One Rule For Them And Another For Us

So here I am sat in a hotel on the outskirts of Derby, what better than write something for my reader, good evening.

I was minding my own business today when I came across a post from Police Oracle regarding Nick Gargan’s impending discipline hearing, that should have kicked off about a week ago.

It seems like Disclosure Issues can be sorted if you’re a Chief Constable

The original hearing was meant to take place in April but was delayed to address ‘disclosure issues’
A chief constable facing allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards female members of staff will face misconduct proceedings in June.

The original hearing for suspended Avon and Somerset Chief Constable Nick Gargan was set to take place on April 20, but was delayed when it became apparent that disclosure issues needed to be addressed.

At a preliminary hearing held on April 24, the chair of the misconduct panel Dorian Lovell-Pank QC listened to representations about whether some documents could be disclosed and made the necessary directions to the legal teams.

The date for the full hearing has now been set for June 29, with the chair stating 10 days should be set aside for the full case to be heard.

HMI Wendy Williams and independent member John Rickard will hear the case and provide their findings in a report to Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens to help inform her decision on the outcome of the proceedings.

Ms Mountstevens said earlier this year that she had hoped to hold the hearing in January or February but had faced delays including finding a convenient date for all of the panel to meet and CC Gargan requesting an extenstion to the deadline by which he had to provide a response to the allegations he faced. 

A consultation was held over whether to hold the hearing in public, but this was ultimately decided against.
CC Gargan was suspended in May 2014. 

Courtesy Police Oracle

My first thought was around the Disclosure issues. I’m pretty certain that we can all quote a few cases where abuse of the Disclosure rules has been an issue, not resolved, and ultimately led to resentment, and allegedly, sometimes a perverse verdict.

Secondly it was pointed out that it had been decided to hold the hearing in private, despite new rules which came into place on 1st May stating that Discipline HeRings would now be held in public unless “it was inappropriate to do so”.  A second example of Double Standards? Or maybe it truly was inappropriate, although I can think of thousands of Criminal cases of a similar nature that are most definitely held in public.

Finally, an absolute lulu came to me.

HMI Wendy Williams and independent member John Rickard will hear the case and provide their findings in a report to Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens to help inform her decision on the outcome of the proceedings.”  Why is Sue Mounstevens having anything to do with this enquiry, let alone be involved in the decision-making after this;

Sue Mountstevens apologises after telling Chief Constable Nick Gargan the name of a whistle-blower who complained about him 

Ms Mounstevens was investigated and found to have committed a “Serious Error of Judgement” for which she later apologised to the alleged victim.

So how can she now still be involved in the discipline process?  I’m obviously getting too old for this malarkey, I just don’t get it.

So there you have it, Double Standards or not, this does NOTHING for Public Confidence and Transparency, in short supply in Avon and Somerset it seems.

I’m certainly no fan of Mr Gargan but I am a fan of Fair Play, so Sue, if you can tell me how this constitutes Fair Play I promise to post your reply unedited.

Social Media Is Not Without Its Risks

The dust hasn’t even settled on the James Patrick situation.  We haven’t heard the last of that yet

Now we have another absolute travesty of justice (justice?) or so it would seem.

It seems as though the wrong man has been sacked for being a Twitter user.

I’m not familiar with either of the Account Holders, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored.

If the blog STOP STIGMA is to be believed, an Avon and Somerset Police Officer has been sacked for being Twitter User @TheBritishCop.

I don’t know the true identity of either person, nor if they are even known to each other, but I suspect not.

The full story, together with various links, can be found on the above blog.  The main problem, however, is that the Professional Standards Department of Avon and Somerset Police have allegedly conducted a disciplinary hearing and ignored the fact that the officer was not the correct one.

The head of A&S Professional Standards has allegedly been in communication with @TheBritishCop (who maintains that he is NEITHER this officer, nor even a member of Avon and Somerset Constabulary, but has for some reason omitted this vital piece of information from the disciplinary files.

If this is true then this is clearly an unacceptable situation.  Professional Standards Departments should behave in exactly that manner – PROFESSIONALLY.  They do nothing for the confidence of public or their officers if they, themselves, deviate from the straight and narrow.

