Category Archives: Criminal Justice System

A View to a Kill: Observing Police Firearms Training


Today I was lucky enough to be the guest of Surrey Police and Sussex Police at their joint firearms training establishment in East Sussex to observe recurrent training of Authorised Firearms Officers (AFOs). Regular readers will know that I often write about criminal justice issues and I really try to become informed on complicated matters where the public perception might not tell the whole story. Last year I observed police Taser training which was an eye-opening experience.

“We do not need guns and bombs to bring peace, we need love and compassion.”- Mother Teresa

I was invited to today’s training during a Twitter-storm-in-a-teacup when I commented about incidences of armed police bringing their guns to routine callouts. When people ask what the point of social media, like twitter, is I would use this as an example. Deputy Chief Constable Simon Chesterman saw my tweet and contacted me to offer the opportunity to find out how British armed police operate. Simon is the ACPO lead for armed policing. He contacted Surrey’s Chief Constable, Lynne Owens, who asked me what I would like to see and authorised it. Then Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry who is in charge of specialist operations for Surrey and Sussex got in touch followed by Superintendent Sharon Bush.

If you haven’t already noticed, senior police officers all have Twitter accounts! They are clearly not for reporting crimes on. They are for communicating with the public (well, tweeters anyway). This transparency is very interesting. Although I am now a parliamentary candidate, when I observed the Taser training I was just a typical blogger. Everyone I met on these two days was keen to explain their jobs and answer my questions. Also, much of what I discovered was contrary to public perception. Clearly the police is making an effort to show what they do and why and clearly this is needed because public debate about some policing issues is not informed enough yet.

Observant readers will have noticed that I have spoken to 4 senior officers by this stage. There were two more, Inspectors, in the chain before today’s visit. I can’t really comment on whether this chain is too long. If the police was set up to facilitate politicians visiting their facilities then it is rather inefficient. Happily, that is not their raison d’être so I can understand why it took a few phone calls and emails. I won’t name the other officers because they don’t have as high a public profile and I haven’t asked them if it would be OK. However, everyone was very helpful and cooperative, especially the Inspector who showed me round today. He answered my questions and talked through the events we were watching making sure I noticed the important points.

“If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.”- Dalai Lama XIV

Firearms training centre

Firearms training centre

At the training base, there is a mock town road with a bus stop, lots of seized cars for practising with and an indoor mock-up of lots of rooms in a maze-like building where gunmen and their victims could be concealed.

AFOs have at least 15 recurrent training days per year, with additional days required for various specialisations. Some trainees I spoke to suggested up to 30 days per year spent training. This seems like a lot and I think the public would be reassured because of the responsibility an armed officer has. They do not shoot to incapacitate, they shoot to kill. If a target is shot and no longer a threat then they carry out medical treatment to try to undo the effect of their own shots. I heard about how the armed police at a shooting are often able to administer immediate treatment for gunshot wounds more effectively than paramedics.

There is no doubt that spending your working day preparing potentially to take another person’s life is a very serious occupation. I didn’t hear anyone take this lightly. The mood in between the training sessions seemed calm but the simulated events were anything but that. There are over 100 AFOs in Surrey and Sussex combined but when days off, etc are taken into account the number is not particularly high in my opinion. Gatwick Airport police are all armed, of course.

The training day had two groups of trainees with about 12 in each. Everyone there, trainees, instructors and observers, was a white man except one woman trainee and one woman officer who was observing, she is considering applying to join the firearms section. More diversity would obviously be an advantage.

“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”- Mao Zedong

The Weapons

The handgun that all AFOs carry at all times is the Glock 17. In the training environment they use a blue version to ensure they don’t accidentally take out the wrong weapon from the armoury.

Glock 17 (blue for training), Taser (red) and carbine

Glock 17 (blue for training), Taser (red) and carbine

They also use carbines which fire 5.56mm rounds which penetrate car windows, doors and people accurately at up to 300m and less precisely at 500m. AFOs also carry Tasers and another nonlethal option is the baton launcher which fires a kind of rubber bullet. This was described as like being hit by a baton: sore but less effective against drugged or drunk assailants. They also have stun grenades for clearing buildings.

My concern is about how the public are protected. Firstly, we need to be protected from armed criminals. Secondly, we need to have confidence that the police won’t kill or injure anyone unnecessarily, even criminals.

