I never moan, walking all those miles in all weathers as I know, even though I get knackered that it's doing my heart and body a world of good
introduction: alihowe a veteran PCSO in Essex she has been to the dark side and back and is a top veteran of national-PCSOs
falkor: [laughing] how are you?
alihowe: I’m alright thank you
alihowe: sorry about that. I nipped up the Post Office to post a parcel and then somebody in front of me took about an hour
alihowe: but I’m here now
falkor: what did they have to say for themselves?
alihowe: not a lot – they were blimmin old bless em and I could hear my mobile going off and I thought it was probably you and I thought, well I can’t really do it in here ……
falkor: [interrupting] you could do it in the Post Office Ali!!!
alihowe: noooooo [laughing]
falkor: why not? [laughing]
alihowe: I can’t
falkor: Did you have Bella with you?
falkor: oh why not?
alihowe: no she’s snoring heavily in the garden at the moment
falkor: how much sleep does that dog get?
alihowe: well she’s hardly ever awake
alihowe: I am meant to be a bulldog in my next life
falkor: I did get that impression when I read a few posts about her, I’ve got to say
alihowe: [laughing] she’s lovely – I’m not a doggy person and this dog appeared on my wedding anniversary, at first I thought oh my gould ……
falkor: ohh really?
alihowe: so cute as well
falkor: fantastic and what does Wally think of Bella?
alihowe: they get on really well actually. Yes she’s curled up – yeah the dog’s curled up with the cat
falkor: REALLY? Ohhhh
alihowe: well at first they were a bit boisterous
falkor: oh we’ve got to have a photograph of that
alihowe: yeah she’s lovely – she’s beautiful, in an ugly way
falkor: but how old is Wally?
alihowe: Wally’s getting on a bit now, the old boy is probably about 8
falkor: oh he’s got plenty of life left in him yet
alihowe: oh yes he has
falkor: but in cat years that’s 64
alihowe: I know bless him
falkor: actually to be quite honest …. when I was a lad, we did have a dog and a cat when my mum and dad were living in Molesey. We had a black and white cat and we had a Sealyham dog and I remember them always getting on. The dog used to chase the cat round the tree, when he was a lot younger and stuff like that, but they got on okay
alihowe: yeah the dog’s fine until the cat goes to clean the dog, I mean the dog will squash the cat
falkor: the cat goes to clean the dog?
alihowe: yeah the cat likes to clean the dog [laughing]
falkor: it starts licking it?
falkor: oh how strange
alihowe: and like I say I’m very sort of house proud and when she comes in, I like to wipe her feet and my family laugh
falkor: no that’s great I totally approve of that – it’s better than the other way round Ali isn’t it?
falkor: anyway I was going to say to you, on the subject of Street Wardens – if we can now move it on to the “PCSO scene,” I know you’ve had contact with street wardens
alihowe: yes we come across street wardens everyday on our patrol
falkor: but I keep on reading news articles about street wardens being replaced by PCSOs and it hasn’t just happened once – this is happening more and more. Do you think that will happen in Essex?
alihowe: I really don’t know, because I know that they have to struggle to get a contract for a certain period, but I think because ours are doing so very well and have had such good results. I think that’s why their contract has been extended ….
falkor: [interrupting] what good results?
alihowe: they’re more community based. For example, we had a family that had a house fire and they lost everything and I mean absolutely everything. The street wardens went round, they got furniture, they got clothes, they got absolutely everything for these people for their new house they had nothing
alihowe: they went beyond what they’re meant to do in order to achieve something really really outstanding
falkor: but what do they look like when you see them walking down the road ?
alihowe: right – our Street Wardens, well you probably wouldn’t know that they were street wardens at first, because they wear a royal blue fleece, with a polo shirt underneath. They’ve got in black lettering across the front of their fleece “Street Wardens”
falkor: do they have a hat?
