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  • Perceptions of British policing

    I am a serving British police officer and I am currently writing a book about Policing in Britain, focussing on public attitudes to Policing and how Policing itself has developed in the last two hundred years. It is purely for my own entertainment but I am trying to ensure that it is accurate and well researched whilst hopefully not being too dull.

    I am hoping for responses to two questions.

    The first is a response, whether long or short, to the question: "What is your perception of British police officers?" This can either be drawn from working with British officers or from what you have read or seen on TV and in movies. Since I am interested in perception, I am interested in both. Your perception does not have to be complimentary - I'm pretty thick skinned and I won't take it personally. Also, I recognise that it is a very broad question - however you interpret it, that's the response I'm interested in.

    The second question is aimed at people who are interested in the history of policing in their own countries. It is: "What police forces or other public law enforcement bodies are you aware of whose officers were initially unarmed but which transitioned to routinely arming them?" For the avoidance of doubt, by "unarmed" I mean not routinely carrying a firearm. An explanation as to why the transition was made would also be extremely helpful.

    Any answers, gratefully received. I have also posted this in Writer's Block - apologies if that is contrary to any site rules.
    I'm a little bit waayy, a little bit wooah, a little bit woosh, I'm a geezer.

  • #2
    My impressions of British police are based pretty much on the now defunct Inspector Gadget blog. I don't know how accurate he was, but compared to some of what goes on with American police management, much of what he wrote rang true with me.

    Up until around 40 years ago, the California Legislature, as a statement of Public Policy, maintained legislation that stated something to the effect that as long as criminals are armed, it shall be necessary for peace officers to carry firearms. Much of that went away when special interest groups started lobbying the Legislature for their own, special police agencies, such as school police, airport police, public utility police, etc. Much of these agencies were under the oversight of civilian boards who knew nothing about law enforcement, but by virtue of the rank/authority, were in a position to dictate their operating policy. A very few performed full to semi police functions, but many were more like security guards with police powers. Many of the security guard like positions worked unarmed.

    Probably the first time this issue reared its head legally was in the 1980s, when the civilian board governing the Los Angeles Airport dictated that their Police Officers would not be armed when directing traffic. As a protest, the officers wore full gun belts but with empty holsters while directing traffic.

    The matter was taken to court, which ruled that the right of peace officers to carry firearms was granted by an act of the Legislature and a government agency did not have the right to deny that right administratively. Based on that decision, the California Attorney General issued a similar Opinion, offering guidance to any other agency that was or wanted to to deny its officers the right to carry a firearm on or off duty.

    This posed a problem for many agencies that didn't want their officers armed. First there was the issue of liability, then training and supervision. This resulted in many civilian managed agencies lobbying the Legislature to amend those sections of the State's Penal Code granting police powers to their personnel. That amendment stated their officers many only carry firearms when authorized an under conditions directed by the employer. Officers who were armed by an act of the court, were now unarmed again by an act of the Legislature. Fortunately, the positions carrying these limitations are not general (regular) police jobs, but ones viewed more a security guard with police authority.

    For us, transition to armed (or remaining armed) is costly and time consuming but necessary. You must develop training (a course of fire) that has a reasonable relationship to the job. You must ensure that all armed personnel qualify periodically and take corrective action with those that don't. You must provide weapons, ammunition, leather or web gear. You must maintain training records. This can be a tremendous expense both financially and with respect to personnel hours.

    I believe my agency now has around 8,000 officers. Each officer is supposed to shoot 50 rounds once a month and qualify once a quarter. That's 4.8 million rounds a year, and that figure does not account for academy training of new cadets and remedial training for anyone having problems. While we buy in bulk, we are still talking about several Million U$D just for ammunition. The n you need to factor in the price of lost time from police work while officers go to the range to qualify. Typically, each station will set up two day a month at the local range and for for 12 hours, allowing officers from all shifts time to come in from patrol and qualify. If you don't have your own range, you also need to factor in the cost to rent one out exclusively for your qualification as you don't want the general public mixing in with your operation.



    Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

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    • #3

      The second question is aimed at people who are interested in the history of policing in their own countries. It is: "
      What police forces or other public law enforcement bodies are you aware of whose officers were initially unarmed but which transitioned to routinely arming them?"
      For the avoidance of doubt, by "unarmed" I mean not routinely carrying a firearm. An explanation as to why the transition was made would also be extremely helpful.
      A local university police department armed their officers with 9mms about 20 years ago. Explanation: for the safety of our employees and the public. Since the university was a bastion of liberals, anarchists, Marxists, and hippies, at first the outcry was deafening, but eventually they adapted to the sight of a police officer with a firearm.

      Canada Border Services Agency armed about the same time. Explanation: too many Americans keep coming across with guns.

      I've been a few places and seen police elsewhere. In Thailand, the Royal Thai Police are armed, but it's not uncommon to see officers without pistols towards the end of the month, as they will pawn their guns until the next payday.

      In China, much of the urban policing is done by 'city management officers' known as Chengguan, who are not armed. They handle the ubiquitous little problems that tear at communities, things like vagrancy, public drunkenness, and panhandling, with bully clubs, fists, and knee caps.

      I saw similar municipal officers in Cape Town, South Africa- they weren't SAPS (South African Police Services) and didn't carry guns and only worked 9-5. After that, the zombies took over the streets. SAPS guys of course were all armed.

      I was reading an article recently about the Falkland Islands Royal Police, armed with OC spray and batons. The chief was saying violent crime was not really an issue among their 3,000 residents, other than the occasional pub fight amongst sailors.


      I've wondered how many British territories routinely arm their officers- Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos, etc. Does Pitcairn Island (pop. 49) have armed police?



      I used to be a banker but I lost interest.

      -Steven Wright

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      • #4
        My perceptions of British Policing are based on what I have read in various news reports, watching British TV productions and associating with ex British Police Officers now serving in various Australian Police Forces.

        Articles published in the following website also gives an insight to current events within the various UK Police Forces,

        https://www.policeoracle.com/

        My impressions based on the above are that the British Government wants policing on the cheap with the use of unpaid Special Constables, lower paid Police Community Support Officers
        and the introduction of civil servants into roles that were traditionally occupied by sworn officers.

        There also appears to be too much authority given to local government in the appointment so called Police and Crime Commissioners who have absolutely no experience as Police Commanders,

        https://www.independent.co.uk/news/u...-a8538196.html


        On the appearance of uniformed officers my view is that they are wearing uniforms that were designed for pounding the beat with Dixon of Dock Green and those yellow jackets puts them in the same league as construction workers.

        Anyhow, that's my contribution and all I can think of at this stage.

        Cheers.

        Comment


        • #5
          Thank you all. All good stuff.
          I'm a little bit waayy, a little bit wooah, a little bit woosh, I'm a geezer.

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          • #6
            My perception is based upon meeting police officers in Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, and the Isle of Man on our TT trip.

            I was stunned at the difference between Belfast in Northern Ireland and everywhere else we went.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Aidokea View Post
              My perception is based upon meeting police officers in Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, and the Isle of Man on our TT trip.

              I was stunned at the difference between Belfast in Northern Ireland and everywhere else we went.
              Oh yes, policing in Northern Ireland is a lot different from anywhere else in the UK or the Republic of Ireland. I recall the days when they were known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and not the current Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

              In my post I forgot to mention that on my visit to the UK I was able to stay for a few days at a City of London Police Section House and was able to have a good chat with City of London Police Officers and I can recall the days when the minimum height for appointment to the City of London Police was 5 foot 11 inches.

              No doubt you enjoyed the Isle of Man TT Races.

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              • #8
                My experience with UK police is limited to a few weeks visiting there in 1990. My first impression on arrival at Gatwick airport was of an overwhelming police presence, roving teams of officers in full body armor and armed with submachineguns, reinforced positions at key points throughout the terminal manned by armored officers with crew-served automatic weapons, and armored vehicles around the terminal grounds. I do not know if that was due to a terrorist alert or if it was simply business as usual.

                Metropolitan officers in the London area were brusque at best, openly rude (by US standards) at times when dealing with the public. No "Officer Friendly" attitudes on display. Of several two-officer patrol teams I saw, every one had one officer carrying a closed soft case on a wrist tether, which I later learned was used to carry a S&W .38 caliber revolver.

