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  1. Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES Image captionHeathrow said the incident was being treated as a "criminal act" Counter-terror police are investigating three packages containing explosives found at Heathrow Airport, London City Airport and Waterloo station. The "small improvised explosive devices" were found in A4 postal bags, the Metropolitan Police said. The Met's Counter Terrorism Command is treating it as a "linked series" and "keeping an open mind regarding motives". No-one has been hurt, the force added. The Compass Centre in Heathrow's grounds was evacuated after a package was reported to police at about 09:55 GMT. The package has since been "made safe", the Met said. A Heathrow spokeswoman said the airport would assist the police investigation into the "criminal act". 'Specialist teams' Two more packages were found in the capital during the next three hours. An area of Waterloo station was cordoned off after a second package was reported at about 11:40. British Transport Police said the item was "being assessed by specialist teams". Staff members were then evacuated from City Aviation House at City Airport in Newham after a third package was reported at about 12:10. Specialist officers are at the scene and inquiries are ongoing, the Met said. No flights or trains are believed to have been affected. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-47457477
  2. Chief Bakes

    BBC: US shutdown

    #ShutdownStories: The impact of the government shutdown 2 January 2019 Related Topics US government shutdown Image copyright Win McNamee via Getty Images Image caption Rubbish has been piling up all along the National Mall monuments The partial US government shutdown has entered the new year as President Donald Trump's border wall standoff with Congress remains unresolved. With federal closures now on day 12, around 800,000 employees are feeling the impacts of no funding and no pay. On Wednesday, the president insisted he would keep the government closed for "as long as it takes" to fund the wall. And as agencies drop all non-essential work, the consequences are wider-reaching than just quiet Washington DC streets and shuttered museums. Since 22 December, Americans nationwide have expressed their worry and anger over the situation, taking to social media to share how they cannot pay their bills or afford medication thanks to the shutdown. 'We won't be able to pay our mortgage' The partial shutdown means about 25% of the US federal government has no funding. Only essential employees will continue working, but they'll do so without pay. Nine departments have been affected by the shutdown, including Homeland Security, Justice, Housing, Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, and the Treasury. Around 800,000 federal workers are now furloughed - that is, temporarily laid off due to a lack of funding - or working without pay. Many hope they will receive back pay when the government resumes, but that remains uncertain. Some have resorted to second jobs or fundraising to get by in the meantime. Employees have taken to Twitter to express their frustration over the shutdown, sharing financial difficulties with the hashtag #ShutdownStories. Skip Twitter post by @MofackieB Report End of Twitter post by @MofackieB Skip Twitter post by @LifeIsQuirky21 Report End of Twitter post by @LifeIsQuirky21 Skip Twitter post by @sinai_selah Report End of Twitter post by @sinai_selah On a GoFundMe page, one contracted worker wrote: "Being a single mom, I'm in panic mode." "I am not getting ANY PAY at all, even for the days that I did work before the shutdown. I hope that the government will see how this is having a dire affect on people like me." A worker's union representing some 400,000 essential personnel on Monday filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for allegedly violating the Fair Labour Standards Act by not paying these employees since 22 December. No census in Indiana And the impact stretches beyond the capital city. In Indiana, the political standoff stopped US census work, with 40% of census bureau employees sent home without pay just after Christmas, according to the News and Tribune. Rubbish piles in national parks The National Park Service has suspended all non-emergency services, including all visitor services like public toilets, waste pickup, road maintenance and support centres, with over 21,000 employees now furloughed. The parks remain generally accessible to the public, but conditions have deteriorated due to a lack of staff. Noticeably, rubbish has begun to pile up outside national sites, including around the National Mall and the White House. Image copyright Bill Clark via Getty Images Image caption Garbage overflows on the National Mall across from the White House The Los Angeles Times reported human waste has created a health hazard in Yosemite after visitors began using the roadside as a replacement for public toilets. And without snow ploughs or rangers to help handle wintry conditions, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks in California have seen an increase in vehicle accidents due to dangerously icy roads. The lack of staff has also impacted visitor safety by way of rescues: One backpacker in Texas had to be carried for two hours by a single ranger after breaking his leg on a trail. In addition, any park-operated monuments and homes are also closed, including the Frederick Douglass Historic Site, Ford's Theatre and Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument. Science setbacks As many federally employed scientists stop working at agencies like the National Science Foundation, labs across the country are facing repercussions. Researchers are concerned about their ability to access federal data and getting in touch with grant officials about project funding. Rush Holt, head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, emphasised the impact in a statement. "Any shutdown of the federal government can disrupt or delay research projects, lead to uncertainty over new research, and reduce researcher access to agency data and infrastructure," Mr Holt said. Skip Twitter post by @jessphoenix2018 Report End of Twitter post by @jessphoenix2018 Image copyright Saul Loeb/Getty Images Image caption All Smithsonian museums, one of DC's tourist highlights, are closed Panda cam goes offline Tourists in DC will find all of the popular Smithsonian museums - like the Air and Space, African American History and Natural History museums - are now closed. The National Zoo and all live-animal broadcasts - panda cam included - are also offline. The animals will still be cared for, the Smithsonian said. Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St Thomas told the BBC an estimated 1.2 million visitors will be turned away if the shutdown continues through January. She noted two thirds of Smithsonian employees are now furloughed. The National Arboretum and National Archives have also shuttered. The National Gallery of Art has managed to acquire enough funds to stay open until Thursday. Thanks to an earlier appropriations bill, the US Botanic Garden and Capitol Building are also open. Meanwhile, nonfederal museums remain open with some, like the Woodrow Wilson House, offering free admission to federal workers. Image copyright Mark Wilson via Getty Images Image caption Tourists turn around after realizing the Smithsonian National Museum of American History is closed due to the partial shutdown Native tribes struggling Native American tribes receive substantial federal funding for essential services like healthcare and food as part of a deal negotiated decades ago in exchange for Native lands. In Michigan, a Chippewa tribe has already been forced to use their own funds to pay some $100,000 (£79,400) to keep clinics and food pantries open, the New York Times reported. Similar stories have cropped up across the country. Some Navajo tribes in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah are trapped in their homes without access to groceries and medicine due to unploughed roads. In Minnesota, police officers on the Boise Forte Indian Reservation are already working without pay. Discounted drinks in DC Washington DC's local government is still operating, and has been reminding tourists that businesses and restaurants are also open for business. And many local spots are offering discounts to government employees to help ease the strain of the shutdown. Skip Twitter post by @CapLounge Report End of Twitter post by @CapLounge Some bars in the capital began offering federal workers discounted drinks as soon as the shutdown began on 22 December. Celebrity chef José Andrés, who owns a number of restaurants in the Washington DC area, announced that federal employees and their families could get a free sandwich at any of his establishments throughout the shutdown. Skip Twitter post by @chefjoseandres Report End of Twitter post by @chefjoseandres Italian restaurant Carmine's will also be offering free food to workers. Skip Twitter post by @CarminesNYC Report End of Twitter post by @CarminesNYC As Washington locals band together to address food concerns, the shutdown has also sparked national concerns over benefit programmes like food stamps. The Department of Agriculture confirmed eligible families would continue to receive food assistance in January, but some programmes will operate solely on state funding through the shutdown. The National Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Association, which provides food and education to low-income pregnant mothers and children, issued a statement urging lawmakers to end the shutdown before state agencies run out of funds. "Over seven million mothers, pregnant women, and children rely on WIC," association president Rev Douglas Greenaway said. "The uncertainty and confusion that a shutdown causes is not only disruptive to people's lives, but could also lead to significant health consequences." 