The Tactics

Given all the dangers and pressures of armed policing, it is vital that AFOs work well as a team. Since team members have to be interchangeable standard tactics are used for arresting people in cars, “vehicle stops” and searching buildings, “single system search”. These tactics are common across the UK so officers in different forces can theoretically quickly work alongside each other. I work for a very large airline and we operate the same way. I could fly with any of the 500+ copilots on my fleet and we would be able to work as a team straight away dealing with emergencies because we all follow standard procedures.

Enforced vehicle stop

Enforced vehicle stop

We saw two types of vehicle stop: compliant and enforced. There are two threat levels: low and high. They were very different experiences. The low threat compliant stop involved a lot of shouting and would be a frightening experience for an innocent driver. The police handguns and carbines were drawn and clearly threatening to the motorist who was stopped (a police officer role playing) but the safety catches were still on and the carbines were kept pointing down or away from the target. The motorist ended up being handcuffed on their knees, which would be traumatic but not fatal.

The high threat enforced stop started with a car crash, literally. It was a low speed bump but created some broken glass and a bent BMW door. The safety catches were off and the tension levels kicked up a notch. The car passenger was handcuffed face down on the wet ground in front of me. No one was injured during the training exercise but it must be a risk and in real life I expect there would be injuries even without any bullets being fired. However, nobody was shot and this reflects how things are usually done in Surrey and Sussex. The Inspector escorting me told me he has conducted these “stops” in real life but Surrey Police as a whole has only fired live rounds on two occasions in the last 10 years, causing one fatality.

The assessment of the threat level is very important too. As an airline captain I am required to react to bomb threats based on the assessment too and my actions would be very different for different threats so it is vital the assessment is accurate. (I’ve never received a bomb threat to my aircraft in 15 years, fingers crossed!).

Hostage to be rescued, viewed from gantry

Hostage to be rescued, viewed from gantry

The “single system search” is a systematic way of clearing and searching a building. It can be scaled up or down depending on how many AFOs are available. There are two types of search: emergency and deliberate. An emergency search will be when time is limited and there is a shooter or a victim which needs to be found and dealt with quickly. The training mock-up has a gantry overhead where we could observe how the teams moved from room to room. I had to wear safety goggles and ear plugs but the weapons only fired paint pellets. Like the vehicle stops, this involved a lot of shouting. I think the communication between the AFOs was more standardised here because it is clearly critical they know what their colleagues are doing. The risk of “blue on blue” is very high. The bullets can pass through doors and people so AFOs have to ensure they don’t hit each other.

The Threat

There was plenty of time today to discuss with officers what they see as the threat. This was similar to the analysis by trainees at the Taser training I observed. EMDs, Emotionally or Mentally Distressed people, cause the vast majority of their callouts, 21 out of 23 was cited. If people are not thinking rationally it must be very difficult to stop them harming others without using force. Some of them may hope to commit “suicide by cop”. I really feel for police officers who have to deal with violent irrational people, I know I couldn’t do that part of their job. Dealing with armed bank robbers is far easier to understand. The vehicle stops simulated this and reminded me of The Professionals. In reality, police work of this kind is messy and decisions are difficult to take.

Some vehicle stops in real life are totally innocent people. A “partial index” was mentioned where part of a car registration was recorded at a crime. When a car was stopped by armed police looking for the criminals it turned out to be a nun!

I think the threat in Surrey is different to the threat in London. Also, I feel Surrey Police train hard and fight easy. They don’t appear to be as trigger-happy as the Met. In the whole of Surrey there are only 2 ARVs, Armed Response Vehicles, on constant patrol. I suggested they are like Trident submarines, constantly at sea, providing a defence. For over a million residents, this does not seem like militarisation.

Surrey Police’s armed officers provide the counter terrorism function for our county too. This is why there are no officers in my photos and I haven’t named anyone operational. The terrorism threat against British police officers was recently raised and I respect the risk these officers take by being possible targets. I haven’t described in detail the tactics because it is not totally relevant and I don’t want to help anyone counter them.

Speaking to Yvette Cooper at Labour conference

Speaking to Yvette Cooper at Labour conference

It was pointed out that there are many legally-held firearms and shotguns in Surrey. As someone who has been threatened by one, over the phone, I appreciate that threat. As an aside, I was glad to hear from Yvette Cooper, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, at the annual conference that, under Labour, Surrey Police will be able to charge applicants for shotgun certificates the full cost of providing them. Prices have been frozen for so long it costs the force a huge amount every year processing shotgun permits. That money should go on policing.

