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.



Dark Side said...

Excellent post Area, very well put..x

Anonymous said...

Its scary when you put the numbers in!

The ambulance service area I live in are in process of proposing to taking 70 ambulances off the road and replace them with reponse units. All because it apparantly works in London so it must up here.

I think you only need to regularly read Random Reality to realise its may not all peachy and it certainly won't work out in the Highlands over such huge distances.

Anonymous said...

The sad thing is that the people who you can really help are disenfranchised and the middle classes infrequently come into contact with either the Police or Ambulance Services, its only when they do, do they realise that they've been sold down the swanny by our politicians in the name of cheaper taxes

Anonymous said...

All I'll say is its getting way too common for police and ambulance to be undermanned and Louise your so right!!!

McNoddy said...

I think the crux of the matter is the extractions you allude to. More often than not, the actual figures (shadowy lot that they are) that can go out an keep the peace are considerably lower than that tabulated by the resource management team.

Invariably there are folk off doing custodies, hospital watches, constant supervision, locus securing, custody case reports, last minute training, PDRs - you name it.

I came back from my leave a while ago and on my first two days I spoke to the walls at briefing time! Idealistically there would be another 5 to keep me company and at least someone else to make my cuppa and warm my slippers!

Metcountymounty said...

thanks for the plug mate. We don't use optimum strength numbers on our borough because that would be everyone, but our minimum strength numbers on team are so unrealistic it's rediculous. They are based around a certain number of officers being on each team, and currently we are under strength by 10, so even if everyone turns up for work then we only just hit it, but like you said that includes front office, gaoler AND pcso's, none of whom can actually respond to anything (accept the pcso's to turn up if they are close to hit the I grade target, then they can't usually deal anyway)

Anonymous said...

I can totally understand this, about 2 years ago i was asked to leave a bar as an underage kid thought he was acting hard and threw a punch, I merely threw him to the floor and the bouncers came running aover, i put my hands up and offered no problems and told them i would leave, I left the bar under my own steam (no contact with teh bouncer) and started walking down the street, i got about 10 metres from the entrance and proceeded to place my hearing aids in, i promptly got a crushing pounch to my face and picking myself off the floor found one of the bouncers leaning over me, practically frothing at teh mouth and hurling all kinds of invectives at me, noting he had no license ID on him (this bar was known for hiring unlicensed bouncers0 i got on my mobile and called the local police station, transferred to teh control room i advised the officer i had just been assaulted in an unprovoked assault by an unlicensed door man and wanted to report it and have this guy arrested
i was politly advised that i was number 84 and tehy would get to me as soon as possible, asking what number they were currently on i was told number 2.......

Where i live has now developed a reputation as a trouble area, 2 pubs in as many weeks have been victims of armed robberies, a police officer had his patrol car set on fire while he was dealing with some troublesome youths
we rarely see offciers here, if you lucky you see solo units go past in their cars on their way elsewhere

Sad state of affairs in this day and age (mind you when i got burgled it only took 48 hours for soemone to come out and take a statement so i could obtain a crime number....)

Roses said...

This year, I know that for at least 4 shifts including a weekend, my Viking was the only one on response.

Funnily enough, I didn't find it reasurring that he works a rural area.

Anonymous said...

Area have you tried submitting near miss forms each and every time you go out under strength? If we don't start playing the system and stop making it work no matter what they'll just keep taking advantage, as worthless as near miss forms are at least they'll help identify a problem someone will have to reconcile

Anonymous said...

As you know area, at my unit on a night duty our "minimum strength" is also, happily, the strength our duties office plan for. I have tried to introduce the concept of "ideal" strength but it seems lost on them. Mind you, they are always double crewed in the office.....

Anonymous said...

"Only one-in-10 police officers is on the beat in Ulster at any given time, police sources have claimed.

The disclosure came as Chief Constable Hugh Orde faced fresh demands for increased frontline policing to combat violent street crime."

Personally I'd be surprised its that high. My DCU has around 500 uniform officers and our normal parade is about 12 - which like you includes deductions for custody, call management and enquiry assistants who've phoned in sick (!!)

And yet, diabolical as that is I know other areas who parade 4, maybe 3. In some cases the sgts have to do the driving or there'd be 1 crew for the shift.

We don't like to talk about "no go" areas but I tell you now, there's some estates you jut couldn't send a single crew to a noisy party.

It is indeed scary louise, even more so when you realise you need help that just isn't there.

jabba said...

This doesn't surprise me at all, I've had three occasions to call the police in the last three years and in all three cases the police response was woeful or just missing.

