no fault of their own.

We want to help them, I want to help them, because I still care despite all that other bullshit.


Thursday, 29 January 2009

So... who started it? an update on vids.

Short and sweet, here's a couple of vids found by Plastic Fuzz which I think look pretty good and give a good indication to which side wanted the fight, especially the guy in the second video who says "we're trying to get to the Israeli Ambassador and they're protecting him, so that's why it's kicking off" If you follow the links at the bottom of the video when it finishes, there are loads more from the 10th now.

First one.

With no hint of irony, given that accelerant was thrown at the Police officers on the gate, here's the second vid to the relaxing theme tune "Firestarter"
1.49-1.53 was my serial.


Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Meet the new Boss, much the same as the old one.

Contrary to what Sky's Martin Brunt thought when he said that Sir Ian Blair's resignation would cause a drop in morale throughout the Met, on the afternoon he announced he was leaving I've never seen so many people in the canteen talking about him with smiles on their faces. The next day a skipper I know said "it's great news isn't it, if the Met canteens had a laugh-o-meter in them, they would have blown up yesterday afternoon"

So now that the "PC PC" has finally gone, Sir Paul Stephenson is going to be the new Commissioner of the Metropolis. I've never met him and I probably never will, unless something goes horribly wrong somewhere, and the most I'll see of his new direction and 'leadership' will be a weekly podcast on the Intranet that I won't watch. We may get some policy directions that will be changed by countless levels of chinese whispers, so by the time they get to us they will do nothing but serve the needs of the borough Commander or the divisional Superintendent to make sure they get their year end bonus for meeting targets and budgets.

Sir Ian Blair set the direction of the Met as Commissioner but it was Sir Paul Stephenson who actually ran things from an operational perspective. Whilst I'm well aware that there are things Sir Ian wanted and everyone was required to do, here's a few things I am certain that we won't get in the immediate to near future -

(1) a doubling of the number of response officers actually deployable for every team, on every division and borough in the Met.

(2) a doubling of the number of response vehicles and vans (that actually work and don't break down all the bloody time) to accommodate the influx of officers back to response and the significant increase in prisoners that will result.

(3) the opportunity for response officers to actually proactively patrol and engage with the public because the vast majority of the bullshit calls we are sent to have been cancelled because we shouldn't even be going to them, or they are significantly downgraded to the level they should be in comparison to an actual emergency.

(4) Taser.

(5) someone with any substantial rank standing in front of the news cameras immediately after a substantial event to give the people the information that WE had at the time, even if we are being criticised by people (including family) who have no idea what actually happened.

(6) someone who will tell the Home office to get rid of the National Crime Recording Standards and to stop trying to micromanage how we work.

(7) the complete return of discretion, in line with the office of Constable, instead of directed policy.

(8) specific targeting and extreme harassment of each divisions top 50 criminals until they are locked away, move out of London, or kill themselves.

(9) the return of local knowledge to control rooms by basing them in divisions and alongside teams instead of in 3 remote bases staffed by people who rotate daily, haven't got a scooby which road is where, who is who, where our borders end or what specialist teams exist to deal with specific things. This won't mean much to anyone outside of the Met, but to those in, it will mean everything.

I'll be more than happy if I'm proved wrong on any of those points, but after yet another knackering nights weekend of mayhem, close calls and not enough people to deal with it, I'm a tad pessimistic that anything will change for the better.


Update - some quotes from the Boss -

“Ian Blair did it his way. I was a loyal deputy. Now I am going to do it my way”

“One of the key issues is keeping the communities on board to give us a mandate to go in there and use some pretty intrusive tactics to stop kids killing kids.”

"We have to be intolerant of violence, no matter where that violence comes from"

"It is my aim to be a top-class police leader of the biggest police force in the UK and one of the best in the world." Interesting he used the words Police force instead of Police service, it's not something Sir Ian Blair ever said, which is a good start.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Is peaceful protest possible?

Of course it is. I've worked on loads of demos over the last few years ranging from calls for life to mean life, children's charities, anti war, anti capitalism etc and only a very small number have ever deteriorated to the stage of people being arrested, and even less turning into large scale public disorder. The vast majority have been attended by dozens to hundreds of people, and even a couple where a few thousand have turned up and there have been no incidents or problems. Compared to last week at the Israeli Embassy, I can attest that the 'flash mob' protest at Heathrow Terminal 5 was a considerably more jovial affair.

