Every Contact Leaves A Trace

Earlier this week the Daily Mail ran an article which claimed that more than 100 police officers take a whole year off work due to mental health issues. It stated that 1500 officers were absent every day for the same reasons.

I refuse to provide a link because I despise the paper and everything it writes but, in fairness, apart from some unnecessary CAPITALISATION, the article itself did not pass judgement. It allowed commentary from the Federation but resisted the temptation to use evocative language like “excuses” and “sickies” as it has done in the past.  Read More…

We Need To Talk About Guns

A few months ago the media in Scotland was full of glaring headlines making an issue about armed police officers being seen, carrying sidearms, in places such as shops or walking from one place to another. Usually focussing on the officers having the audacity to go and buy something to eat or similar.

The outrage seemed to be limited to a few politicians and newspapers as the vast majority of people actually spoken to took a far more pragmatic view.  Read More…

Never Say Never 

Here are some words I really didn’t think I would ever say “I am going to attempt to get a degree.”

Yes – I know. Read More…

The Man in the Hole – a personal blog on Depression

Depression is a hideous illness. If I had a virus or a fever I could take medication, allow it to do its thing, and expect to get better in a few days time.

I would see the symptoms. I might be hot, cold, shivering – my body would be showing me it was not right. To the rest of the world it would also be pretty obvious that I was poorly. No doubt this would lead to sympathy from those closest to me – even platitudes from acquaintances but either way – someone would feel the need to express their concern for my well-being and hope I “get well soon.” Read More…

Back To School – Part 3 

This weekend saw me return to Canterbury for the second official study weekend of my two year course. The main difference this time is that I have actually done something towards achieving the end goal. 

That something has largely consisted of reading and highlighting followed by extended periods of reading and highlighting. The purpose of this is to work toward a literature review which explores my chosen subject area and highlights gaps which need answers.

As I am doing an MSc by Research I can chose my own subject area to explore. That’s why I opted for this course. I didn’t want to be restricted to modules and covering things I wasn’t interested in. 

I was originally going to look at wellbeing within the police service but when I stared reading up on it a few months back I very quickly discovered it was data heavy and quite dry. As passionate as I am about supporting colleagues I felt that there was no way I could sustain such an interest for two years if I was already struggling after two weeks. It was time to think again.

Over the course of the following couple of days I was at work and became engaged in a series of lengthy and animated conversations about policing and its role in mental health crises. It dawned on me that, actually, this is a subject I already know something about and it is probably the one area of work which I am most passionate about. In terms of a research subject, I would be a fool to look elsewhere. 

It is then a question of finding out what needs to be asked and reading to see if it has already been answered. If it has – is it right? If it hasn’t – it’s a gap. 

And so I got my hands on as many academic papers and reports as I could on the subjects of police, mental health crises, use of Section 136, street triage, violence, deinstitutionalisation, partnership working between agencies involved in MH and anything which fell out of those reports. 

Having poured over them and analysed them I was left with a lot of questions. A lot of questions. But they all kept coming back to one thing – why are the police so heavily involved in the first place? Leading from that is the question – and how do service users feel about police being involved so heavily in what is ultimately a health matter? In all the research – no one has asked them directly. 

From this I developed the question “why the police?” and I was quite happy with it. 

Then I came to Canterbury for the weekend. 

On the evening of Friday night I had a long, lovely and very challenging conversation with a very knowledgable member of university staff. We spent a lot of that conversation asking each other “why?” about a lot of things. 

I loved the entire thing but at times I was right out of my comfort zone and thinking hard. Which was good. All good. Until it was pointed out to me that the answer to my question “why the police?” is probably already known. 

This sent me into a bit of a mental tailspin. I’ve been reading for ages. I have even used a highlighter! I had written a thematic plan of how the literature review might look and the areas I wanted to cover. Was this all to waste and if so – what the hell was I doing at university in the first place? 