alihowe: They don’t have a hat. Their trousers are like navy cargo trousers and they carry a town link radio which we also have, on their belt. They’ve got a big belt on
falkor: Quite honestly they should be replaced by PCSOs shouldn’t they?
alihowe: I think they do a slightly different job, so personally I don’t think they should be replaced by PCSOs
falkor: where I live I have never come into contact with any Street Wardens. All I know about Street Wardens is what I read on the web sites.
alihowe: For instance with ours, we’ve got a big graffiti problem in our town, probably everybody else has, but we’ll phone them up and a lot of our buildings are listed grade II buildings which need specialised paint – y’know a colour that you can’t go and buy and they’ll go and get it where they mix all the paint and recycle paint and they’ll make sure it’s the correct paint for the house and go themselves and paint it over themselves and just clear up
falkor: sounds like they’re a very good agency to work hand in hand with
alihowe: they’re really really good – they come to our briefings and they also issue fixed penalty notices whenever they can but obviously only the council ones like dog fouling, not public order
falkor: Can you do any traffic tickets at all Ali?
alihowe: The only ones we issue are the CLE 2/6 s, no nothing else
falkor: You can’t do any zig zag lines?
alihowe: no can’t do those
falkor: Because you’d have to have traffic warden powers to do those
alihowe: you would yes
falkor: Is that something you’d be interested in?
alihowe: I don’t know really – to be quite honest I’d rather keep it the same. I work in the town centre and I think if we were issued traffic warden powers that is literally all that we would be doing
falkor: ah right, yes I see
alihowe: We would just be like council parking attendants
falkor: I see exactly what you’re saying
alihowe: When we’re lurking around a certain spot waiting for Joe Bloggs to turn up then suddenly we can’t do that
falkor: I see what you’re saying, fair enough.
falkor: You’ve actually been a member on the site since 2004, are there any classic members who you can remember from that year when you first joined?
alihowe: What, who are still there or gone?
falkor: Either way. Which were the ones who struck you when you first joined?
alihowe: Well Gforce and me have a kind of fiery relationship you know I love him to bits
alihowe: although I’ve never met him of course
falkor: oh I have, I have! [laughing]
alihowe: I really do like having a good old debate with him on there, it’s quite good fun
falkor: He’s completely different in the flesh I tell ya
alihowe: Is he?
falkor: He’s adorable in the flesh
falkor: yes he is! I met up with him in Richmond a few months back with Headset 57 and Funny Boy was there as well
alihowe: I would have loved to have come to that
falkor: So moving swiftly on to your 3 litre Capri
alihowe: oh those were the days
falkor: That’s long gone is it?
alihowe: those were the days, they were lovely cars
alihowe: I had two actually
falkor: Did you? I love those cars
alihowe: My first one was the best one. It was a gold one and no one had messed about with it – it was completely standard and just went like – well I can’t tell you what it went like but it went
falkor: Superb, was it an auto or a manual?
falkor: You love the manuals do you?
alihowe: I love manual – I like to be in control [laughing]
falkor: So you wouldn’t have an auto?
falkor: I like the auto actually I do
alihowe: I had a Granada 2.8 Ghia
falkor: How many cars have you had??!
alihowe: oh I met my husband very young and we loved our cars and motorbikes
falkor: I do remember you putting a photo of your latest car on – marvellous!
alihowe: oh the Lotus?
alihowe: That had to go though
alihowe: because we’ve got cars of our own and we bought this Lotus as a summer project, but basically it didn’t go very far and it was taxed and insured and we thought it was just a waste of money
alihowe: I wanted some wood floors to put in my house and I just needed the money [laughing] so … it went. But now I’ve got wood floors in my house!!
falkor: You don’t do what I did for the last 20 years and just go along with an overdraft for -£2000 or -£3000 in the red?
alihowe: No I’m one of these wheelers and dealers. I sell something to get something else. So we did that, we ripped an old fire place out and we did all sorts of things with the money – it did stretch quite far actually
falkor: ah you did well there, now moving on again, this time to your judo. Are you an orange belt?