'Unofficial' marriages only The shutdown has also made its mark on some late December weddings in Washington DC. One couple tweeted that their marriage remains unofficial since marriage bureau staff in the capital were furloughed during their wedding. Skip Twitter post by @DSPollock Report End of Twitter post by @DSPollock But those hoping to file for divorce can still do so as the intake centre has stayed open, Buzzfeed News reported. View the full article
  3. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-44204844
  4. Man killed after Wood Green 'intelligence-led' police operation 12 minutes ago From the section London Image copyrightPA Image caption The shooting happened in Bracknell Close A man shot during a police operation in north London has died, Scotland Yard has said. Armed officers were in Bracknell Close, Wood Green, at about 09:00 GMT when a man received gunshot wounds, police said. The Met said the operation was "intelligence-led" but not related to terrorism. It added the Directorate of Professional Standards - its internal investigator - had been informed. Image copyrightJosephine McDermott Image copyrightKepceKazan-Lndn Image caption A Twitter user reported seeing 'police everywhere' and a medical helicopter An air ambulance was called to the scene but the man was confirmed dead shortly before 10:30 GMT. BBC London Live for latest updates on this and today's other stories There were no reports of any other injuries. One Twitter user reported seeing "police everywhere" and a "medical helicopter". http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-35070431
  5. A police worker who unwittingly prosecuted himself for having an untaxed vehicle has been mocked by colleagues online. West Yorkshire Police's Roads Policing Unit said the man had "managed to fill a form in incorrectly" - seemingly putting his own name on the paperwork rather than the actual offender. In a letter from the DVLA he was told to pay £81 or face court action. The letter appears to have been posted to a police station in Bradford. The Roads Policing Unit posted: "To the great amusement of the rest of the office, one of our colleagues managed to fill a form in incorrectly, and prosecuted himself for driving an untaxed vehicle!" The letter, dated 15 March, states the untaxed vehicle was found in Oak Street, Bradford, on 15 February, and makes a demand for payment of the fine by 1 April.
  6. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-43306423 A professional rugby player, Tasered six times after driving at 150mph in a police chase, has been jailed. Scott Moore crashed into a house in Leigh and fought officers, threatening one with a Taser he stole from them. The ex-England rugby league star, 30, used "his size and experience on the rugby field" to evade arrest, Greater Manchester Police said. He was jailed for 23 months at Bolton Crown Court after admitting dangerous driving and assault. Moore, of Ranworth Drive, Lowton, Wigan, was disqualified from driving for two years. Police spotted Moore in the early hours of 14 October 2016 driving a black Mercedes at speed along Chaddock Lane towards the East Lancashire Road. He refused to pull over, sparking a pursuit during which he overtook a lorry at 100mph on a stretch of roadworks which had a speed limit of 30mph. He then accelerated at more than 150mph into a housing estate in Leigh and crashed into the wall of a house before stopping at a dead end, police said. 'Tug of war' Moore elbowed an officer and "violently resisted arrest in a struggle lasting 50 minutes" during which he was Tasered six times but "kept rising to his feet to fight and charge at officers". At one point, the former St Helens, Widnes and Wakefield hooker grabbed the Taser's wires after being stunned and removed them from his body. He then grabbed the Taser in a "tug of war" with the officer, shouting: "You're getting it now!" while pointing it at the officer's face, police said. The terrified officer fought with Moore to release it from his hand and the other officer struck him numerous times. Moore eventually dropped the Taser and, following a further struggle, was detained. The officers had never in their careers "been so scared nor witnessed such a violent individual", Det Con Lynsey Watson-Perry said. One officer had to undergo surgery. "Whatever level of force he is used to displaying on the pitch, this was not a game - people's lives were in danger", she added.
  7. MSPs have passed legislation aimed at merging railway policing north of the border into Police Scotland. The Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill is the first step towards the national force taking on the role of British Transport Police (BTP). There had been a lengthy debate over the plan, with police bosses warning it could be "massively complicated" and "a real challenge". The bill passed by 68 votes to 53, with the Greens backing the SNP. Labour and the Conservatives have opposed the merger and the bill throughout, and the Lib Dems - who had supported the legislation in the stage one vote in order to pursue amendments at committee stage - also voted against the bill. Look back on the stage three debate and vote on Holyrood Live The Scottish government has long wanted to integrate railway policing services into the single national force, and tabled a bill to that end in December 2016. The Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill confers extra powers on the Scottish Police Authority and the Police Service of Scotland, but further legislation would be needed at Holyrood and Westminster to transfer staff, properties and cross-border policing functions. The Scottish government insists the integration will provide "efficient and effective" delivery of policing. However, there has been debate over the plan, with concerns ranging from how cross-border services would be affected to the potential dilution of the special skills of transport officers. The BTP wanted to continue providing railway policing in Scotland, but with oversight from Holyrood rather than Westminster. Chief Constable Paul Crowther warned MSPs that a merger could present a "real challenge" in replacing officers amid a "significant outflow of expertise". However, Police Scotland's Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins told the justice committee the move was not a "land-grab" by his force, saying the transition would be "complicated, but not insurmountable". 