Meeting my first ‘smoker’

This blog was first published in March 2012

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I had been fortunate to be taken to a ‘cook out’ whilst lecturing at the California State Parks Conference in Malibu. I have to admit that Malibu, or the part that I saw was not what I expected.  Mountains and hills seemed to surround me wherever I went.  There were also, naturally, a number of State parks in the area. 

Our cook out took place in Malibu Creek State Park, a huge area used for camping and walking.  The park is famous for a number of reasons. It is a well-used area for the production of TV and films such as MASH and earlier than that it was the set for a name film called “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” starring Cary Grant in 1948.  The house that was built for the film was right next to our cook out.  The original house was built with small door frames to make Cary Grant look taller than he actually was.  Today the house is used as a lodge for the Park Ranger and yes the door height has been increased.

Our hosts for the evening were the famous magician Frank Padilla Jnr and his lovely wife Jean.  When we arrived at the park Frank was stood in front of his trailer and next to a strange looking contraption that is called a ‘smoker’.  In the UK this contours up a vision of someone with a cigarette in their mouth, but this smoker was a piece of technical engineering.  As the picture shows, there is a small box at one end and this is where the coals go.  The heat is pulled through the large barrel cooking the food and the smoke exits the chimney at the other end.  The picture does not show the flat grill on the far side of the numerous compartments in which to keep cooking tools.

As Frank explained how the process works he put me to work with a very large bag of prawns.  This was to be the appetiser.  Frank covered the prawns in spices and spilled them on to the heated plate.  It was my job to keep turning them until they were cooked. This did not take too long and Frank gave me the honour of trying the first one.  What he didn’t tell me was that I had to take them out of the shell first so I ended up eating a spicy prawn and crunchy shell!  And boy where they spicy.  One of the other guests had bought sliced apples covered in cinnamon and they were the perfect antidote to the heat of the spices. Nevertheless the prawns went down well and quickly began to be eaten.

My next task was to cut the meat.  Not only had I not done this before but I had not even heard of the cut of meat – tri tip.  Frank explained that this was meat from the groin area and is very tasty.  When Frank opened the ‘smoker’ I saw that the meat resembled about 12 large boomerangs.  The meat was thick and covered in a specially prepared rub that is family secret.  Being a bit exasperated that I was about to cut the meat wearing a bright pink pullover Frank insisted that I wear an apron and then gave me a huge knife.  

The lesson in carving started with an explanation that I had to cut the meat with the grain as this made it easier to eat.  This involved slicing the meat at the point and then cutting the tri tip in half and carving each half.  I quickly caught on and was slicing away.  The problem was that we were surrounded be people eager to try the steak.  As quick as I was cutting it pieces were being taken.  Frank’s rub was a big hit.  He had prepared the meat at 1030 that morning and we began carving at about 5.30 pm.  Once all of the meat was carved it was time to sit down and enjoy some of the other offerings and a beer or two.

There were about 30 people all together and at one point two large deer wandered passed without even giving us a sideways glance.  The chatter was all about the parks and the conference with regular comments about how good the food was.  Frank and Jean made sure that everyone had food and a drink and as the evening drew in a small fire was built to keep people warm.  This was carefully supervised by those in attendance some of which were fire fighters.

At this point Frank introduced me to his friend Johnny Walker.  In fact double black Johnny Walker.  Our conversation wandered in and out of Frank’s background and history and I am fairly sure that at one point he shared the secret recipe for his rub.  Alas, Mr Walker got the better of me and apart from one component the memory is lost.  Frank also decided to entertain a few of us with his magic tricks.  He shared one with me and my friend Harry Rhodes.  Harry, not having had alcohol, cottoned to the dexterity of the trick much quicker than I did.  However, I kept him amused as I tried to thread the two pieces of material together with what appeared to be five thumbs and eleven fingers.  

Then the time came to return to the hotel.  It had been a very enjoyable and memorable evening and I could not believe it when I saw that the time was only 7.30pm.  I thought that it was at least 10pm!  Many of those in attendance enjoyed a late evening and were entertained when the local fire service attended to deal with a reported fire.  Needless to say it was only the small fire at the cookout and there wasn’t any danger to anyone.  At least the fire service went home happy as they took the remnants of the food and drink back to their station.

