Smart or Stupid Policing?

Andersonstown RUC Station before it was remodelled by PIRA.

Andersonstown RUC Station before it was remodelled by PIRA.

During one tour in Northern Ireland I recall being sent to Andersonstown in West Belfast. We were sent there to reinforce the local roulement battalion which was a little stretched at the time. We were based in the Andytown RUC Station which was being rebuilt after the Provisional’s had the temerity to detonate a 1,000lb car bomb outside a few months previously which gave the place what interior designers would call a ‘distressed,’ look.

On one foot patrol my multiple encountered some teenagers acting suspiciously just inside the Milltown Cemetery.  One could say all teenagers act suspiciously all of the time but we anyway stopped for a natter to try and find out what their game was. Try as I could I couldn’t get any sense out of them and I was getting more and more irritated by their morose ramblings and refusal to answer questions. I persisted until one of the boys walked up and whispered, ‘I’d just let ‘em go Boss; they’re all high as kites on glue.’ We moved on. It gave the boys a bit of a laugh though.

As a rule we always tried to engage with the kids, no sense in making enemies for no reason. Some of them were hard little scrotes who a few hours later might be trying to bounce rocks off your head. Some were ‘dickers,’ (spotters), for the Boyo’s. Some would push their luck and try and goad the boys into doing something daft. Mostly though the banter was sharp and very occasionally we might pick up a tit bit of info that might prove useful at some point.

Lippy teenagers v Avon & Somerset Police

It was then, with some mystification that I watched this clip of some officers from the Avon & Somerset Police taking on some unruly teenagers. While the events prior to the video are unsubstantiated, (the man under arrest is supposedly unconnected with the kids),as an example of ‘how not to do it,’ this clip is a hands-down favourite to be a regular at the Police Training Centre.

The officers were apparently called to the scene of an assault against a woman on Friday evening in Taunton. While it is always a mistake to take on the police the lippy teenagers who were remonstrating with the police officers got a little more than they obviously expected or perhaps deserved. RoboCop with the red mist and designer stubble who comes steaming in at 20s deserves a special mention. Making no effort to assess, contain or mediate he immediately escalates a pretty ordinary stand off to a policing PR disaster with 7.1m views on Facebook. This is what happens when officers spend too much time in their cars and not enough on the street. It does have to be said though that most of the thousands of comments on social media are virulently supportive of the officers rather than the teenagers.

As the Chief Constable discusses the incident with the local Crime Commissioner they may wish to consider that those teenagers looked pretty ordinary and not tooled up inner City thugs high on PCP who might have warranted the strong approach. I mean, reaching for Mace, seriously? Notwithstanding the fact that those half dozen youths will now have entrenched negative views about the local police for a long time, which is not the aim of local policing, the officers involved probably need to spend some time on confrontation management. Humour would be a good start. The UK Cop Humour site has a reasonable view of things, again noting that it is never a good idea to front up to the police. They go on to say, 'If you think you could solve that situation with hugs and a poem you're simply wrong,' which in my view is a bit rich. The problem with escalation is that it limits your optionality and it is always easier to ramp the temperature up than it is to bring it down. Who knows, the girl who referred to the 'crackheads round the corner,' might have had something useful to say about the assault. If they like, I’ll see if I can round up the boys from my 1983 multiple, they were quite handy at defusing tension. 

Avon and Somerset Police –

We’re appealing for witnesses after a man sustained a fractured jaw in an assault in Taunton yesterday afternoon (26/5).

The victim, a 20-year-old man, was walking through Victoria Park with two 18-year-old women at approximately 5pm.

They were approached by a large group of young people some of which then racially abused the two women before repeatedly punching the man in the face.
DS Mark Probert said: “This was a violent and disturbing attack in which the victim and his friends were threatened and intimidated by a large group of people.

“The victim was standing up for the two young women who had been racially abused and as a result he suffered a significant facial injury.

“There can never be any excuse for hate crime or violence in any shape or form and this criminality will not be tolerated.