'Absolutely committed' After a series of votes on amendments during the stage three debate, Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said the "primary objective" of the move was to "maintain and enhance high standards of safety". He said the bill would improve accountability of railway policing in Scotland, and said he remained "absolutely committed" to backing staff. The Scottish Conservatives opposed the plans, with MSP Oliver Mundell describing the merger as "an ill-judged and ill-thought out idea". He added: "The list of those with concerns is almost as long as the Scottish government's list of excuses on policing matters." Image copyrightBRITISH TRANSPORT POLICE MSPs have passed legislation aimed at merging railway policing north of the border into Police Scotland. The Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill is the first step towards the national force taking on the role of British Transport Police (BTP). There had been a lengthy debate over the plan, with police bosses warning it could be "massively complicated" and "a real challenge". The bill passed by 68 votes to 53, with the Greens backing the SNP. Labour and the Conservatives have opposed the merger and the bill throughout, and the Lib Dems - who had supported the legislation in the stage one vote in order to pursue amendments at committee stage - also voted against the bill. Look back on the stage three debate and vote on Holyrood Live The Scottish government has long wanted to integrate railway policing services into the single national force, and tabled a bill to that end in December 2016. The Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill confers extra powers on the Scottish Police Authority and the Police Service of Scotland, but further legislation would be needed at Holyrood and Westminster to transfer staff, properties and cross-border policing functions. The Scottish government insists the integration will provide "efficient and effective" delivery of policing. However, there has been debate over the plan, with concerns ranging from how cross-border services would be affected to the potential dilution of the special skills of transport officers. Image captionTransport Minister Humza Yousaf said the government had "listened closely" to concerns about the plans The BTP wanted to continue providing railway policing in Scotland, but with oversight from Holyrood rather than Westminster. Chief Constable Paul Crowther warned MSPs that a merger could present a "real challenge" in replacing officers amid a "significant outflow of expertise". However, Police Scotland's Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins told the justice committee the move was not a "land-grab" by his force, saying the transition would be "complicated, but not insurmountable". 'Absolutely committed' After a series of votes on amendments during the stage three debate, Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said the "primary objective" of the move was to "maintain and enhance high standards of safety". He said the bill would improve accountability of railway policing in Scotland, and said he remained "absolutely committed" to backing staff. The Scottish Conservatives opposed the plans, with MSP Oliver Mundell describing the merger as "an ill-judged and ill-thought out idea". He added: "The list of those with concerns is almost as long as the Scottish government's list of excuses on policing matters." Image captionThe bill was passed by 68 votes to 53 Labour's Claire Baker also spoke out against the plan, warning of a loss of expertise and saying: "The Scottish government have ignored concerns of staff and unions". Her colleague Neil Bibby, who moved a series of amendments to the bill, said it was "shocking" that the government was "ignoring the views of our police officers". Lib Dem MSP Mike Russell said the merger was the riskiest of three options put forward, saying that ministers had decided that the majority of those in the policing sector who opposed the move were wrong. However, Green member John Finnie said his party would support the bill on the condition there was no detriment to staff. Commenting after the bill was approved, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: "With this move we are ensuring that policing on Scotland's 93 million annual rail journeys is fully accountable to the people of Scotland and our parliament. "Making this change gives our railway officers access to the specialist resources of the UK's second largest police force including, crucially, counter-terrorism capabilities." http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-40404532
  8. Parsons Green: Explosion reported on London Tube train 15 September 2017 From the section UK Image copyright Twitter/@rrigs Emergency services are at the scene of a reported explosion on a District Line Underground train in south-west London. A picture on social media showed a white bucket inside a supermarket bag, but does not appear to show extensive damage in the carriage. Witnesses described seeing at least one passenger with facial injuries. Others have spoken of "panic" as alarmed passengers left the train at Parsons Green station at around 08:20 BST (07:20 GMT) on Friday morning. Latest updates: Incident at Parsons Green London Ambulance Service says it has sent a hazardous area response team to the scene. BBC London presenter Riz Lateef, who was at Parsons Green on her way in to work, said: "There was panic as people rushed from the train, hearing what appeared to be an explosion" "People were left with cuts and grazes from trying to flee the scene. There was lots of panic" BBC News presenter Sophie Raworth says she saw a woman on a stretcher with burns to her face and legs. Alex Littlefield, 24, a City worker, said: "I was walking around the corner to the Parsons Green Tube station and I saw the raised platform with everyone running and looking upset. "I saw police officers, fire brigade... masses of people and armed police. There were lots of very, very distressed people. We've been pushed right back now." Content is not available Media technology consultant Richard Aylmer-Hall who was sitting on the "packed" District Line train said he saw several people injured, having apparently been trampled as they tried to escape. The 53-year-old said "suddenly there was panic, lots of people shouting, screaming, lots of screaming. "There was a woman on the platform who said she had seen a bag, a flash and a bang, so obviously something had gone off. "I saw crying women, there was lots of shouting and screaming, there was a bit of a crush on the stairs going down to the streets," he said. Image copyright Alex Littlefield Natasha Wills, assistant director of operations at London Ambulance Service, said: "We were called at 8:20 to reports of an incident at Parsons Green underground station. "We have sent multiple resources to the scene including single responders in cars, ambulance crews, incident response officers and our hazardous area response team, with the first of our medics arriving in under five minutes. "Our initial priority is to assess the level and nature of injuries. More information will follow when we have it." Image copyright Alex Littlefield Are you at Parsons Green station? Did you witness the events? If it's safe to share your experiences then please email haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk with your stories. Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways: WhatsApp: +44 7525 900971 Send pictures/video to yourpics@bbc.co.uk Or Upload your pictures/video here Tweet: @BBC_HaveYourSay Send an SMS or MMS to 61124 (UK) or +44 7624 800 100 (international) Please read our terms & conditions Or use the form below If you are happy to be contacted by a BBC journalist please leave a telephone number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions. Terms and conditions View the full article
  9. Chief Bakes

    BBC: Hurricane Irma

    Hurricane Irma: Residents prepare for 'potentially catastrophic' storm 6 September 2017 From the section Latin America & Caribbean Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionThe view inside Hurricane Irma Islands in the Caribbean have made last-minute preparations for Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade, with officials warning of its "potentially catastrophic" effects. The category five hurricane, the highest possible level, has sustained wind speeds reaching 295km/h (185mph). It is starting to hit the Leeward Islands and will move on towards Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. In the US, Florida's Key West area has ordered a mandatory evacuation. Visitors will be required to leave on Wednesday morning, with residents due to follow in the evening, and the international airport will halt all flights. "We're emphatically telling people you must evacuate. You cannot afford to stay on an island with a category five hurricane coming at you," said Martin Senterfitt, the emergency operations centre director in Monroe County in Florida. Image copyright EPA Image caption Water is delivered to a shelter in San Juan, Puerto Rico Closer to the storm, thousands of people have been evacuated from at-risk areas. Residents have flocked to shops for food, water, and emergency supplies, and in several locations goods were already in short supply. Airports have closed on several islands, popular holiday destinations, and authorities have urged people to go to public shelters. US President Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency for Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, mobilizing federal disaster relief efforts for those areas. In Puerto Rico, a 75-year-old man died during preparations for the storm, which has been described by Governor Ricardo Rossello as "something without precedent". Flights cancelled as Irma approaches Nasa shares video of Hurrican Irma viewed from space Image copyright Reuters Image caption Residents of