My thanks go to Frank and Jean for entertaining us.  A great evening.

The 'smoker'
 The ‘smoker’
Getting set up
 Getting set up
Me and rank cutting the Tri Tip
 Me and rank cutting the Tri Tip
Tri tip cut of steak
 Tri tip cut of steak
Frank and the 'smoker'
 Frank and the ‘smoker’

Legal aid for the police

This blog was originally published in May 2012

The press this week has been full of comment on impending plans to alter the Legal Aid frame work.  Barristers have raised their concerns ( and there have been on line e-petitions (  Legal aid is considered by many to be a figment of modern criminal justice, in fact legal aid, of sorts, dates back to the creation of the ‘new police’ in the 1820s.

When the ‘new police’ were created by Peel the requirements were for recruits to be under 35 years old, not less than five feet seven inches in height and should be able to read and write as well as being fit and healthy.   This at least meant that the policemen of the day would look the part, a fact commented upon by Peel himself who, on October 10th 1829 reported to his wife “I have been again busy all the morning about my police.  I think it is going very well.  The men look very smart and a strong contrast to the old Watchmen.”

In fact all we quite well until the constables made an arrest.  Due to the fact that there were no public prosecutors, the constables would be required to prosecute their own cases.  It would be fair to say that the policemen of the time had ‘limited’ legal and educational ability and would be faced with a hostile judge, magistrate, jury and array of solicitors who were well versed in legal procedure.  To make matters worse it was often the case that people of some wealth would hire defence counsel who would use loop holes and irregularities to ensure an acquittal for the client.

Due to the hostility of the people against the police there were many instances when the police, who had the law on their side, who, having failed to get a conviction, were forced to pay for the costs of the trial and when unable to do so found themselves being arrested and thrown into prison.  In the event of a defendant getting off on a ‘technicality’ the policeman was liable to be arrested, convicted and imprisoned for wrongful arrest or assault.

Occasionally the prosecuting policeman would be provided with ‘legal assistance’ by the Home Office.  There were also times when, in order to assist a colleague who was imprisoned, that Divisional colleagues would make a subscription to assist policeman concerned. 

So it would seem that a policeman’s lot in the late 1820s was not a happy lot.  Assaults and beating were regularly meted out and those on traffic patrol were often whipped or run down.  At least in modern time the police are protected by the same level of justice that is applicable to all…..aren’t they?

Sources – 
A History of Police in England & Wales 900 – 1988 TA Critchley (1967)
A Short History of the British Police (Reith (1948)
Policing and its Context 1750 – 1870 (Emsley, 1983)

The Dismounted Horse Patrol

This blog was originally published in February 2013

For all sorts of reasons horses and especially police horses have been in the news recently.  Sadly, the news in both respects has not been good.  We are either eating horse meat thinking that it is beef or we are seeing the demise of mounted police patrol units in many constabularies.

Whilst the former is being dealt with by the legal authorities the latter is a sad state of affairs for modern day policing.  Throughout my policing career I saw the Merseyside Police Mounted Department  as a huge asset to the force.  I first came across them during my probationer training at the Merseyside Police stables in Mather Avenue.  To demonstrate their ‘ability’ to move a crowd we had to line up across the stable and stand there whilst the horses charged at us. We would be told when to break the line and move out of the way.  Needless to say we did not wait to be told and ran to the side almost as soon as they got into a trot!

The horses played a crucial part in policing major events including football matches and there were many occasions when I was grateful for their assistance in dealing with difficult crowds or individuals.  Having to Premier League grounds their skills were used almost every week.  They were able to safely move groups and individuals and in the event that someone was causing a problem they would usually desist when the police horse turned up.  If they didn’t they were usually picked up by tthe collar and removed at a canter.

