Friday, 19 November 2010

Policing the Police

Inspector Gadget is pleased that Mark Andrews has been let off.  I'm not.

Now, Gadget makes the valid point that most of us have not been privy to the whole CCTV tape, or to the defence argument.  That is a relevant point.  We do not know the whole story.  However, that does not get Mark Andrews off the hook in my eyes.  Let us look at the whole picture.  Let us look at each of the interactions that I have had with the Police over the years.

 - a call to report a loud, drug-fuelled party that continued until 6am; the Police told me that they would not be attending as I was the only complainant.  The following morning, it transpired that they had told my neighbour that, too.

 - after the theft of my mother's handbag and car keys from her house, the Police declined her suggestion that they should mention to their night shift that her car was vulnerable, on the grounds that they did not expect the thieves to return.  The bag was never recovered.

 - the following morning, the Police disagreed with my mother's suggestion that the overnight theft of her car was related to the previous day's theft of the car keys. The car was not recovered in a usable state.

 - the Police attended when my Dad died, and called me to say that she was very upset and asking for me.  Before showing me into the room with my distraught mother, they felt the need to stop and ask me how far I had come and how I had managed the journey so quickly.  Priorities, priorities...

 - following a burglary from her house, my mother's neighbour reported to the Police the registration number of the van that had been left, engine running, doors open, outside the house during the burglary.  No action was taken.

 - the report of vandalism to vehicles on my drive, prompted by alcohol (as shown by the broken bottles) and leaving me with repair bills of circa £400, led to me being given a crime number but no action being taken.  

 - a break-in to our neighbour's house led to an impressively fast attendance by a number of officers.  Sadly, they did not think to arrive by both possible approaches to our road, and missed the offenders who left via the other approach.  Neither was ever caught.

 - I was pulled over for pulling out in front of an unmarked police car in what he felt was a dangerous manner.  If it was so dangerous, I am left wondering why he invited me out?

 - After a van driver rammed Mrs P's car and knowingly failed to stop, the Police decided to take no action.  This left us holding the £350 repair bill.  Mrs P was given a producer and warned that failure to comply would lead to prosecution.

 - A less than wholly polite gesture (on my part) to a scamera van led to a like gesture in return.  His sergeant threatened me with action under the Public Order Act, but specifically denied that the camera operator had made any gesture.

This is, of course, an entirely one-sided picture.  I have missed out all the occasions on which Police action has been taken and a penalty has been extracted from the wrongdoer.  So, in the interests of openness, I shall list those, too.

 - a speeding fine for my mother, caught on camera at 35 in a 30 limit.  On, it should be pointed out, a trunk road whose limit varies repeatedly between 30 and 40.  At 3am, while the road was completely empty (apart from her...).  £60 and three points.

 - a further similar speeding fine, for my mother again.  £60 and three points.

Then, there is the celebrated case of a businessman local to my area, whose house was broken into and he and his family tied up and threatened.  His brother-in-law happened to disturb the burglars, released him, and they both gave chase.  He and his brother were prosecuted, and the burglars merely cautioned - both of which would have been decisions within the power of the Police.

Meanwhile, it is well-known that we need to observe a curfew in our town centre, avoiding it late on Friday and Saturday.  So we can conclude that the Police are not doing a great job in that regard, either.

Now, I know that Police work is hard.  I know it is a challenge.  I know that I (personally) would not have the skills to do it at all  well.  And I understand and accept the concept of being generous toward those who are doing a difficult job well, under difficult circumstances.  But there is the important caveat there - that they are doing the job well.  So I am no longer instinctively sympathetic to the Police, because they are not doing that job well.

Sometime, indeed, I wonder if we would be better off without them.  I wonder if it would be cheaper to employ a bodyguard to follow my wife and children, and to have a solid bar and handgun for myself.  I wonder if that might start to communicate to our criminals what "restorative justice" really means.

Returning to PC Mark Andrews, I remain of the view that the woman was in his care.  He was responsible for her.  The corollary of having the power of arrest, having the power to force us to come back to the station with them, is that once they do, the Police are responsible for us and our wellbeing.  If we suffer an accident that is not clearly self-inflicted, then responsibility for that lies with the Officer concerned.  Mark Andrews has given another significant boost to my now instinctive distrust of the Police.  

Gadget concludes that one of the reasons for being pleased is that
"the handwringers will go absolutely orbital, which will be fun to see"
This is not a swear blog, so you will not be treated to my reaction to being called a handwringer, or to hearing that my outrage at the police inflicting avoidable injuries to the public in their care is "fun".