San Juan rushed with their preparations Storm surges, life-threatening winds and torrential rainfall are expected along the Leeward Islands, which include Antigua, Barbuda and Anguilla. Alison Strand, originally from Staffordshire in the UK, is on the island of Anguilla. She said her family had spent the last several hours fortifying her home on the coast, which "will be the first house hit by the storm". "Our house is 5m (15ft) above sea level and we're expecting 8m swells, so we're just crossing our fingers," she said. "We are expecting to lose our wooden roof." Gary Randall, head of the Blue Waters Resort on Antigua's north coast, said: "I wasn't that nervous yesterday, but today I'm nervous." Staff had boarded up windows, stripped trees of coconuts to stop them damaging property and secured anything that could become a hazard. Predicted path of Hurricane Irma Carolyne Coleby, in Montserrat, said: "Irma is about to hit us full force." "I am a goat farmer and have to consider my livestock. Last night I moved 20 goats to a backhouse at a hostel I manage which is on slightly higher ground," she said. "I am hoping the galvanised roof of the backhouse doesn't fly off. I can't go to the shelter because I can't leave my animals." Texas recovery from Harvey 'could cost $180bn' Uninsured and anxious, victims return home Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionBBC Weather's Stav Danaos has the latest on 'dangerous' Hurricane Irma The US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said Irma was moving at a speed of 24km/h (15mph), saying that the storm was "potentially catastrophic", There are hurricane warnings for: Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis Saba, St Eustatius and Sint Maarten Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy The British Virgin Islands The US Virgin Islands Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra Dominican Republic, for the northern region Guadeloupe Haiti, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the south-eastern Bahamas are on hurricane watch. How hard has Harvey hit the local economy? Parts of Texas and Louisiana are dealing with the damage done by Hurricane Harvey in late August. But it is not yet clear what impact Hurricane Irma might have on the US mainland. The mainland has not been hit by two category four hurricanes in one season since the storms were first recorded in 1851. A third tropical storm, Jose, has formed further out in the Atlantic behind Irma, and is expected to become a hurricane later on in the week. Are you in the region? If you are a holidaymaker unable to get a flight home or a resident who has been preparing for Hurricane Irma share your experiences by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk. Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways: WhatsApp: +447555 173285 Tweet: @BBC_HaveYourSay Send pictures/video to yourpics@bbc.co.uk Upload your pictures / video here Send an SMS or MMS to 61124 or +44 7624 800 100 View the full article
  10. Japan has one of the lowest rates of gun crime in the world. In 2014 there were just six gun deaths, compared to 33,599 in the US. What is the secret? If you want to buy a gun in Japan you need patience and determination. You have to attend an all-day class, take a written exam and pass a shooting-range test with a mark of at least 95%. There are also mental health and drugs tests. Your criminal record is checked and police look for links to extremist groups. Then they check your relatives too - and even your work colleagues. And as well as having the power to deny gun licences, police also have sweeping powers to search and seize weapons. That's not all. Handguns are banned outright. Only shotguns and air rifles are allowed. The law restricts the number of gun shops. In most of Japan's 40 or so prefectures there can be no more than three, and you can only buy fresh cartridges by returning the spent cartridges you bought on your last visit. Police must be notified where the gun and the ammunition are stored - and they must be stored separately under lock and key. Police will also inspect guns once a year. And after three years your licence runs out, at which point you have to attend the course and pass the tests again. This helps explain why mass shootings in Japan are extremely rare. When mass killings occur, the killer most often wields a knife. The current gun control law was introduced in 1958, but the idea behind the policy dates back centuries. "Ever since guns entered the country, Japan has always had strict gun laws," says Iain Overton, executive director of Action on Armed Violence and the author of Gun Baby Gun. "They are the first nation to impose gun laws in the whole world and I think it laid down a bedrock saying that guns really don't play a part in civilian society." People were being rewarded for giving up firearms as far back as 1685, a policy Overton describes as "perhaps the first ever gun buyback initiative". The result is a very low level of gun ownership - 0.6 guns per 100 people in 2007, according to the Small Arms Survey, compared to 6.2 in England and Wales and 88.8 in the US. "The moment you have guns in society, you will have gun violence but I think it's about the quantity," says Overton. "If you have very few guns in society, you will almost inevitably have low levels of violence." Japanese police officers rarely use guns and put much greater emphasis on martial arts - all are expected to become a black belt in judo. They spend more time practising kendo (fighting with bamboo swords) than learning how to use firearms. "The response to violence is never violence, it's always to de-escalate it. Only six shots were fired by Japanese police nationwide [in 2015]," says journalist Anthony Berteaux. "What most Japanese police will do is get huge futons and essentially roll up a person who is being violent or drunk into a little burrito and carry them back to the station to calm them down." Overton contrasts this with the American model, which he says has been "to militarise the police". "If you have too many police pulling out guns at the first instance of crime, you lead to a miniature arms race between police and criminals," he says. To underline the taboo attached to inappropriate use of weapons, an officer who used his gun to kill himself was charged posthumously with a criminal offence. He carried out the act while on duty - policemen never carry weapons off-duty, leaving them at the station when they finish their shift. The care police take with firearms is mirrored in the self-defence forces. Journalist Jake Adelstein once attended a shooting practice, which ended with the gathering up of the bullet casings - and there was great concern when one turned out to be missing. "One bullet shell was unaccounted for - one shell had fallen behind one of the targets - and nobody was allowed to leave the facilities until they found the shell," he says. There is no clamour in Japan for gun regulations to be relaxed, says Berteaux. "A lot of it stems from this post-war sentiment of pacifism that the war was horrible and we can never have that again," he explains. "People assume that peace is always going to exist and when you have a culture like that you don't really feel the need to arm yourself or have an object that disrupts that peace." In fact, moves to expand the role of Japan's self-defence forces in foreign peacekeeping operations have caused concern in some quarters. "It is unknown territory," says political science professor Koichi Nakano. "Maybe the government will try to normalise occasional death in the self-defence force and perhaps even try to glorify the exercise of weapons?" According to Iain Overton, the "almost taboo level of rejection" of guns in Japan means that the country is "edging towards a perfect place" - though he points out that Iceland also achieves a very low rate of gun crime, despite a much higher level of gun ownership. Henrietta Moore of the Institute for Global Prosperity at University College London applauds the Japanese for not viewing gun ownership as "a civil liberty", and rejecting the idea of firearms as "something you use to defend your property against others". But for Japanese gangsters the tight gun control laws are a problem. Yakuza gun crime has sharply declined in the last 15 years, but those who continue to carry firearms have to find ingenious ways of smuggling them into the country. "The criminals pack the guns inside of a tuna so it looks like a frozen tuna," says retired police officer Tahei Ogawa. "But we have discovered cases where they have actually hidden a gun inside." http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-38365729 Probably too late for the police in the UK and US to take this approach, but certainly an interesting article.