The police horses played a crucial role in the miners dispute in the 1980s and I recall leading a mutual aid team that included police horses to Dyfed Powis Police Force to assist them in dealing with Anti Nazi League and BNP demonstrations in Welshpool.  The senior officer from Dyfed Powis told me that they did not have a mounted section and was not sure what to do with them.  I told him to just post them to their patrol area and they would do ‘their thing.’  They loved them.

Mounted horse sections being used for patrol purposes are nothing new.  In fact they pre-date the ‘new police’ of Peel.

Prior to the creation of the Metropolitan Police in 1829, Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, instituted what is perhaps the greatest police reform in 1821 with the creation of the ‘Dismounted Horse Patrol.’

The quaintly named patrol in effect substituted for the Foot Patrol that, three months earlier had been withdrawn from the centre of London. Composed of 90 patrolmen, eight Sub-inspectors and four Inspectors, divided into four divisions, the Dismounted Horse Patrol patrolled nightly up and down the highways of London.  Their beat extended for five miles from London with Mounted Patrol responsible for a jurisdiction from five to twenty miles from the city centre.  

Horse Patrol recruits were required to serve first in the Dismounted branch, from which they may be promoted to the Mounted branch.  The Dismounted force was apparently quite effective, apprehending 350 persons in its first nine months of existence.  The combined Horse Patrol, Dismounted and Mounted branch was annually funded at £16,000 and formed the ‘strongest’ single professional force in the Metropolis before Peel’s new police came into being. 

The irony of this is that while Peel himself died as a result of falling off a horse, the current  Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan Howe, is a keen horse rider and has ridden police horses on patrol in Merseyside and in London.

So while the destiny of the police mounted section hangs in the balance in many constabularies, the mounted section in the Met, one would suspect, is safe for the time being. 

From a public order and public relations point of view, the mounted sections are worth their weight in gold.  I wonder if anyone has a small pot of gold that they can spare to ensure that this longest serving branch of policing will remain?


Spies and policing – A short history

During the last few days the media has published details of police officers acting as ‘spies’ working undercover in the Special Demonstration Squad and infiltrating a variety of ’subversive’ groups.  Whilst this may not be news in itself, the fact that officers allegedly assumed the identities of dead children is.  The news was reported in The Guardian (  & and attracted widespread comment.

The use of spies within policing is not new, but historically it is something that has previously had a detrimental impact on the development of policing.  This blog contains details of three such incidents. 

Oliver the Spy.

The early 19th Century was a period of great civil unrest as demonstrated their disaffection with government policy. It was a time of ‘chaos’ with Prime Minister Pitt and Home Secretary Sidmouth waging war against reformers,  and in order to isolate and terrorise potential revolutionaries the government adopted a policy of deliberate provocation (Thompson, 1963).  

This was ably demonstrated when in 1817 vague plans were drawn together to co-ordinate 100,000 men and march them from the Midlands, Lancashire and Yorkshire to London with the intention of taking over government. In fact the numbers were significantly smaller than that.  No more than 200 men in East Derbyshire and West Nottinghamshire were actively involved.  

There plot was doomed to failure as the government had placed a spy in the midst of the insurrectionists.  Known as ‘Oliver the Spy’, WK Richards kept the government informed at every step of the way.  Oliver had been sent to the Midlands by Sidmouth and such was his ability to deceive people that he was often at threat of arrest by Justices of the Peace who thought him a bona fide revolutionary.  Oliver is sometime described as a detective playing a dangerous but honourable role in maintaining order, but Thompson believes that such descriptions are misplaced and that such men are best described as ‘odious.’
Eventually, 20 men from the 15th Hussars rode from Nottingham to Pentridge and came across 50 revolutionaries.  Most scattered but 28 were initially arrested.  A total of 45 men were subsequently indicted of which three were hanged and 30 transported to Botany Bay, Australia.  

The Pentridge uprising was repressed by a government that relied on the use of spies and the antics of Oliver the Spy, according to Palmer (1988) set back the hopes of serious police reform, including the development of a full time police organisation.