  1. I note the quality of your argument, and commend you on your self-perception.

  2. were you at the origanal trial at the mags crt , did you here the evidence? , were you then at the Appeal court and privy to the evidence , have you seen the full unedited version of the custody suite video , and not just the drip feed juicy bits drip fed to you by the (un) biased!! press , answer no to any of the above , then be quiet!

  3. Patently, you are entitled to be frustrated at your local police performance if that is your experience. However, just because the police service may not meet your expectations does not mean that Sergeant Andrews is guilty of the offence of which he was accused. Nor does it mean that Sergeant Andrews should not be entitled to the same legal procedures including the right of appeal that anyone else is entitled to.

    Don't forget that proving an offence beyond reasonable doubt is quite difficult for any prosecutor.

    "The corollary of having the power of arrest, having the power to force us to come back to the station with them, is that once they do, the Police are responsible for us and our wellbeing."

    What if the injuries are self-inflicted though? I know enough police officers to know that this happens all the time. Upon arrest, do you suggest that prisoners are bound up and put on an ambulance trolley to make sure they come to absolutely no harm? How would that look on CCTV?

    I quite often disagree with Mr Gadget. I believe he is deliberately "gung ho" to encourage debate and readership. However in this instance when he berates "handwringers" I suspect he is having a pop at all the armchair critics who have never been in any of the situations upon which they are commenting. You think it's a tough job, it's probably considerably tougher even than you think.

    Don't make the mistake of thinking that most people would behave towards the police, in the case of a "misunderstanding" about the amount of alcohol they might have drank, as you might.

  4. Hello Anon; a decent argument. Valid points. Except that my frustration with the Police arises from my own direct experience, not from what I didn't hear at the trial.

    Hi Blue; I agree that I couldn't do the job, and accept that it is tough. Which is, I think, why I retained a respect for the Police for a lot longer than I might have otherwise.

    But every interaction has been fruitless (or worse), and every time I have been treated with contempt by a high and mighty Officer Of The Law who did not appreciate being addressed by a mere citizen. An Officer who had, in short, forgotten who he was there for.

    So PC Andrews might be innocent. But my experience leads me to suspect otherwise, and as I am not charged with judging him, I can and will harbour those suspicions.

    And as for the way others treat the Police, given the way they treat me I cannot say I am surprised. I bite my lip rather than tell an Officer what I think of him and his attitude; others may well not.

    (And you'll see in the original post that I don't regard the Police as being responsible for a genuinely self-inflicted injury)

  5. " Before showing me into the room with my distraught mother, they felt the need to stop and ask me how far I had come and how I had managed the journey so quickly. "

    I should be utterly astonished at that. I'm not.

  6. "..answer no to any of the above , then be quiet!"

    That's the modern caution, isn't it? ;)

    " this instance when he berates "handwringers" I suspect he is having a pop at all the armchair critics who have never been in any of the situations upon which they are commenting."

    Sorry, BE, but here I must echo the wise words of John Lydon in the 'Country Life Butter' advert: "Nah, it's their career choice!"

    And while they are - ostensibly - public servants, on the public payroll, I'll feel entitled to have my say.

    It's OK, Gadget can just refuse to put my comments through, if they strike a little TOO close to home, as I note he often does.

  7. "I must echo the wise words of John Lydon in the 'Country Life Butter' advert: "Nah, it's their career choice!""

    Except that wasn't my point at all. I am not saying that coppers don't choose their hard work. At all. I was saying that it's far easier to comment from a position of ignorance than it is to do what the court is doing which is seeing if the evidence stacks up.

    Patently, you are still conflating two issues.

    What I find really odd is that lots of people can reel off the number of negative experiences they have had with the police. I feel left out because I simply have not. When I was younger I was a serial victim of crime and the police displayed nothing but courtesy and efficiency. As an adult I see them every now on the street but they never shake me down or bundle me into the back of a van. I must be doing something wrong.

  8. Yes, it is easier from our armchairs. But as Julia points out, while they are public servants on the public payroll, I will be entitled to have my say. It is just as easy for me to criticise the work of those I employ directly, but no less wrong for me to do so.

    While I pay the piper...

    Patently, you are still conflating two issues.

    Not quite, because I'm not saying that as a judge I would and should have found him guilty. What I'm saying is that based on my experience of the Police his actions don't seem out of character, and that in my opinion as to the duty of care they owe us the ratio of the judgement (as reported) seems wrong. So I am suspicious.