                Being a small-town US police chief, I became friendly with a uniformed police sergeant in Newmarket, where we frequently found ourselves having coffee and rolls early in the mornings. After a few days of conversations the sergeant took me for a ride around the area in his marked car, the trunk of which secured shotguns, revolvers, and a couple of assault-style rifles that he was responsible for making available for supervised use of his constables. At that time there were few resources for "armed police" in the more rural areas, as have become more common in the larger cities in the past couple of decades. The sergeant also introduced me to a Detective Constable and Detective Inspector, both quite pleasant and inquisitive about US law enforcement, and we met for pints at a local pub on a couple of occasions for jokes and stories.

                Traffic Wardens are very active around the cities and on the motorways (major highways). Unarmed uniformed officers assigned to traffic control and enforcement. Those I approached for directions or other assistance were courteous and helpful. Most were quite young, perhaps 18 to 21 years old, thus I assumed that such duties were normal for the newer recruits.

                I understand that UK officers have opportunities for lateral transfers throughout the police services, something that is seldom seen in the US. Salaries, benefits, and retirement plans sounded quite decent in comparison to many US agencies; my overall impression being that a relatively comfortable middle-class lifestyle was the norm there.

                I hope this assists you in your research.

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                • #9
                  It does. Thank you.
                  I'm a little bit waayy, a little bit wooah, a little bit woosh, I'm a geezer.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by JohnKelly View Post

                    Oh yes, policing in Northern Ireland is a lot different from anywhere else in the UK or the Republic of Ireland. I recall the days when they were known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and not the current Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
                    Touring Belfast was a real paradigm adjustment for us.

                    As Americans who had never been to the UK before and were not subject matter experts in The Troubles, my perception was that The Good Friday Agreement had ended all hostilities in Northern Ireland, and my young wife knew nothing of these matters.

                    We were stunned when we showed up and saw police officers patrolling in armored trucks with machineguns, wearing ballistic helmets and rifle armor. We toured Shankill Road and other dangerous places (during daylight). We saw the 40-foot tall wall between the Catholic and Protestant sides of town. We saw the gates in the wall that the police closed at sunset and opened at sunrise. We saw the angled steel cages on the backs of homes near the wall, designed to cause fire-bombs to roll off instead of burning their houses down. And we saw the murals and memorials to deceased combatants. The guy who showed us around, explained to us that when criminal combatants are taken into custody, they want to be considered as prisoners of war.

                    In my post I forgot to mention that on my visit to the UK I was able to stay for a few days at a City of London Police Section House and was able to have a good chat with City of London Police Officers and I can recall the days when the minimum height for appointment to the City of London Police was 5 foot 11 inches.
                    London was interesting. We stayed in Westminster, and spent a LOT of time in the pubs. I got the feeling that a person could spend the rest of their life just exploring London.

                    Interestingly, Scotland Yard was the only place that I wasn't able to get into, to trade patches. Everywhere else I went, as soon as they found out I was a police officer in the U.S., they wanted to have their picture taken with me and trade patches, even in Belfast. But at Scotland Yard, I didn't even make it past the security guards out in front. I even tried making some phone calls, but was absolutely stonewalled.

                    No doubt you enjoyed the Isle of Man TT Races.
                    Oh my goodness- I could go on for hours about it, and we took thousands of pictures.

                    The TT was an absolutely epic bucket-list experience. My wife and I have a background in motorcycle road racing, and we've wanted to go to the Isle of Man TT for as long as we'd been married- about 15 years at that point.

                    We rented a bright-red dry-clutch big-bore Ducati with carbon-fiber Termignoni exhaust (and no db-killers) and lapped the Snaefel Mountain Course at triple-digit speeds, both solo and two-up.

                    And the Manx police constables were very, very nice to us. We made several friends there and continue to keep in touch through Facebook. Our first Sunday there, a nice couple we had just met at church 5 minutes before, offered to loan us their car for both weeks (practice week and race week). As we were walking out of church, another guy asked us if we had seen the course yet- when we told him that we had not seen it, he put us in his car and spent an hour driving us around the course giving us a corner-by-corner tour.

                    If it were possible to obtain retirement visas, We'd probably want to retire there.



