Warning – Police Speed Check

Have you ever being driving along minding your own business when cars approaching you flash their headlight in warning of police speed cameras?

Are you one of those drivers who flash other motorists to warn them of a police speed check?

The Highway Code Rule 110 states. Flashing headlights. Only flash your headlights to let other road users know that you are there. Do not flash your headlights to convey any other message or intimidate other road users.

There is no mention of flashing you headlights to warn other motorists of the presence of police speed cameras, so why do we do it? We are unlikely to know the driver of the car flashing us, or which we are flashing, and the police car only stop those cars exceeding the speed limit. By flashing our headlights we are effectively warning speeding motorists to slow down. Do we really want speeding motorists to escape apprehension? Is it because we also regularly exceed the speed limit and we feel some affiliation with those exceeding the speed limit?

Few of us would shout or otherwise warn any criminal that the police are around the next bend and they will probably be caught and yet warning motorists that they risk being apprehended for speeding seems not only socially acceptable, but almost a duty.

Drive towards and through a police speed checkpoint without having been flashed or stopped and you can carry on driving without any obligation to the drivers of vehicles approaching from the other direction. But if you are flashed a warning and reduce your speed accordingly you feel a sense of gratitude to the unknown driver who flashed you. It’s clearly not practical to turn around catch them up and thank them, so what do you do with that small sense of obligation? You pass it on by flashing the drivers of cars approaching the speed check from the other direction and this little package of obligation bounces back and forth between motorists.

I’m not going to claim that I have never exceeded the speed limit or flashed a warning to other motorists, but next time you are flashed consider the implications of warning a speeding motorists and whether that is actually the right course of action.


Annual Appraisals and Welfare

During my police service I must have conducted several hundred plus annual appraisals and probable been appraised around 25 times myself. I actually completed 28 years service, but on a couple of occasions my appraisal simply wasn’t completed, which never bothered me in the slightest.

I know that whenever an officer applies for a specialist posting they need to submit their last three years appraisals together with their application for the specialist role they are applying for. I also know that it wasn’t until I got a bad appraisal that I realised just how important they were. My appraisal wasn’t just bad it was terrible and resulted in an immediate financial loss when my ‘Special Priority Payments’ was revoked and being less than two years away from retirement it impacted on my final pension.

The appraising officer was a nasty vindictive individual and we disliked each other intensely. I had about 26 years service at the time and had an excellent service record, until the silent killer ‘stress’ crept up on me and knocked me for six.

I have to be honest and admit that my previous 12 months work wasn’t of a standard expected from an experienced DS or of a standard I would accept of myself. My work was below standard because I was under tremendous stress and was ill. I won’t discuss the work I was engaged on. Unfortunately, sensitivities of the work I had been doing prior to falling ill were such that I can’t discuss it here, but the bottom line is that I was mentally and physically exhausted. My work was below standard because I was ill and need medical help and it wasn’t until a wonderful nurse from occupational health got involved that I started to make progress and recovered.

Once on the road to recovery I gave serious consideration to making numerous allegations of misconduct against the appraising officer but decided against opening old wounds and risking my health when civilian life was on the horizon. My own opinion of myself has always been more important than others and I let this totally unfair appraisal go unchallenged.

Now I’m comfortable in my retirement and writing fiction and nonfiction books I find myself reminiscing about parts of my service and occasionally recounting some funny or perhaps not funny incident within one of my books or blog.

This particular appraisal was not funny; indeed, it was a downright disgraceful example of abusive behaviour by one officer to another. This in turn got me thinking about other appraisals I had received or conducted during my service and a realisation that the entire appraisal system was a flawed process. The Metropolitan police put great faith in their annual appraisal procedures and train supervisors as to how they should be conducted. Unfortunately like most things in the Met the desired objective and the reality were often poles apart.

Even when flat out manic busy I always tried to make time for the members of my team. When I became a supervisory I learnt very quickly that a happy team was generally a productive and successful team. That time spent with an individual to discuss matters of concern to them would be paid back with dividends. This wasn’t always easy and the temptation to rubber stamp appraisals with generic comments applicable to every person on a team was often great particularly in busy times.

During one year of my service I actually had 25 officers and civilian staff working directly under my supervision. I had a great team and if any of them happen to read this short article and recognise me I repeat my thanks to them and ask that they don’t disclose my true identity. The challenge of completing twenty-five appraisals meant that I was doing one every other week along with my own duties.

The completion of a positive appraisal of a colleague is a whole lot easier than completing an appraisal with detrimental comments and I took the view that if I needed to make an adverse or critical comment about a colleague then the failure was as much mine as theirs. Telling a junior colleague that they have been failing in one aspect of their role on the day of their appraisal isn’t fair. Any shortcoming in any junior colleague’s performance should be brought to their attention long before their appraisal and additional training or supervision given to bring them up to or above a minimum standard. I wouldn’t try and pretend that I got it right every time, heaven knows I made many mistakes throughout my service, but I tried to do the right thing.