  11. Image captionThere are currently 73 operational police station front counters, down from 136 since 2013 Half of London's police station front counters will close under new plans announced by the Mayor of London. Sadiq Kahn said budget constraints had left him "no choice". Scotland Yard estimates it will need to make £400m of savings by 2020 under current funding. Under proposals each of the Met's 32 boroughs will be left with one 24-hour counter. There are currently 73 working counters, down from 136 since 2013. Conservatives said the mayor was using government funding as a "scapegoat". London Assembly member Gareth Bacon said: ""The fact is the Met has found three quarters of the savings it requires and no announcement has yet been made about future funding." Mr Khan set out the new plans in a consultation document on public access and engagement published on Friday. City Hall says that closing "poorly used" front counters will save £10m each year - equivalent to the cost of 170 police constables. Since 2010, the Met has had to find £600m of savings. Image copyrightREUTERS Image captionSadiq Kahn said current funding left him "no choice" but to close half of London's police front counters Some 8% of crimes were reported at police front counters in 2016, down from 22% in 2006, according to official figures. About 70% of crimes are reported by phone. Under the plans, remaining police buildings will get upgraded IT services while frontline officers will be provided with tablet computers - in an an effort to boost the reporting of crime online. Mr Khan said: "The huge government cuts to the Metropolitan Police Service have left us with no choice but to take drastic action to protect the frontline of policing. "My top priority is keeping Londoners safe, and every pound saved by closing a front counter is a pound of savings that we do not have to find by reducing the frontline." Image captionSince 2010, the Met has had to find £600m of savings and estimate they will need to find another £400m in the next three years When former mayor Boris Johnson cut police station front counters in 2013, Mr Khan criticised the move, suggesting Londoners could be forced to report crime at police "contact points" in McDonald's restaurants. The Home Office said Scotland Yard has had a "broadly flat" budget since 2015. A spokesman said: "There is more money and more officers for each Londoner than anywhere else in the country. "This government will continue to ensure that the Metropolitan Police have the resources they need to cut crime and keep our communities safe." The public consultation is open until 6 October. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-40607533
  12. Image copyrightAFP Image captionMillions of travellers could be affected by the crisis The Brazilian authorities have suspended the issuing of new passports because of a budget crisis. The Federal Police, which usually issue passports within six working days, said it would not accept any new applications made after Tuesday. One of Brazil's prosecutors blamed President Michel Temer's budget cuts. Brazil is suffering its worst recession in decades. The government said emergency funds for passports would be debated this week. In a statement late on Tuesday, the federal police said the decision to stop issuing new passports "stems from a dearth of funds earmarked to the activities of migratory control and the issuance of travel documents". Passport application charges range from 260 reais ($79; £61) for a 10-year passport to 350 reais ($106; £83) for express processing. One of Brazil's top prosecutors, Carlos Lima, accused the government of trying to stifle the police by cutting their funding. Federal police are investigating the involvement of the country's business and political elite in a corruption scheme centred on the state oil company, Petrobras. "Who wins with this? The investigative team has been reduced," Mr Lima said. The announcement comes as President Temer's government tries to rein in spending as part of an effort to address a deep fiscal deficit. Brazil's budget ministry has proposed extra funds to help ease the strain on passport issuance and has urged the Congress, who have to approve the measure, to vote as early as next week. Brazil is currently approaching the winter holiday season - a peak travel period. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-40438147
  13. A driver who started an argument with two cyclists only to discover they were off-duty police officers has been fined £200. Joseph McCarthy, 50, had pulled in front of the cyclists before braking unnecessarily in Larbert's Bellsdyke Road, causing them to brake. McCarthy was later identified, reported and charged by the officers. He was convicted of careless driving at Falkirk Justice of the Peace Court and had three points added to his licence. A Forth Valley Division spokesman said: "The moral of this story is our officers regularly cycle to work and you never know when you might encounter a police officer." http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-tayside-central-39806769
  14. Faults with Police Scotland's body-worn video camera system are increasing at a time when the force is considering a national rollout, the BBC understands. More than 300 issues were logged including the assigning of devices to officers and downloading of footage. Numbers are low but data obtained by the BBC shows some officers called the system "inoperative" and "unusable". Police Scotland said most problems had been with the force's own computers, not the cameras. Ch Insp Nick Topping added that the number of reported defects were low considering the devices had been deployed "tens of thousands of times across four years". Body-worn cameras were trialled for 18 months in Aberdeen before the scheme was subsequently rolled out across the Moray and Aberdeenshire divisions in 2012. Smaller and lighter than a mobile phone, the devices are worn on the upper body and are typically used during city centre patrols, events and drug searches. A freedom of information request revealed the force has 385 cameras deployed across its divisions, with an additional 49 set aside for the FoCUS team which polices football matches. A 2014 review showed that early guilty pleas were obtained in 91% of cases where the camera footage formed part of the evidence, allowing 697 officers to be on the streets rather than in the courts. Half of these guilty pleas were also submitted at "first calling" meaning officers did not have to prepare additional paperwork for the Crown Office. Police Scotland officers also stated that the cameras helped de-escalate potentially dangerous situations involving aggressive individuals. But, at a time when Police Scotland is conducting a "scoping exercise"regarding a nationwide deployment of these cameras, data obtained by BBC Scotland revealed the number of faults reported with the body-worn camera system doubled over a three-year period. View the detailed fault report data here. In total officers logged 302 faults in the force's IT portal since 2013, with the number of issues doubling from 57 in 2014, to 120 in 2016. Deployed up to 50,000 times annually, it has been claimed the number of reported incidents each year indicate a failure rate of only 0.03%. However, the number of reports could actually be greater as the force said individuals may have reported the issue directly to a colleague rather than using the IT portal. The force's portal also has no specific search field for camera-related reports, meaning BBC Scotland had to provide a list of specific terms with which to search their system. 'Unusable' system The bulk of the problems logged related not to the cameras themselves, but officers being unable to log the cameras in and out. The majority of issues came from stations in Aberdeen and Banff where the number of reports quadrupled and trebled respectively between 2014 and 2016. A Police Scotland document which outlines the operating procedures for the cameras states that "the units will only function if they have been assigned using the 'My Witness' software to an officer". One officer in Stonehaven reported: "The BWV [Body Worn Video] system is not recognising any BWV cameras which renders the system unusable. "Footage cannot be downloaded and the cameras cannot be allocated to officers." Another officer in Inverurie reported a similar issue logging out cameras and stated: "This is an officer safety issue as we cannot issue BWV cameras until this is fixed". One officer in Aberdeen reported errors with eight "faulty" cameras; other officers in Banff, Lossiemouth, Forres, Huntly, Torry, and Aboyne reported none of their cameras could be used. The data obtained by BBC Scotland also revealed other issues including downloading and locating footage, the charging of devices, broken camera mounts, and one camera which was found by officers to be recording audio at all times even when it was not activated to record. However, Ch Insp Topping said the impact of the reported faults was marginal, and that the majority of the issues were down to user error or computers rather than the cameras themselves. He said: "Our computers run 24/7...so sometimes what happens is a computer needs a reboot". "And that's why there's been some recorded issues because we've asked officers to make sure they record any issues." However, the increase in reports, and