Thursday night was a case in point. Around midnight a gang of five lads began letting off fireworks in the middle of the road, pretty soon another gang of lads tried to 'convince' them to stop. Queue running fights with fireworks involved and a call to the police. "The police are currently busy, please wait and your call will be answered shortly." was the recorded response from the police control centre after the emergency operator handed the call on. This was followed by seven and a half minutes of details taking (having to repeat most of the details two or three times) - the response? Nothing. No car, no officers, zero! Several of my neighbours now have to get their cars repaired because they were damaged during the thirty minute running street fight.

The other two calls relate to 'domestic' situations. In one case a neighbours drunken ex husband tried to kick down her, thankfully robust, front door. It took an hour and a half for an officer to respond by which time the 84 year old bloke who lives in the flat upstairs had tried to 'sort out’ the ex with a two-by-four and I and some other neighbours had ended up coming to come to the rescue of both.

The third call related to a young couple who were having a fight in the middle of the street. The girl was crying and screaming while being occasionally punched, the boy was crying and screaming while alternately beating her and breaking car windows. I call the police and then run for them because the 84 year old and his mate Charlie are going for the lad. An hour later a police car drove to the junction and slowed briefly before driving off; they didn’t even get out of the car.

There’s a yellow sign on the road outside my house which exclaims ‘this area is actively patrolled by police’.

I won’t bother calling again; it’s pointless.

Anonymous said...

I no longer sugar-coat an apology to anyone or make lame excuses when I arrive at a serious job 2 or 3 days (sometimes longer) after they called us. I just offer my apologies and tell it like it is - there aren't enough of us to go round - simple.

jabba said...

I should have added that I don't in any way blame officers for not responding - you can't read police blogs without realizing what an awful situation government over the last thirty years has left the police service in.

But being self employed and having just signed over 24k in tax (over 40% of my income, not including NI) I wonder what the hell I'm paying for.

I can't get an appointment with the doctor. I can't even register with a doctor near my new house without an electricity bill which will take three months to arrive, and even if I could I can only discuss one problem per visit. The Police are no longer able to respond to a violent incident occurring right outside my front door and I no longer have any confidence that the ambulance service will have sufficient resources to respond if I need them.

Sure I can vote against the government but I also have no confidence that the opposition can make a real difference. What's a law abiding tax payer to do?

thoughts running through my head.... said...

125 calls!!!we get that a month,you should join the dark side!

btw,you're tagged.Please do it!

Whichendbites said...

On support services, as the specialist support to response are, there is also this things called minimum 'staffing' levels. This changes like the weather because we haven't got the resources to be the BIG answer the management claim we are. We are being targetted away from our core response (to district response) to NIM led taskings that are suppose to be able to show how wonderful we are at the bi-weekly meetings.
Tea & cakes all round and response are sadly left in the lurch with little or no dog support. This is scandelous but will not change. Supporting response cannot be measured in any meaningful way and has a high waste of time factor (perceived by management) and does not get enough moistness in the management meeting foreplay.

Sad for response, great for meeting-talk. The prespective of low dog resources is not helped either. There are not many to go around but there will get to be even less. This is the way that support services management want to go.

Area Trace No Search said...

Thanks to all for the comments.

Jabba - complain! When I turn up to calls stupidly late nowadays, I don't make excuses.

I apologise, and tell them to complain; to the police, to the council, to their MP - anything to get something I done.

Anonymous said...

Tell me about it. My patch contains (according to the latest census) 180,000 people. Similar to your area we have a huge immigrant population of unknown size on top of that. We have paraded 3 on a Friday night shift before now. I wanted to refuse to leave the station due to safety concerns until the first job came in and, of course, out I went. It's what we do after all.

Anonymous said...

As a an ex-met bobby and with a county force for a number of years, I regularly remind folk that though the Met certainly has more officers in total, that isn't an accurate representation of how many bobbys are on the street. Working single crewed in the area in which I worked (it was very close to Haringey and Islington...) didn't happen fact if assigned to a car, I don't remember it ever happening. The county force I'm with - even though I police a busy city (its centre and a large area of its outskirts) - does regularly single crew officers and is constantly at minimum staffing.
As far as getting help goes, help would arrive more quickly when I worked with the Met but I put that down to the fact we policed a smaller area than I do now and hence bods had less distance to travel.
I personally have never heard anyone slag off the Met where I work, apart from tongue in cheek jokes. I do sometimes however get the impression that the county forces are looked down on by some Met bobbys (I'm still in regular contact with some of my old colleagues, good bods that they are) which should not be the case at all. Certainly the number of calls and type of calls we attend are no different from those I attended when posted in London and I don't believe my working practice has ever really changed - shit is shit if you see what I mean.

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