alihowe: no, my judo I’ve only been a couple of times, I must say I’m heavily hooked but the only time I went I could hardly walk for the next week
falkor: aaaaahhhhhh well done
alihowe: because they gave a lesson at Colchester Police Station to sort of see if any of us liked it and my Inspector was my partner [laughing] and literally we didn’t mess about, we had a good fight and oh dear my arms, my legs, my back
falkor: but let’s get serious here for a minute though Ali, to use that in a real life situation you’d have to be going to Judo every week for about 3 years to get any kind of skill, let’s be serious
alihowe: I tell you what, a couple of the moves they showed us I can remember now as I’m sitting here. Like I say I’ve only been twice and I had a chappie on the high street yesterday a bit of an incident – started off ok, but it got very vocal, quite abusive I did warn him to stop swearing, but he got even more angry as I said that and I could see his fists getting clenched and getting a bit closer to me and how can I describe it going from to side to side getting angry with me and even at that time, I don’t know whether we’re allowed to use it for work – well I wasn’t going to throw him anywhere, but I thought if he comes for me, I can actually just put him down
alihowe: [laughing] So I did have that in mind - there is one that stays clearly in my head and it is one that I could use
falkor: But you shouldn’t have been on your own though Ali
alihowe: Well sometimes we’re paired up – sometimes we’re on our own. But I don’t think you have quite the confidence to deal with a situation like you do when you’re with a colleague
falkor: Well I know some MET PCSOs are actually being told “You don’t go out of the door unless you’re paired up and if you want to go out the door on your own, then you seek the authority of your Sgt.” I’m not making this up, this is absolutely on the line and I totally back that. I think the situation is that you can go out on your own just like you did and 99 days out of a 100, you can saunter down the high street and everyone loves you and says hello and tells you little snippets so you put it on the intel and all that and then the 100th day, you just get the incident you described
alihowe: Yes you just don’t know
falkor: Because you’re on your bike now aren’t you?
falkor: You are!
alihowe: I’m getting quite a fit old girl now actually
falkor: But you’re on your own on that bike aren’t you? There’s no pairing up there
alihowe: no that’s right, but I think when you’re on your own, you use your common sense, so I won’t go where I know there’s huge problems on my bike. I might go to observe but I know I won’t deal with it unless I’ve got somebody else along, if you know what I mean. I’m also quite good at standing back and I’ll just have a look and if necessary I’ll call up
falkor: Absolutely, can’t fault that at all
alihowe: but we’re quite lucky really because quite often we’re together, there’s two of us but we’re quite short on the ground at the moment, quite a few have gone off to the dark side to join as PCs
falkor: That’s still going on is it?
alihowe: Yes that’s still going on, one of my favourite PCSOs she’s just gone over – I didn’t put her off
falkor: No no but you always have your maglite with you?
alihowe: oh yes I’ve always got that – I’ve only ever had it in my hand once as a self defence back up if you like
falkor: [interrupting] how long is it then?
alihowe: it’s just the standard one that they give you, 2 cells
falkor: is that all?
falkor: Well that’s not going to be much is it?
alihowe: Well I hear of people going out and buying these big long ones but I just think no, at the end of the day I have learnt self defence tactics and they do work
alihowe: I had a lady, a large lady running at me in the park saying “I’m going to f ,,,,, I n g kill you”
falkor: oh no
alihowe: and my first reaction was to run
falkor: well yeah you’re allowed to do that as a PCSO
alihowe: I did run away from her but not far, just to safety – then she did it to me again – this time I couldn’t quite turn to run, so I just slapped her in the chest – both palms and to be quite honest, I didn’t think that would be any good but she just flew
falkor: wow that is fantastic!
in 2008, saves were made of 17 pages from national-pcsos, comprising 2006 - 2007 material
Go to the first of 17 pages on pcsos-national, that records the acceleration of PCSOs to 16,000 personnel on the streets of England and Wales.
