Absence management meetings.

Absence management meetings. I ended up at a few of them over the years. What a fucking joke they were. My absence record was not great, with back problems, a heart condition and the stress the job caused me. So, I kept on triggering absence management meetings, where management was supposed to ensure I was OK and if there was anything the job could do to help.

I quickly realised that they were designed to bully and the best way to stop that was to take someone else with me. Even then, there would still be a level of intimidation by management just making sure they outnumbered us.

One meeting was myself, my wife and five others from HR and the Division. That was a crammed room. The next meeting triggered purely because I had been off three times in a year, which included a minor road accident that put me off work for a few days, my wife and I were asked if we had any martial problems. That was just embarrassing and my wife was furious.

I then switched to taking someone with me who I described as my “advisor”. He was in someone I knew, who after a night in the pub said he would like to come along and see what the job was like. He did have some experience, being a manager himself he had conducted many absence management meetings at his old work.

The first meeting he came to, was made up of the two of us, a Chief Inspector, Occupational Health and someone from HR. My “advisor” asked the HR rep why she was at the meeting, to which she replied, “I only got a phone call this morning and know nothing about the background”. She was clearly there to make up numbers. That meeting soon ground to a halt as the Chief Inspector struggled to answer my advisor’s questions. It was hard not to laugh.

My final absence management meeting, in the run up to me leaving with early retirement, I could not get my “advisor”, so instead I took someone I had met through an NHS/local council advisory service which offered assistance to people who need help with work problems. You can find such services if you search return to work advice and your local council or fit for work Scotland.

By now work had sussed what I was doing and that last meeting basically involved my advisor telling a Chief Inspector and lady from HR what they needed to do and they did it.

I would highly recommend that for all absence management meetings, you take someone from out with the job. In my experience, it forces management to behave themselves and cut out the bullying tactics.

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My crimes, part 2, the easiest crime to detect.

In the very early 1990s when I was still a probationary constable in a Scottish
police force, I was based in a small, picturesque seaside town, popular with
tourists from all over the world. Normally there was little crime to deal with,
so imagine the shock when an American, who was cycling from Lands End to John o’Groats, had his bicycle along with all of his possessions stolen.

More or less the entire office (OK, about 5 of us) were now on the case and we
had to find the bicycle. But, as the day dragged on, nothing. Despite much
assistance from the public, we were not able to apprehend anyone or find the
bicycle (it was never traced or who took it found out). It was now evening and
the penniless American was having to face ending his dream trip and sort out money and new passport etc.

Enter the Chief Inspector, the officer in charge, whose nickname was the
chocolate fireguard, as that was how much use he was. He had been away that day and was oblivious to what had happened. He was a bit nonplussed when he found an American in his office phoning the USA to arrange the transfer of money.
When it was explained to him what had happened, instead of showing
understanding and sympathy, he demanded that the Sergeant find out how much the various phone calls the tourist had made had cost and then once his money had arrived, present him with a bill for those calls.

This, of course, made the rest of us very angry and at the end of the shift, we
hit the pub. It made the Sergeant so angry, I saw him as he tore a telephone
directory in half. That was when telephone directories were very big and so was the Sergeant.

The next day, back on duty and I was presented with a more mundane crime report to investigate. During the night four windows in the police store had been broken. This was more bad news for the Chief Inspector, who having recouped the money for the phone calls, now faced a bill from the local glazier to fix the windows.

It was also bad news for me. There was going to be no problem in finding out
who had broken the windows. Since it was me who had committed the crime.

My walk home from the pub took me past the police store and in a moment of
madness, I decided the Chief Inspector should face a bill and it would be to
repair some broken windows.

I had been careful to make sure no one was around and there was nobody who could have seen what happened. But I was very nervous when I had to knock on some doors nearby and ask the occupier if they had possibly heard or seen someone the night before. Just in case one had said, yes, I saw you. Thankfully no one did, so the crime went undetected and the crime report was filed.

The easiest crime to detect, is one you committed yourself.

My crimes, part 1, a lucky escape.

My lucky escape from getting a conviction before I joined the police, was when I helping friends move to a new house. I was shuttling backwards and forwards, filling up his mother’s estate car, transporting it and then going back for another load.

They had a lot of large pot plants which were kept in a big bay window. I was a student then, so I recognised a cannabis plant when I saw one. It was huge, a good 4 foot high, but not noticeable amongst all the other plants.

Just as I was carrying it out the house to the car, a police car drove past. I remember seeing that it was an older male cop driving and the passenger was a much younger female. She clearly saw me and the plant and I could see the look of amazement on her face.

