orig article is daily mail 'No wonder they call us Plods!': A frustrated inspector speaks out on the madness of modern policing By Zoe Brennan Last updated at 12:59 AM on 13th September 2008 Two years ago, a serving police constable calling himself PC David Copperfield wrote a groundbreaking book, serialised by the Mail, describing how ordinary bobbies are frustrated at every turn by bureaucracy. The Government then promised widespread reforms. But now a senior officer in a regional force - using the pseudonym Inspector Gadget - reveals that the situation has actually worsened. Here, he reveals how elf'n'safety laws, political correctness and barmy target-setting are preventing the police from catching criminals. Plastic policing: At least these merry officers are out-and-about on the beat All I want is a cup of tea. I have served this nation for the best part of two decades, both at home and abroad. I don't want medals and I don't want more money. I just want some tea. But I can't have a cuppa because electric kettles are prohibited in my workplace. Our health and safety department has banned them in case we kill ourselves by electrocution, burning or drowning. Ah, well. It's hot today, anyway. I switch on my desk fan. Ha ha - had you going there, didn't I? I'm not allowed to use it until it has been checked and stickered as 'safe to use' by one of the highly-paid staff who descend upon our nick every so often and examine everything. Never mind. It's nearly time to clock off. Whoah! Almost caught myself out. The office clock's wrong. It's still showing GMT. We're not allowed to change the time. No, that would be dangerous and UNISON - the union of the official clock-time changers - wouldn't like it, so we have to wait for one of those pesky engineers from force HQ. Last year I ignored this, got up on a chair and altered it myself. The next day, the nick's UNISON rep got up on a chair and changed it back to the wrong time. I kid you not. Welcome to the public sector. The weird thing is, when Saturday comes, and I'm facing a dozen drunken, violent and dangerous yobs outside the taxi rank in the High Street, with only three PCs and a guardian angel on my side, our health and safety officers are nowhere to be seen. Kettles and electric fans - too dangerous. Tackling 250lb of screaming, tattooed men when you're armed only with a 50g tin of pepper spray which doesn't work and an aluminium stick - you carry on, officer. Two years ago, a man going by the name of PC David Copperfield wrote a book called Wasting Police Time. He described the life of an ordinary bobby trying to do his job but frustrated by a bureaucracy which seemed unrelated to his work. In a previous story, an officer told how he needed to fill in 249 seperate pieces of paper to deal with one case of shoplifting At the time, people weren't talking much about paperwork and targets, but Copperfield revealed to the world what most rank and file police officers knew - our Criminal Justice System was at risk of becoming a joke. Police Minister Tony McNulty MP denounced it as 'more of a fiction than Dickens'. But he had to backtrack when Copperfield unmasked himself as PC Stuart Davidson. Various initiatives have since been launched and grand promises made. But all that's happened is a few of the Titanic's deckchairs have been shifted around. Despite recent 'spin' to the contrary, bureaucracy, political correctness and target-driven baloney is now worse than it was before Copperfield. Thousands of officers who should be on the streets nicking criminals are behind desks 'auditing' crime reports and managing detection figures. I am concerned that our insane obsession with largely irrelevant targets will cost lives. It probably already has. Like PC Copperfield, I'm a policeman writing under a pseudonym about his job as a front-line 'Response' officer. I am an inspector, two ranks above him. I lead those who come out (eventually) when you call 999. And I'm going to tell it to you like it is. I work for a force I call 'Ruralshire Constabulary'. It has a population well into seven figures, and a number of large and small towns. How we police is no different from how we make tea or change clocks. That is, it often makes no sense. If you were to report a crime, you might think you call your local police station and the police officer decides how urgent the matter is. Not so. Most forces now use centrally-based call centres staffed by civilians. Despite having no experience of police work, they decide on our response to your call. A lot of people have lost perspective as to what the police are for. We might get Mr Hughes calling because his ex-girlfriend has sent him a nasty text message. The police response to this ought to be: 'Why not turn your phone off? Because we do have fatal accidents, suicides, rapes, stabbings, battered old ladies and missing children to deal with, you see.' Form-filling: An officer stays indoors to do the paperwork (file picture) Instead, a call-taker will create a crime report of 'harassment'. This will soak up ten to 20 hours of police time and generate a deluge of paperwork over the next few months. The following week, Mr Hughes will text his ex something unpleasant and the charade will start again in reverse. Here's another non-crime taken seriously by us. Last December, a mother and child were chatting in the local supermarket about Santa Claus as they waited at the cashiers. In front of them was a youth with a Burberry scarf and Nike trainers. He looks at the girl and says: 'You don't believe in Father Christmas, do ya? Your mum's telling you lies.' Mum calls the police. We tell her it's not one for us, right? Wrong. The call-taker logs it as a harassment offence. As a senior officer asked in the morning meeting: 'How can it be harassment to tell someone Santa doesn't exist? He doesn't. Does he?' But a child is involved and the area is a 'crime hot spot'. A patrol is dispatched immediately. Trouble is, we are all working within a framework set up by the Home Office to remove discretion and experience from the game. The National Crime Recording Standard was adopted to 'record crime in a more victim-focused way'. In practice, this means that once a crime report is generated at the call centre, it is hard to get it to go away, even if no crime has been committed. Management wants the incident to remain a crime and for it to be 'detected', or solved, for our figures. Trivial stuff that we can get people to admit to is our bread and butter. This partly explains why you're left at home for hours wondering why we haven't turned up to your burglary. Rules and processes brought in to save time and money and make things fairer have ended up costing us and hampering the fight against crime. This is about well-meaning idiocy, the usurping of the front-line professionals by managers and bureaucrats, and the law of unintended consequence. Those at the top of the police are not necessarily bad people. They're just out of touch with reality. Protecting justice: But sometimes it seems justice protects the criminals at the expense of the law-abiding public Recently we had a scene with a man who was on a hardcore drug - crystal meth or crack cocaine. He had broken into a pensioner's flat and gone berserk with a knife. Two bobbies arrived, with their little lightweight aluminium sticks and tins of CS. They were pretty badly hurt. A senior officer called, asking: 'Why didn't they use the shields and those big Arnold batons, instead of those silly little sticks?' 'Arnold batons were withdrawn by the diversity department eight months ago because they made ethnic minority teenagers feel uncomfortable,' I told him. He ordered them to be reinstated. Sometimes you really do need a big stick for defence. Then there's the problem of numbers. There may be enough police, perhaps more than ever. It's just that so many of them are working 9-5, Monday to Friday, on neighbourhood policing or behind desks at HQ. Whereas we need them on the streets at night, at weekends, able to respond when crime happens. The new Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) - who can issue penalty notices and that's about it - aren't allowed to work after dark in case they get attacked. Nowadays, you can often find yourself alone policing a sizeable town. You start with your team on a Saturday night. We're busy now, thanks to the Government's 24-hour licensing laws. Within an hour, everyone is tied up, nicking people for criminal damage and so on. A single arrest now takes you off the streets for four hours minimum, often for your entire shift, because of the endless paperwork involved. Suddenly, there's only you still out. One evening that was me. I stood in the High Street, while everyone else was back at Central Custody, nine miles away. My radio called me to a heroin-wracked shoplifter who was threatening to stick needles into staff at a late-night chemist. Immediately, there was a call from a pub where someone had been bottled. Who was more likely to die? I went for the heroin-addict, but I had to nick her and take her down to the station - so that was me gone from street duty as well. There was no one left to police the town.