The Cato Street Conspiracy

Two years later, in 1820, the country was still in a state of legislative repression.  Arthur Thistlewood, a gentleman who had suffered a variety of misfortunes, felt that it rested upon himself the duty to rescue the country from oppression.  He, along with a number of co-conspirators decided to murder the cabinet in London while having dinner and place the heads of Prime Minister Castlereagh and Home Secretary Sidmouth on pikes.  The conspirators plan was thwarted when they were arrested in Cato Street in London.  The trial of those in the Cato Street Conspiracy, as it is now known, identified the fact that George Edwards, one of the conspirators, was in fact an agent provocateur.    Edwards kept Sidmouth informed of the conspiracy for two months prior to the arrest of the men involved.  In fact Sidmouth played a part in the farce by arranging a hoax of advertising a false plan for dinner at the home of Earl of Harrowby in order to entrap the conspirators.

Five of the conspirators, including Thistelwood, were hanged and five others transported.  

Sergeant Popay

By 1834 the Metropolitan Police’ had been established for five years.  Peel put his officers in uniform to enable them to be seen, thereby removing any notion that they could be spying on citizens.  However, in 1834 the police were attached with bricks, bottles and stones in Cold Bath Fields.  Palmer (1988) reports this as a disorder which the police themselves initiated as a result of following instructions to disperse a meeting.  However, a more serious issue was the role played by Sergeant William Popay.  

Popay was identified as a police spy who had managed to infiltrate subversive groups, sometimes acting as a double agent, by pretending to be a poor artist.  There are commentators who state that Popay exceeded his instructions by infiltrating the National Political Union and playing the role of agent provocateur.  Following a parliamentary select committee Popay’s activities were condemned for their proactivity rather than investigative nature as attempted to justify his actions by stating “all thieves know a policeman in uniform and avoid him.”  This was supported by Superintendent Andrew McLean who stated that “A man in uniform will hardly ever take a thief.” Commissioners Rowan and Mayne also subscribed to this thought stating “It has been represented to us that for the apprehension of beggars and felons, three to one are taken by men in plain clothes.”  

Whilst the committee recognised the right of the Commissioners to use officers in plain clothes and exonerated them from connivance in Popay’s conduct, Popay’s supervisors were reprimanded for failing to keep him under a tight rein.  The committee concluded by condemning Popay’s conduct as ‘a practice most abhorrent to the feelings of the people and most alien to the spirit of the constitution’ and he was subsequently dismissed from the police.

The Poppay incident, according to Palmer, helped to delay the establishment of the detective department in the Metropolitan Police for a decade.   
The use of police working undercover is at best a risk to the reputation of the police force concerned.  Over the last few years the media has highlight moral and ethical issues, including officers being intimate with those that they are spying on.  Whether the committees description of spying as being abhorrent and unconstitutional is correct is a matter for debate and the reputational damage to the Metropolitan Police remains to be seen.

References drawn from

Thompson, E.P. (1964) The Making of the English Working Class. London. Gollancz 

Critchley, T.A. (1967) (2nd ed) A History of Police in England and Wales London. Constable

Emsley, C. (1983) Themes in Comparative History: Policing and Its Context 1750-1870. London. McMillan Press

Palmer, S. (1988) Police and Protest in England and Ireland 1780 – 1850 Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Emsley, C. (1991) (2nd ed) The English Police: A Political and Social History London.  Longman

Leadership at Critical Incidents: A precis

This blog was originally published in February 2012

Last week I arranged a seminar for the Liverpool Hope University research centre – CREST (  The subject was Police Leadership in Critical Situations and the guest speakers were Deputy Chief Constable Jerry Graham (Cumbria Police) and Chief Constable Michael Barton (Durham Police).

The idea came from a lecture that I saw at the National Police Training Centre (Bramshill) some years ago.  Detective Chief Inspector Hamish Campbell was the SIO dispatched to the scene of the murder of Jill Dando on 26th April 1999.  En route to the scene he received a series of telephone calls from senior officers altering him to the name of the victim and ‘encouraging’ him to get the crime cleared up with haste.  This made me think about the emotional pressure faced by senior police officer while dealing with critical incidents.  It is to be expected that a senior officer will bring their training and experience to the fore and start the process of logging decisions, deploying resources, cataloging actions and dealing with the media, but what are they thinking as they go through the ‘investigation process.’ 