Then today I find myself contacted by an officer from the Western bit of the UK who tells me that he’s under investigation AGAIN for his use of Twitter.  I have no idea what the specific issue is there but it’s making a bit of a nonsense of Police use of Twitter & other Social Media.  To be effective (in my opinion) a Twitter/SM account needs to be balanced between humourous and professional. If it’s too dry and stuffy people will disengage, but neither should it be discreditable in any way.

The Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police recently made much of his Force being awarded a Gold Award by Investors in People.  How does that fit with (allegedly) sacking the wrong person.  Sacking has huge repercussions for the person being sacked, even when it’s the right person.  Imagine the effect if/when it’s the wrong person.

I implore Avon and Somerset to either justify their actions and convince us that they’ve actually disciplined and sacked the right person, or re-examine this case as a matter of urgency.  One way or the other it can’t be left hanging there, and public confidence needs to be restored before too much damage is caused. It’s out there, there’s nothing you can do about that.

Finally, I do think there’s a moral obligation on @TheBritishCop to put this right, but I also understand how he/she probably fears the same fate awaits him/her if reported to his/her Force, assuming he/she really is a cop.

Dear Mr Gargan……

It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote this blog concerning your recent receipt of a Gold Award from Investors in People.

Today, I read in the news that ‘Significant Cuts’ were coming to the officers of Avon and Somerset Police.  You have been quoted as saying that “seven in 10 officers could have a new role”.   “We used to be a force of 3,350 people. Now we’re something over 2,800. Today’s announcement and the changes next year will take us down below 2,800.

According to HMIC your target establishment for 2015 under the HMIC Policing in Austerity plan is 2,900.  Your Policing Strength is already LOWER than you need to achieve by 2015 and now you’re predicting/planning further losses. How on earth is this Investing in People? It sounds rather hypocritical to me, but I’m just a retired officer who obviously understands nothing.

Please feel free to explain to us all how you are a) Investing in People and b) ensuring the safety of your communities.

Thank you

As Avon and Somerset Police kindly responded to me, informing me that there would be further update released at 3pm, it’s only right and proper to bring that uodate to you;

Avon and Somerset Police has outlined its plans to save £8 million which could include closing the police station in Bath.

The cost-saving measures will also see the loss of 134 police officers across the region, which would be 61 PCs and the rest coming from every rank up to and including chief superintendent.

Chief Constable Nick Gargan said this was 100 fewer PCs than they initially thought they would have to lose and commended the team behind the review for coming up with the most effective and efficient ways of saving money.

Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens has promised to scrutinise the proposal and ask “the questions that local people will want answered”.

Avon and Somerset in Numbers

2763 – Police officers across the force.
134 – Number of police officer posts axed (61 PCs).
9 – Increase in number of police staff.
9 – Custody suites to close.
0 – PCSO posts to go.
1.99% – proposed council tax precept rise.

Sorry Mr Gargan, I still don’t get it, how is this Investing in People? Which people?

A Gold Star For Avon & Somerset

I mentioned in a recent blog that the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset, Mr Nick Gargan QPM, had been publicising on Twitter the fact that his force had been awarded a Gold Achievement Award by Investors in People.

This got me thinking, because I normally associate awards such as that with business, and the Police Service should not be regarded as a business, but that’s another blog for another day.

Why Avon and Somerset?  Why aren’t all the Police Forces queueing up to get one of these awards? Are they really worth the paper they’re printed on?

So I took out my trusty quill and scratched out an #FOI request to Avon and Somerset, asking the following questions;

I saw on Twitter recently that your Chief Constable announced that Avon and Somerset Constabulary had been awarded the Investors in People Gold Award.

Under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act I would ask you to supply me with the following information specifically in relation to the Gold accreditation (I am aware that you achieved Silver Status in 2012, but I am not requesting any info re that achievement)

a) How many Police Officers were interviewed as part of this accreditation and how many of each rank interviewed please? I am not requesting names or any other identifying features.

b) How many Support Staff were interviewed as part of the accreditation process and how many of each grade interviewed please? Again I am not requesting names or any other identifying feature.

c) What was the TOTAL cost to Avon and Somerset Constabulary paid to Investors in People for this accreditation?

