Monday 21 April 2008
Yes, as the title suggests, this is probably just going to be one long rant, as most Police Bloggers do on occasion.
There is a myth in the counties (which I subscribed to before I moved to London) that as the Met has so many officers, there is always back up and always officers aroud to deal and help.
Unfortunately, although we do have a record amount of officers, the amount who actually work as operational officers is relatively miniscule - the actual amount on the street at any one time is worryingly small sometimes.
I work in a Borough of well over a quarter of a million legal residents - the amount of illegal immigrants/non-registered/non-council tax registered people is estimated at between twenty five and seventy thousand on top.
In this scenario, we like to try and parade a tiny amount of officers to try and keep a lid on things.
There is something in the Met (and most other forces that I know of) that is called "Optimum Strength." This is the amount of officers that it is considered appropriate to actually have parade for duty on a normal shift; the optimum strength now in my division is what the minimum strength was a decade ago.
"Minimum strength" is the equivalent of absolute zero - the figure that the senior management believe is the least required to do the job. Any less and it becomes an officer safety issue.
Of course, street coppers, the federation, and middle management think that anything below the optimum strength is an officer safety issue, but what would we know.
You've no doubt guessed what I'm about to say - we regularly parade for duty with below minimum strength.
If for example 30 is the optimum strength, and 22 is the minimum strength, we regularly will parade with 19 or so officers.
Incidentally, I have seen Optimum strength at parade twice - both times when football aid was cancelled and the officers assigned to help out response instead.
County officers may be shrugging and saying "so what?" At these numbers. But the met is clever. Our minimum strength includes inside postings. So take away two officers for Gaoler Duty, and four or five for station officer duty, and you start looking at twelve officers actually out and about, covering a population of about three hundred thousand.
That's before a single officer gets an arrest or a set of paperwork.
Last night duty my team had DEALT with just over a hundred and twenty five calls, at the halfway point of the shift.
I have come on duty on early turn at 0600hours and been sent to emergency calls (I-Immediate calls in metspeak) that came out between 0100 and 0200hours, still outstanding.
And we're not the only ones - specialist units are overstretched and undermanned. We call up for dog units regularly on night duties, and again it's not unusual for them to have one dog unit for all of London South, and one for London North - that means each officer is supposed to be covering a population of over four million.
With all this in mind, and the endless paperwork and beaurocracy, it sometimes amazes me when we actually turn up to anything in time. So, along with the initiatives that Inspector Gadget constantly and eloquently posts about, this is the reason we don't get to the calls we should. Why we don't get to YOUR call.