“As part of our investigation we’re keen to talk to anyone who was in the park and witnessed the incident or may have mobile phone footage of the incident.”

Officers responding to the incident arrested two 16-year-old boys in connection with it and they have both since been released under investigation.

Four other people were also arrested in the park shortly after for disorder and we are currently investigating any links between the two incidents.

Anyone with information is asked to call 101 and provide the call handler with the reference 5217118496.



The howls of indignation about phone hacking and the News of the World emanating from the Outrage Bus parked outside Westminster has, to my ears, a hollow and tinny sound; like the sort of pinging a cheap Chinese watch makes. It's an absolute fact that to the detriment of anything resembling standards in our society the leaders of all parties have for years courted Murdoch and his papers, even to the extent of employing former editors as their spin meisters. Well, Cameron's got a big old septic boil to lance now.

That it took the revelation that a murdered child's mobile telephone was hacked to give Westminster some backbone after years of sycophantic toadying to News International is just profoundly depressing. Perhaps our formally unelected upper chamber was the only constituency in the country which was independently minded enough to stand up to them. Well, they're not around anymore.

Moreover, hacking into bereaved relatives phones leave one wondering if the story can get any worse. Don't worry; it can and very probably will for these vermin know no limits in their pursuit of so called "stories." 

No-one to whom I have talked is in the least surprised by any of this. The general public long since abandoned any confidence in the ability of our tabloid press to lift themselves out of the grimy, manipulative and nasty sewer which they call home. 

Audience participation though will no doubt spike when we get to the point when some of these cornered rats begin to turn on themselves and begin to spill the beans on each other, Westminster and their competitors. It's just a fact that the press always have more stories than they dare publish. None of them have yet gone nuclear but I suspect someone will, "I found Jesus and he led me to the truth.... when I worked at the ........" and so on. 

The broadsheets needn't take on that holier than thou stance either. In "Newspaper Reporters Plumb New Depths," I discussed how reporters from the Mail and Times trawled the Facebook pages of children for gossip and stories. Odd too how the Mirror is strangely quiet; given they were happy to fabricate stories about British soldiers under that supercilious reptile Piers Morgan it's only a matter of time before their name pops up in the frame. I have experience of their reporters door stepping bereaved families; contempt doesn't come close to what I think of them.

However, the deeply troubling aspect of this disgraceful episode is the reprehensible action of a small number of police officers who accepted bribes from journalists. They will be found and they will go to prison, it's as simple as that. We should chuck the editors and journo's in with them and melt the keys.

News International meanwhile is sinking into a world of financial and reputational hurt, Sunday should certainly be interesting. Some people are even wondering if they used the same password for their email as they used for their Myspace and News International accounts, if they had them. News Internationals statement in 2009 in response to police interest reads as if it were penned by Lewis Carrol, "It is untrue that officers found evidence of News Group staff, either themselves or using private investigators, hacking into "thousands" of mobile phones." Well done Hayley Barlow and Alice Macandrew; just oozing journalistic integrity.

It would of course be warming to think that the News of the World will now go into a death spiral and be quickly buried and forgotten forever. It's unlikely, sadly. Never underestimate how low our fellow citizens will go in their happy pursuit of sex and scandal; however fabricated some of it may be.

And the thing that leaves me feeling like my lungs have been ripped out by an 800lb gorilla? The fact that the Guardian has been the only entity to consistently illuminate the wrongdoing and subversive influence of News International. I'll never be able to bring myself to buy it but they do chalk up some good guy points for the stand they've made. 

As a said earlier, the entire debacle is unedifying and profoundly depressing. Lets conclude then with a story which lays the lie of good journalistic practice bare but leaves us with a smile. Over to Uncle Marvo,


Pilot Philip Foster's skill and training saved his pregnant wife from certain death yesterday when his aircraft's engine failed whilst returning to his home airfield. He averted disaster by landing in a field, avoiding surrounding villages ...

What a hero, eh?

This is the reality.