Jerry Graham was the ACPO officer on duty when Derek Bird decided to conduct a shooting spree in Cumbria that resulted in the death of 12 people and injuries to 11 others on 2 June 2010.  At the time Jerry was chairing a meeting when a colleague excused himself saying that there had been a report of a shooting.  Jerry continued the meeting for a short while before instinct told him that something was not right.  I will not cover all aspects of Jerry’s outstanding presentation that covers the time line, however, the interesting aspect in relation to the subject matter was the emotional response.  

The chaos of the situation was such that Jerry felt that he ‘had command of the situation, but did not have control.’  This was an uncomfortable place to be as critical incident training at all levels tends to focus on single incidents such as that facing DCI Campbell.  In this instance reports of shootings and injuries were reported out of sequence resulting in confusion as to exactly where Bird was in Cumbria.  At one point Jerry spoke of walking into the force control room and being faced with chaos.  Almost all of the operators were standing up and shouting as they tried to make sense of the situation.  Jerry too the command and control logs into a quiet room to make sense of the situation only to be faced with a type of readers block where all of the words appear jumbled on the page.  This situation is all the more difficult as those in the control room, partners attending the Gold Control and those on the street are looking for leadership, decisions and help.  As the incident unfolded decisions that had to be re-thought; issues relating to interoperability caused great frustration and had a significant impact on resources. 
Whilst Jerry provided the leadership that his staff needed there were a number of examples of front line leadership as police officers and PCSOs took control of the situations they faced on the street dealing with fatalities and injuries whilst not knowing whether Bird would walk around the corner and confront them.  Having been fortunate enough to see this presentation I have nothing but admiration for Jerry and the staff of Cumbria who were faced with an almost impossible situation.  

The presentation given by Chief Constable Barton was concerned with the report of a number of people trapped on the shores of Morecambe Bay while they were picking cockles on 5 February 2004.  Like Jerry, Mike was dealing with an unrelated incident and was told of the issue unfolding elsewhere.  At the time Mike was dealing with a request from a senior officer who was requesting resources to look for a young girl reported missing.   Mike had to leave this officer without his resources and head to Morecambe to deal with a situation that was growing worse by the minute.

The interesting aspect here is that Mike has been cockle picking in this area and was aware of the threat caused by the incoming tide.  As with Jerry’s situation the number of deaths began to rise and Mike had to deploy resources across a breadth of investigative roles that were confused by the fact that the survivors did not have English as a first language and had multiple identities.  

Mike spoke of how in similar situations he uses a three stage model using strategy and people to try to deal with the chaos.  In this case he needed someone who spoke a particular dialect of Chinese, he needed someone who could deal with body recovery and identification and he needed the assistance of a neighbouring force as many of those dead, missing or injured lived in another force area. These were resources that were not immediately at hand, yet they were needed immediately.

Another similarity between the two incidents was that fact that in the initial stages the number of dead and injured was unknown.  Some of Bird’s victims were shot in their own home and it was not realised that there more fatalities until later in the timeline.  The number of Chinese people who died on Morecambe Bay is still unclear, and again staff looked to senior officers for decisions, actions and help.  

The feedback from those in attendance made reference to the ‘loneliness of command’ and being pleased to hear from ‘authentic leaders’ who were prepared to share the unreported aspects of leadership in critical situations, aspects that are influenced by emotion.

I am grateful to both Jerry and Mike for sharing their experiences with students on the Police Leadership master’s programme.  They benefited from a couple of hours spent with police leaders of the stature that results in British policing being held in such high regard the world over

A superintendent defined

This blog was originally posted in January 2013

Are you or were you a superintendent of police?  If so, do you know that the role of superintendent benefitted from a Job Description as early as the 1800s?  Read on and see whether you match the description given in T.A. Critchley’s wonderful book “A history of police in England and Wales 900 – 1966.”

The jurisdiction of superintendent was originally defined in the County Police Act of 1839 as a petty sessional division; however by 1840 it was determined as any area that justices determined.  