Now the appraising officer who gave me my one and only bad appraisal was in my opinion dishonest and unprofessional. However, some of my better appraisals weren’t without some bias from the reporting officer and I can recall one particular DI who informed me the brand of scotch he preferred prior to my appraisal. This was back in the days when a bottle of scotch was the standard fine for being late on an early morning spin or getting caught doing something stupid. I was neither late or caught doing something stupid, it was simply time for my annual appraisal, and this was simple bribery. Now I’m never ever going to name this DI and would deny it ever took place if ever challenged, but it did. I like to think that my good appraisal reflected my previous 12 months commitment to the role, but was the actions of this DI any less dishonest and unprofessional than the DI who gave me a bad appraisal? Not really. So that’s two out of twenty-five appraisals that were influenced by my personal relation with a supervisor rather than a professional relationship.

I also known supervising colleagues to give individuals better appraisals then they deserved but because they had failed to address some aspect of that individual’s performance over the preceding twelve months but couldn’t mention it because it would identify their failure to implement an action plan.

How about giving an individual a glowing recommendation to support their application to join some other department or team in order to get rid of them. Surely not, but it would explain why that individual with the glowing recommendation from their last department is actually a Muppet!

There are also those officers who according to their accumulated annual appraisals are responsible for practically every successful operation, solved murder or busting open a criminal syndicate. I have seen it so many times when an officer makes a claim to being an integral part of a major criminal investigation when in reality they were just one of the team. I don’t decry being part of a team by any means, I firmly believe that most major investigations are only successful when they operate as a team. Some officers however have made claims to successes I know for a fact they were not involved in whatsoever. In fact, one such officer was a DI. Was that DI any less dishonest and unprofessional than the DI who gave me a bad appraisal or the scotch drinking DI?

So, what are the benefits of a good appraisal? Supposedly they are considered alongside other applicant’s appraisals if you apply for a specialist role or transfer to other role. Sounds logically, but does it work the way it is supposed to? Well I can categorically state ‘No’ because I have personal experience of individuals being promoted without any reference to the position being advertised for candidates to apply. On four separate occasions four officers were promoted without any other potential candidates even being given an opportunity to apply for the promotion and as such applications and annual appraisals were never required. One day the officer was one rank and magically the very next day they had been promoted. Surly not, isn’t that a breach of equal opportunities legislation? Well you would think so, wouldn’t you, but no this actually happened, not once, but at least four times that I personally know of.

Appraisals took no part in the selection process what so ever.







The Purpose of a Police Cordon

A Police cordon isn’t to prevent the media from filming or members of the public looking at a crime scene, although the absence of the press and public is a bonus. The purpose of a cordon is to protect and preserve the forensic integrity of the scene by preventing the loss or contamination of evidence.  Evidence can be lost in numerous ways and no two crime scenes will ever be the same.  Generally a crime scene within a building or under cover can be protected from loss or contamination easier than an outside crime scene. Knife fights in streets have often seen knives disposed of down drains and the investigating officers must consider the possibility of rain and the likelihood that the weapon might be flushed away or blood and DNA washed off it.

Rain, wind and snow can all destroy evidence and examiners must always be conscious that weather conditions can degrade evidence and as such weather conditions and the weather forecast will impact on decision making.

This is one of the reasons police erect large crime scene tents. Nobody wants to be filmed or watched as they examine a crime scene and thankfully cordons and tents provide a degree of privacy for the examiner, but the primary purpose is the protection of a crime scene.

A controlled cordon and by this I mean a cordon where the entry and exist of ever person entering is logged and a route in and route out is identified will lessen the chance of loss or contamination.

Loss is very easy to explain. Footprints in snow will either be covered over by additional falling snow or destroyed by other footprints. The value of footprint (Impression Evidence) is the subject of a separate blog entry, but most people can understand the importance of preserving a shoe or boot impression.

Contamination of a scene happens when somebody other than the suspect, victim or other participant in the crime introduces contaminates after the event. Simply smoking a cigarette and discarding the butt on the floor of a crime scene would be introducing a contaminate to that scene. No officers or examiner is going to throw away a discarded cigarette butt at a crime scene, but what if they inadvertently carry it to the crime scene on the soles of their shoes or boots. Many uniform officers wear boots with ridge pattern which are perfect for picking up stones, cigarette butts and other tiny objects.

Plastic overshoes prevent contaminates being carried in on the soles of examiners and white forensic suits prevents the transfer of fibres from the examiners clothes to the victims. With the development of DNA sampling and comparison technology examiner even have to take care not to breathe on items recovered.

On a side note.

The forensic suits are made of reinforced and treated paper with cross stitching for strength, and although only paper thin they make a wearer incredibly hot and as such many examiners stripe down to their underwear before donning a suit.