Philip Foster (the name they used, and nothing like mine) was actually buggering off somewhere else because the weather was nice, rather than returning home, and was skiving off work. The wife at the time was indeed a bit pregnant as I remember, and was reading a book, oblivious to the engine failure which the hero, Marvo, was addressing with what can only be described as the full three degrees of incompetence.

Having looked around for a suitable landing site and found something vaguely greener than most other possibilities, Marvo proceeds to fail to turn off the fuel. He then descends, because this what aircraft do when they have a buggered engine, normally. He fails to apply the flap, then careers into a field of winter barley, about two feet or so higher than the wings, at a rather unusual angle and executes what can only be described as a "crash" which, had it not been for the height of the crop, would have taken out a small village, church and sub post-office.

Marvo then finds the nearest pub and proceeds to drink it dry.

Now, compare that to the MSM article above? Any similarity at all?

No, didn't think so."


Rioters & Tesco

Picadilly Riots; 26th March

Two things that I have nothing but contempt for are Tesco, (and the rest of the bloody supermarkets who are busy colonising our towns and villages), and long haired, unwashed demonstrators who bring mayhem, fear and damage to our streets unhindered, it seems, by the constabulary.

Tesco are however, despite my views of them, one of the best managed companies in the world. Little wonder then that they have managed to run rings around planning officers up and down the country and indeed the competition commision. Strange then, that Tesco and the yobs, (who are apparently anti big corporate), should should come together in a blog, given their seeming mutual antipathy to one another.

What's Crumble on about now, you cry?

Well, an acquaintance was working very close to the disturbances on Saturday near Picadilly and popped out to grab a sandwich at the Tesco Metro on the junction of Jermyn Street and Lower Regent Street. 

The Tesco branch was secured by six hefty looking bouncers, my chum entered and bought his sandwich unhindered. He was though, ever so slightly surprised to see the Tesco staff taking their motto, "Every Little Helps," to something of an extreme with the riff-raff happily buying cases of bottled beer from the store which they promptly took outside and dispatched with some vigour toward the police lines.

Tesco's contribution to the maintenance of good public order is clearly unhelpful, especially to the poor sods at the hurty end of the trajectory of airborne bottles of Carlsberg. It doesn't though, say much for police awareness of what's going on around them at street level. It's straying from the point somewhat but it's as clear as day to me that someone will be killed before long unless the police toughen up their response to the idiots. They have the law behind them and are far too intimidated by the press and every other man jack trying to be Don McCullin for the day to do their jobs properly.

In the meantime, they may want to wander round and have a chat with the Metro manager. Alternatively, they can just get their boss to call Phil Clarke the CEO, here's his number 01992 632222.

Lesson No 1 son, always keep your visor down. Don't worry..... we've all done it and learned the hard way

The Big Society

Is this what Cameron meant by the Big Society?

Floored with nothing more than a handbag containing some tissues, a packet of Werthers Originals, a bus pass and purse.............. but wielded by an angry Granny. Serves them right.

Seen any police.............. no, you won't. They don't do that sort of thing anymore unless there are 36 of them tooled up with armed response, dogs and aerial CCTV.

Expect said Granny to be given an ASBO for breach of the peace.

Sadly, as benefits are withdrawn you can also expect to see much, much more street crime as addicts and other vermin look to replace their handouts. With no police on the streets you can also expect to see more citizens fighting back and that, in all probability, won't end at all well.

Bloody Students!

Picture of an idiot, (Charlie Gilmour), ruining the rest of his life

I would imagine that at some point today, the Commissioner of the Met, Sir Paul Stephenson, will be ringing the Home Secretary to tender his resignation. That is the honourable thing to do after the attack on the Prince of Wales yesterday and the desecration of our national monuments. If he doesn't, the Home Secretary should fire him.

It's evident that the police have decided on a policy of containment for these riots and they are very conscious of the number of photographers, news cameramen and every man jack with a mobile phone. It will have been hammered into every officer that one mistake can be a career ending incident. It's also clear that there is apparently an "acceptable level," of violence below which the police will not respond aggressively. As anyone who has faced rioters knows, this can only end badly.