Guns in Public

This debate started with people objecting to armed officers bringing guns to routine calls. This happens sometimes in Surrey but not in Sussex. We discussed how the public react. It was suggested that, if noticed, it could be a conversation piece for young men (the subject of role models and inspiration for young men must be addressed in future). I am concerned about inherent implicit threats of violence. However, if a domestic abuse incident is in progress and the “box is empty” apart from the ARV then it makes sense for them to deploy to it.

“One man with a gun can control 100 without one”- Vladimir Lenin

Avoid, Trap, Mitigate

This is our mantra when flying airliners. Sending armed officers to routine calls because no one else is available is “mitigating”. It is an expensive and less effective way of working. I need to understand why we cannot work at the “avoid” level. We need to work at this level for the mentally distressed people who cause the majority of armed police callouts too. They should be receiving help earlier. Ending up in a police cell or being shot by police is the outcome which must be avoided.

It was fascinating to watch armed police training today. In particular I enjoyed discussing these issues with trainees and instructors, they clearly think deeply about the implications of how they carry out their jobs. I am now coming to expect this from police I meet in person. My two objectives are to understand the effect on public safety of a) stopping dangerous people and b) use of violent police action beyond that absolutely necessary.

I am very grateful to Surrey Police and in particular the officers who chatted to me today. I have learned a lot today but my research is not yet complete.

“Force and mind are opposites; morality ends where a gun begins.”- Ayn Rand

Twitter Squad! If you dare to question British police, expect a visit.


Today it emerged that armed police officers in the UK have been bringing their guns along to routine police work causing members of the public to feel threatened. I tweeted today’s BBC story here:

Of course, this tweet is not a criticism of any individual officer, or even police officers in general. It is a criticism of the system which has allowed creeping militarisation of the police in this country. Despite that, I received a barrage of abuse from police tweeters. There were some reasoned comments amongst them but it was mostly abuse, including swearing intended to intimidate or distress me. From police officers.

I have had online abuse from police officers before, of course. Members of Twitter Squad are never brave enough to do it face-to-face. I have been called a “police hater” because I disagreed with deploying water cannon on the UK mainland. Apart from members of Twitter Squad, everyone above the age of 8 knows that just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean they hate you.

Twitter Squad represents a small number of police officers, the rest of whom must be deeply embarrassed by their cretinous behaviour. The specimen in this article, Peter Kirkham, called me the same word he called Theresa May. This is a pattern of behaviour one should never see from a police officer. I think Twitter Squad members, presumably British police officers, committed about 4 communications offences against me today. I have deleted the swear words in a couple more:

Pleb Evans

Along with the swearing, I was accused of “not having a clue” and being an “idiot”, “stupid” and “a toff”!

Twitter Squad is now a threat to anyone who speaks out about policing. They aim for a more authoritarian, oppressive police and should be called out by politicians for their disgraceful cowardly behaviour (like Nick Herbert did in the link above). I’m from Glasgow and I know as many swear words as these brave tweeters in blue but I don’t use them to abuse anyone who disagrees with me. The time has come for chief police officers to act to permit members of the public to discuss policing without having the dogs of Twitter Squad set on them. If they don’t act, politicians should.

Most adults realise that just because I am standing for Parliament does not mean they have permission to abuse me. It is surprising that such a large number of police officers can’t grasp that. I think there is a culture of exceptionalism in British policing. For too long a minority of police officers have believed they are above the law. We have seen outrageous cover-ups of police behaviour and even some sort of police black ops editing of Wikipedia.

Twitter Squad is a disgrace to british policing. They are touchy, abusive louts who only want the police to be more violent and run for their benefit. If the police are the public and the public are the police, we all need to stand up to these thugs.

 

Levels of Trust and Surrey Police


Background

Today I met with Deputy Chief Constable Nick Ephgrave to discuss the recent disciplinary case involving Surrey Police’s Head of Finance, Paul Bundy. Mr Bundy had been dismissed for gross misconduct on 26 November 2013 then reinstated after an appeal on 19 December. Not much more than that was currently in the public domain except that the misconduct consisted of a failure to declare a personal interest and mishandling internal information.

DCC Nick Ephgrave and Richard Wilson

DCC Nick Ephgrave and Richard Wilson

Why was I there?