    As for your experiences, maybe you are lucky, or maybe the Met is different. All I know is, whenever I go to them for help I (a) don't get any and (b) get looked at carefully to see if they can do me instead.

  9. *My penny's worth*

    It is interesting how little weight the CPS will accredit a victim's testimony. So apart from Mark Andrews escaping prosecution, so did an off duty policeman who raped a woman in the locker room of a police station simply because it would be the victim's word against the officer's (hence a 'lack of evidence' was cited as the official reason). Yet Binyam Mohamed is paid off as they know a jury would believe his stories of torture with unsavoury consequences for the security services.

    Somewhere there is too much convenient fiddling going on inside the CPS and this leaves the police being unaccountable so they feel they can disregard minor incidents with impunity, all to the long term detriment of society.

    Patently, your next letters need to be to both Theresa May and Ken Clarke or file a complaint form. Having said that, I have liked seeing policemen on the beat and I have not encounter any difficulties. Our local PO now stands outside the church once a week so we can go and talk to him. It is worth keeping your local force on their toes.

    Btw I now know your mother is a getaway driver with a very hot set of wheels.

  10. Gosh how unlucky to have had such bad treatment, well unless you are making it up, or unless you have bent the truth to suit yourslef, and the reaction you recive is down to the reaction you give.

    Frankly it doesnt matter as it gives you something to moan about.

    I have had excellent service from dealings with the Police, less so from Solicitors and Estate agents the maggotts of this world, but hey that isnt interesting on a blog ranting at the pOlice is it

  11. Measured, the CPS decide whether there is a good chance of securing a conviction. Mr Andrews was charged, taken to court and convicted. I would say that counted as "prosecution", wouldn't you?

    The bloke who apparently raped the woman in the locker room was not prosecuted because the CPS admitted there wasn't sufficient evidence to secure a conviction. That is terrible but it must happen all the time, it's not peculiar to police prosecutions I would suggest. I doubt very much that the CPS, DPS and IPCC between them would allow things to slide to the extent you seem to be suggesting.

    You do know, of course, that every police officer is in perpetual fear of being sued or prosecuted for any and everything? You do know, of course, that officers are routinely hung out to dry by their employers to avoid a whiff of a cover-up or controversy?

  12. M - good to hear that there are some decent PCs. Some hope, then.

    Anon, nothing is made up, nothing is distorted. I'll admit that over time, my increasing disappointment has made me less deferential, but I have tried to stay polite and bite my lip - if only out of self-interest.

    As for non-Police complaints, well I did take a pop at my ISP this week. Difference is, they are doing something about it.

    officers are routinely hung out to dry by their employers to avoid a whiff of a cover-up or controversy

    Which I agree is wholly wrong. Where there is a systemic problem - as I would say there is with our Police - the fault usually lies with the management. The answer is to sort them out, not keep on bashing the ones at the bottom.

  13. I have had similar inconsistent treatment from the police. Sometimes 1st rate, sometimes poor. But I find that's the same anywhere. With the exception of Currys who delivered us two washing machines instead of a washer /drier, giving them a 100% record for cockupiness.

  14. Mr Patently
    Could I enquire where my post went? One minute it was there and then it had gone. New to this posting game so might have done it wrong.

  15. My thoughts about the points you raised following police interactions. I think your main complaint which covers a lot of what you have said is that the police did not inform you about every thing single thing they have done or give you accurate information about where to voice your complaint.

    Noisy party

    A noise complaint is the responsibility of the local council. How do you know it was drug fuelled? How do you know you and your neighbour spoke to the same call taker. Unless they recorded every call in some searchable data base, which would be very time consuming the call takers would have no way of knowing what every call was about.

    Initial theft of your mothers handbag.

    No it is rare for thieves to be brazen enough to return to steal a car like this but what measures did you take to prevent the theft of the car, ie park another car behind it, remove working parts, or park the car somewhere else, perhaps in some ones garage.

    Subsequent theft of your mothers car

    Obviously related. Police wrong. If it was a modern car they can not be taken with out the keys.
    The death of your Father

    Perhaps a delay to allow you to calm down after a journey. Your perception, did they give you a ticket or were they making polite conversation at a particularly hard time. Perhaps you can offer advice as to what an officer should say to someone who has suffered bereavement. Training given is very limited in this area.

    Burglary at your Mothers neighbour.

    What action could police take other than checking on computer systems and local intelligence systems. If the vehicle is on false plates or not registered there is little that can be done, other than submit a report requesting other officers to be on the look out for it, and then stop and get details.

    vandalism to vehicles on my drive,

    With out witnesses what can police do? Or are you suggesting that the bottles be fingerprinted? Which as they are moveable objects will not provide proof of who committed the damage.