alihowe: I was actually shocked to see how far she’d gone
falkor: I love this
alihowe: She was then flat on her back on the ground she said “That f ,,,,,,,, ing hurt !”
alihowe: The only thing I could think to say was “GOOD!” [laughing]
falkor: how long ago was that?
alihowe: the only thing I did find then, was that she then went to get up again and I thought “oh boy I really don’t want to have to go through this again”
alihowe: I didn’t have any cuffs or anything, so I couldn’t contain her on the ground
falkor: were there any members of the public about who could see this?
alihowe: Yeah they could, but it’s surprising how members of the public don’t do anything
falkor: no I know
alihowe: That happened when my colleague got attacked in the town centre
falkor: that is disgraceful
alihowe: ….. members of the public were going passed
alihowe: I suppose sometimes they don’t really know what’s going on – it could look like you’re attacking the public, what they can see of it
falkor: and that is exactly what happens when people start filming it half way through isn’t it? Very tricky
alihowe: don’t rely on the public really
falkor: I’ve always wondered about these torches, do you think that most PCSOs carry torches?
alihowe: I look on the belts of the PCSOs we’ve got and we’ve got 9 now and each of us has got the standard kit on our belts – our first aid pouch, large ticket pouch, the only thing I’ve added extra to mine is I’ve got a multitool
falkor: Have you?
alihowe: Someone said to me when you’re the first one on scene of something like a hanging, you might need something to get them down
alihowe: I was saying in my mind “That’s true actually” the places we go it might be in the public toilets around town – I’ve had awful things in there and a multitool could be something that would mean saving someone’s life or not
falkor: What is it? It’s a knife and a screwdriver is it?
alihowe: I got it when I left to go and be a PC, they got me a leatherman which was engraved from all the members of my team and there’s my team at the bottom
falkor: how lovely
alihowe: it means a lot to me my multitool
falkor: fair enough, I wouldn’t argue with that
alihowe: I did ask at work and they said “No we don’t see a problem as you’ve got it for work purposes”
falkor: And now you’ve been trained on actually doing crime reports haven’t you?
alihowe: Yes we have
falkor: I never thought that would come in y’know
alihowe: In 2003 we had a very very different training to what the PCSOs are getting now. We had a PC from Clacton-on-sea and a PC from Colchester that have worked really really hard to put a package together for all the staff and I have to say now that having done the job, there’s a lot of policey stuff in there, a hell of a lot. But then saying that we had domestic violence, we had statements, 2/9 statements which people don’t get now, crime reports – a big input on booking property in which they don’t get now, they just have to learn it when they come over – we had a really really thorough training. And if we’re uptown and something happens uptown, they’ll say can you go in the first instance and crime this job because we’re right next to it, so it makes sense
falkor: and you would do that?
alihowe: we’ve got folders in quite a few locations uptown, secure locations like say in Marks and Spencer. So we’ll go to them and say “Can we get one of our 105s please” which is our Crime Complaint – then we’ll nip round the corner to say BHS and we’ll crime that person theft – get onto the Crime Bureau who would allocate it to an OIC
falkor: But this is taking advantage of you Ali isn’t it?
alihowe: It is and it isn’t. A) We’re on our beat and so we’re still visible and B) not being funny, as you do them quite a lot, you get quite quick at them
falkor: Yeah true
alihowe: Y’know you don’t need to do war and peace, just put the facts on there
alihowe: But it is taking advantage of us, but saying that we’re out there, we work for the police so why not use and abuse us to a certain point?
falkor: And you’re getting some credibility from the PCs by doing that
alihowe: We are and we aren’t, because obviously we are adding to their already horrendous workloads but at the end of the day it would come to them anyway
falkor: Of course
alihowe: It’s a bit bad when you can see them saying “oh here’s another one coming” [laughing]
alihowe: But it is very very busy at the moment because we’ve had lots of big changes it’s extra busy at the moment
falkor: What’s the situation on Essex’s ground – UNISON are campaigning for PCSO supervisors. Have you got PCSO supervisors?