Lord Normanby’s rules lay down that the superintendent must ‘be a man of general intelligence, able to read and write well, and to keep accounts.’  The superintendent was to be paid between £75 and £150 per year.   

From the start the post was recognised as a key one and was regarded as the ‘one great binding link in the police system.’  From the start the superintendent had a ‘pretty firm hold on his appointment (cue Frankie Howerd) and he may occasionally rise to the post of Chief Constable,’  although as a rule superintendents did not apply for these ‘prizes of the service’ being content with ‘the comforts and respectability of the position they had attained…Their love for the service, matured through many years, usually induces them to hold on to the verge of their own disability .’  1.

At this point a vivid description of a superintendent is offered and is worthy of comparison to those who are currently serving or have retired from this rank.

The superintended is painted as a ‘well to do man who kept his horses, cows and pigs, and on market days he was always found trading.  He was a little over fifty years of age, rotund, and when standing at attention he could not see his feet, and had not done so for years.  He had a short thick neck, bullet head, low brow, fox terrier eyes, rubicund nose, ruddy complexion and mop like hair.’

Apart from the trading of pigs, cattle and keeping horses I can recall one or two former superintendents who match the above description!

However, in modern times, with the introduction of gyms, public order training and all manner of exercise routines, not to mention the demands on a modern day police superintendent, we would not find anyone who matches that description……would we?

1. (Police! By Clarkson and Richardson 1989 pp 145-6)

Police Service/Government tension – it is nothing new

This blog was originally posted in December 2012

The media has played a high profile role in reporting the various aspects of Plebgate and on Sunday 23rd December 2012 I listened to the BBC Radio Five Live programme called Double Take.  The section on the relationship between police and politicians was very interesting and was based upon the circumstances surrounding Plebgate.

The piece was started off by President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Sir Hugh Orde who stated that ‘there has always been and there should be healthy tension between politicians and the police service.  Chief Constables are operationally independent; they have to interpret government policy and deliver it fairly and impartially and have to be held to account and I don’t thinks this is prima facia evidence of a growing distrust.‘

The interesting aspect of this is that such tension between politicians and the police service goes back as far as 1834 when the Chief Magistrate of Bow Street Sir Frederick Roe almost single handedly disrupted the police service and his weapon was the mysterious influence that he had over the Home Secretary Viscount Duncannon.

Roe is described as having an ‘a highly emotional and effeminate temperament’ and Duncannon showed a hostility towards the police that was deeper than mere party or political dislike. 

The relationship between Duncannon and the police was difficult.  Duncannon was determined to bring down the police and revert to the system of Magistrates with their own constables.  It was a power issue that Duncannon wanted to win.  Roe used a serving policeman called King to act as a spy.  He passed information regarding a fictitious complaint back to Roe and Duncannon who moved to destroy the authority of the Commissioners Rowan and Mayne.   

In addressing the pressure from Roe and Duncannon the Commissioners, Rowan and Mayne reportedly acted with consummate tact, patience and dignity maintaining their official position throughout.  Duncannon peppered the Commissioners with requests for information relating to the complaint and proposed a reorganisation of the police that would have destroyed the Commissioners’ authority and the functioning of the police.

The police and the Commissioners were saved when Duncannon found himself out of office due to the resignation of the Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, a resignation that resulted in a recall from Italy for Sir Robert Peel who himself became Prime Minister.

I am not too sure that the tension can be described as ‘healthy, ’ but history has a habit of repeating itself and the relationship between the police service and government is complicated and is affected by issues such as economics, system failure and critical events. 

These issues occurred in 1834 and are occurring now and I have no doubt they will occur in the future.  Therefore, should we expect anything other than tension?  If so, how should the tension be handled?

The genie is out of the bottle…

This blog was originally posted in December 2012

A few days ago I posted a blog relating to gun control in USA.  As a result a good friend of mine sent me his thoughts.  Hi thoughts were so interesting that I asked his permission to reproduce them here.  He was happy for this to be done as long as it was not attributed to him.  My friend is a serving police officer in a police force in USA.

Here are his thoughts/comments on gun control.

