Thanks toÂ Ademan for his up front and honest appraisal of the current situation in MetPol – his blog published earlier today has already generated some interesting responses. The overwhelming majority of which are entirely in agreement with the case he presents
It’s not just the Met though…
Many miles from the bright lights of London the same issues present themselves on a daily basis. The last couple of weeks and the month or so to come present some of the most dangerous times for Policing resilience. Throughout the six weeks of the summer holiday season both ends of the fuse burn brighter and faster than at any other time of the year.
At one end of the fuse, countless families are spending more time with each other than normal. School is out which means the kids are permanently at home. For those with jobs this is the time when the need for parents to take time off from work arises. The stress and strain of relentless parenting coupled with the endless need for the kids to find new and exciting ways of entertaining themselves creates a much higher demand on the 999 and non-emergency lines. Nuisance, ASB and domestic calls during the recent spell of actual summer weather represented an overwhelming majority of the deployments, and were up to 40% higher than average over the previous three months in respect of domestics and as much as 300% higher for ASB.
At the other end, both the Call Handling and Frontline elements of the Policing machine are simultaneously decimated by the need for leave (if that’s allows this year) and the lack of resources created by it. When combined with the increase in workload the issue is magnified by a further factor of two and quickly becomes unmanageable.
The points that Ademan raise come sharply into focus as the deployment list grows by the minute. The arguments about whether to send an officer or not can be heard across the district – Sergeants and Dispatchers have blunt discussions over the phone about the latest Facebook slanging match. It may well be that it has now ticked too many boxes to be written off because one 15 year-old has made a technical ‘threat to kill’ against an other but it still doesn’t mean there is anyone to go!
The Ambulance Service are in a similar boat – hypothetically speaking. Their resources seem to be thinner on the ground than ever too. One day last month officers ended up dealing with two cardiac arrests in one day after being asked to back up an ambulance that had never been dispatched. The knock on effect being that for the equivalent of an entire 10 hour shift, two of the 12 officers covering the division were stood helplessly in A&E just in case their patient didn’t pull through.
The next day arrives and a new batch of officers start their tour of duty. They all have a crime account that is full to overflowing already, but through no fault of their own they all need to take on at least four extra jobs from the list of ‘stuff we never got around to’ yesterday – affectionately known as the ‘shit list’ amongst my team.
These are mostly the non-life-threatening jobs that are also the most complaint-worthy. They have festered and fermented for anything from three up to eighteen hours as there simply hasn’t been anyone available to go and now someone who wasn’t even on duty at the time has to pick up the pieces and take all the flack.
It’s like a three-tier wedding cake of failure:
Tier One is the call handling section. There are a number of issues here but for once, resourcing (although there is always a degree of making do) is not generally one of them. It is the smallest, yet in many respects the most critical, layer.
The issue here is making good and robust policy that allows the right decision to be made at the outset. We go to too much stuff that is not Policing related. We should not have to go and get your child from a mates house as he is refusing to come home. We should not be going to the 50-year-old who has fallen over just because he said ‘Boo’ to an ambulance technician once and now has an ‘aggression’ marker against him. We should not be checking on the children in a house because the Social Services team have phoned them all day with no success and now have no time to go because it’s half past three on a Friday. These jobs are the beginning of the problem and are compounded as they get further down the line.
Tier Two is the middle management on the ground – The sponge layer in the cake. Sergeants in charge of a shift have to come in to work every day and spend their entire shift batting off rubbish jobs, allocating out the rubbish jobs that got through the filter from tier one and dealing with the fallout from the fact that we are not getting to or being able to deal effectively with the jobs we already have. It’s a job I have done in a temporary capacity on a number of occasions and it can be hateful.
Once a job has been accepted into the system from call handling it becomes almost impossible to get rid of without satisfying everyone that it has been comprehensively investigated – regardless of whether this is warranted or not. Phone calls are made, options are discussed and more often than not the person who was promised a Police attendance by the call handler will insist on nothing less than that. The job ends up qualifying for Tier Three.
Tier Three is the officer. The brandy soaked heavy fruit cake base holding everything else up. If a job has come to you then there is virtually no option but to accept it into the list of outstanding investigations you already have on your account. At one point recently I had over 30 crimes on my account – through no fault of anyone including me. With that amount of active investigation there is no way that anything effective can be done with any of them without neglecting some of the others to some extent. The result is that officers end up being ineffective at investigating many crimes rather than effectively dealing with a few. It’s completely counter-productive.
I believe that if I concentrated solely on one crime a day, and had no distractions or other calls, I could almost guarantee to get that job boxed off and filed. This would represent good service for that victim and an effective use of time. Unfortunately this would mean that the crime at the bottom of the list would have to wait a month for any action and would not allow me to keep up with the growth of my account – typically two or three lengthy investigations per day. It would also, of course, mean I could not go out to any of the jobs that were being passed over the radio either.
So, in a roundabout way this brings us back to the solution proposed at byÂ Ademan. The mesh needs to be tighter at the top of the sieve. The writing on my uniform says Police. It does not say Ambulance or Pseudo Parent or Social Worker.
Let us get on with doing our job – if we just had to worry about getting that bit right the public might see that we are actually quite good at it!