Computer Says No

Guys, I’m sorry for the lack of posts lately. My excuse is that I’ve been concentrating on writing my second book.

I hope you’re all well. Today, for the sake of balance, I’d like to report a couple of positive developments within the Metropolitan Police Service. As you can imagine, it’s not east to find such things, but it’s important to report them when they occur.


Firstly, the Met has upgraded it’s computer operating system from Windows XP (1995-2003) to Windows 8.1. Lucky staff that we are, we received an hour of excellent and entertaining training from Microsoft coaches, and learned that Bill Gates, when standing at a Microsoft urinal, is shorter than you might expect.

So, finally we have computers with half-decent functionality, although the hard drives are low spec and there aren’t nearly enough of them. There are however problems: in a typical bizarre snafu, paranoid Met senior management have prevented Microsoft from switching on many useful features. For example, 8.1 allows several users to be logged in simultaneously, but we’re not permitted to use this feature.

Here is why this disabled feature would be so useful: mainly through laziness, officers tend not to bother logging off machines, and we have far fewer than we need, so if I want to use a computer I often have no choice but to physically unplug a machine, then power it back up again. This takes around 5-10 minutes and is quite damaging to the hardware. However, simply enabling the multi-user feature would completely solve this problem. But police senior managers tend to distrust anything they don’t understand…

any-keyHere’s another extremely useful but simple opportunity they’ve missed: along the bottom of the screen are pinned the icons for Outlook, Excel, Folders etc, but, oddly, none of the many police systems we constantly use, for crime reporting, intelligence, missing person reports, clocking on, call handling etc.

The physical machines have not been upgraded, so all the programs run just that little bit more slowly, but hey…it’s still an improvement, right?

computer-says-noThe second improvement is that the Met has decided that it will remove the chief inspector and commander ranks – two of the useless paper-pusher management levels. By the summer of 2018 the teetering hierarchy will have reduced to ‘only’ nine layers of management.

Again this is good, but is still only a start.

The commander rank attracts a salary of 100k-105k, and sadly those desk-bound jobsworths will not be sacked, nor held accountable for their decades of expensive incompetence. I’d like to find out whether they will be demoted or promoted. And also if they’ll lose their company cars.

epaulettesI was amused by one part of the management missive that explained this changes. It stated:

If the county forces can manage with only nine ranks, then so can we.

Only nine ranks!

I worked for a county force prior to transferring to the Met, and I am certain it could have functioned adequately with five levels of rank: constable, sergeant, inspector, superintendent, chief constable.

I expect the Met could therefore manage with six ranks.

This improvement is intended to ‘improve communication’. The problem it seems to me is that you have policy-makers with zero experience of policing, who lack any contact with the rank-and-file actually doing the work.

I well remember former Commissioner Paul Stephenson visiting a Met Police sex crimes team (‘Jigsaw Unit’) and asking them:

“So what is it that you chaps do here?”

paul-stephensonEvery constable in the Met is aware of the Jigsaw teams, and of all the other important teams. But here was the senior officer in Britain, leader of the Met, and he’d never heard of Jigsaw. What else is there that he didn’t know about his own organisation?

So yes, management’s willingness to pay attention to anything that doesn’t immediately benefit them is certainly a work-in-progress in the British police forces. Communication between those doing the work, and those ambitious self-promoters who decide how the work should be carried out.