I have been on record calling for Surrey Police to reveal more details of the case. There were two main reasons I met with DCC Ephgrave this morning.

Firstly, on behalf of the people, the taxpayers, of Surrey. They deserve to know if their public money is being lost. For example, Surrey Police are selling some former police station buildings and no indication had been given whether assets had been sold inappropriately. The public is rightly concerned about protection of their own data. People will have wondered if the data that had been “mishandled” was their personal information. After today’s meeting I can reveal that neither of these events have occurred in this case. The public need to trust Surrey Police to inform them if their interests have been harmed and how. Obviously, Surrey Police was harmed by the misconduct, or there would have been no disciplinary hearing, so in that sense the public interest was harmed.

Secondly, I was there on behalf of the rank and file police officers in Surrey. They have been putting their lives at risk during the recent floods, as they often do to protect us all. They deserve to know that they can trust their leadership team.

Just the facts

DCC Ephgrave was very open and helpful about the case and started by explaining the facts of the case and the procedure. I took some notes to ensure I got it right:

The misconduct took place over several months before the disciplinary hearing on 26 Nov. This was chaired by Commander Adrian Hanstock of the Metropolitan Police. Paul Bundy, whom DCC Ephgrave described as “a member of the chief officer team”, was represented by a lawyer, as is his right.

The hearing found

  1. on the balance of probabilities that the misconduct took place
  2. that it was “gross misconduct” and 
  3. the “sanction” ie punishment should be dismissal

Mr Bundy had 5 working days to appeal, which he did. The appeal hearing took place on 19 Dec and was chaired by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Fiona Taylor also of the Met. It is a requirement for appeals to be chaired by an officer senior to the one who chaired the original hearing. It is not a requirement for it to be chaired by an officer from a different force to the first one, although Cmdr Hanstock does not report to DAC Taylor in the Met.

The appeal hearing found that the original hearing was correct on points 1 & 2 above but overturned point 3. It found that a more appropriate sanction was a final written warning. Mr Bundy was reinstated with immediate effect. Each hearing took two days and, along with the investigation, cost the Force an unspecified large amount of money!
 
It was expected that he would receive his salary for the time he had been wrongly dismissed. It was unclear how much extra was paid to the PCC’s finance manager during the period where he was standing in as finance head. It was unclear to what extent the Force’s financial management had been impaired during this period.
 
Paul Bundy had a previously unblemished employment record. The “interest” which he had failed to declare has now been declared properly. He has not admitted the mishandling of internal information charge but he did not appeal against the hearing’s finding that he did commit this.

…And now for the verdict

Although I have not seen all the confidential documents relating to the case, I am satisfied that DCC Ephgrave, in his capacity as the chief officer responsible for professional standards, has treated this with the appropriate seriousness. I don’t intend to speculate about why the initial sanction of dismissal was overturned on appeal. It would have been better for Surrey Police if the original hearing had come to a decision which was not overturned but that can only be said with hindsight.
 
I believe that Surrey Police were correct to release the fact that Mr Bundy had been dismissed after the original hearing. However, they should have been more specific about the nature of the misconduct. I now know what the misconduct consisted of, broadly, and although it is very serious, if Surrey Police had been more forthcoming initially it would have prevented some of the wilder speculation. I invite them to be publicly more specific now.
 
Rank and file police have a difficult job, sometimes impossibly difficult. They have a right to expect the highest standards from their leadership team. In this case they were let down by one member of it. This sometimes happens in big organisations. The best way to minimise the damage to trust in the Force’s leadership is to be as transparent as possible. Personally, I am not interested in discovering details of anyone’s private life but I think some more information should be in the public domain about this case.


 
This has been a difficult issue for Surrey Police and they have learned lessons from it.

The Police are the Police and the Public are Kept in the Dark


Robert Peel (1788-1850) was the founder of the police force in this country. He set the principles which still govern policing today and aim to ensure it is ethical and works in the interests of the people. Here is one of his most famous quotations:

“The police are the public and the public are the police.”

A few days ago, Surrey Police suddenly announced that they had sacked their head of finance for “gross misconduct”. Paul Bundy’s profile was deleted from their website. The only explanation given to the public was allegations that he hadn’t declared personal interests and had mishandled information.

