Sunday, 27 April 2014

Lying Differently

Many years ago, in a time now glorified as a bitter sweet past by shows like Life On Mars and its sequel Ashes to Ashes, the UK police were accused of telling the most horrendous and life changing lies.

Not just fibs or half truths but actual bona fide lies. Huge stinking whoppers that would land people in prison for decades or result in bent coppers getting away with the most awful behaviour.

A TV show called Rough Justice highlighted some of these cases and one that sticks in my mind was a homeless bum who came forward to say “that knife used in that murder was mine, it was stolen about 6 weeks ago.” He ended up getting charged, convicted and sent to prison for that murder even though the ONLY thing linking him to it was the knife. He had alibis for the night the killing occurred and other evidence such as the state of his clothing and there being none of his DNA at the scene…were conveniently ignored. The implication with this example was that the police had a loose end to tie off and as he was a vagrant and it would make them look good by solving the case, then why not just pin it on him?

Other stories did the rounds, such as uncooperative prisoners being pushed in a cell at the local police station on a Friday afternoon and not attended to again until the following Monday. CID detectives used to work Monday to Friday so someone locked in a cell for over 60 hours would more than likely be ready to have a much more compliant chat than beforehand. Further urban legends existed of those prisoners not even getting food for that time if they pissed the jailer off.

Aggressive interviewing techniques would and could be used. This could be simply calling someone a liar or raising your voice or at the worst end of the spectrum, actually assaulting a prisoner. Implication being, “sign this statement that we wrote, that says you did it and we can all get some shut eye.”

So, slowly people began to grab the bullshitters by the horns and over a  period of many years, things changed.

The complex minefield that is the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) was brought in to try and rectify some of this behaviour (real or legend) from unscrupulous detectives or even senior officers. Originally it was simply Judge’s Rules which was a tiny document and could be said out loud in less than a couple of minutes. PACE is a Harry Potter-sized tome of a book that gives prisoners, interviewees and suspects very detailed and complex rights that CANNOT be taken away. In an age of CCTV, internet and Twitter it’s very hard to lie successfully about something you didn’t do that you should have done.

PACE was the new child of a new generation of policing and was like building a rose garden over a sewage farm.

Problem was, with the bad cops banished the good cops had to do their jobs VERY carefully and with the utmost professionalism to ensure a watertight, stone bonker of a case. They needed more time because they had to do more paperwork. EVERYTHING had to be accounted for, from prisoners’ property to how much force was used (or lack of) on an arrest. What officers said was written down and had to be accounted for. Whether the Caution upon arrest was worded correctly could and has been a bone of contention for many cases**

With their entire operational lives now under microscopic scrutiny, the police were like the bobbies from an Enid Blyton book. Officers who did their jobs professionally, with accountability and without questioning the utter necessity of such an approach. This was a pain in the arse for everyone on the right side of a truncheon…but bearable provided the system supported the new regime.

Then the system began to fall apart.

By 2010 it became an internal regulation in ALL English forces that any and all innapopriate behaviour that was committed by officers or police staff while on duty MUST be reported by the person witnessing it. Failure to do so could and has resulted in sanctions, suspension and even dismissal of officers who heard someone say something or do something, but kept quiet. This rule is bad enough but you can be in trouble for a remark said to person B, even if you didn’t know person C*** was hiding behind the door deliberately eavesdropping. It’s if anyone present is offended (or pretends to be). Your intention in making a comment is immaterial.

This was presumably meant to combat the closed shop culture and of illegal or unethical activities being allowed to continue unchallenged in the workplace. Problem was that now cops can’t trust each other. An American Sheriff’s deputy that I know from Texas said that he finds this rule crazy. He said he would gladly rat out a fellow officer for stealing evidence, beating suspects of fabricating evidence but can’t understand why UK cops are obliged to “tell” on each other for someone cracking a sexist joke.

Race and Diversity training in the English & Welsh police now takes up a staggering amount of training and retraining for fledgling cops. As an example: When I was in the police the annual training was 4 hours baton usage, 1 hour the pepper spray (classed as a firearm in the UK) and 6 BASTARD WEEKS on Race and Diversity.

Resources since 2011 have been stretched to the breaking point of value brand bog paper. The Tory/ Lib Dem Coalition slashed at least 20% off police budgets, meaning the 43 forces from Kent to the Scottish borders had to fire, retire, and make redundant a staggering amount of officers****

The Forces themselves and the Government would lie and say that nothing had changed and “frontline policing will not be affected” but the following examples, just from my own experiences, show that the UK police are now lying differently.

1). In the town of Kenilworth in Warwickshire, a town I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, there is an annual horse fair. It happens in a big field near the A46 roundabout that leads to Coventry, Warwick and Stratford-upon-Avon. Every year about 4000 travellers descend upon Kenilworth and the town suffers as a direct result. I’ve had first hand accounts from people who live in Kenilworth of theft, burglary, intimidation, criminal damage and flagrant & gleeful disregard for basic compliance with common social norms. A woman I know worked in the now defunct Rocking Horse cafe on Station Road. 1st day travllers came n and the food was apparently poisoned (quote “Oh my God! I feel sick! You poisoned my food!”). Money back. 2nd day the food was too long being prepared and an urgent meeting was about to happen (Leans into her personal space across the counter and says slowly “NO! You HAVE to give me my money back sweetheart!!!”). Money back. 3rd day they were eating for free (manager refused to close in case he lost even more money).