I stress that this was down to my own insecurities and hang-ups and the conversation I had with my new found friend was nothing but positive, constructive and enjoyable. I’m just not used to being challenged like that. In some respects it was awesome – in others I thought I might be drowning.

And so I retired to my hotel thinking “I can’t do this.” I am such a catastrophiser. 

I enjoyed the following days lectures and picked up some new tricks, tactics and reading material but was really waiting for my tutorial at lunchtime. I needed to close this down. 

When I met with Emma (Williams) I said how I felt. I can be direct like that – sometimes too much. I told Emma how much I had read, what I had read and how I had linked things together. I showed her my written plan and I swear I saw her eyes light up in delight. Having had no prior training or experience in any of this I was pleased to be reassured that I was, albeit instinctively, doing exactly the right thing. 

Then we came to the issue of whether I could carry on with it as a subject given that the answer to my original question was probably already known. (The answer to “why the police?” by the way is “because no one else can / will / is set up to.”) 

This was one of those moments when you are always pleased to speak to someone who is much better at something than you are. Within twenty seconds Emma had spun it and we had rephrased the question. 

Without losing any of the work already done and by using my findings in exactly the same way it can be used to ask something which isn’t really covered in the literature to date. 

Most of it – particularly more recent stuff – particulary around triage – simply takes for granted that the police have a role (an ever expanding role) in dealing with mental health issues and that things should be rolled out further. 

There is a fundamental issue with this assumption which has not been addressed. 

I am therefore very pleased to announce that the provisional working title of my research will be:

Are the police the right people to be dealing with mental health incidents?

Thank you to Emma for the reassurance and support and thank you to my new friend (you know who you are) for such a challenging, enjoyable and thought provoking conversation. 

Record – Rewind – Replay 

This week has seen the first police related shooting in a while. The news is already filled with accusations which neither the IPCC nor the police can yet comment on. 

The only way to refute such allegations is with clear hard evidence. Little is better than recorded moving images but it seems as though these will not be available in this case. 

In this guest blog, serving officer @PFM1972 shares his thoughts on whether body worn video is the only option. 

11 years ago I was an AFO and wore a head mounted body worn video camera which linked by a wire to a hard drive, carried inside my body armour. It was a great piece of kit for the time and recorded everything very well. 

Since then Body Worn Video has become the next big thing in Policing to show what exactly happens during “contentious”, or not so contentious, events involving Policing. I am a fan of it and want all officers in uniform, or not, to wear it and use it as much as possible. It will show the fantastic and difficult work we all do at very challenging times. 

This leads me to the recent events in West Yorkshire. I’m an ex firearms officer, having served in London and Lancashire. I, therefore, have experience and understanding of the kind of operation these officers were engaged in. 

The question has arisen about BWV and the fact no officers were wearing any during this shooting. This is perfectly acceptable given the covert role the officers were performing. But in operations such as this, why does the camera have to be “body worn”….why aren’t/weren’t the vehicles equipped with cameras? 

Technology has progressed so far that the cars could be fitted with very small cameras facing forward, or even a fisheye lens. This could, would and should support the version of events given at a post incident de-brief. 

To not have them these days, and I know one Twitter commentator who will say “I told you so…” is tantamount to some eyes as a cover up. I don’t go anywhere near that far, however I do think we shouldn’t be afraid of the cameras, what they record and show and get them installed and in use for both covert and overt operations, such as the incident in West Yorkshire. 

I have footage of a Taser deployment, which I recorded using my device several years ago now. I also have an email from the then head (a Chief Supt) of our professional standards department, who watched the footage and described it as a text book deployment and that the footage was excellent in discounting immediately any misconduct. 

The on duty Force Incident Commander at the time and the firearms tactical adviser on the day both watched the footage and were amazed at the clarity and evidential value of the camera. That video has subsequently been used in training across the U.K. and mentioned in the original Body Worn Video Guidance issued by the then NPIA. 

So my final plea is this….let’s get our cars, our officers and any other staff who want it issued with BWV or covert cameras so we don’t have to listen to anyone else accuse us of a cover up by not wearing or having them available/in use on firearms or other operations. 

