Yay !!! I thought to myself opening my email inbox when I arrived at work today. OK, I admit, that’s not normally the sport of response we normally give – it’s more often than not more of a groan at the tirade of circular messages about what’s happening in Building 3 at some location we’ve never heard of (free pilates or yoga classes for HQ staff this week apparently!), but once in a while an email pops up that fills you with joy.
They tend to fall into three categories; 1) That leave you requested several weeks ago has finally been authorised; 2) Some brave magistrate has looked kindly on that War & Peace sized essay of a prosecution file you put together for Billy Burglar’s 107th charge and has finally sent him down the steps or 3) as in the case of this one, you’ve got your Public Order refresher course
Along with your Advanced Driving Course, or even better Pursuit Management Course, the Public Order refresher has to be one of the highlights of the job, with the added bonus that to keep up to date, you have to repeat it every year – three days of being dressed up like the Michelin Man, running round with shields and getting bricks and petrol bombs thrown at you by your colleagues – what a wonderful way to spend half your week.
Of course it’s not all fun and games – in fact very little of it is, it’s a lot of sweat and hard work and of course, there is a serious purpose behind it all; keeping up with the latest equipment (not that we’re ever going to see any of it), practising the latest tactics dreamt up by someone in an office who’s never had to ‘hold the line’ with several hundred baying football hooligans and the reality that when the brown stuff does hit the fan and Mr & Mrs General Public are clearing off, you, your puffy romper suit and four foot bit of clear plastic are running straight at the problem.
There is of course the minor negative point that your chances of getting a bank holiday off if you are one of the dwindling numbers of public order trained officers is fairly negligible, and you need to get used to having rest days cancelled at short notice but hey – who needs a life outside the job anyway.
But, back to the email: ‘PC Chaos, you have been nominated to attend your PO Refresher blah blah blah ….’please ensure that you have completed the online training package prior to attending the Training Centre. Officers who have not completed this package cannot commence Refresher Training and will be returned to their Operational Units.’
Online Training Package ????? For Public Order ????? What the …… !!!!
Perhaps someone has got the wrong end of the stick about last summers riots – just to confirm, it was the baddies that were running OUT of the shops carrying laptops, not the police running in using computers as shields !!!
Back when I joined the police we were trained using this novel concept – we were in a classroom being taught law, evidence and procedures by qualified Training Staff, the vast majority of whom were experienced current or ex-police officers who knew what they were talking about. We also had additional input from Professionals (Forensic, Medical, the Courts etc), Community Leaders and the like. All people with life experiences that would have some bearing on policing in this country, where things had gone right and where things had gone wrong.
I cannot recall how much input we had on PACE, the biggest change in policing style, methods and procedure for many, many years but it was extensive. Very extensive. (I just remembered, we were told we would be given our very own copy of the PACE codes to read and refer to – we’ve never had one – to this day – hmmm must put a req form in to stores I think).
But some things change rapidly in this game. We still get acres and acres of classroom type input on some issues, but on others, ohh I don’t know, let’s say a small piece of legislation like SOCAP, we are sent an email link to an online powerpoint presentation, full of mini videos and moving images, very cleverly designed by a high tech department of some force or Police Support Service somewhere in the country, but sadly totally incapable of working on our Sinclair ZX81 spec terminals in most police stations.
The outfall of the Soham Enquiry was another recent major example. The horrendous lack of inter-departmental communication that the Enquiry uncovered and the recommendations resulting from that were transformed for us lowly street life into a dozen pages on a computer screen that quite frankly, my young children could have made a better job of.
It seems that every vital piece of information we need to be trained about these days is being delivered by powerpoint. But do the powers that be realise this route is a one way street. Most of the information is basic, and what happens when you have a query or concern, or don’t understand something, or it’s wrong (not unusual). There’s none around with any experience or kjnowledge greater than your own; you can’t take it up with your divisional trainer because they’ve only had the same input as you (and probably understand it even less because they’ve not been outside the front door for many years) and there’s no point trying to make contact with Planet Powerpoint Creator because they’re the other end of the country and know even less what you’re on about … “Sorry, we’re only the Computer Department, we get sent a brief and create the slides ….”
What is good about Policing by Powerpoint though is that it gives the comfy seats upstairs evidential plausible deniability “What, the officer did what … well, no, he’s definitely at fault, look he’s had the training, I’ve got the automated ‘course completed’ email here …. call Professional Standards”.
I’ve got my own back though. I’m putting together a brief for a drug factory operation myself and one of my team are planning. We’re doing the full hog, in Powerpoint of course, with moving graphics, sound, drive past and helicopter provided video footage and anything else we can include that will rival the latest Spielberg blockbuster. It looks and runs fab on my soopa-doopa quad-core Pentium XZY mega gigabite computer at home so hope it’ll be okay on the works kit. Well I say I’m doing it, actually I haven’t got a clue …. but my nine year old is being very helpful as professional advisor and not shouting at me too much …. yet !