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all in the day of a PCSO ...
baronsmirnoff: a most accomplished PCSO * interview III *
introduction: in June 2004, baronsmirnoff joined national-PCSOs. Here he is, almost 2 years on, interviewed by falkor
falkor: oooooo welcome
falkor: are you alright there?
baronsmirnoff: yeah thought I'd lost you for a mo
falkor: thanks very much for phoning
baronsmirnoff: yeah no problem
falkor: you used to be in the Army Catering Corps
baronsmirnoff: yep I did 11 years including apprenticeship - after that worked security while I was looking for a job, then retail management back to security and .... now this
falkor: what was the last meal that you cooked up?
baronsmirnoff: probably my dinner last night [laughing]
falkor: shepherd's pie?
falkor: what do you like doing?
baronsmirnoff: my favourite food is curry
falkor: ah you're into those are you, how HOT?
baronsmirnoff: reasonably, I mean before I joined up I didn't like the smell of it, so I never tried it, but you have to go to a compulsory smoker where you pay about £5 a head, to go back in 74 that was quite a bit of money
falkor: did you say "smoker" ?
baronsmirnoff: it's basically an army get together, everybody goes on a night out - everyone from the barracks, it's like a bit of a cabaret act which the guys put on themselves - it's called a 'smoker'
falkor: so you did 11 years in the army - that's quite a hike isn't it?
baronsmirnoff: not compared to my father, he did 34
falkor: so what made you decide to come out?
baronsmirnoff: well I did my 9 years which I signed on for - I was going to sign on for 22, but this was 1985 - 3 million unemployed, difficult to get a job over 30 - couldn't pass my fitness test
falkor: for what?
baronsmirnoff: the army
falkor: you couldn't pass your fitness test for the army?
baronsmirnoff: every year you had to redo it - it was a 3 mile run basically - a mile and a half as a squad in something like 15 minutes and immediately turn round and run back and you had to do that (a mile and a half) in under 11 minutes and it was in boots, trousers, PT vest, heavy duty jumper whatever, depending on the weather - I suppose really I couldn't see the point in it, so I just couldn't do it - and being in the kitchen we didn't do any PT between - in fact you had to do it twice a year. Do it - nothing for 6 months, do it again and then when I went to my final - well my second regiment out in Germany, if you failed it, you had to go on immediate remedial PT every morning and my PTI was actually Kriss Akabusi the olympic runner, you just got beasted for half an hour/ 45 minutes, every morning until you could pass it and then I just did nothing again until the next one, failed it again and then another lot of remedial PT - it got to the stage where - to begin with they didn't bother about it and then because there was so many unemployed and they were being picky and choosy as to who was coming into the army, they decided that as soon as you went on any course, the first thing you did was another fitness test - if you failed it you didn't do the course - no courses - no promotions - so I was looking at being a lance corporal for the next 13 years and I thought, well better off get out - unemployment was bad - I thought I'd make a break at 27 - rather than do another 3 years and risk not getting a job or find it hard to get a job, so I got out then, like I say - I would have liked to have done my 22 years I enjoyed the life, I still go to reunions - I'm on a lot of army reunion websites, catering corps websites etc, I still have a lot to do with it and buy a load of rubbish from ebay relating to the catering corps
falkor: how does the pay compare - PCSO to army?
baronsmirnoff: well funnily enough I was looking last week on an Army pay website, from what I would've been on at today's money it's about the same, maybe £1000 less, but I did take a £7000 pay cut from the last job that I was doing on security to do this
falkor: and you were doing Laura Ashley before that
baronsmirnoff: yeah I did a year's security and ended up working as a store guard in Laura Ashley and within 6 months I was in management with them, managed my own branch for about 10 years
falkor: you went from security in Laura Ashley to management?