alihowe: We haven’t got one and to be quite honest I don’t think we have enough at the moment to warrant that position
alihowe: But the way I look at it is, if we had a team of say 20 or 30 which could happen, I don’t know how big it’s going to go, then I think it makes sense to have somebody there who can do all the annual leave, all the bits that the Sgts get piled up with from the PCs anyway
falkor: Well you said that you had 9 PCSOs
falkor: Well that’s enough for a PCSO supervisor definitely
alihowe: Do you think?
falkor: Well it’s a fact
falkor: One PCSO supervisor could supervise 6 PCSOs
alihowe: All I can say is that if it happens and there’s some sort of test that you went for, maybe they would do it on merit, then I would consider it
falkor: You would be interested
alihowe: I would. The only thing that would put me off, is if it was going to tie me to the desk because I am really an outside person
falkor: ah right yeah I can’t answer that one
alihowe: If it was going to be like attending meetings then fine, you can do that reasonably quick you don’t have to be at a meeting all day, say do the paperwork say 3 times a week but it would have to be quite even, I couldn’t be sat at a desk all the time or I’d go mad
falkor: ok I can see what you’re saying there
falkor: you have got to be one of the most experienced members that we’ve got on the site now. You’ve been a PCSO, you’ve been to PC for 9 months and now you’re PCSO again. I mean you’ve seen all aspects of everything really
alihowe: Yeah I’ve seen both sides of the fence if you like and I know which one I definitely miss the most
alihowe: When I joined as a PC don’t get me wrong I found the law input fascinating and lots of other things fascinating – in that 7 months of probation I actually got out and when I say out, I mean out to do policing with people not with paperwork, twice
falkor: Cor that’s a bit flippin low
alihowe: I just thought to myself – I had various other bits that were going on in there - the tutors that I had didn’t work with PCSOs and weren’t big fans of PCSOs so when I came from headquarters having done all my law input, I don’t think I was very popular before I even started
falkor: that’s terrible
alihowe: purely because of what I’d done before and because I’d won a lot of awards, so basically I was told “well you might have been bloody good at that doesn’t mean that you’re going to be good at this”
falkor: that is just awful
alihowe: it wasn’t very good – I just weighed everything up and thought “I’ve given up the job that I love, I looked forward to going to work every day and here I am sitting here feeling like this, I’ve never felt like this in my life”
falkor: that is diabolical, I’m sorry to hear that
alihowe: I had a chat with the family and that and they said they’d never seen me like it before and then I had a chat with my Chief Insp and he said “I can’t believe it” and told him the long story and he said that I was always welcome back so I went
falkor: Was there a lot of difference in money?
alihowe: Well because I’d been a PCSO a little while – my money had gone up and up, so when I started as a Police probationer I was on slightly less
falkor: [laughing] oh no!!
alihowe: but that was nothing to do with it really because I knew that pay would be going up and PCSOs don’t get overtime and anyway it was just slightly less, not thousands and I just thought “All this hassle”
falkor: well you’ve certainly been through it – you could write a book on it Ali!
alihowe: Yes but at the end of the day I always think if I hadn’t done it, I’d still be sitting here now thinking ‘what if’
falkor: you would
alihowe: Y’know, to do that at 40 and you know I ran the bleep test and I’m not a runner I’m really not, I can dance judo all sorts of things, but I’m not a runner, so I do feel quite chuffed that I did all that at that age
falkor: well it’s been a pleasure talking to you Ali
alihowe: there you are I told you I could speak for England
falkor: no you’ve done well
alihowe: alright then
falkor: thanks Ali
alihowe: see you then
falkor: okay bye
|In my fourth year as a PCSO, but 7 months of that I was a PC but it just wasn't for me.|