As usual the differences on numbers were wide apart, 500 from the organisers, 250 for the official Police estimates, from where I was standing we estimated the number to be around 350. The protest was reported by some media outlets as creating 'chaos' at the airport but it was anything of the sort - there was an area set by for the protest to be held in, security at the terminal was out in force and we had plenty of level 3 officers and a couple of level 2 serials to prevent anything getting out of hand.

We were briefed that BAA had actually given permission for a protest to be held within the terminal, contrary to existing legislation, which made things considerably easier for us to plan around. An area was set aside by the airport staff (which wasn't used eventually), level 3 officers were patrolling the terminal and the level 2's were in place behind the security access to the departure lounge. If the protestors got through us there, the terminal would have been shut down and we would be looking at a 'search to contact' of the entire terminal (and possibly even 'airside' which would have been an absolute nightmare) and every nook and cranny until everyone who wasn't supposed to be there was accounted for and removed. As we did that, the airport would be shut down which is why there is specific legislation prohibiting demonstrations within airports.

It was a gesture of 'goodwill' by BAA to allow the demo to go ahead but if it went wrong, the disruption would have been enormous to both passengers and the airport, and a number of people (including some of our senior officers) would have been out of a job by the late afternoon. A point which we were made aware of and reminded constantly about in the run up to our deployment!!

We were told to expect the demonstrators around 12 noon, and that they would be there for between 15-90 minutes, depending on how many turn up and how emotive they are. From where we were at the departure lounge entrance we could see a few people in the distinctive red t-shirts underneath coats milling around, the vast majority seemed to be women and children. There were a few men around but it seemed to be more of a family atmosphere to everything and not in the slightest bit hostile. When the time came all the coats came off and the crowd that had gathered near the main exit began jumping around and singing, there was quite a bit of jeering and throwing red balloons and sponges around, and at one point a few people got half-nekid and did the congo. All in all, a reasonably loud, relaxed and very friendly demonstration

After a few more songs and chants the group started to thin out quite quickly after about 30 minutes, by 45 minutes they had all gone. Once the bosses were happy that the demonstrators had left or that there was no threat (from them anyway) of a security breach, we were stood down. We waited for redeployment to central London to assist with the anticipated demonstration at Trafalgar Square but as there were only a couple of thousand people there we were 'dismissed with thanks' and headed back to go home.

I spoke to a mate who was at the demo as we headed back to our nick, "I've seen a few of the knobbers who kicked off with us last week, but apart from that there's hardly anyone. Most of them are loud but alright, looks like loads have stayed away because it kicked off so badly last time" I got a text from him not long after I left to go home "as expected, a few have kicked off, going to be a long one, laters"

And so, as expected -


Daily Mail

Ealing Times

FIT Watch


Yahoo News


Sunday, 11 January 2009

So.... who started it?

Around 100-120k people marched yesterday. We were briefed that the public order branch expected, and had been told the plan had been arranged for around 15-20k, despite it being all over the media and sites like Indymedia that around 100k were due to turn up. The estimates on numbers are usually somewhere between the Police ones (invariably considerably less than there actually are) and the organisers who seriously ramp up the turn out. On this occasion however, the front of the march reached the embassy as the back had not long left Hyde Park, a distance of just under 1.5 miles, and it was packed, literally building line to building line across 4 lanes of road. We were told (at around 3pm) the official Police estimate was 20-25k, which was complete and utter bollocks. There were a hell of a lot of people, at the front end were families and old people, at the back were mostly young males.

As usual we had been told that our role was to facilitate the lawful demonstration and that we were effectively 'community Policing' unless the situation changed and things became violent. Crucially, we were told that despite the fact that nearly every march relating to the Gaza/Israel situation had experienced violence, this was not sufficient evidence to suggest that THIS march would become violent. As such, because the senior officers are so afraid of offending the wrong people, we were NOT in possession of riot helmets or shields which were left on the carriers, although we all were in our protective gear and coveralls under the yellow jackets. We were wearing our normal everyday beat helmets and to say some were not happy about that would be a slight understatement.

Unlike at football matches where fixtures are given categories to judge the expected level of violence based on previous experience (A = virtually nil, C+ something like Millwall v Chelsea, Rangers v Celtic etc) these aren't used at demos, which is why we have FIT - forward intelligence teams - who identify specific individuals based on known previous history, in order to judge the expected level of hostility.