the revelation that the same issues are repeatedly encountered by the same officers, suggest a reboot may not always be the solution. One officer reported that "the body worn video system based at Fraserburgh Police Office is inoperative". The officer said: "All cameras are in the charging base but none are registering as being there and no footage can be accessed. "We have re-set the system but still nothing." Infrastructural and funding challenges Ch Insp Topping added that many of the devices were now more than four years old. He said: "So they're coming to the end of their lifetime cycle, and we're in the process of refreshing a number at the moment because the battery for some is not holding a charge. "So the actual issues with the BWVs has been minor because we've deployed these tens of thousands of times across four years." But Andrea MacDonald, chairwoman of the Scottish Police Federation, said there were concerns over a national deployment of the system, as well as its integration with the rest of the criminal justice system. She said: "[We] are largely supportive of anything that could help our members welfare and to protect them and the public...however what concerns us just now is that we have serious issues with our IT infrastructure, and we just don't think it's capable of supporting body-worn cameras at the present time. "And the finances required will be a large sum of money which again, in the current cash-strapped situation, we're concerned that the service don't have the funding for it." Sir Stephen House, the force's former chief constable, told the Scottish Police Authority in June 2015 that "the cost would be more than several million pounds to roll out body worn cameras across the force and the money was not available at the present time". The adoption of the devices by the Metropolitan Police last October is costing the London force approximately £1m a year. And at a time of a £200m financial gap, Police Scotland confirmed no new cameras have been purchased since April 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-39730665
  15. A California man has been arrested after attacking a crime prevention robot in a car park, police say. The Knightscope machine was on patrol outside the Silicon Valley company that created it when the alleged attacker approached, witnesses say. The 300lb (136kg) robot raised the alarm after it was allegedly knocked over by 41-year-old Jason Sylvain. He said he was an engineer who wanted to "test" the machine, said a Knightscope representative. Mr Sylvain has been charged with public intoxication in the 19 April incident. The robot suffered a few scratches, but has "recuperated" and is back on patrol, said Knightscope. The latest on robots Scary robots that want to be useful The robot that wants to go to university "It did what it was designed to do," said company spokesman Stacy Dean Stephens. Alarms on the 5ft (150cm) tall robot, which is known as K5, sounded after it was knocked down, said Knightscope. A company employee went outside to stall the man until Mountain View police could arrive. A police spokeswoman said they were dispatched to the car park after a report of a prowler. They said Mr Sylvain "appeared confused, had red, glassy eyes and a strong odour of alcohol emitted from him". One local man told ABC News it was not a fair fight. "I think this is a pretty pathetic incident because it shows how spineless the drunk guys in Silicon Valley really are because they attack a victim who doesn't even have any arms," said Eamonn Callon. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-39725535
  16. Faults with Police Scotland's body-worn video camera system are increasing at a time when the force is considering a national rollout, the BBC understands. More than 300 issues were logged including the assigning of devices to officers and downloading of footage. Numbers are low but data obtained by the BBC shows some officers called the system "inoperative" and "unusable". Police Scotland said most problems had been with the force's own computers, not the cameras. Ch Insp Nick Topping added that the number of reported defects were low considering the devices had been deployed "tens of thousands of times across four years". Body-worn cameras were trialled for 18 months in Aberdeen before the scheme was subsequently rolled out across the Moray and Aberdeenshire divisions in 2012. Smaller and lighter than a mobile phone, the devices are worn on the upper body and are typically used during city centre patrols, events and drug searches. A freedom of information request revealed the force has 385 cameras deployed across its divisions, with an additional 49 set aside for the FoCUS team which polices football matches. A 2014 review showed that early guilty pleas were obtained in 91% of cases where the camera footage formed part of the evidence, allowing 697 officers to be on the streets rather than in the courts. Half of these guilty pleas were also submitted at "first calling" meaning officers did not have to prepare additional paperwork for the Crown Office. Police Scotland officers also stated that the cameras helped de-escalate potentially dangerous situations involving aggressive individuals. But, at a time when Police Scotland is conducting a "scoping exercise"regarding a nationwide deployment of these cameras, data obtained by BBC Scotland revealed the number of faults reported with the body-worn camera system doubled over a three-year period. View the detailed fault report data here. In total officers logged 302 faults in the force's IT portal since 2013, with the number of issues doubling from 57 in 2014, to 120 in 2016. Deployed up to 50,000 times annually, it has been claimed the number of reported incidents each year indicate a failure rate of only 0.03%. However, the number of reports could actually be greater as the force said individuals may have reported the issue directly to a colleague rather than using the IT portal. The force's portal also has no specific search field for camera-related reports, meaning BBC Scotland had to provide a list of specific terms with which to search their system. 'Unusable' system The bulk of the problems logged related not to the cameras themselves, but officers being unable to log the cameras in and out. The majority of issues came from stations in Aberdeen and Banff where the number of reports quadrupled and trebled respectively between 2014 and 2016. A Police Scotland document which outlines the operating procedures for the cameras states that "the units will only function if they have been assigned using the 'My Witness' software to an officer". One officer in Stonehaven reported: "The BWV [Body Worn Video] system is not recognising any BWV cameras which renders the system unusable. "Footage cannot be downloaded and the cameras cannot be allocated to officers." Another officer in Inverurie reported a similar issue logging out cameras and stated: "This is an officer safety issue as we cannot issue BWV cameras until this is fixed". One officer in Aberdeen reported errors with eight "faulty" cameras; other officers in Banff, Lossiemouth, Forres, Huntly, Torry, and Aboyne reported none of their cameras could be used. The data obtained by BBC Scotland also revealed other issues including downloading and locating footage, the charging of devices, broken camera mounts, and one camera which was found by officers to be recording audio at all times even when it was not activated to record. However, Ch Insp Topping said the impact of the reported faults was marginal, and that the majority of the issues were down to user error or computers rather than the cameras themselves. He said: "Our computers run 24/7...so sometimes what happens is a computer needs a reboot". "And that's why there's been some recorded issues because we've asked officers to make sure they record any issues." However, the increase in reports, and the revelation that the same issues are repeatedly encountered by the same officers, suggest a reboot may not always be the solution. One officer reported that "the body worn video system based at Fraserburgh Police Office is inoperative". The officer said: "All cameras are in the charging base but none are registering as being there and no footage can be accessed. "We have re-set the system but still nothing." Infrastructural and funding challenges Ch Insp Topping added that many of the devices were now more than four years old. He said: "So they're coming to the end of their lifetime cycle, and we're in the process of refreshing a number at the moment because the battery for some is not holding a charge. "So the actual issues with the BWVs has been minor because we've deployed these tens of thousands of times across four years." But Andrea MacDonald, chairwoman of the Scottish Police Federation, said there were concerns over a national deployment of the system, as well as its integration with the rest of the criminal justice system. She said: "[We] are largely supportive of anything that could help our members welfare and to protect them and the public...however what concerns us just now is that we have serious issues with our IT infrastructure, and we just don't think it's capable of supporting body-worn cameras at the present time. "And the finances required will be a large sum of money which again, in the current cash-strapped situation, we're concerned that the service don't have the funding for it." Sir Stephen House, the force's former chief constable, told the Scottish Police Authority in June 2015 that "the cost would be more than several million pounds to roll out body worn cameras across the force and the money was not available at the present time". The adoption of the devices by the Metropolitan Police last October is costing the London force approximately £1m a year. And at a time of a £200m financial gap, Police Scotland confirmed no new cameras have been purchased since April 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-39730665