Surrey Police has an annual budget of £222m and significant assets, some of which, it was recently announced, will be sold off. If any other organisation had sacked such a senior manager for a first offence we would know much more about it. The fact that Surrey Police is a publicly-funded organisation and one which relies on maintaining public confidence makes it even more scandalous that this is being covered up.

Surrey’s taxpayers and residents have a right to know what is happening to the top management of their police force. If this happened in a private sector company, the non-executive directors would represent the shareholders to investigate whether the rot spreads further and if the organisation has been dangerously compromised. Surrey Police doesn’t have non-executive directors, or anyone any more to represent the interests of the public.

Last year, the Tory-LibDem Coalition abolished police authorities and replaced them with elected Police and Crime Commissioners. The Surrey Police Authority contained independent, non-political, non-police experts who could examine sensitive cases like the charges levelled against the head of finance. They could have ensured an inquiry which was independent and seen to be independent. They would not have concealed it from the public solely because it was embarrassing to Surrey Police.

In Surrey, like elsewhere, the Police Commissioner election was a farce. The turnout was tiny and most people don’t even know they have a PCC, never mind what his name is. I can reveal, in Surrey, his name is Kevin Hurley, a former police Chief Superintendent. Interestingly, he stood as “Zero Tolerance, Ex-Chief” on the ballot paper despite never being a Chief Officer in the UK. Since his election he has tied his political reputation to that of Surrey Police. If Surrey Police were embarrassed by revelations about why Bundy was sacked, the political fall-out would damage Hurley. Commissioner Hurley is refusing to comment on the sacking.

Deputy Commissioner Harris tried to divert attention from this story when I was discussing it on Twitter with the Chief Constable:

Trying to divert attention

Harris is another ex-police officer and a friend of Hurley. He is trying to use the fact that brave junior police officers have been injured on duty to divert attention from the goings-on at the top of the organisation. I believe this shows a cynicism and lack of respect for rank and file officers in the Commissioner’s office.

I do not accuse Chief Constable Lynne Owens of this, she always acknowledges the sacrifices of the police officers she leads appropriately. However, she did claim that Mr Bundy’s right of appeal was preventing her from being open with the public:

CC Owens' defence

Chief Constable Owens went on to imply that the public’s interest was represented by using a Chief Officer from another force to hear the case.

police investigate police

Unfortunately, there have been many cases of the police investigating the police and serious irregularities, even crimes, have been covered up. Only someone totally outwith the police and known to be totally impartial can represent the public interest here.

My Offer to Surrey Police

As someone who is clearly, and well-known to be, independent of the police force, I offer to read all of the confidential documents relating to this case and talk to everyone involved. If there is genuine legal opinion that it cannot be made public until an appeal is concluded or ruled out, I will promise not to reveal the details until it is legally appropriate. I will, however, tell the Surrey public whether they have been swindled, conned, lied to, had their personal details leaked, or in any other way failed by the organisation in which they place so much trust. If Surrey Police have handled this case properly, then they will have nothing to fear because I have a record of defending them against unjust criticism.

Why me? I am used to handling responsibility. As an airline captain, I’m responsible for the safety of hundreds of people and my actions are insured for hundreds of millions of pounds. I do not take things like this lightly. Also, I was voted to represent the Labour Party in Guildford at the 2015 general election so I already have an electoral mandate.

Surrey Police desperately need to reestablish the confidence of the people of Surrey after this damaging incident within their top management. If they accept my offer to represent the public in this, they will be living up principles of their founder, Robert Peel.

To protect and to serve – policing in Surrey Heath


I spent an interesting hour and a half today discussing policing in our borough with Detective Inspector Martin Goodwin and Sergeant Julie Hillman. Martin is the borough commander and responsible for neighbourhood policing here. He invited me to his office at the Surrey Heath Borough Council building in Camberley after a public conversation we had on Twitter last night. The police station in Camberley has closed and they now have a couple of desks in the foyer of the council building to serve the public. There are many more staff and police officers upstairs.

The desks in the foyer are manned by people in uniforms but their epaulettes say, “Police Staff” on them, ie they are not police officers.

The borough is split into three areas for neighbourhood policing. Broadly, this means the six villages are one area and the rest is divided by the M3. Approximately 50 people, police staff and officers, report to Martin.