                    Last edited by Aidokea; 06-27-2019, 12:05 AM.

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                    • #11
                      JohnKelly, while we were having pints of Guinness and cider in The Raven pub at the Ballaugh Bridge jump, the big screen was playing the 2014 documentary "Road", narrated by Liam Neeson and featuring Joey Dunlop and his brother Robert Dunlop (both killed while racing). It also featured Robert's two sons, Michael Dunlop and William Dunlop (before William was killed while racing).



                      And we were present to bear witness to Michael running the first 16-minute lap, which was also the first 133mph (average speed) lap. Five riders were killed while we were there. We had three near-misses ourselves, just on the last day, sitting on the outside of the Creg-ny-Baa corner on Senior day.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Cockney Corner. View Post
                        It does. Thank you.
                        Are Police Officers in all UK Police Forces permitted to have beards?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Book details British cop's impressions of Detroit crime

                          Michael Matthews, who spent more than 20 years as police officer in England, said the crime problem in Detroit is far worse than anything he experienced in his homeland.

                          Matthews, 45, came to Detroit in 2016 to research his recently-released book "American Ruin: Life and Death on the Streets of Detroit — America's Deadliest City." Matthews has been touring cities across the United States for years, talking to cops and citizens

                          He said he was often shocked by what he saw in Detroit.

                          "I understand people might be offended by the book title, but I'm talking about the ruin Detroiters, especially the children, have to deal with," Matthews told The Detroit News. "It's just so sad, what these kids go through; the things that are considered normal."

                          In his book's preface, Matthews wrote: "The issues (Detroiters) face are not just a Detroit problem — nor just an American problem, for that matter — but they are bigger in Detroit than any other place I visited."

                          The 323-page book, published by Silvertail Books, gives an overview of Detroit's history, and problems with blight and other issues, but most of the focus is on crime. Matthews rode around with Detroit police's Gang Intelligence Unit and narcotics units during his previous visits, and said he got an eyeful.

                          "When I rode with Detroit officers, it was the most extreme policing I'd ever seen," he said. "I've been to south Chicago and Los Angeles, but Detroit has an edge. As a cop, you want to be involved in real policing, and that's what you get in Detroit. So I kept coming back.

                          "I always wanted to be an American police officer," he said. "At 17, I called the American Embassy, and asked, 'Can I be an NYPD cop?' They told me no."

                          One of the differences between American and British police officers: U.S. cops carry guns, whereas most officers in the UK don't, although Matthews was one of the few firearm-equipped cops in his country. Another difference: Police officers in the UK work for the Crown, not the British government.

                          "That frees us up from politics," he said. "I work for the Queen, not the city of London. I don't think it's a good idea for politics and law enforcement to mix, but that's how it's set up in America."

                          In the year ending March 2018, the UK, with a population of about 66 million, recorded 726 homicides — rate of about 1.1 per 100,000 residents — according to British government statistics. Detroit, with a population of 673,000, recorded 261 homicides last year, a rate of about 39 per 100,000 residents.

                          Matthews, a former Scotland Yard investigator, said he first visited Detroit about 15 years ago, "when I was in the middle of a three-month tour of America from the back of police cars."

                          It was an eye-opening experience.

                          "Detroit was like nowhere else I'd ever seen," he said. "The obvious stuff was the blight; downtown was all boarded up back then, and I couldn't believe how bad it looked.

                          "Downtown is a completely different place now — from a ghost town to this vibrant, clean downtown," he said. "It was shocking. But since I spent most of my time in the neighborhoods, those seem to be still having issues. There still seems to be a major discrepancy between the neighborhoods and downtown."

                          Matthews said he got a thrill during previous Detroit visits hanging out with crews from the former police Narcotics Section, which was disbanded in 2014 amid corruption and other issues, and reformed as the Major Violators Section.

                          "I would show up, get posted with one of the teams, and away we would go, driving off in some beaten-up black "A Team"-style van," Matthews wrote. "We would then roll up outside some decrepit-looking house in a gang neighborhood, the sliding door at the side of the van would be pulled open and we would all charge out toward the house.