My serial was one of the several dozen at the front of the march. The organisers had loads of volunteer stewards whose job was supposed to be to facilitate the movement of the march although they were all as emotionally involved with the march as everyone else there. They were organised at the front in three separate ranks, with the 'celeb' marchers in between the 1st and 2nd, and the rest of the march behind the 3rd. Not long after we set off a group of about a hundred young males broke through their own stewards and sprinted off towards the Police serials at the head of the march. After some negotiation with the stewards, they agreed (eventually) to rejoin the march behind the stewards and celebs. Our serials at the front were stretched out along the sides of the march, with a couple of officers every 50-10o meters or so.

Things were pretty peaceful for the whole length of the Bayswater Road and although very emotive, there was quite a bit of banter between the Police officers and the demonstrators and things stayed that way despite the massive numbers until the head of the march got to the North Gate of Kensington Gardens. Inside were a couple of PSU's on the other side of the gate, and as we passed there was nothing more than a bit of shoe throwing and jeering. We carried on down towards the front entrance to the Embassy and our end stayed pretty much the same. All of a sudden we heard calls from one of our other serials that dozens of people tried to break through the gates to get to the embassy and were climbing the fencing, throwing anything to hand, throwing burning flags at the gate and that they needed more units to help out. Within seconds we heard the call that no police officer wants to hear "more units now, urgent assistance, we're under attack, officer down"

What had started as a several dozen turned into a hundred or so and the officers were being attacked with missiles including glass bottles, balloons filled with paint, scaffolding clips and metal poles, and a couple had been dragged into the crowd and were beaten to the floor. One officer was knocked unconscious by a scaffolding pole, two received really bad facial injuries and the other officers (male and female) were kicked and punched repeatedly until a couple of PSU's managed to get to them. At the time we were not allowed to wear our protective helmets and were still marching towards the Embassy.

Not long after we got to the Embassy gates the crowd stopped to shout and jeer at the gates (as they can't get close to the Embassy itself) and there was a bit of banner and shoe throwing. From where we were the crowd couldn't see the gates and all they knew was that they had stopped. Immediately they blamed us and lots of people were asking us "why have you stopped us marching?" It's a simple fact of numbers, 100,000 people won't fit down a street at the best of times, let alone when the head of the group has stopped because they wanted to demonstrate, we hadn't blocked anyone in at that point.

Within a couple of minutes we received the order to get our shields and helmets from the carriers after the extent of the attack and injuries received by the officers at the North Gate was fed back to the commanders. Because of the scale of the march, at least half the demonstrators hadn't seen any Police presence and to see a few of us here and there trying to get our kit gave them more than enough opportunity to shout abuse and thrown coins, cans, bottles etc as we tried to make our way through. The RVP point for the vans was changed because of the hostility we were getting to make it easier to get kitted up without having to walk half a mile or so up the road through a predominately (at that point) hostile crowd.

We got back to our posts near the front of the march to be told that a couple of shops opposite the embassy had been attacked and ransacked and that protestors had been seen stealing bottles and knives which were distributed through the crowd and subsequently thrown at the officers at the front gate. We were then informed by a serial at the gate that they had had several bottles of accelerant thrown at them which failed to ignite. At that point PSU's were brought in to contain the crowd which did effectively block them in, the hope being that they would dissipate out the other end. The confrontation became even more violent, demonstrators destroyed the fencing that was keeping the pavements clear for the shops and emergency evac units, and some of the fencing was used as a barricade to stop the Police PSU's from getting into the crowd to arrest people, specifically those from last weeks demo who had been recognised by the intelligence teams.

We then used filter cordons to try and dissipate the crowds to get the vast majority of people out of the area, this consists of a couple of ranks of officers with people still able to pass through. The people responsible for destroying the shops and throwing the missiles/accelerants were still in the crowd outside the embassy so they were contained. When information about the cordons started feeding back into the crowd a number of demonstrators tried to break out and were using anything and everything to attack the officers on the cordons, including the barriers themselves.

As the violence increased, our escalation increased, and for the first time in almost 8 years (in the Met) full deployment of longshield units was authorised, it was probably around 8pm at that point. Short of watercannon, rubber bullets and teargas, this is the highest state of force we can use in a public order situation and the decision to authorise it was not taken lightly, because it is so obviously aggressive.