Well, surprise, surprise, they eventually answered every question.

How many Police Officers were interviewed? – The Gold Investors in People assessment was a follow up to the previous assessment where we achieved Silver status.  The assessors reviewed specific area’s as part of the Gold assessment, and therefore a smaller number of staff and officers were interviewed.

Our records show that 37 police officers were interviews as part of the process. The number of each rank  interviewed is as follows:

Rank                                        Total
Constable                                    25
Sergeant                                       2
Inspector                                       4
Chief Inspector                              2
Chief Superintendent                    3
CC                                                 1
TOTAL                                          37

How many Support Staff? – Our records show that 59 members of staff were interviews as part of the process. The number of each role interviewed is as follows:

Grade                                           Total
Scale 3                                           5
Scale 4                                           13
Scale 5                                           4
Scale 6                                           7
Senior Officer (SO)                        12
Principle Officer (PO) and             18
TOTAL                                           59

What was the TOTAL cost to Avon and Somerset Constabulary? – As of the date this request was made, Avon and Somerset Constabulary have not as yet made any payments to Investors in People for this accreditation, however the cost is approximately £10,000.

So, let’s crunch some numbers;

Total number of Police Officers in Avon & Somerset is 2,873. 37 out of 2,873 is 1.3%.

The total number of Constables in Avon & Somerset is 2,196. 25 out of 2,196 is 1.1%

The total number of Sergeants in Avon & Somerset is 438. 2 out of 438 is 0.5%

The total number of Chief Superintendents in Avon & Somerset is 12. 3 out of 12 is 25%, a much higher proportion when it comes to Police senior management. Why would that be? Surely Constables and Sergeants are People to be Invested in too?

Now for the Civilian Support Staff;

Avon and Somerset has 1,779 Police Staff of all grades, unfortunately the Home Office do not provide a breakdown of grades and numbers.

59 out of 1,779 is 3.3%

Even without a breakdown of grades, we can see that Investors in People have interviewed more Police Staff out of a smaller total number resulting in, proportionately, more than double the number of Police Staff than Police Officers have been interviewed.  Of these the largest grade interviewed was Principal Officer or above.  Avon & Somerset Constabulary kindly informed me that Principal Officer or above grades approximately equate to Superintendent or above.  So once again the largest segment interviewed was Senior Management.  Should I be surprised?

As far as the troops on the Ground Floor are concerned can they have any confidence that this Investors in People Gold Award has any real benefits for them? Have they just been included in the process for appearance’s sake?

£10,000 (approximately). Total number of Police Officers and Police Staff is £4,652, so this represents an expenditure of just over £2 per head of all staff, but has it really achieved anything? Do the officers and staff of Avon and Somerset Constabulary feel more valued? Have they benefited in any way? What the hell is the purpose of this scheme in policing?

Interesting though that it was awarded mainly following the input from Senior Management not Ground Floor troops. Or maybe I’m just being cynical.

Have a good weekend.

The Loneliness of Another Rural Police Officer

Don’t panic this isn’t going to be a series of all the rural Forces in England and Wales. Having picked on Dyfed Powys and received some quite useful feedback I thought that in the interests of fairness I would pick on another Force and see how the figures for Dyfed Powys stacked up against another Force.

I decided to pick on Avon and Somerset Constabulary for two reasons;

They too have rural officers covering places such as Simonsbath as well as a city, Bristol and largish towns like Minehead, Taunton and Weston Super Mare.

The other reason was their recent achievement of the receiving the Gold Award by Investors in People.  Their Chief Constable has been boasting of this achievement recently. This implies to me that they must be doing something really well.

Avon and Somerset covers a MUCH smaller area than Dyfed Powys, a mere 1,847 square miles, containing a population of 1.6 million individuals (source HMIC).  HMIC quotes the Force strength as 3.15 full-time equivalent staff per 1,000 population.  I note the use of ‘full time equivalent staff‘. I assume this to mean everyone from the Station Cleaner upwards to the Chief Constable.

In March 2010 Avon and Somerset had an establishment of 3,302 Police Officers, or 2.07 officers per 1,000 population, and a Constables Strength of 1.59 per 1,000 population.  Not quite the ‘just over 3’ that HMIC would have you believe is it?