  17. A California man has been arrested after attacking a crime prevention robot in a car park, police say. The Knightscope machine was on patrol outside the Silicon Valley company that created it when the alleged attacker approached, witnesses say. The 300lb (136kg) robot raised the alarm after it was allegedly knocked over by 41-year-old Jason Sylvain. He said he was an engineer who wanted to "test" the machine, said a Knightscope representative. Mr Sylvain has been charged with public intoxication in the 19 April incident. The robot suffered a few scratches, but has "recuperated" and is back on patrol, said Knightscope. The latest on robots Scary robots that want to be useful The robot that wants to go to university "It did what it was designed to do," said company spokesman Stacy Dean Stephens. Alarms on the 5ft (150cm) tall robot, which is known as K5, sounded after it was knocked down, said Knightscope. A company employee went outside to stall the man until Mountain View police could arrive. A police spokeswoman said they were dispatched to the car park after a report of a prowler. They said Mr Sylvain "appeared confused, had red, glassy eyes and a strong odour of alcohol emitted from him". One local man told ABC News it was not a fair fight. "I think this is a pretty pathetic incident because it shows how spineless the drunk guys in Silicon Valley really are because they attack a victim who doesn't even have any arms," said Eamonn Callon. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-39725535
  18. A North Yorkshire fire crew attending a 999 call was sent to the wrong address by a control room based more than 400 miles away. The Harrogate crew was wrongly sent two and half miles from where it should have been by call operators working in Cornwall. North Yorkshire and Cornwall fire and rescue services share control room operations at peak periods. The North Yorkshire service confirmed an investigation is under way. It said crews attending the business park fire at Killinghall, near Harrogate, were delayed 10 minutes as a result of the mix-up, but the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said fire engines were 17 minutes late. Simon Wall, chairman of North Yorkshire FBU, said: "The delay could have been catastrophic if it had been a house fire." Wednesday's call was handled by the Critical Control Centre in Tolvaddon, Cornwall,. Mr Wall said "collaborating with Cornwall means there is a massive lack of local knowledge". He added: "The collaboration between control centres is what the government wants and we accept that, but an incident like this is unacceptable. "Something has gone desperately wrong." North Yorkshire and Cornwall control room collaboration Launched: August 2016 Cost: £3.6m Cornwall base: Tolvaddon - handles about 10,500 emergency calls per year North Yorkshire base: Northallerton - handles about 15,000 emergency calls per year Aim: Exchanging control rooms at peak times Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service said: "When it is busy other control rooms in the region are likely to be busy, so "by choosing to work with North Yorkshire we are in a better position to be able to have our emergency calls answered during busy times". North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said: "Cornwall's Control Room will be able to seamlessly receive calls and dispatch resources on behalf North Yorkshire (and vice versa), during busy periods." Owen Hayward, North Yorkshire Assistant Chief Fire Officer, confirmed an investigation is under way with Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service. He said: "We are not yet sure if someone gave us the wrong postcode or something went wrong in the control room." No-one was available for comment from Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-39614096
  19. The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) has said a violent incident in Glasgow raised questions about whether officers can protect the public. SPF chairwoman Andrea MacDonald said it was "deeply worrying" that no armed officers were dispatched. The attacker in Thursday's incident injured two people before inflicting fatal injuries on himself. Police Scotland has insisted that the incident did not require the presence of armed officers. One of the victims of the attack was reported to be in a stable condition in hospital with injuries to his shoulder and arm. The other victim, a community warden, was allowed home after treatment. Ms MacDonald said: "Had the assailant been intent on harming large numbers of the public, he could have done so with impunity and the police would have been largely powerless to stop him. "Whilst not detracting in any way from the courage of the police officers who attended, the fact no armed officers were dispatched to a man attacking others with knives and an axe should be deeply worrying. "Glasgow is a city with an almost permanent armed police presence but they were not dispatched and they did not attend." She added: "This lays bare the myth that the service adequately risk-assesses incidents prior to deploying resources and that as a service we are capable of protecting the public from spontaneous incidents of extreme violence." The SPF annual conference - last month - heard calls for all officers to carry Tasers and for there to be an increase in the number of armed officers. Police Scotland has rejected these calls and stressed the value of retaining a largely unarmed police service. Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson said: "Police Scotland, along with the rest of the UK, prides itself in being an unarmed service with access to specialist firearms support whenever required. "Yesterday's incident in Glasgow city centre was a dynamic and fast-moving incident. Local officers responded rapidly and contained and dealt with it quickly. "This was not a random attack. It was planned and targeted, and armed officers were not required to attend on this occasion." Detectives have appealed for information about what they said was a "targeted" and pre-planned attack. The incident has been referred to the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-39604233
  20. The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) has said a violent incident in Glasgow raised questions about whether officers can protect the public. SPF chairwoman Andrea MacDonald said it was "deeply worrying" that no armed officers were dispatched. The attacker in Thursday's incident injured two people before inflicting fatal injuries on himself. Police Scotland has insisted that the incident did not require the presence of armed officers. One of the victims of the attack was reported to be in a stable condition in hospital with injuries to his shoulder and arm. The other victim, a community warden, was allowed home after treatment. Ms MacDonald said: "Had the assailant been intent on harming large numbers of the public, he could have done so with impunity and the police would have been largely powerless to stop him. "Whilst not detracting in any way from the courage of the police officers who attended, the fact no armed officers were dispatched to a man attacking others with knives and an axe should be deeply worrying. "Glasgow is a city with an almost permanent armed police presence but they were not dispatched and they did not attend." She added: "This lays bare the myth that the service adequately risk-assesses incidents prior to deploying resources and that as a service we are capable of protecting the public from spontaneous incidents of extreme violence." The SPF annual conference - last month - heard calls for all officers to carry Tasers and for there to be an increase in the number of armed officers. Police Scotland has rejected these calls and stressed the value of retaining a largely unarmed police service. Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson said: "Police Scotland, along with the rest of the UK, prides itself in being an unarmed service with access to specialist firearms support whenever required. "Yesterday's incident in Glasgow city centre was a dynamic and fast-moving incident. Local officers responded rapidly and contained and dealt with it quickly. "This was not a random attack. It was planned and targeted, and armed officers were not required to attend on this occasion." Detectives have appealed for information about what they said was a "targeted" and pre-planned attack. The incident has been referred to the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-39604233
