Sussex Police response times failed to meet targets – because officers forgot to press a button
A police force’s failing rate of emergency response times has been put down to the simple press of a button.
Chief Constable Martin Richards has claimed Sussex Police’s failure to reach response time targets was due to a “technical anomaly” in how officers recorded their arrival at the scene of a crime.
In June, figures revealed that force response times had dropped from 85% of emergency calls within 15 minutes to just 73% in the last three years.
Mr Richards said response times increased after a change from an automated system to a manual option, which required officers to press a button or radio-in their arrival.
When faced with responding to an incident, Mr Richards told Police Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne in a recorded monthly update that officers would sometimes forget to log their arrival, harming the force’s response times.
However, police union officials said the recent improvement in grade one response times was due to changes in policing numbers which was harming officers’ effectiveness and putting them in harm’s way.
Mr Richards said that the response times had now risen back above the force’s target of 80%.
He said: “We are certainly not complacent.
“It may be there has been a wonderful turnaround since we last met up and on the one hand that is great news but if they can go up that quickly, I don’t want it to come down that quickly.
“If you were entering a scene of a crime in action, on arrival I suspect your first concern would be the people in front of you, the car crash that has just happened, the assault that has just taken place or the burglar that might be leaving the premises.
“I would rather a police officer first on scene doing something in connection with the call for assistance than remembering to press the right button.”
Detective Sergeant Paul Sellings, chairman of Sussex Police Federation, said: “I know they have had difficulties with the system and they have been trying to address them.
“It’s quite an easy system and officers are quite capable of pressing a button.
“We put this change in response times down to the force putting one officer in patrol cars as opposed to two, that’s why they have improved.
“Officers can now get to incidents quickly but aren’t able to deal with the situation when they get there.”
Transsexual PC Emma Chapman sues Essex police
A transsexual police officer is suing her force after she allegedly had to “out” herself over a police radio system, the BBC has learned.
PC Emma Chapman claims Essex Police failed to help its officers understand transgender issues and properly investigate what had happened.
The case, believed to be the first of its kind, was heard at an employment tribunal which is now considering its findings.
Essex Police disputes the allegations.
PC Chapman, 44, was born male and underwent gender reassignment in 1999 while serving as a volunteer officer with Essex Police.
Four years later she became a full-time constable and now works on the force's response team. It is thought she is the only transgender officer in the force.
PC Chapman said that after initially telling people about the sex change and raising awareness of transgender issues at conferences, she became “frustrated” at the lack of support and understanding about the problems transsexuals faced.
She decided not to be “open” any longer and “stepped away” from dealing with transgender issues in 2009.
According to legal documents, seen by the BBC, her claim centres on three incidents when she had to speak to the police force's control room via her radio handset.
PC Chapman says that on the first occasion, in October 2012, the operator did not believe who she was, saying she had a “male voice”.
In her witness statement, the police constable said: “I felt a combination of alarm and distress.
” I replied… 'I am a transsexual'.
“I felt very embarrassed and desperate. The incident took my breath away.”
PC Chapman said she was left feeling “very distressed” that she'd had to “out” herself over a radio channel that was listened to by hundreds of officers and staff.
She reported what had happened but claims Essex police failed to carry out a full investigation and interview the control room operator.
Legal papers say two further incidents occurred in June 2013 when the officer was again challenged by control room staff who questioned her identity.
“I felt a growing sense of apprehension whenever I had to use the radio, concerned that there may be further, similar incidents,” she said.
“The radio is also a lifeline at times and I should not have to feel hesitant or anxious about using it.”
PC Chapman, who's a Police Federation constables representative in Essex, secured the backing of the federation to bring legal proceedings against the force.
The officer said the incidents created an “intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment” for her to work in.
She is seeking compensation for injury to her feelings and a declaration of discrimination and wants the force to improve the way it deals with transgender issues.
Essex Police said it “disagreed” with PC Chapman's assertions and was contesting the case.
A spokesman acknowledged that conversations between PC Chapman and the control room had taken place but said the force disputed the “precise wording and tone” said to have been used.
The case was heard at the East London Tribunal Court last week after PC Chapman turned down an out-of-court settlement.
A decision is expected in the next few months.
It is thought that, if she is is successful, PC Chapman could receive compensation of up to £3,000, though her main objective is said to be to highlight the way transgender people are treated.
Roy Scanes, Essex Police Federation's branch board secretary, confirmed that PC Chapman had the federation's backing for what was an “important” and “unusual” case but declined to comment until there had been a ruling.
MoD staff ‘not properly consulted’ over semi-privatisation plan
The 16,500 staff in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) division that buys army guns and RAF helicopters were “not properly consulted” on plans to semi-privatise the agency, union leaders have told The Independent on Sunday.
The Government wants the Bristol-based Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) to be run by the private sector, as ministers believe that these companies will provide the commercial nous to buy more submarines and bullet-proof vests than the civil service could within a £14bn budget.
However, the plan is riven by conflict of interest issues and concerns that the private sector does not have the training to protect national security secrets.
Unions fear mass job cuts, which some estimates put at 10,000.
US engineering giants Bechtel and CH2M Hill are leading consortiums to run DE&S under what is known as a GoCo, meaning Government-owned, company-operated.
Bob Rollings, defence group secretary at the Public & Commercial Services Union, said: “The DE&S staff were not properly consulted despite only this spring asking for an ‘initial gate’ business case. Under MoD rules, we should have had a business case from before we went to the bidder stage.”
A senior DE&S insider said staff were “sickened” by the plans and “the great majority of staff care deeply about the moral correctness of what they do and are dismayed at what is happening”.
A spokesman for the MoD said: “There is no requirement to release the business case at this stage, but once the commercial negotiations are complete, we will release the relevant material.”