baronsmirnoff: well I was 'contracted security' in Laura Ashley, but even as a contracted security guard I knew a lot more about the stock than 90% of the staff including the management there, so I was actually helping managers find stock for customers - help people who were trying to describe something, I knew exactly what it was
falkor: how is that? I don't understand how you did that
baronsmirnoff: well I don't like standing around doing nothing, plus the fact that I felt as a security guard in the shop, I needed to know what we were selling, so if I stopped somebody going out, activated from the alarm and they had a coat on them from Marks and Spencers or from somebody else, it was like a false arrest sort of thing - so by knowing what we sold and by keeping myself occupied, plus the fact - I'm not boasting or anything, but I'm a member of MENSA and I do pick up on things - I've got a high IQ, my brain's always ticking over, so I can look at a style of dress - well one incident one morning, assistant manager said to the junior manager, did we have any 'MD008's come in this morning, which is a style of dress - replied don't know what it looks like - I said "Yeah you had 'em in - they are the big ones, pinafore looking with a big collar" and they were sort of ignoring me and eventually they found the diagram of it, went straight across, it was the one I described so after that they were asking me "what does this look like it? what does that look like?"
falkor: [laughing] excellent
baronsmirnoff: the first day I actually worked for them, every Monday we used to have the first half hour staff training and they would do a garment recognition test and they said, "Paul look we don't mind if you don't get them all as it's your first day." I got 19 /20 the nearest to that was 13 /20 it's that sort of thing
falkor: my goodness me
baronsmirnoff: security for me was just mind killing - just mind numbing, in fact the last security job I had for a law firm. I was security manager there and didn't really have a lot to do, so I actually researched my uncle's bomber squadron plane losses, where the graveyard everyone was buried in, where the plane was shot down, who survived, who were the POWs, POW numbers - I was trying to get this ready for their 60th anniversary of the squadron, but I never actually got to that because I changed my job - I did about 2/3, 3/4 of it, just had the back end, or the last couple of months of 1945 to finish doing, which I actually will get to do one day, if a bomber was shot down, what happened to the flight crew whether they died/ evaded, if they did die which cemetary they were buried in, grave plot number, working on websites and a couple of books I had
falkor: that's amazing
baronsmirnoff: it just kept me busy
falkor: what about the Laura Ashley job, because that sounds like you really did well there
baronsmirnoff: yeah funnily enough talking to one of the shop managers on the beat last week about 'mystery shoppers,' I had one of them come in, which is every year, 6 months - these 'mystery shoppers' come round - so I served this woman and when she left, I turned to one of my staff and said "God I wish that had been the mystery shopper because it was just so good" - a week later I get a phone call from the personnel manager - you had your 'mystery shopper' last week, you're the only one of two shops in the whole company who got 100%
falkor: ah that was from Laura Ashley, the mystery shopper was a Laura Ashley tester
baronsmirnoff: well it's not somebody employed by the company, they employ an agency
falkor: ah right
baronsmirnoff: [continuing] to send these people round and they've got a list of what we should be doing and what we shouldn't be doing, the greeting, they always ask for out of stock garments or out of stock furnishings and it's your job to offer them something which is in the current line, which will coordinate with it or whatever - occasionally they will come in and ask for something which has been discontinued - somebody will have had one returned or there's one laying around and the shop is stuck with it so they'll go to another shop for a refund or go to head office for a refund, so every job I do I do put 100% into it
falkor: what made you pull out of that one then?
baronsmirnoff: well there was a lot of redundancies going on - I actually had a new area manager - bit of a personality clash she actually said that I wasn't fit to be a manager, in fact I was the only male manager in the whole company and as a male manager that I'd be in the company I'd only lasted 6 months/ a year - senior managers were male but male shop managers they didn't like - in fact I was actually told by one area manager during an interview 'I never employ men in my shops as managers so don't bother applying for one of my jobs,' which is obviously sexual discrimination
falkor: you did it though didn't you Paul?
baronsmirnoff: yeah I had a job as manager but my area manager went, her husband had a job in Hong Kong so she went off with him so the new one took over - again personality clash - within 6 months she didn't want me as store manager and demoted me to sales assistant
falkor: oh my god [shocked]
baronsmirnoff: I was with St John Ambulance down in Folkestone at the time and we had this barrister who was in St Johns with us and when I left to go back into security he said I should sue for constructive dismissal but it just wasn't worth the hassle, so I let it go, I get a pension from them at the end of the day, but between now and then it's a case of it was great for the first 10 and a 1/2 years - the last 6 months, I was looking for jobs, this job at the Tower of London came up and it had happened to be my last posting in the army, I was cook for the guard at the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, St James', Windsor Castle. I was one of 500 going for 5 jobs and I was lucky to get in, I think it was partly because I wore regimental blazer to the interview with British Legion pin on it and the manager that was recruiting was an ex RMP sergeant, ex military plus the Tower of London is very military anyway, I think that helped get me into the Tower of London and again within 6 months I was assistant manager, could have been manager a year later but I turned that down
falkor: assistant manager of what?