  21. The sun may be shining on the Killarney lakes this week, but the Garda Síochána is operating under a cloud. The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) began its annual conference in County Kerry at a difficult time for the Republic of Ireland's police force. This week will also see the Dáil (Irish parliament) debate a vote of confidence in Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan. Issues of pay and conditions usually dominate the AGSI gathering: In December, members voted overwhelmingly to accept an independent labour court offer. Timeline of Garda controversies Public unease This year, delegates gather at a time when there is great public unease about the force's culture and leadership. Earlier this month, the government announced a "root-and-branch" review of how the Garda carries out its work after a number of worrying revelations. In March, it emerged that gardaí recorded nearly one million more roadside alcohol tests than had actually been carried out in a five-year period to 2016 - almost twice the real figure. Senior officers conceded it was likely some of the 937,000 tests were simply made up by members of the force. Commissioner O'Sullivan said the bogus breath tests were due to incompetence at best, and deception at worst. At the same news conference, senior officers revealed that about 14,700 people convicted in the courts were prosecuted without a fixed-charge notice first being issued. Gardaí, who have apologised to those affected, now have to appeal against all those convictions and have the court-imposed penalties removed. The state has to cover all costs, estimated to run into millions of euro. It is not the first time Garda numbers have been called into question. Last September, the Central Statistics Office said that gardaí were not recording up to one in six of crimes on their computer system, which meant, either intentionally or unintentionally, inflating their crime detection rate. 'An ethical matter'' The Policing Authority, an independent body that oversees the performance of the Garda Síochana, says the road traffic offences and breathalyser controversy "is not just an academic, statistical matter, it is an ethical one". It also says the controversy raises serious questions of integrity for the Garda Síochana organisation and, combined with previous issues regarding inflated activity levels, erodes confidence in the credibility of Garda data generally. All of this is also happening at a time when there is a question mark over the future of Commissioner O'Sullivan. Even before the latest controversies, she was already under pressure over her alleged involvement in a campaign to smear a garda whistleblower, Sgt Maurice McCabe, with the false allegation that he was a child sex abuser. She strongly denies the charge, which will be investigated by a sworn public inquiry headed by Supreme Court judge Peter Charleton. On Wednesday at 16:30 BST, Sinn Féin is to table a motion of no confidence in her leadership of the force, with a vote the following day. 'Huge question mark' She can only be sacked by the government, or by the Policing Authority, but if the Dáil passes such a motion there has to be a huge question mark over her stewardship of the Garda Siochana. Much will depend on what way the main opposition party, Fianna Fáil, votes. It has said it cannot express confidence in the commissioner until credible explanations are given for the latest roadside controversies. The party, which supports the minority government in motions of government confidence and on budgetary matters, is to put down its own motion seeking more powers for the Policing Authority. 'Under a cloud It is calling for the authority to be asked to assess whether it has confidence in Commissioner O'Sullivan's capacity to restore confidence in the force. That looks very like Fianna Fáil looking for a way not to support the Sinn Féin motion. So, the expectation must be that the Dáil will not vote that it has no confidence in Commissioner O'Sullivan, which is not quite the same thing as saying it has confidence in her. Whichever way the vote goes, the Garda Síochána will remain a force under a cloud until the whistleblowers issues and the "root and branch" review are dealt with. And it is likely the AGSI at its conference next year, wherever that might be, will be dealing the fall-out of similar controversies. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-39555772
  22. A national campaign, led by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, has released a film featuring celebrities talking about how they faced their own mental health problems. Rapper Professor Green, cricketer Freddie Flintoff, comedian Ruby Wax and others say admitting their problems for the first time made them realise they were not alone. But for many, asking for help can be much harder. "We didn't really know what we were being sent to," Dan Farnworth, a paramedic in the north-west, says. "The next thing I knew, a child was just placed into my arms." It was 2015, and Dan had just been sent to a 999 call that would change his life. "When we arrived we knocked on the front door, but we couldn't get in. We didn't know what had happened inside," the 31-year-old told the Victoria Derbyshire programme. It quickly became apparent the call involved the murder of a young child. "All of a sudden this little girl was just placed in my arms," Dan, a father-of-four, says. "I just remember looking at her. I remember thinking she looked like one of my own children. She had the same colour hair as one of my children. "I just felt like I froze. It was scary. It is the worst thing I have ever seen in 12 years of doing this job." Flashbacks That night, the horror of what Dan had witnessed began to dawn on him. He finished his shift early and went home, but couldn't sleep. He soon realised something more serious was wrong. "I started having nightmares and flashbacks," he says. "My mind started filling in the gaps, seeing things happen that I hadn't actually seen. "It was awful. I had flashbacks during the day and I was becoming like a recluse and not talking to people at work." In the days and weeks that followed, Dan says he became "a different person". "I realised something was wrong but didn't know where to turn. It was like I was in a deep dark hole, I was scared and drinking and smoking more heavily." Dan says he was struggling to deal with his mental health problems, but feared being honest with his employers might have seen him lose his job. He had always wanted to work in the emergency services. Starting in the ambulance control room answering 999 calls, he then spent time dispatching the air ambulance, before finally applying for a job as an emergency medical technician. He had been on the road since 2010. "I was actually scared that by opening up and talking about what was going on, someone would turn round and say 'this job isn't for you'." 'Put the kettle on' Eventually Dan reached out to his friend and fellow paramedic Rich Morton. Dan says he typed out a text message, telling Rich what had been going on. However, he deleted it before he could send it. He re-wrote the message, but again deleted it. He wrote the message for a third time, and this time pressed send. Dan was so scared of what his friend would say that he hid his mobile phone under a pillow. "He texted me straight back, saying 'put the kettle on, I'm coming over'," he says now. "That text message was the first day of the rest of my life." Dan was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He was signed off work for five months. He says he was offered "unbelievable" support from his GP and received counselling. According to the charity Mind, he is not alone in working in the emergency services and suffering mental health problems. The charity says nearly 90% of blue light staff have reported stress and poor mental health at work. Emergency workers are twice as likely to identify problems at work as the main cause of those mental health problems as the general workforce, Mind says. Dan and Rich have since started their own charity, called Our Blue Light, aimed at improving the mental health of blue light services workers. And through their involvement with Mind, Dan and Rich have also rubbed shoulders with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. Marathon challenge Last year, the three royals launched a new campaign called Heads Together, aimed at ending the stigma surrounding mental health. On Wednesday, Heads Together released a series of films to encourage "a national conversation" about mental health. Celebrities including cricketer Freddie Flintoff, comedian Ruby Wax and ex-Downing Street communications director Alastair Campbell have released films about their mental health struggles. In a statement, the royals said: "We have seen time and time again that shattering stigma on mental health starts with simple conversations. "When you realise that mental health problems affect your friends, neighbours, children and spouses, the walls of judgement and prejudice around these issues begin to fall." The royals say attitudes towards mental health are now "at tipping point." As for Dan, Prince Harry had a more specific challenge. "He told me we should run the London Marathon," Dan says, "so we started running the very next day." "Stigmas still exist and [mental health] is a taboo subject," Dan says. "People think mental health is a big issue, but I'm Dan, I'm 31 years old with a job and a family and my life is normal. But I have a mental health problem." Watch the Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39432297

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