By March 2013 the establishment had dropped to 2,873 or 1.79 officers per 1,000 population and 1.37 Constables per 1,000 population.  The official Avon and Somerset target for 2015 is 2,900, so like Dyfed Powys they have already shed more posts than they needed to.

It’s fair to say that I am dismayed. The two Forces that I have looked at, almost at random, have both shed more posts than they were required to to meet their 2015 ‘austerity’ target. Even more sinister than that is the issue of the Police Strength stats.  Is it just me? Am I being terribly naive?  If someone quotes Policing Strength figures to me I expect that to refer to the number of Police Officers on the books.  Whilst I have the utmost respect for the Station Cleaner and the Canteen Staff is it really right that they should be included in official HMIC figures, giving a completely bloated fiction of how many police officers are available to protect the community?

As a brief, and possibly irrelevant, comparison, the Met currently has 3.71 officers per 1,000 population and 2.84 Constables per 1,000 population, with far fewer rural areas to police, and for Cross Reference purposes Home Office stats show that Dyfed Powys currently has 2.16 Officers per 1,000 population and 1.6 Constables for the same figure.

Maybe I should submit my concerns to Bernard Jenkins’ PASC session looking a Crime Stats. More wholesale ‘fudging’ of figures is my view, with no valid reason other than make the situation look better than it really is.

One more time I find myself saying “Don’t fudge the stats. Good, Bad or Indifferent, tell us the TRUTH

Behind the cynicism are some serious questions;

Is a figure of less than 2 Police Officers per 1,000 head of population sufficient to ensure Public Safety?

Is a figure of less than 2 Police Officers per 1,000 head of population sufficient to ensure Officer Safety?

Why have these two Forces (and probably others too) seemingly reduced their official establishments BELOW their 2015 Target Figure?

Why do the Home Office and HMIC use different comparators for illustrating Policing Strengths?

Is this compatible with an Investors in People Gold Accreditation Award?

I’ll happily accept answers in the Comments Section from any ACPO officers who can answer any or all of these questions, thank you.

Cut Price ‘Tecs

Once again I am indebted, this time I owe my gratitude to @LaptopCop for bringing this latest farce to my attention.

Avon and Somerset Police are advertising to recruit what they describe as a Priority Crime Support Officer.  There is currently one post advertised, I know not if others already exist or whether this is a pilot scheme.  It is advertised as a permanent position, 37 hours per week and paying £23,799 – £25,449 per annum.

As for a Job Description, I quote from the advert;

“Priority crimes are those which cause the most harm to the community – burglary, robbery, violence, theft of and from motor vehicles.

We are seeking to recruit a member of staff who can complete full enquiries in the course of an investigation of an offence for which a person is detained. You will interview the detained persons (including those in prison), prepare prosecution files and obtain additional statements. You will also obtain and execute search warrants, seize evidence and carry out searches.

You must have experience of preparing prosecution files, gathering information and producing statements as well as be prepared to attend court to give evidence as required. You will need to hold a full current driving licence and be prepared to transport detainees around the force area. Knowledge of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 would be advantageous.”

Sorry, couldn’t resist that last bit of ‘bolding’.

The Job Spec then goes on to usefully tell me what the ‘Shortlisting Criteria’ are;

  • Hold a full current driving licence and prepared to transport detainees around the force area
  • Computer literate
  • Experience of interviewing in a range of situations
  • Experience of preparing prosecution files
  • Experience of producing statements
  • Experience of gathering information
  • Prepared to attend court to give evidence

Additionally, the following qualities/skills would be USEFUL;

  • Experience of interviewing witnesses and /or suspects
  • Knowledge of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984

The successful applicant will report to the PS/DS in charge.

Now call me old fashioned but this sounds very much like an advert for a DC/PC/TI, but without a Warrant Card, and the advert states that this is post-arrest.  Get your applications in quick, interviewing is on the 18th of this month.

I fully accept that this is only one post within the whole force, but who knows what’s behind it. Can any of our Avon & Somerset colleagues enlighten us?

A cynical person might think that this was a Force dipping a toe in the water to see if they can investigate Major Crime on the cheap.