Operation Nemesis II

Surrey Heath is a very low crime area. It has the best Neighbourhood Watch network in the UK. I can vouch for the local police panels and how reassuring they are for the residents who attend them. However, there is drug-related crime even here and local police have been raiding suspected drug dealers in a plan they call Operation Nemesis II. This was reported on in this week’s Camberley News and Mail. A journalist accompanied police on one of their raids on which no drugs were found, a “negative result”.

Now, in this country police can’t just smash into people’s homes on the off-chance that they’re drug dealers so they must have had multiple reasons to suspect drugs were there. They have to convince a magistrate to authorise a search warrant. Despite that, sometimes no drugs are found, like in this case. There is no feedback loop to the magistrates to explain why this is happens in some cases so they never get to find out if no drugs were found because a dealer managed to flush them down the toilet in time or because it was a totally innocent person living there minding their own business.

I had been concerned about police concentrating resources on busting cannabis users and small-time dealers. However, Martin assured me that the aim of Operation Nemesis II is to target class A drugs. I think this is a reasonable aim and he confirmed that many other crimes are associated with class A drugs. Like most people, I want the police to target class A drugs dealers, raiding their homes if necessary, and I’m not surprised if they also find cannabis there. The communications I had read seemed only to mention cannabis and it’s unfortunate that the one raid which was witnessed by the impartial press had a “negative result”.

Martin accepted that rounding up drugs dealers only tackles the supply side of the drugs market and only for a short time. He said that it makes drugs less accessible but addicts will travel outside the borough if necessary to get drugs and may have to shoplift more to afford the petrol to get to London. He told me about how addicts in the borough are dealt with and the assistance they receive to come off drugs. This is clearly the best way to tackle drug crime, in my opinion, attacking the demand side of the market.

From what I could see though, our local police are aware of the drug scene in this borough and are acting broadly appropriately. Intelligence about drugs dealers will always be imprecise but police may have to act on it knowing it might not be correct to protect the public. It is important that they weigh up the risks of this too, of course, and don’t raid private properties without probable cause.

“Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics” - Disraeli (possibly)

We went on to discuss crime statistics. Now, Martin (obviously) did not tell me any lies about this. In fact, everything he told me was the truth (and I believed him). However, he did use a lot of statistics. The police force uses statistics for the numbers of each crime reported in each month to measure how effective they are. I don’t think this is fair on Martin and the Surrey Heath police officers. There are so many variables, other than police activity, which influence how many crimes are recorded in a given area. In a low crime area like here this is especially true. If a prolific burglar is released from prison they might commit a couple of months’ worth of crimes in two days before they can be re-arrested. This would completely skew the statistics and be no fault of the local police. The same month the following year, if this doesn’t happen, recorded crime might be seen to drop x% but again it would be due to the exceptional item not happening rather than more effective policing. Martin’s spreadsheet showed how many of each category of crime was reported in each area of the borough so far this financial year and compared it with last year. Where the number had gone up, the percentage increase was on a red background. Some were up by 100%, some were down by 100%, some were in between. All the numbers were small.

I much prefer to look at qualitative measures of crime, the fear of crime and police effectiveness. There were measures of public confidence in the police and satisfaction numbers for people who had reported anti-social behaviour. I’m happy to report that they are high. I wrote down what the exact percentages are and how they changed over a year but I don’t think that is relevant. Like me, most residents have confidence in Surrey Heath police.

I don’t think looking at year-on-year changes to small numbers of crimes is very useful. Although, they did say that we have about one domestic burglary every two days in the borough and ten years ago it was about two burglaries per day. That is a relevant stat, I think. Crime is low here and, as a resident, that’s how it feels to me. I want it to remain like that and I want our police to remain tolerant, sensible and approachable.

Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime - Tony Blair

We talked about local crime prevention measures too. A lot of thought has gone into this, as I would expect. Regular readers will remember that I witnessed Surrey Police’s Taser training and talked to response officers about their decision making. In neighbourhood policing the scenario is wider and longer. I think experienced officers know what works, for example, to keep fighting to a minimum in Camberley town centre on a Saturday night. I hope they don’t rely on statistics too much and can use their knowledge and experience to keep the crime numbers low here and are not forced to display ‘zero tolerance’ when it is not appropriate.

At the end, we even had a chance to discuss the Red Road and traffic problems like speeding. It’s good to know that our local police team are thinking about this too and realise it is important to residents.

