Thursday, June 17, 2010

POW! Right in the kisser.

This, for me, encapsulates the dilemma of lone police officers. The officer cannot control two people at once, and has to make decisions very quickly. He can't call for back up, because he's fully occupied trying to restrain a dangerous master criminal suspected of crossing the road other than on a pedestrian crossing. This isn't about jaywalking laws and personal liberty, though.

Any police officer is trained to be paranoid, on either side of the pond, and for good reason. You just don't know what people are carrying, and being surrounded by an angry crowd is extremely dangerous.

So the officer did what he clearly felt necessary in the circumstances as he perceived them. He had the first girl's arm in a swan neck hold -- holding the forearm vertical and pushing the hand inwards towards the elbow. Another person intervened, and he punched her in the face. I make no comment as to that -- he was there, essentially fighting with two people. I have the luxury of watching it on the internet, with a slo-mo replay.

The real point of this story is that the Seattle Police Department who sent him out alone have accepted that their policy has consequences, and have supported the officer, by saying it's up to him what force he uses. Metropolitan Police Service, take note. If you pursue single-crewing, one of your officers will end up being filmed using Home Office approved distraction technique number 15 -- a punch in kisser. When that officer ends up on Youtube, please have the courage to support their actions in preserving their personal safety, caused entirely by your policy.


  1. Well said.

    I wish the same approach had been taken by the British MOD regarding British soldiers put into impossible situations. Sundays in Northern Ireland come to mind.


  2. buggered if you do, buggered if you don't

  3. Single crewing is clearly a stupid idea that will lead to problems. I'm sure it's absolutely fine in areas with almost no crime where it's highly unlikely that police will have to deal with anything more than reassuring the elderly that they are out patrolling (if such places exist) but in most places I'm not surprised this happens.

    It's not just the police though who make daft staffing decisions. I was at court recently where the cell staff was almost entirely made up of women (this isn't a rant about sexual equality by the way). This caused a problem because the police brought in a very violent and I'm told quite large male prisoner. Cells staff said it was simply too dangerous to take him to a court room because there weren't enough men available to deal with the prisoner and the ladies, understandably, didn't feel able to do it. I was told that the bench ended up holding the hearing through the wicket and later some big lads from Serco arrived to take him to prison.

    Going back to the police though. I wonder whether they cannot make savings somewhere an employ some extra officers (a friend of mine was accepted into BTP 18-months ago and is still waiting for a start date because they are 'overstaffed'). I hear that some forces have more civilian staff than PCs now. Do the police charge events, like Premiership football matches, enough to adequately cover the costs?

  4. Ray

    That Sunday is not in the same category at all and the analogy is : there's a world of difference between a single officer using non-lethal force in the circumstances shown and soldiers shooting dead unarmed civilians when there was no threat to themselves.


  5. Phatboy -- they charge 'the economic rate of recovery', so the answer is yes. The football clubs in the Premiership get particularly hammered with bills, but it's the little things that suffer - Boys' Brigade parades, the cycling event with 50 people, etc. The thin blue line insists it's required, turns up, and bills it all as overtime, which none of the little fellows can afford. Rock and a hard place, to be sure.

    Anonymous / BHJP -- an important distinction to make, although the De Menezes fiasco admittedly blurs the line! Yet another debate, that.

  6. Mr Prosecuter.....

    for once...thanks for your support...

    london sargie

  7. Prosecutor , are you an ex police officer?
    It's just that I have never read a well informed article like this by any non-police blogger. You go straight to the root cause rather than flirting about in the foreground. Single patrol means worse everything.

    If this was on bystanders blog it would be titled "all police officers are scum , volume 25 by bystander".

    London pc

  8. No, I'm not ex-police. Some prosecutors do pay attention to the police every now and then ;)

    There are a few ex-police briefs knocking about, including one who left his custody sergeant's job in his forties to study, do pupillage and come the Bar. He is doing very well, I am very pleased to report.

    I have done trials where officers' behaviour has resulted in civil actions against the police, or even prosecutions being brought against them. Those are in the vanishingly small minority, but make up 90% of media reports, it seems.

    I've also done trials that have turned on getting a bench to understand the circumstances, and explaining exactly why the officer punched someone in the face (a mentally unstable woman trying to kidnap a small child, in one case).

    It's nice to redress the balance in a small way. The day-to-day dealing with people who shit in the cage of the custody van and smear it all over some poor bugger at the wrong end of a 12-hour shift, that's the glamorous side of policing that never gets reported, for some reason.

  9. A well written piece. I'm saddened these days that a significant amount of what the public services do and the training they receive is about what the public perception of their actions will be. Shouting "get back" as you strike, occasionally they'll listen but mostly it is about 'witness management'. It's as if it is more important to be seen to do the right thing than actually do the right thing.

    I'm also saddened that with that crowd of people nobody stepped in to assist the officer. Peel's principals of policing state: "Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence."

    Filming it and placing it on you tube - very helpful. These days you'll be lucky if you phone isn't seized so the evidence can be adduced at court.

  10. Well anywhere that make crossing the road an offence has to be a little insane.

  11. It's an offence here to walk on the motorway - it is only a matter of scale.

  12. Touch a police officer while he is doing his job and what do you expect? It's assault or interference or whatever, the guy has a gun and she's lucky it was just a punch.