The road was very narrow and the police car was going the opposite way I was heading. I threw the plant in the boot and drove off, leaving the house door open! I could see in the rear-view mirror that the police car had kept going and would not be able to turn around until I was out of sight.

I made it to my friend’s new house and then sent him back to get the last load and to shut the house door. Thankfully he reported no sign of the police when he returned.

It was a lucky escape, since if the police had reacted quicker, I would have probably ended up with a Misuse of Drugs Act conviction.

Corroboration.

Corroboration is the need to have two independent sources of evidence. It is a feature of Scots Law and it is why the police in Scotland usually patrol in pairs with a “neighbour”. Two witnesses are needed to provide proof. There are a few exceptions to that rule, such as only one witness is needed to prove a disqualified driver was driving a vehicle. But in the vast majority of instances, two are needed, not just as witnesses, but to arrest and charge.

But, large areas of Scotland are rural and much of that is covered by just one cop based at a “single manned station”. So, how does a cop on his, or her own cope without a “neighbour”? The answer is with the assistance of the public, Special Constables and even spouses.

I worked alone on various islands and was the Chief Constable of a single manned station. If needed at the office, which was part of the house, my wife would act as corroboration.

If I had something pre planned, I could arrange to meet another cop or a Special Constable.

It got interesting when things happened in the there and then and I needed corroboration in an ongoing situation. I used a farmer and a vet as corroboration in a sheep worrying case. Some 20 sheep had been ripped to shreds by two dogs whose owner had left them alone overnight and they had escaped.

One on trip to an island I was chatting to another ferry passenger who commented he was a Special Constable. He assisted with corroboration after a hit and run road accident.

After a call out to an attempt murder, I had to get assistance from the least drunk witness to track down and detain the suspect. The local district nurse did a fine job as crime scene manager, keeping the other locals away from the locus. Everything was sorted by the time assistance had arrived from the local town.

If there was a particular event, often the annual big ceilidh or agricultural show, another cop to neighbour up with would appear for the day or weekend. When a Royal visited one of the islands, it was not so much her that the locals remarked on, it was the huge number of police and especially the motorcycle cops that she came, with which drew attention. An island that usually had just the one cop, occasionally two, suddenly had over a dozen.

Arrests and detentions without corroboration is possible and sometimes unavoidable. But as soon as possible, corroboration is needed to formally give the person his/her rights and go through the formalities. I had one police car that had a back seat made of plastic and a screen to protect the driver, to act as a mini cell. But it got super-heated even in mild weather due to the lack of ventilation. So, a prisoner would just sit next to me on the passenger seat. The key was to calm people down and get their cooperation in being arrested.

I was at one of the police treatment centres for a few weeks, after suffering from back problems. There were some cops from the then RUC having a break from The Troubles. Normally, they got a lot of questions from us about what it was like to have to work in Northern Ireland. When one of them found out I worked alone, I ended up the one getting quizzed, as it seemed amazing to them it was possible to police somewhere alone.

 

Child porn.

Thankfully, child porn was a crime I never had to deal with. Hats off to those who do, it must be a heart-breaking job. My introduction to that horrible, murky, despicable world, was at Tulliallan, when we were taught the various sections of  the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982. Amongst the innocuous crimes of urinating in the street, dog fouling and annoyingly played musical instruments, were crimes regarding the indecent images of children.

The offences involved taking, distributing or possessing photos or “pseudo-photos” of children. It was so odd having that lumped in with other crimes that were just annoyances. It was as if child porn was a bit of a nuisance, along with people blocking the pavement.

I found it very disturbing and frankly unnecessary that we were shown various child porn images during the lesson. I doubt anyone in the class had not seen porn and so obviously if the person in the image was under 18, according to the law, that was a crime.

I found it even more incredible that child porn images were left in the classroom so we could look at them if we wished and I was stunned at how many took the opportunity, after lessons had ended to go and look. Maybe that says more about me than the others, but I found it very creepy.

With the arrival of the internet, the legislation had to be and has since been updated. It was made far more robust and child grooming was included. How the internet would change things was vividly brought home one muster by an Inspector, who was the first person I knew who went online. He told us about how the previous night, his daughter had asked for a photo of an elephant for a project. So, he found one and started to download it. This being the early days, it slowly appeared, line by line and he went to make a coffee. He then heard his daughter screaming, shot back to the computer and found that the image was not an elephant, but a horse, with a lady sucking its cock.

