A Policeman’s Lot 8….Faceless Men in a Nameless Office

It has been a long held belief of mine that somewhere deep in the bowels of the Metropolitan Police headquarters at New Scotland Yard there exists a small but well staffed office run entirely by the senior ranks of the the police service and their role is to come up with inane and stupid ideas designed to waste money, stop the MPS from operating efficiently and, where possible, dampen the morale of rank and file officers……And they are very good at their work….The last thing that the workers in that office want to see is happy, smiling police officers….That will never do!….Their main aim in life is to ensure that “A policeman’s lot is NOT a happy one!”

The Met. Police has for many years followed the ‘Corporate’ path. You may remember in my first blog in this series that I recalled going to my local police station to enquire about joining the police and being handed a blue folder embossed with an image of a silver police badge and the slogan “Wear the badge of courage.”

That was of course an advertisement…..But in the modern age the police also has to have corporate slogans….”Working For a Safer London” was a fairly recent one that was plastered over every MPS poster and vehicle. These may appear innocent enough but with every change of Commissioner or ‘New’ initiative the incoming senior officer has to put his own stamp on his tenure….And that means a new slogan…..Thus “Working for a Safer London” became “Working TOGETHER for a Safer London”…. these all look harmless enough…..Except over the next few months ALL the old logos have to be removed and replaced with the new ones….All at public expense!

Now, I am by no means the first person to question this and Scotland Yard are quick to point out that police markings have to be regularly replaced anyway….Therefore the cost to the public purse is minimal…..One would have hoped that once the police came under the Mayor of London’s overall control that this might have stopped or at least curtailed….But it only seems to get progressively worse….Most of the changes are of a small nature….Changes of names and acronyms for example but the list really is endless…..It just goes on, and on and on……

When I left West End Central in the early eighties and following a big change in the introduction of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, they changed what used to be called the Charge Room where prisoners were dealt with into ‘The Custody Suite’….And once these changes are implemented it is almost a sacrilegious act to use the old titles or descriptions….I can vividly remember going back into West End Central some 18 months or two years after leaving it….During that time there had been a big change around and there were many new faces walking about the place….I just wanted to pick up a few new report books…..These were always previously kept in the Charge Room area (which was now locked)….A young inspector asked me what I was looking for and I told him and asked if I could go into the Charge Room to get the required books. He looked at me in complete horror and disgust. “Do you mean THE CUSTODY SUITE?”

“If that’s where you keep the report books, Sir, yes.”

“Well no, You can’t just WANDER into a Custody Suite willy nilly these days….And we don’t keep the books now anyway!” He went to a cupboard and almost threw the books at me then stared at me in disbelief as I left his presence. Having acquired my books I left my old station reflecting on how fast the place (and everything else for that matter) seemed to be changing and how I was feeling distinctly like a dinosaur stomping around in the new age of mammals.

One of the areas where these small changes are most often found is when the time comes around for every officers annual report….I lost count of the number of different names and acronyms that these reports were referred to by…..Each year every constable has to have a report made on his or her work by their immediate supervising officers….This always used to be a fairly simple process….The sergeant will have a few words and write some comments….Then the inspector would compile his annual progress report and sit down and discuss it with the officer in question….At the end of what was usually an amicable chat the inspector would ask the constable to sign the form…The next step came a month or so later when the constable gets summoned to ‘The Guv’nors’ office’…. Now most of these interviews were unremarkable and straightforward…..Some however live in the memory….On one occasion I entered the superintendent’s office but was told “Don’t sit down….Go to the duties office and bring me your overtime cards.”….. When an officer incurs overtime it can be recorded in two ways….Nowadays it is all computerised but in my day, each officer would have two cards kept by the Duties Office….If an officer wanted his overtime payment to go in for immediate payment it would be entered on a green coloured card but if he wanted the time to be taken as ‘Time Off’ then it would be recorded on a buff coloured card….If after three months had elapsed the time off had not been taken then it would automatically go in for payment…..I went to the Duties Office, collected my cards and handed them to the superintendent….He was not impressed! “According to these cards you didn’t attend court on one single day when you were last on Night Duty, why Not?”

“Because I didn’t arrest anyone, Sir.”

“Why not?”

“Because I was posted jailer for most of the week, Sir”.

“Well that is simply not acceptable! The only way I have of making sure that my officers are working is when they are regularly at court off Night Duty and therefore earning overtime….Go away and I will see you again in the near future and make sure that next night duty, you are at court much more regularly.”

Not wishing to be seen as lazy, I decided to play the game and started to arrest lots of the type offenders that required officers to attend court (at that time pretty much any offence other than drunk and incapable)…..At around that time the police came under a period of financial pressure and it was decreed that “No officer could put in more than 100 hours per month for payment”….And when any offenders were found they were to appear before the superintendent….Blissfully unaware of this new rule I was passing the superintendent’s office and was stopped by his loud yell “GET IN MY OFFICE!”……”The computer has given a list of every officer who has worked more than 100 hours overtime last month….Why is your name near the top of the list?”

“Because I’ve worked a lot of overtime Sir.”

“I know that….Why have you worked so much overtime?”

“Mainly because you told me to Sir….So that you would know how hard I was working, Sir!”

“When did I say that?”

“About three months ago, Sir”

“Did I?…..Well that’s a very long time ago and things change…..Go away and don’t do it again!”

“Yes, Sir….I mean no, Sir!”

Another memorable annual report was given a few years later….By then I had left ‘C’ District and was now part of the Diplomatic Protection Department. My inspector was a somewhat eccentric inspector known to everyone as “Ollie” because of his physical resemblance to the old comedian Oliver Hardy. One of “Ollies many little quirks was that he always carried a Thesaurus in his briefcase and he liked to make use of it at every and any opportunity….Particularly when writing these annual reports….My sergeant wrote his report and I went before “Ollie” for the usual interview which went well…..He wrote it up and told me to sign…..I didn’t read what he’d written….there really wasn’t much point……Eventually I was summoned to go before the department’s superintendent….He was a nice chap and we got on quite well….As he opened my report his eyes glazed over….”Oh dear….You’re one of “Ollie’s team, aren’t you?”

“Yes, Sir”?

“It says here that you are a “Hard working and popular member of the relief who has a ready wit and inventive sense of humour who is always happy to deflect any conversation towards a jocose bias.”….Have you got any idea what on Earth he’s talking about?”

“I think he’s calling me a Mickey taker, Sir.”

“Really?…..And is it true?”

“To a limited extent. Sir.”

“Excellent….Keep it up!”

I am reliably informed by currently serving officers that the unknown officers in the imaginary office that I mentioned in the opening paragraph are still at their work….and even that their effect are even worse now than in my day…..Why simply tamper with a name or acronym when, by tampering regularly with the entire format of the reports you can create absolute havoc around annual reports and job applications within the police?….Who knows where it will end?

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  1. A persistent, universal and unnecessary part of every large corporation world wide. But look at it from their point of view, they are too old to contribute constructively and too young to retire. Surely they are entitled to relieve their abject boredom with useless directives. And remember, they didn’t have digital games to play on non existent i-pads in those days!

    1. All very true Bob….Normally I am supportive of the Met….But sometimes my radical and rebellious nature pushes itself to the fore and I become critical…..I just can’t stop it!….My next blogs will return to more normal events.

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