Before we get into the meat of this, let's immediately clarify a few points,

* There is no tumultuous groundswell of support for these rioters around the universities. Students are just not that passionate about something that doesn't affect their generation.

* As with every protest, a large number of the miscreants have been no closer to a university than I have. They're agitators and trouble makers.

* We can be grateful it is winter; if it were summer, the riots would be ten times worse.

If the riots are to continue without a robust response then the agitators will escalate the level of violence. Someone will go "tooled up," or with petrol bombs and someone else, probably an innocent as it usually is, will suffer. Obviously, the violence could happen the other way, for example, "white van man," gets a hold of one of the protesters and gives them a hiding.

So what is a robust response? The police must deploy in force and meet any violence with a commensurate response. They must also seize the initiative by using snatch squads to make arrests. Speed and aggression is the key to dealing with riots; absorbing violence feeds it. Given their nervousness of the media I'm sure that discussions are on going about the deployment of water cannon to deter rioters. The problem is that it is an indiscriminate weapon which has not been used much in the UK but does, protect the individual baton wielding police officer from having his face transmitted across the world in seconds. Dye added to the water is a nice touch and as a gesture to public health the police could chuck a couple of bars of soap into the melee.

Snatch Squad in the Good Old Days

As police officers are quietly going through the footage of yesterday's events and comparing it to things like Facebook accounts, I think we can expect a wave of arrests shortly. The criminal justice process must then be expedited and swift sentencing should follow.

What about the students who are sincere in their protests? Well, given they're supposed to be our brightest and best they're not doing very well. They are being neither innovative or creative in their campaign and what public sympathy they had is very quickly receding. Just sitting down in the road is large numbers and in silence would, for example, have a much greater impact than defiling Churchill's statue. I am reasonably sympathetic to their case. I don't see why, for example, I should subsidise students in Wales and Scotland who will not pay fees yet pay for my own children first through taxes and then through fees. When our children graduate they compete with students from all over the world for jobs; why on earth would be make it tougher for them than it already is?

As I have written before, one of the consequences of ramping fees up will be a tightening of standards at universities. Many students have barely four hours of lectures a week and many, many courses could easily be done in two years rather than three. Parents and students simply will not tolerate subsidising the relaxed and gentle lifestyle of professors and obviously, many average universities that should be closed will be.

The other consequence will be that many of our best students will just take a hike to other countries where the value proposition is more attractive. Others, will not bother with university and many will be exactly the ones who should be there.

The structure of the loans too is deficient in open, clear thinking. On the one hand we have an aging population trying to augment their pensions but with interest paying less than 1% on their savings many are struggling. On the other hand we have an up and coming generation who need funds for education. Blow me..... is that supply and demand I see there?

HMG should issue "Granny bonds," through the taxpayer owned banks, RBS & Lloyds, and pay a decent rate. Just as an example lets say 3% and charge the students 3.25%. Obviously, many students won't make payments until after their studies or after they reach an earnings threshold. We can cover this by making the "Granny Bond," a zero coupon bond, ( a security that doesn't pay interest (a coupon) but is traded at a deep discount, rendering profit at maturity when the bond is redeemed for its full face value). Oh, and to spice it up we'll make it tax free..... that's clever "Big Society," thinking but then all parties involved in this nonesense haven't been very clever to date and while I think of it....... I didn't need a degree to figure it out.

Bloody Students


Following the creatively named post, "Bugger, blast, bugger....!!!!" I've been in receipt of some very useful advice from a good and helpful friend, and being a good and helpful chap I'm going to share it with you.

You'll recall that I was pinged by a sneakily hidden radar gun in Banchory out of the back of a van, unfairly I thought, 30 yards from my journeys end after a 565 mile journey.

My friend suggests the following,

"I'll bet a pound to a penny that their radar "gun" wasn't properly calibrated that day. They have to be calibrated over a fixed distance at the start of every shift.  Just contest the ticket and write to request the calibration certificate and the log for that particular piece of equipment for that day.  If it was the following make/type of radar gun they were using, you've got a great chance of not paying....