    Neighbours burglary

    Were the officers aware that there were 2 entrances? I imagine they cover a large area and can not be expected to know every street.

    Pulled over by unmarked car.

    Did you pull out in front of him yes or no? I am guessing so or he would not have bothered to stop you. I am inclined to think that you are saying he invited you out in that he flashed his head lights at you? Or did he drive over a bump or pot hole in the road that gave the impression that he flashed at you. That would be the very reason that flashing is not mentioned in the Highway code as a recognised form of traffic signal

    A fail to stop road accident the bill will be down to your insurance company and not the police. And again I ask what action could the police take with out witnesses to provide details of the driver or the vehicle. As per the highway code again the duty for a driver involved in a collisions to report it to the police within 24 hours and produce documents. So they gave a producer to do that which gives you 7 days to do so and as required to do so by the law informed you that failure to do so could lead to prosecution.

    Incident with speed camera van.

    Unfortunately for you your offence was caught on camera. Would you have admitted it if there was no evidence?

    Mothers speeding offences.

    Perhaps your mother needs to drive with due care and attention and obey the traffic signs.

    Assault and burglary

    No the decisions would have been made by the CPS.

  16. With regard to Gadget, don't take all the postings at face value - he is now editing some of them to reverse entirely what was said by the poster.

    And any attempted corrections are blocked or deleted.

  17. Sorry you've lost work, Mr F. Not my doing; I only delete spam and offensive stuff, nothing else.

    Anon - yes, I noticed a few of my comments disappearing. Ah well, his gaff(e).

  18. Hey P why did your reply to one of my points but not the other?

  19. Mr F - found it, Blogger thought it was spam for some reason. I've released it.

    Blue - thought your other point was a reply to Measured that pretty well closed the point?

  20. Mr F - have read your comment now.

    Yes, all of the individual instances can be explained (and I appreciate you taking the time to do so). None of them, individually, would have irritated me - and (indeed) none were a "turning point" at which my view changed.

    But all of the Officers involved showed either helplessness, rudeness, laziness, or downright lying. Each chipped away at the respect for the Police that was instilled in me as a boy. Each was another drip of disappointment.

    Some officers were clearly honest and committed, but evidently felt that they could achieve nothing. These I would not criticise personally, but my encounters with them still led me to regard the service as lacking.

    Other officers, such as the traffic officer, were clearly out to entrap. In case you're interested, I needed to pull out to overtake a slow JCB that was climbing a hill. Speeds were about 10-15mph and we were closing on the JCB quickly. There was a queue of traffic in lane 2, overtaking the JCB. I indicated, waited, and saw him drop back to open a space for me. So I moved into it. No impact happened. Nothing went wrong. But the blue lights came on and he pulled me over to discuss my "dangerous manoeuvre". I bit my tongue and "received advice".

    I will readily agree that, often, there is no evidence and nothing can be done (although that still leaves a sour taste). But then I see clear cases (such as the van and the burglary) that are not followed up. Next time the burglar strikes, the "no evidence" excuse will no doubt be used - but if he had been caught last time, the excuse would not be needed.

    So it is more of a gradual loss of respect, a steady drip of evidence that there are too many Officers that I cannot trust and too few that can achieve anything.

    So I shrug, give up, and raise an eyebrow when the Police complain that the public does not support them, that more funds are needed, and that more oppressive laws are the only way to ensure our safety.

  21. I'm afraid your perception of the police is much the same as mine and that of my friends.

    But we do have one sensible local bobby. He stopped a lady friend of ours as he had noticed that she was not wearing her seat belt when she stopped at our zebra crossing. He pulled her aside and asked if she was aware that she was breaking the law, and she agreed that she had been. Then he went on along the following lines "Do you know that if I book you for that, I'll have to take down all your details and then take an hour or so completing all the forms at the station. And I've been sent to keep an eye open for shoplifters and bag snatchers and I'm sure that you'd rather that I did that". She agreed that that was probably best so he concluded "If you promise me that you will do your best to remember to put your seat belt on in future, I'll get on with what I was sent to do". So she promised that she would, and being of an age where you try to keep promises, I'm sure she will.
    Far more effective, she now says "We have such a nice young policeman in the town these days" as distinct from what she might have been saying had he booked her. He may not meet his bookings target but at least he understands people and PR.
    And this was how it used to be when I was much younger.

  22. An excellent example of the difference between law enforcement, and policing.