Christmas in Uniform

My first Christmas in uniform was in 1994. I honestly thought it would be like that last day of primary school term when you used to be able to take toys and games in and do no lessons. It wasn’t.
I worked a late shift and I don’t think I stopped from the second I walked through the door until way past when I should have finished. 

It was an endless stream of calls. Mostly family or domestic disputes when people who didn’t often spend too long together were confined in four small walls with too much alcohol. Tongues would wag, secrets would come out, truths told and long held resentments aired. Violence would follow and my enduring memory is of rolling around in the gutter trying to pull a very angry man off his equally angry aunt. 

I was horrified. 

The early shift had had a constant stream of burglaries to attend and I remember wondering where the season of goodwill to all men had gone. 

The following year was no better. This was back in the days before working time regulations and we used to work a double-back shift which meant working a full night shift and then coming back in at 2pm the same afternoon to work a late. 

Night Christmas Eve – Late Christmas Day. 

That night I arrested someone for throwing a bin through the window of Fosters menswear. I had followed him from a distance for a while sensing he might be up to something. 

He was still in custody when I came back in that afternoon and with the alcohol having worn off him it was me who interviewed him. There was no reason for this act of stupidity other than alcohol. 

Make no mistake – Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are busy for the police and other emergency services. Busy busy.

I’ve dealt with all sorts ranging from that criminal damage right up to and including murders. 

And as for New Years Eve – well – that remains the busiest day of the year. It never fails to kick off in some way but usually not before midnight. After midnight anything goes. 

One year it started a couple of minutes after the clock struck 12 with a burglary in progress where a few were arrested. Within minutes there was a serious fight at a local club which ended up with a GBH and a scene. The calls kept coming in. Then there was the rape allegation and then the fatal road collision. All before 5 am. 

By the time the rave was reported I looked at my beleaguered team – and the late shift who were still on duty – did a head count of who wasn’t committed or contaminated and said “let the rave run.”

There was nothing we could do about it. That was going to be early tours mission. 

Christmas is supposed to be a happy time but any officer will tell you we see a spike in incidents of suicide or attempts. 

One year we had so many in one week over Christmas that I, as the Inspector, decided my team had seen enough and I went to deal with the next ones that came in. 

I am sure that any officer you chose to speak to could tell you their own stories of just how unlike Christmas Christmas can be when you work for the police. 

It is genuinely something that most people will never see and will possibly never comprehend. 

And as I say, it’s not just the police. The ambulance service and NHS get a caning as well. The fire service too. Others will be defending our way of life on bases and in places many miles from home. All deserve our thanks and support. 

It really does make you see Christmas very differently and it can stick with you forever. I can’t not think of many of the incidents I have had to deal with at this time of year. 

So – my  Christmas message is to ask you to think about ALL those who are working in uniform over the Festive Period. It’s going to be tough because it always is. 

These folk will be providing vital public services, saving lives and doing good and protecting us whilst we are likely to be enjoying ourselves. Many kids won’t see much of mum or dad on Christmas Day. Sure, they get used to it but it’s not the point is it. 

It isn’t my turn this year. I worked all over Christmas last year and it just so happens that my rest days fall on the right days this time. 

So – to whoever you are and whatever shift you are working over Christmas I would like to simply say “thank you.”

I hope it passes as peacefully and without incident as it possibly can and that you can enjoy time with your nearest and dearest soon afterwards. 

And finally – to you all – thank you for reading my blogs and tweets this year. Thank you for your company and friendship and I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. 


Wrong People – Wrong Time 

The ever wonderful Mental Health Cop wrote a thought provoking blog yesterday on the subject of welfare checks (safe and well checks.)

To the uninitiated this is the broad title given to calls to the police asking them to… check the welfare of an individual. Sometimes these calls come from the public in response to someone they are unable to contact but a lot – an awful lot – are generated by other agencies. Read More…

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