I inherited an antique 22 caliber single shot rifle that was owned by my great grandfather. It was manufactured in 1895.  Then I inherited my Dad’s deer rifle, he purchased it new in 1947 and I still have the original receipt from Montgomery Wards. He paid $17.   Then my brother in law gave me a 50th anniversary target pistol. He passed away a few years ago and I treasure this gift. I bought my duty weapon when they transitioned from 9mm to Glock 45. that gun saved my life, at least twice.   When we retired the 12 gauge shotguns from the PD i bought one because [my son] and I like to shoot skeet. I also bought a retired rifle.  

Does this make me a gun guy? maybe it does.  I don’t go to gun shows, don’t read gun magazines and don’t belong to the NRA. When people talk about guns I don’t have any interest. 

I can only say this, giving up these guns will not make anyone any safer. There are lots of people like me. This is a freedom we enjoy. There are 10’s of millions of guns here now. Even if the majority agreed banning guns is the solution, it is simply not doable. The genie is literally out of the bottle.  That being said, there is lots of room for regulation.

I would not object to bans on certain weapons and high capacity magazines. I think that background checks should be required for gun ownership.  Licensing and permitting seem like logical approaches. Whatever the approach one must ask, would it have prevented this? If the answer is no then the approach must be closely scrutinized.  When you analyze these cases, many of them have no record or predictable behavior.   The problem is much more complex with many contributing factors. Like I said, I think we need some kind of think tan that can anticipate acts that we have never thought of before.

I have heard some call for a ban on video games. Others want a ban on music with violent lyrics, others want to ban violent movies.  I honestly don’t know what the answer is.  Others want cops in every school.  We have 14 cops on the road and 34 schools. I doubt we are going to triple the size of the PD to accomplish this.

You are right, its classic POP [Problem Oriented Policing]. Whats being missed is the analysis. People are jumping right from the scanning to the response.

In my view these are very inciteful comments.  The media is full of stories of the development of new policies and think tanks led by Vice President Joe Bidon.  There is also a report of one school in Texas allowing teachers to carry concealked weapons (

To say that the Newtown shootings have started a moral panic is an understatement.  The next few week and months wil be interesting from a political perspective.  In the meantime, the world watches the tragic funerals of children and their teachers who went to school to learn and not to die.

Out with the old and in with the new…which is also old

This blog was originally published in November 2012

Whilst browsing through Twitter this morning I saw this headline from Police Oracle ‘New ‘Professional’ Uniform To Be Trialled’ ( 

 A new ‘professional’ uniform, this should be interesting.  The article refers to the fact that a neighbourhood team in Norfolk will be replacing the black polo shirts with a white shirt and tie.  Hang on a moment, what is new about that?  That is exactly what I wore for almost 30 years police service.

The report states that ‘recent academic research claimed the public prefer the traditional image of an officer – with a shirt, collar and tie making them look more professional, honest and approachable.’  The irony of this statement is inescapable.

In 1829 Sir Robert Peel and his Commissioners developed a uniform for the police that would encourage people to approach them for assistance.  Sir Charles Rowan, one of Peels’ two Commissioners, gave evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee in 1833 and evidenced the fact that ‘approachability’ was a key determinant of the development of the police uniform.: –  

“There was a discussion with the Secretary of State [Peel] whether they [police officers] should be put into uniform or not.  The question was discussed at great length, and the advantages and the disadvantages of the two systems weighed; it was thought more desirable that they should be in uniform; it was obvious, if it was a quiet uniform, that a person wanting assistance might obtain the aid of a policeman.”
(Critchley 1977:89).

The decision to dress the men in a non-military uniform resulted in them wearing a blue tailed coat, blue trousers (white trousers being optional in the summer) and a glazed black top hat.

I joined Merseyside Police in 1980 and was given a tall hat, blue tunic, blue trousers and blue overcoat that was reminiscent of the uniform developed over 100 years earlier.  The first changes came in the early 1980s when constables and sergeants had their blue shirts replaced by white shirt and a tie.  White shirts had previously been issued to Inspectors and above. A few years later black nylon jackets replaced the long overcoats and in the 2000s the fluorescent yellow jackets made an appearance. The current uniform of cargo style trousers and black polo shirts did not make an appearance until relatively recently.  