baronsmirnoff: of the security - but Reliance then lost the contract and the sites coordinator turned round to me and said "I've got another job for you if you want to come back to the company - it'll be an £8000 pay rise if you're interested" well you don't even think twice about that
falkor: what was the job then?
baronsmirnoff: it was another security manager's job for a law firm in the city (London) so I went for it but half way through that I applied to join London Underground as a tube driver - the Facilities Manager said to me "I'll match the pay that London Underground are going to give you, cut your hours a bit, IF you don't go for the job and stay with us
falkor: that's pretty impressive
baronsmirnoff: I said "no I'll go for the job," got through all the tests and everything, but didn't get through the interview, ended up back working for them for £5000 less than I got offered, if I'd not gone for the interview - the Underground long term would have been a better thing than doing the security and then one night I was going up on the Underground escalator and the walls were plastered with PCSO adverts, I thought 'oh I'll give that a go,' so I did - when I first came out of the army in 1985, I did apply for the police then, but failed the papersift
falkor: what attracted you to the London Underground job?
baronsmirnoff: well it was the money
falkor: what was the money then?
baronsmirnoff: £31000 for a 39 hour week
falkor: I've never seen it advertised!
baronsmirnoff: no well they'll advertise and then it'll go for 5 or 6 years without really being advertised, because they're getting so many people applying for it
falkor: it was highly competitive when you went in for it was it?
baronsmirnoff: oh yeah there was 30 people on each ... I mean it was a bit like those police - you have your day one and day two you had a lot of psychometric testing
falkor: that's way over what you're getting paid now
baronsmirnoff: but when I actually left the law firm I was on £7000 more than I'm getting now, but I was doing 20 hours a week more than I'm doing and then when you look at the £7000 loss in pay, but if you take out tax and national insurance that I would have paid on that - take out the fares I had to pay getting up to the city, net it was about £1000, £1500 so you're looking at maybe £100 or £150 a week maximum, that I was getting less, for working on the security for 20 hours a week less and for much more job satisfaction - I had an excellent team until the skipper left last month, to actually become a trainer on the Safer Neighbourhoods Training and it was just so good working with him
falkor: well what was his attitude about PCSOs not being allowed in the Custody Area?
baronsmirnoff: he thought it was a load of rubbish
falkor: well I've never heard that come out, is that just local to you?
baronsmirnoff: apparently now it's MET wide
falkor: how do they justify that?
baronsmirnoff: because the Custody Sergeant is responsible for everybody's health and safety in there, if a prisoner kicks off, you've got nothing to protect yourself so therefore you're at risk
falkor: that's ridiculous, a social services person's got nothing to protect themselves either
baronsmirnoff: no I know, in fact I actually had an injury on duty and had to see the FME [police doctor] in the front office interview room
falkor: oh this is just pathetic
baronsmirnoff: well it is, it's like this solo patrolling. Now Barnet Health & Safety policy for PCSOs is, we're not allowed to give FPND's [Fixed Penalty Notices - Disorder] if we're by ourselves
falkor: oh I didn't know that
baronsmirnoff: well it might be just a Barnet one, but we've been told that each team has got to give out 15 a month, but you're going to be solo patrols so therefore you can't give out any and also on the recruitment literature it says you will ALWAYS patrol in pairs and now we're told you're going to be by yourself
falkor: that's a bit naughty for sure
baronsmirnoff: well job descriptions often change but it's the biggest thing we've got on our team is as soon as the skipper's gone the APS who has got his towbar [new (police) method of promotion system] / just about to start doing his towbar :he will never go out by himself - he will always walk with a PC and there's only 1 other PC on the team, so that means the 3 PCSOs always have to be by themselves - he won't allow us to go out as a pair
falkor: he splits the 3 PCSOs up?
baronsmirnoff: yeah because MET policy now is 'proximity patrolling' [announced by Commissioner last year] or at least by yourself and he will always go with the other PC
baronsmirnoff: but then if the other PC is off, or at court, he will then walk with one of the PCSOs - he will never go out by himself
falkor: [laughing] you've noticed that?