Another is that Sainsbury’s, a supermarket only below Waitrose and Marks & Spencer for clientele, have to employ bouncers on the doors the entire time the horse fair is in town. Reason? Travellers come in, fill up a shopping trolley and then just walk out. The bouncers are huge, hulking blokes clearly hired from “Gorillas R Us” that are able to handle themselves and won’t shy away from a bit of fisticuffs. The same type of security is also in place at both the Jet and Shell petrol stations on Warwick Road. Reason? Travellers on the first horse fair would pull in, fill up the petrol tank…and then fuck off without paying. Now there’s a rule of “No transit vans and you pay before you fill up.” The bouncers are there to enforce this.

The police every year will react to the sudden increase in crime by treating the whole thing as if it’s forty unrelated incidents that just happened to happen spontaneously.  With a mixture of Race & Diversity training, fear of being caught out as intolerant/ racist/ something-ist, and woefully thin resources*****…the cops will deal as best they can and then smile like nothing’s happened that isn’t under control. They don’t want to “look bad” and they don’t want to scare the public so they lie. Not the lies of yesterdecade, but lies that everything is ok. That everything isn’t quite as bad as the moaning minnies would have you believe. Last year I cycled to Kenilworth on the Sunday of the horse fair and 5 double crewed police cars were parked up on Warwick Road, one of which had an Inspector in it. I spoke to his Sergeant briefly who replied with a Stepford Wives smile, “As you can see Sir, everything’s peaceful” while waving his hand to the area around us. Problem is that for the equivalent of an entire Section (police group responsible for a specific zone of a Force’s area) plus a Governor to be out like that…this was clearly a warning to the travellers to behave.

2). About 2 years ago I had an argument with the manager of a restaurant I live near. He lost his temper during what was a fairly heated, but only verbal row, and began swinging his fists before the chefs jumped in between us. Attempts to subdue him were at first unsuccessful as he came back hurling a tea cup at my head (missed and shattered on the wall) screeching “I’LL FUCKING KILL YOU!!!” I called the police and used the words “I believe my life is in immediate danger” (it helps to have been a cop as you know what terminology to use). Within 2 minutes a double crewed~~ police car arrived with one officer wearing a stun gun. This is called in IR or Incident Resolution crew, a very rare and treasured unit to have on patrol. There are probably 4 or 5 at any one time for the ENTIRE COUNTY of Warwickshire.

True to form, the male officer took the manger to one side for a “chat” and the female with the tazer spoke to me. They then compared notes and the lady cop said that he’d admitted he’d started it by throwing the first punch. I asked if they were going to nick him. She replied “Do you want me to?” I said “No, if we can shake hands on it then we can move on and forget about it.”

Her partner then came back with the manager, not knowing the conversation his buddy had had with me and said in a passable school teacher impersonation, “Are you two willing to shake hands on this, because we’ve got enough evidence to bring you both in.”

His partner glanced quickly at him but managed to almost retain a poker face. Me and the manager shook hands and said sorry and he went on his way. I then turned to the male cop.

“Can I talk to you for a second?”

“Of course” (smiling)

Why did you say you had enough to bring us both in?”

(Stun gun lady cop is still poker faced but her eyes are darting rapidly between us).

“He’s claiming pre-emptive strike. Says he thought you were going to hit him.”

“He was in the back yard of his restaurant and I was in the alley, I’m not that bloke out the Fantastic Four.”

(Shrugging and smiling). “Well that’s what he said.”

“Your partner here said that he had admitted he’d started it after comparing notes with you.”

(Looks worried for a milli-second then says) “Err, no that’s not right.”

“OK look, I’m ex police. Is this still your reason?”

(Looking uncomfortable) “Yes.”

Bottom line was. Shit job. No injuries. Strictly speaking we should nick immediately as the manager has admitted an assault. However this will take at least 3 hours to process and will only result in a Caution. A double crewed IR unit have better things deal with than this. Get them to forget it and move on and we can be out on the streets backing up our woefully undermanned Section with some incidents that might genuinely require a tazer.

Basically he lied because he felt it was justified. I saw through it and can forgive his fibbing as I can totally understand why he did it. Problem is…cops used to lie, so we changed things to stop them.

They still lie, but now it’s out of necessity to get their jobs done.


** When I took the Definitions exam in police training I wrote "that you later rely on in court" instead of "which you later rely on." That one word bumped my score down to 74%, pass mark being 75...meaning I had to resit the bastard thing.

*** C Word being more appropriate.

**** Apart from the Race & Diversity departments. As I write this, that useless fat bitch Denise Milani is still faffing about making people's lives a misery in the Met police.

***** Core Section (main amount) of officer on Response patrol for Warwick, Leamington Spa and Kenilworth is apparently between 6 and 10 (thats 6 to 10 for all THREE not each), depending on sickness, holidays and training renewal days. They also closed Kenilworth police station 2 years ago, meaning the nearest one is 5 miles away.

~~ Two officers in the car. This should be fundamental but many Forces send single crewed cops to domestic violence calls, pub fights and shoplifting arrests. Usually results in cop backing off (as UK cops are 99% unarmed) and waiting for backup anyway.

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