                          "Incidentally, this usually took place in the middle of the day, in broad daylight, not in some dark, quiet, early-morning raid," Matthews wrote. "The Narcs would run toward the front door with their guns aimed at the building, and then quickly smash their way in. The whole time I would be with them, snapping away with my camera and making hastily written notes."

                          During his research, Matthews spent a lot of time in the infamous 48205 ZIP code, one of the most dangerous in the United States — which the cops in his book refer to as "4820-die."

                          Matthews said he was given "tremendous access" to Detroit officers while researching his book.

                          "They spoke openly to me because I'm a fellow cop," he said. "There's a level of trust there.

                          "I went to a homicide scene where a kid was shot in the street, and the officers were angry," he said. "They open up to me about how they feel about what's happening. You hear of one kid getting killed; a 4-year-old is shot the other day. It's just constant."

                          https://www.detroitnews.com/story/ne...me/1570574001/

                          One of your mates is writing a book too- about his shocking perceptions of Detroit.

                          You don't have city like Detroit in the UK? 100,000 abandoned buildings- that's 100,000 homes, stores, schools, hospitals, etc. have become gutted, burned out shells.

                          Packs of ghetto dogs roam the neighborhoods. Mostly pitbulls and rotts that were once fighting dogs. Occasionally, they'll find a body in a burned out house and snarl off parts then cart an arm or a leg down the middle of the street in broad daylight. Seriously.

                          Bodies are always being discovered in abandoned homes. Homicide victims, drug addicts, and homeless people who freeze to death. Three sex workers were recently found dead in empty homes, all in kneeling positions, the work of a budding serial killer (arrested a couple of weeks ago).

                          Some parts of the city are so abandoned, Mother Nature has taken over. Deer roam Eliza Howell park on the west side and get creamed by cars on Interstate 96. Ring necked pheasants strut beside the high grass on Nevada street as wild haired crack addicts scream at passing cars. Downtown, between 30 story skyscrapers, peregrine falcons hunt pigeons at speeds of 200 miles. The little gray pigeon feet on sidewalks are all that remain from the impact.

                          Believe it or not, Detroit was once called the 'Paris of the Midwest.' Back in the day, it was a very affluent city. It's also where the middle class originated.

                          Things changed over time. Riots of '68 led to massive outbound migration. Population dropped from 1.5 million to less than 700,000 now.

                          Downtown is coming back after decades of neglect but the neighborhoods are still war zones. Ten years ago, tumbleweeds were rolling down Michigan Avenue. Since then, billions of dollars have spent on renovating buildings abandoned for decades. Most of that money has been from Dan Gilbert, of Quicken Loans.

                          There is some gentrification taking place in and around Downtown. Loft apartments that were going for $350 a month a few years ago are now $1,100 a month. It's the arts and culture class moving back, and hipster kids who want the urban experience.

                          People think there are gangs in Detroit. That's not really the case. LA and Chicago have 'gangs'. Detroit has 'crews.'

                          The difference: a crew is smaller in size and doesn't have a formal hierarchy like a gang would. A crew is usually several guys from the same neighborhood who have no allegiances, other than their own crew. Because of that, a crew is more dangerous than a gang. Hence the higher level of violence in Detroit compared to other big U.S. cities.

                          BUT, there is a more violent place than Detroit:

                          Detroit murder rate: 39 per 100,000 (261 in 2018 was a decrease. Usually the number is over 300).

                          Cape Town murder rate: 70 per 100,000 (2,500 in 2018).

                          I've spent time in Cape Town and can honestly say Detroit doesn't hold a candle to Cape Town's violence.



                          I used to be a banker but I lost interest.

                          -Steven Wright

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                          • #14
                            There is one question I have:

                            When the author says he works for the queen, not the British government, what exactly does that mean??

                            And how does that remove politics from LE?

                            And isn't it just a little weird to assign loyalty to a person because of their bloodline?
                            I used to be a banker but I lost interest.

                            -Steven Wright

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by JohnKelly View Post

                              Are Police Officers in all UK Police Forces permitted to have beards?
                              As far as I'm aware, provided they're neat and tidy. Mind you, I know officers who have beards you could hide a badger in.
                              I'm a little bit waayy, a little bit wooah, a little bit woosh, I'm a geezer.

                              Comment

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