baronsmirnoff: yep, same as like ... end of the year, stacks of overtime, money available, says we can only do it on a 10 o'clock start or later - couple of weeks back I had to have an interview with Her Majesty's Inspector of probation service, over my assault because they wanted me to tell them how I was treated and all the rest of it for their inspections
falkor: [interrupting] is this the one at the bus stop - where he did a flying jump kick at your box?
baronsmirnoff: yeah, so he said "do you want to do overtime on Monday?" I said "Yeah but I've got this interview at 7 o'clock" so he said "Oh 7 o'clock start you can't do it." NOW because our last week we've been on 7 - 3 all week, him and the other PCs can do 7 - 7 everyday, but the PCSOs can only do overtime if we start 10 o'clock or later
baronsmirnoff: we were hoping and it was 90% certain we were losing him when he got his APS or when he got his towbar that he was going to another team - we had our official opening of the office at the hospital on Thursday and he happened to mention to one of the guests in earshot of the Borough Commander, [Chief Superintendent] that he was moving teams in the next couple of weeks on getting towbar, the Borough Commander says "Who's told you this? first I've heard about it." The Chief Insp (Ops) who was stood there didn't say anything at the time and he's the one who's doing the postings for where people are going and now one PC on the team has heard him saying "I now might be staying here" he said "well if he does they're both applying for postings off the team"
falkor: [laughing] Paul you were saying that back in October you weren't based in a police station but were working out of a converted shop
baronsmirnoff: we shared the launderette with 5 other teams and in November we moved into our own office in Edgware Comunity Hospital
falkor: in a hospital?
falkor: they've got space for you?
baronsmirnoff: the hospital that was there for the last 70 odd years was knocked down and redeveloped
baronsmirnoff: the old gatehouse that was there was left standing and we've got half of it and NHS recruitment have got the other half
falkor: you said back in October there were four sergeants, 8 PCs and 15 PCSOs is that still the same now?
baronsmirnoff: that wasn't just on our team, that was all teams that were sharing that office - so we've moved out. Now because we've lost our sergeant in February to TPHQ trainer, we've got 2 PCs and 3 PCSOs on our team - we're losing a PC - well a PC is getting promoted to a sergeant, whether we keep him or lose him I think we're going to lose him, I hope we're going to lose him
falkor: [laughing] Am I allowed to print all this?
baronsmirnoff: well [laughing] nobody from my office goes on the website - dizzy being my sector ....
falkor: [interrupting] oh you know dizzy do you?
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.
baronsmirnoff: yeah I sold her my scooter back end of last year - her husband is a sergeant in the MET of course
falkor: oh ok didn't know that
baronsmirnoff: anyway no one knows who I am because when I first came on I did use my shoulder number
falkor: did you? I can't even remember that
baronsmirnoff: 7XXX XX and then I sent you an email about getting it changed
falkor: oh I totally forget about that
baronsmirnoff: I was on when we just had a couple of hundred members
falkor: ah now that is going back a bit
baronsmirnoff: well a year well 20 months I've been in the job, the first 6 months I was using that and then I think I put something on which was a bit controversial
falkor: can't remember this at all
baronsmirnoff: [continuing] and I thought hang on if I put that with my number, people will know who I am
falkor: [interrupting] baronsmirnoff's a flippin excellent username I love it
baronsmirnoff: well as I say it's on the topic how you got your name, it came through my alcoholism the fact that everyone thinks my name came from Germany, so I was always either known as Baron or Smirnoff one of the two
falkor: anyway Paul I'm afraid your twenty minutes IS UP!! You've done it! Mission accomplished, you're a top bloke
baronsmirnoff: gotta say it's a great website, we learn more on there than we do from the trainers and that, because everybody puts together ideas, their own views things, like I mean I put a post on about the PCSO who died on his cycle ride yet it wasn't even in notices
falkor: very kind of you to say so Paul and see you back on the forums, thank you very much indeed
baronsmirnoff: cheers mate, bye C O N C L U D E D . . . . Sat 11 March 06 1123
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national-PCSOs early days
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going over to the dark side
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all in the day of a PCSO ...