It was great to have the opportunity to talk at length about policing in Surrey Heath. I’m very grateful to Martin and Julie for answering my questions patiently and openly. My message to the top management of Surrey Police is: if your short-term crime stats show an increase in Surrey Heath, do not blame the local police officers, realise that low crime numbers can show wild percentage swings for other reasons, and consider if ‘zero tolerance’ is really appropriate for somewhere like Surrey Heath.

 

Zenith Windows Sales Thugs Target Windlesham


It’s been a year or two since they’ve been round here but the aggressive sales teams from the widely-hated double glazing company Zenith are targeting Windlesham again. I’ve told them to their face, by phone and by email never to contact me but they haven’t kept any record of it. I suspect this is illegal.

Having my photo taken without my permission on my own doorstep by Zenith sales-thug.

Having my photo taken without my permission on my own doorstep by Zenith sales-thug.

Every time they knock on my door I immediately tell them I’m not interested but they never just say, “sorry to bother you then, good-bye”. They hang around on my doorstep for an argument. This time, however, one of them, the leader, got out his mobile phone to take a picture of me. Also, none of them had visible ID and didn’t display it when I asked to see it. They are the worst kind of doorstep predators, rude, aggressive and harassing people on their own doorsteps.

I phoned Surrey Police on 101 and reported it. Unfortunately I didn’t get their car registration number, I’ll make sure I do next time. If these characters have been bothering you too, phone 101 and quote ref P13249030.

Zenith doorstep pest sales thug won't leave when I told him to.

Zenith doorstep pest sales thug won’t leave when I told him to.

Do you know this man? He harasses people on their own doorsteps.

Do you know this man? He harasses people on their own doorsteps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE 22 AUGUST

This has been the most viewed post on the blog over the last week, so obviously people feel strongly about doorstep pests like this one. I’m pleased to say that Zenith’s Operations Director, Peter Gray, has been in touch. I’m not sure if he was prompted by my email or this blog… or Twitter… or the comments I left on Zenith’s facebook page. He started by apologising in this email before we spoke on the phone this morning:

Gray emailMr Gray apologised on the phone and admitted wrongdoing by his staff. He did say that they are self-employed so he couldn’t stop them from knocking on my door again, however. He has heard the account of doorstep interlocutor, although he hasn’t spoken to him personally, and says it is different from mine. He wouldn’t tell me the name of the young man in the photos above but he did say he would tell the police if asked.

Next I phoned Surrey Police on 101 to update them. They have recorded Mr Gray’s contact details but said they won’t phone him to get the name unless Zenith bother me again. I can expect a call from the ‘safer neighbourhood team’, I’m told.

If you’ve been bothered by Zenith Windows door-to-door salespeople, please phone the police and quote ref P13249035. Harassment is a crime and if these commit it enough times Surrey Police will act to stop it.

Crime Wave Hits Surrey Heath


A shocking story on the front page of today’s Camberley News and Mail reveals what many Surrey Heath residents have been suspecting: a massive increase in crime levels in the last few months.

The data is for the first three months of this financial year, and compared with the same period last year:

  • Domestic burglary is up 33%
  • Non-domestic burglary is up 44%
  • Drug offences are up 29%
  • Vehicle crime is up 11%
  • Theft is up 21%

These are appalling statistics and the only way to describe what is happening is to call it what it is: a crime wave.

There have been significant public policy changes in the recent past and it is reasonable to examine whether they have contributed to this disaster.

Firstly, local and national government have removed the safety net for many vulnerable people. Surrey Heath Borough Council has been at the forefront of this, as I have written before. It would not be surprising if these policies have led to more people turning to drugs and therefore acquisitive crime to finance their habit. At the same time, the Tory-LibDem Coalition has slashed police budgets, including Surrey’s.

Secondly, last November Surrey elected its first Police and Crime Commissioner, Kevin Hurley, who stood on the simplistic and populist platform of ‘Zero Tolerance’. By concentrating on being tough with young people and imposing harsh penalties after an offender is caught, have Surrey Police been distracted from crime prevention? Is it a coincidence that our county’s first year without tolerance has started with an unprecedented crime wave? A two-word slogan is no substitute for a coherent community safety programme, which is something we lack.

Between them, SHBC and the PCC, have set the scene for today’s horrific crime wave in Surrey Heath. The residents whose houses and cars are broken into as a result will be the ones who pay the price for their ideologically flawed policies.

Sophia James

Labour Councillor for Katesgrove Ward

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