The approachability issue is interesting as one of the reasons that Peel considered a police uniform was to make them visible so that they could not be accused of ‘spying’ on the common people.  The current style uniform is one that would not look out of place in a Cadbury’s Milk Tray advert (for those old enough to remember them) or indeed a James Bond spy movie.

So, far from being ‘new,’ the white shirt and Out with the old and in with the new…which is also oldblack tie is a step back in time to the early 2000s and may indeed make the police more approachable. Now we have to make sure that the police use this ‘approachability’ appropriately to develop stronger relationships with the community.

Four reasons for not arming UK police

This blog was originally posted in October 2010

The murder of Police Constables Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes in Greater Manchester was a terribly tragic event.  Emotions always run high when a police officer is killed in the line of duty and often results in a call for the reinstallation of the death penalty or the overt arming of all police officers.  

This blog is a comment on the call for police officers to be routinely armed.  The call for this to happen has been especially loud from police officers.  I believe that there are four principle reasons that mean we will not see our police officers routinely and overtly armed.

Sir Robert Peel made a conscious decision not to arm the police: he wanted police to create a relationship with the public that would help in their mission to prevent crime and he did not want the Metropolitan Police to have any resemblance to the French Gendarmerie who were viewed as too militaristic.  This situation remained unchanged up until the 1990s when many forces introduced Armed Response Vehicles to deal with incidents in which there was a threat to life by someone who had a weapon (note this does not just include a firearm).  Nowadays it is accepted that armed police will be seen at airports, most major events or high security incidents.  This seems to be a practice that has been accepted by the British public and was strengthened following the terrorist incidents that took place in the early 2000s.  

Reason One
However, the routine arming of all police officers is a wholly different matter.  The stance from ACPO is that the police do not wish to be armed.  They may not speak for the rank and file, but during the time that I was a police officer it was certainly the case that police did not want to be armed.  Police officers that I have recently to spoken concur with this view.  But perhaps that situation is academic.  The question needs to be asked of the public themselves.   The police are public servants, and as such, their social contract with the public needs to direct policy.  Surely the only question that needs to be asked is “do you want all police officers to carry a firearm as part of their general duty?” If the answer to that is “no”‘ and I believe that it would be, then there are no further questions to be asked. The police cannot routinely arm themselves without the acceptance of citizens.

Reason Two
This is clearly a very emotive subject whatever your viewpoint. But it’s also a political and financial issue. Imagine the cost of purchasing a firearm and ancillary equipment for every police officer and add to that the cost of training and re-qualification.  The cost in financial and political terms would be prohibitive – which government would want to be labelled ‘the government that spent millions arming the police?’  

Reason Three
This issue relates to the administrative and emotional cost should a police officer shoot a member of the public. I was privileged to see an excellent presentation from a Metropolitan Police officer who shot and killed a member of the public who he believed to be carrying a shotgun.  In this instance a prosecution process was commenced against the officer.  Detailed investigations took place over many years before the officer was exonerated.  It is rare that armed police officers in the UK fire their weapons, but when they do the chain of events that follow, in terms of an investigation, are lengthy and stressful for all concerned. 

Reason Four
I am fortunate enough to be able to travel to different parts of the world and speak on a variety of aspects of policing.  I can say without doubt that British Policing is the envy of the world.  UK policing has a very special brand that is supported by the vast majority of the population.  To have our police officers and PCSOs protect society in this modern age armed only with a baton, handcuffs and in some instances non-lethal weapon such as Taser, is a precious commodity that we should cherish and protect at all costs.

It is somewhat ironic that this week has seen the 30th anniversary of the death of PC Mandy Rayner (18),   the first and youngest police woman to be killed in the line of duty.    We should mourn the death of Nicola and Fiona and all of the other police officers who have fallen in the line of duty and we should take the opportunity to count our blessings that we have a police system of such high reputation.  But we should also learn from such terrible events and do all that we can to prevent them from happening again.