Years later, back at Tulliallan I was on a crime prevention course. We were given a lesson in online grooming and shown a chat room. The instructor then went live and posed as a young girl. It was staggering how quickly “she” was being propositioned. It got even more shocking a message popped up commenting on the “girls” taste in music. It expressed surprise that a 12-year-old liked Fleetwood Mac.

The instructor posted a quick message to say “she” was in her dad’s computer and then he pulled the plug, literally. It was his own music file! The instructor’s own laptop had been hacked, there and then!

Again, move on a few years more and I did a bit of work with the local Offender Management Unit. I was just helping with housing checks and tidying of files, but I got to sit in with the morning meetings. Again, hats off to theses guys and the work they had to do. They were visiting, checking and monitoring child sex (and other offenders) who had finished their prison terms. Some had been banned from processing or accessing any form of electronic equipment that they could use to get online. The checking that had to be done to ensure the offender was complying with the restriction was phenomenal. It was really hard work that team did and they did it very well indeed.

Jump forward again to after I retired. Suddenly, unexpectedly and sickeningly, within the space of a few weeks, two cops I had worked with, one of whom I had known well, both appeared in the news for possessing child porn. I will never get over how anyone, especially cops who see victims every day and know this is not a victimless crime, can do that to another human being, especially a child.

Pitt St no more.

I was out last night in Glasgow for a concert and saw this;

Pitt St no more

The demolition of Pitt St has commenced. Soon the police sign I use as the Roger the Policeman banner will be gone.

Thankfully, I never worked there. “Cowards Castle”, “The Ivory Tower”. It was where I had my joining interviews and tests, where I got promoted, where I took surrendered firearms and got a report I had compiled for HMICS printed and bound. I visited the Control Room,  and took school pupils to see the superb museum. I transported numerous productions to the Forensics Lab for examination and got see fingerprinting using superglue for one urgent enquiry.

I got lost more than once trying to find my way around. I got ignored by people who had been friendly when they had been the same rank as me, but stopped after they had been promoted and given their own office. I remember how the force forum went into melt down when it was suggested that the canteen was going to be closed down. How were all those people in the centre of Glasgow, surrounded by cafes and shops, going to get fed if they closed the canteen?! I remember how tight the underground car park was and how we had to phone ahead to book a space. I even know someone who went there to learn how to type, when it was a college before it became the police HQ for Strathclyde.

Some will miss it, I suspect most will not. It was a pain to get to and always a relief to leave.

Vandalising police vehicles.

I cannot remember how often police vehicles got vandalised during my career, it happened so often. My first experience was of coins thrown at the patrol van as it passed by the town’s spilling night club. One office I worked out of had regular attacks on parked vehicles, including cop’s own cars. Usually paint was thrown over vehicles or they were scratched.

There was a small shopping centre in a concrete jungle housing estate where a gang had taken up residence. More often than not if we left the car, we would come back to a smashed headlight, no wipers or a bashed wing mirror. It got to the point we had to go three up to any calls there, as one of us had to stay with the patrol car.

https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/local/dundee/816283/huge-repair-bill-for-vandalised-police-cars-in-tayside/

“Police in Tayside have forked out nearly £27,000 to repair vandalised squad cars in the last three years.

Figures released in response to a Freedom of Information request revealed a total of 24 vandal attacks between 2016 and the end of 2018.

Six of the incidents happened while the cars were parked outside Tayside Division’s headquarters in West Bell Street in Dundee.

Together these incidents caused nearly £1,000 worth of damage.”

I did not work in an office that had secure parking to protect police and cop’s own vehicles. I had a wing mirror broken whilst my car was parked in Glasgow, attending a course at the old police college in Oxford St in the Gorbals. There was a whole load of cars vandalised whilst parked in the “walled garden” at the police college at Tulliallan, when I was at a course there. That was odd, as it was in the middle of nowhere.

CCTV was installed at that carpark. Maybe CCTV/dash cameras in the police cars would help deter attacks, but CCTV’s effectiveness as a deterrent is over stated. Plus, there are just not enough cops on the street to allow one to stay and protect the vehicles at calls. I am afraid vandalism is a very hard crime to deal with.

 

Boring.

