Go your own way

I saw this headline in the Telegraph this morning:

Police complain orders to patrol alone puts them in danger

I think their story was a rehash of a Daily Mail story with a somewhat more forthright headline:

Whining bobbies in Facebook campaign against single police patrols

Both newspapers demonstrated why they will be going out of business sometime soon – they refused to provide a link to the Facebook page they were writing about. Linking has been the whole point of the web since it was created by Tim Berners-Lee 20 years ago. The Facebook page is here. The 1,000 people that have signed up seem to be a mixture of PCSOs, retired policemen and their families. They are wrong.

They say “ban single patrols of police”. This position is as silly as one that says all police patrols should be single handed. I would not want to go out on my own in many parts of inner city London at night. Similarly, most of London during the day is safe enough for a single PCSO to patrol. Otherwise we would have to advise the public in general to stay at home unless they had an escort.

The campaign seems to be the work of a woman called Angi Butcher-McDermott from Kent who said she is unwilling to apply to become a PCSO if made to patrol alone in dangerous areas. That is reasonable. Banning single patrolling isn’t. As a man of a certain age I might be forgiven for suggesting that if she wants to do a man’s job and earn a man’s wage she should take the same risks. Has 40 odd years of feminism really passed this woman by?

The new Met chief Sir Paul Stephenson has suggested that there should be more single patrolling. He is right. If it is not safe for coppers to go out on their own most of the time in most of London then we might as well just give up. Single patrolling means that coppers have to talk to the public and can’t just chat to their buddy and ignore us. It makes them more approachable by definition as they have no-one else to talk to! Single patrolling has to give us more bang for our policing buck. That said there are many occasions when double patrolling is appropriate and this can only be an operational judgement of the chain of command.

The double patrolling mindset that Stephenson is trying to overturn was demonstrated in one of the Safer Neighbourhood Team adverts the Met themselves put out three years ago. Their own ads (see picture at top) show two coppers doing the work of one. One talks to a woman whilst the other just goofs around.

Update: Now picked up by Standard here. They are leading on it – certainly online.

Their editorial says:

Sir Paul is right. His detractors show more concern for their convenience than the public they are meant to serve.

3 replies on “Go your own way”


Assuming I am right in thinking that the police is a strategic partner of the Council, how strong is your position in “persuading” the local police to extend their discretion in single patrolling.

I see from Acton W3 that our crime stats have gone up by 0.9 percent in the last annual reporting period.

I think I saw Boris is relinquishing his position as head of the Met Authority. Are you or Councillor Stacey confident that the change (whatever it is) will benefit Ealing in meeting the shortage of coppers in the Borough?

How many times has the secure tenancy status been removed from from trouble makers in the Borough? You are fond of stats and the info would be instructive in showing a part the Council is playing to state that crime does not pay.


We discussed this at our ward forum tonight in Hobbayne. The police told us they do single patrols, so it is happening, and they seems to appreciate the better value of single patrols to the tax payer.


In regard to single patrolling and as a police officer, I believe this is having far too negative effect on officers already. There is a huge amount of unrest amongst officers and morale is sliding fast.

The safer neighbourhoods teams have been a great success and I believe that this is where single patrolling comes into its own. However, at present response teams are being made to single patrol, putting the majority of officers on foot.

I, like many of my colleagues have no issues with walking whatsoever. In fact I love being out in the open, rather than stuck in a car. The problems come with responding to a 999 call, which we are supposed to do withing 12 minutes. On occasion, we may be just around the corner, but in reality, we are not.

Then when we do turn up to an incident, we have to gain as much information as possible before making a dynamic risk assessment as to whether we wait for back up, or go in alone. Can you imagine the outrage it would cause if a police officer didn’t put themself at risk and decided to wait? Back up again, may be just around the corner, but again, in reality most of the time is not.

To give an example of a real life recent incident, where a twenty something drunk, high on drugs male is abusing his mother who has called police.

Myself and a colleague get there and he’s passed out. The mother wants him out, so we have to wake him. He wakes and immediately becomes aggressive towards all of us. I’ve been taught and learned that verbal abuse, however aggressive can’t hurt you and it doesn’t, even if it’s scary.

So at this stage, we have no reason to use force but try diplomacy instead. My colleague, who has recently suffered a broken jaw at the hands of another high on drugs male, takes the back seat while I try to talk the guy down.

The male, who is twice my size, shouting and swearing just inches away from my face for all he is worth, then attempts to get to his mother, so I use my arm to force him out of the room into a narrow hall, where his aggression intensifies and he is telling me in his loudest voice that if I touch him again he is going to ‘touch me’.

Now at this stage, I am thinking “this guy is about to attack me, my colleague and his mother. I’m in a narrow hall, full of shelving with ornaments and plants and stuff all over the floor and don’t have enough room to use my baton. I can’t use my CS spray as it’s an enclosed area and I’ll be affected by the spray as well, even if I did, how will I get it out and arm myself before he hits me?”

So, I prepare myself for the fact that this guy is going to hit me and try to work out which hand he’ll hit me with and how I’ll block it. Then how I will have to try with all my might to keep him restrained as we are rolling around on the floor, how I’m probably going to end up injured by this male and that I have to protect my colleague and the mother.

I know that once on the floor my colleague will assist at the risk of getting injured again, but this guy is more than capable of taking the two of us and a couple more.

Now during all this, my colleague, who is petite, is calling for urgent back up and giving the exact location to my other colleagues, providing the details of how many officers are needed, which stairs to take into the high rise block and how to get to the front door itself, who the male is, so that further intelligence can be gained etc, etc, etc. While I keep trying the talking technique thinking “if I can just keep it going that little bit longer…the others will arrive and we’ll all be fine.”

So I ask you, put yourself in that situation and tell me, what would you do if you were standing there, on your own due to single patrol, trying to weigh up all this information and trying to call up on your radio, giving all the details that my colleague gave. How would if affect the way you would deal with it?

There seems to be this illusion that police officers don’t feel the same as the general public. Well let me tell you, we do. We get scared, we are not all alpha males screaming for a fight.

We are everyday people, that try to protect others and would ask that we have the same protcection afforded to us. Single patrolling on a response team is dangerous. The story above is a mild incident as far as the many more serious ones that I could’ve chosen, but I think it displays an accurate EVERYDAY incident.

It turned out that the male had a kitchen knife concealed on him and also suffered from mental health issues. Upon seeing the several officers that arrived, the situation changed dramatically as he realised he was out numbered.

What if I would have waited on my own beforehand and this guy had woken to continue the abuse towards his mother and perhaps stabbed her. What if that was your mother? What would YOU expect me to do?
What if I went in and he stabbed me? What if it was your son or daughter you were sending in on their own? Still think it’s a good idea


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