The LTI 20/20 radar gun is a speed gun used in the UK. You could clock sparrows hopping about on the ground at 140mph!!!

The device, made by a US-based company, has been the source of much controversy since its introduction for its unreliable speed readings. Tests in 2007 recorded a wall as traveling at 44 mph, an empty road recorded 33 mph, a parked car was clocked at 22 mph and a bicycle ridden at 5 mph was recorded moving at 66mph. A man is currently fighting his speeding ticket, demanding the source code of the radar gun to deny the improvement of the device."

Interestingly enough, there appears to be a growing guerilla movement of little guys fighting back against this monstrous demonisation of the driver. More links to the fightback and failings of the LTI20/20 can be found here, here and here.

One piece of parting advice, don't use a mobile phone in the car. If you kill someone whilst talking on a handset it's an automatic 7 years in the chokey which is no laughing matter either for you or the victim. Mrs Flashbang thought this handset thing didn't include looking at a text in slow moving traffic; the Hampshire Constabulary in Liphook thought differently and she's now the lucky participant on a driving awareness course. This complements nicely, the speeding awareness course she attended a couple of years ago for doing 34mph in a 30mph limit at 8am on a Sunday morning in Crowthorne.  

Constabularies up and down the country however, might be well advised to send their own officers on such courses given the destruction they regularly visit upon the public and their cars. The Telegraph last year reported that,

"Officers admitted causing 3,357 crashes last year – an average of more than 64 a week - many of which were caused by basic driving errors.

Accidents were caused by failing to stop at junctions, doing U-turns without looking, taking bends too quickly and failing to use mirrors when reversing."

Keep picking on housewives doing 34mph though, that'll solve the crime problem.

Bugger, blast, bugger.....!!!!

Sometimes, you just have to feel that life is conspiring to make ones unceasing quest for a quiet life altogether more difficult than it might be. I sometimes get to the end of the week feeling like a medieval pilgrim who has reached his journeys end having overcome all manner of difficulties and challenges, most of which seem to come in one form or another from South West Trains.

This week though, this week has been different for things have been breaking and each and every one has been dammed irritating in it's own right. First, something in the back went delivering what felt like 20,000 volt shocks down the leg to a tingling foot. I then naively took the advice of a well meaning friend and went to see a not so well meaning chiropractor. £75 poorer and I now know what a potato feels like when it's being mashed. Still, the pains gone. 

Next, and in no particular order, the internet went at home for which BT are only going to charge me £200 to pop over and see if it's their fault, the spin dryer went apparently, (not sure what that is), the driver belt went on the lawn mower and the dishwasher blew up, (by that I don't mean Mrs Flashbang went bat sh*t crazy; it's just another broken machine in the kitchen). Then the sat-nav went in the Land Rover. I mean for goodness sake, anything but the sat-nav, it's saved my marriage on countless occasions. Quick off the mark, Land Rover said they could fix it in double quick time and promptly ordered the spare part. Yep, they ordered the wrong spare part so I've now got a week to look forward to being navigated around the Highlands by an easily distracted teenager. 

This may explain why, on arrival at our destination earlier, after a 9 hour drive, we guaranteed that having put a bad week behind us at the other end of the journey, we started this week with another irritating little piece of bad luck.

I got pinged by the local polis 40 yds from the hotel after a 565 mile journey.


Clearly, the brave boys of the Grampian Constabulary in Banchory have been chatting with the boys of the Hampshire Constabulary in Liphook because they employ exactly the same tactic of pointing their cameras at people driving out of the village, sneakily locating themselves around a corner and under a shady tree. As I explained before, most people might think the sensible thing to do to elevate speed awareness and pedestrian safety would be to tackle speeding drivers entering the villages but no, these boys have obviously thought the problem through and figured out that the best way to raise revenue is to ping motorists on the way out when they're anticipating the higher speed limits, and forget the pedestrians in the village.

At least they're consistent.

 Lets hope the salmon are somewhat less proficient in camouflage and concealment.