Over the next several hours we had to use more cordons to force back crowds that had gathered on all sides to dissipate them as some (but not all by a long shot as there were a lot of normal demonstrators mixed in with them) of the group contained in the embassy continued attacking officers, vehicles, property, horses etc. We kept the cordons in as the protestors were taken out of the embassy cordon section individually where they were videoed for evidential purposes (to check against CCTV later) and searched for any items taken from the stores, they were then allowed to leave. As the number of people in the contained area shrunk we were able to move the cordons in further which released more officers to assist in searching so the whole group could dissipate quicker. Our cordons and teams were eventually taken down around half ten, having been in place from around four when it first started kicking off outside the embassy.

Here are a couple of vids already on youtube, make of them what you will.

The march along Bayswater Road and then Kensington High Street, just down from the embassy after we were ordered to get our full protective gear and shields.

At the gates of the embassy, note the bloke singing "all Police are pigs, lets kill coppers" which was pretty much the order of the day from the majority of the people attacking officers.

missiles being thrown and fencing used as barricades.


Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Burning Flags

On one of the demos I worked on the other day the topic of flag burning was raised during the initial briefing, in response to the huge number of people in Trafalgar Square on Saturday holding a veritable bonfire before they started off towards the Israeli Embassy. At present in the UK, flag burning is not a specific offence in criminal law and there is case law that states simply burning a flag isn't enough to charge or convict for racial incitement of violence or to charge or convict for any public order act offence. The high court decided that the act of burning a flag was nothing more than destruction of personal property, if the person doing the burning owned the flag.

A couple of years ago some officers from ACPO suggested making flag burning a specific offence in order to prevent groups deliberately causing extreme offence to others and unnecessarily escalating demonstrations into violent conflict. There are always going to be people at demos who will try and provoke other people or have a go at the Police to get some 'good' images on Indymedia, and they really don't care how they go about it. I've worked on plenty of demonstrations that have been rather pleasant and perfectly legal, as well as a few others where a minority have been there to do nothing but start a fight.

Personally, I find flag burning extremely offensive. It's more than just a piece of cloth with dye on it, it's a symbol of identity and history and burning it is intended to cause offence and intimidate people into reacting. I've been at demos where some people do it just because it's the 'in thing' to do and they don't care or can't understand why some people are extremely offended, because they (by their own admission) don't care about their own country, flag, its meaning or its history.

A couple of the demonstrations over the last couple of days have been extremely heated but ultimately peaceful, and even as the thousands of people rallied around speakers they didn't get the flags out to set them on fire and they all (for the most part) dispersed afterwards without any incident. The longer the trouble in the Middle East carries on, the longer the demos about it over here are going to continue. Most will be passionate but peaceful, others will be violent. The large demo on Saturday turned pretty ugly after the protestors left Trafalgar Square and Police officers were pelted with bottles, bricks, banners and anything else to hand until it was later brought under control.

After the unbelievable indecisiveness by senior officers at the Notting Hill carnival this year to relieve untrained and unprotected Level 3 officers with properly equipped and trained L2 or L1 officers after they were subject to sustained attacks with bottles and bricks (and were literally begging for additional assistance and support) it was actually quite refreshing to hear a ground commander on the radio pull the officers out and send in the specialist riot teams of the TSG along with L2's within a few minutes of everything going pear shaped. I've no doubt one of the commanders taking a direct hit to his own head influenced the speed of the decision making.

With more demos planned for the foreseeable future including advertised rallies of the same nature on Saturday and Sunday, we're going to have some interesting days ahead in the Capital, along with the usual day to day Policing requirements and requests from the public!

After 12-15,000 people had a relatively peaceful if somewhat heated demo in Trafalgar Square, here's what happened when most of them decided to march to the embassy via Pall Mall and St James's Street -

This vid was footage after it kicked off from around Kensington Gardens -

And yes, those officers on core response teams were still answering 999 calls, despite having had most of their public order trained officers stripped from normal team strength for the day!


Friday, 2 January 2009

Animal Police

Due to some unfortunate business in the Middle East having ramifications over here I'm not going to be around for a few days, so in lieu of a proper post here is a vid I saw on TV which I think you'll find amusing!