There is a lot of policing that is frankly boring. The following are some examples of things I found deathly dull and tedious;

  • Prisoner watches. Hours of tedium, usually watching someone sleep.
  • Form 4.4.2. Filling out the road accident form for minor bumps just so insurance companies could get some details.
  • Counting money found on prisoners and during house searches. My record was around £30,000 which took hours to do.
  • Hours standing outside night clubs as they spilled, watching drunks trying to couple up if they had not already managed to inside the club.
  • Guarding crime scenes, insecure buildings etc. Often stood outside in the dark and in the rain. The job was notoriously bad at organising proper shelter and sustenance. I was once presented with a roast diner by a kindly householder, having stood for hours at a murder scene.
  • Prisoner transports, it was great to stop having to do that. I worked in a small rural town and it was 5 hours return journey to the nearest prison.
  • Surveillance work. Hours of watching houses, worried that you would miss something that lasted for seconds.
  • Processing forms, doing the same checks time and time again for things like taxi licences and referrals for the Social Work.

They do not show any of that in recruitment videos.

Police driver.

One of the things I enjoyed about the job was driving lots of different vehicles. I wasn’t in traffic, sorry, roads policing having been put off by a 110mph drive in a Ford Granada 2.8 that was trying to shake itself to bits.

I was happy to be driven in, rather than drive the Vauxhall Senator 3.0 and various Volvo 850s and BMWs traffic had the various times I went out with them.

This will give away my age a bit, my driving course was in an Austin Montego 1.6 saloon. I was lucky as I only had just over a years’ service and got a driving course. That meant tours on various island stations, one of which had a Land Rover a Perkins Diesel of either 3 or 4 litres. It felt like it would go anywhere, till it didn’t and I got so stuck in a bog I had to climb out the sliding window to go and get a tow.

It was replaced with a Peugeot 309 which had a Perspex window between driver and the passengers and a back seat which was made of plastic. It was supposed to mean we were safe from any prisoner. It actually meant in even warm weather, it was like driving an oven. When body armour became compulsory, all police vehicles had to have air conditioning.

Back then the vans were Leyland Sherpa’s and they were shit. When Ford transits arrived, they were much better. Those vans all had two seats up front with a door into the back which was wood lined and two fixed bench seats down each side. Great for all sorts of homers. The modern vans with the cage for prisoners and extra seating up front are not so much fun and useless for picking up stuff. Even found bicycles can be a problem. A previous job prior to joining the police involved driving a van, so I was quite used to them.

The switch from petrol to diesel was treated with a big groan, till it was realised the low-down grunt of the diesel meant they were just as quick. The main problem was accidental mis-fuelling, which I did once. My defence was that the receipt I was given said diesel, but I had somehow managed to fill it with petrol.

My favourite police vehicle was the Land Rover, the second of which had a 5-cylinder engine which sounded awesome. I also liked the Peugeot 405 estate I had for a while, which came to me brand new and is still the best riding car I have ever driven.

Then there was the member of the public’s cars we got to drive which for one reason of another. An arrest for a hotel board and lodgings fraud meant I got to drive a beautiful Fiat Mirafiori, which is still the only time I have driven a left-hand drive.

Being of a certain age also meant lots of driving mini-buses, or the “Boogy Bus” as it was called when patrolling the pubs and clubs of a weekend, full of cops. The younger cops did not have the D1 category for driving anything up to 16 passengers.

I managed to get away with only one reprimand during my driving career and I was not even the driver.  It was for not assisting a reverse which resulted in a collision with a skip. That was to save the driver from being charged with a Section 3 RTA, as it happened in a massive car park, that only a had the skip in it.

If I miss one thing about the job, it is being able to stick on blue lights and go for it!

Police complaint investigations are far too slow.

It is no wonder the Scottish Police Authority now hide details of how many police officers in Scotland are on restricted duties or suspension. If this was more commonly known, Police Scotland and the SPA would have to act and speed up the disciplinary process.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-46974580

“Police officers in England have been “stressed” by long-term suspensions as misconduct inquiries costing forces at least £13m are carried out.

An officer from Devon and Cornwall said she attempted to take her own life while suspended for 1,231 days.”

The last time the SPA published figures was August 2016. Since then, they are kept hidden. The reason why is that the last report had 116 officers on restricted duties, with 27 of them for more than 700 days or just shy of 2 years. There were another 12 officers suspended, but no time was given for how long they had been off work.

http://www.spa.police.uk/assets/126884/182288/357612/suspended

http://www.spa.police.uk/assets/126884/182288/357612/restricted

It is a national scandal that the police take so long to investigate complaints against themselves and each Chief Constable should be required to explain why they take so long. I suspect each case sits for weeks on end with no one doing anything about it at all. I suspect those tasked with the investigations are often not up to the job. They like the rank and power that comes with being in Professional Standards, but they lack the confidence and ability to conclude investigations. They priority is not justice or fairness, it is what they can get away with to try and preserve the supposed good name of Police Scotland.

The ones who really need investigation are the investigators themselves.