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When to shoot your best performer

Let me tell you after 26 years as a Cop and 14 as a senior detective, you get an understanding of people and their motives. Just like Vincent Van Gogh never went to art school,yet is revered as a master, I went to an all boys school in Merseyside where the chief qualification was being able to defend yourself.

So, when it comes to psychology, I like to think I can interpret ‘people’ quite quickly on an ‘operational’ level not professional psychologist. I’ve had to listen to the most bizarre liars all my life in criminal interviews. I can just tell. I really can.

While a DI I ran a district drugs team. We managed level two dealers and the drugs trade in our district, which at the time, had a significant gun crime problem. Every week I would run a catch up briefing with the team to discuss operations ongoing and planned. And something was bugging me.

It’s unusual you see, to be invited into a drug dealers house when you’re about to hit the door with a ram. It had become obvious we had a ‘mole’.

I gathered the team together when the last straw broke the donkey’s back. We had a covert observation post attacked by hoodlums that stupidly then ran to a house that they entered. We followed them. Found a stash of drugs and a lad panting. It’s not always rocket science policing. A lot of it is opportunistic and good old common sense. You make your own luck when you take calculated risks.

Anyway, back to the team. Huddled in the office I shut the door. I explained my concerns and asked that from that day, there was no talk in the canteen and all of our work was to be restricted. This meant that intelligence that was ‘on the box’ (the computer), I was restricting to our teams eyes only. Now, that is a double-edged sword. Because the minute you restrict, whoever the mole was would know that ‘something’ must be happening, but they wouldn’t know what.

Within aweek I was covering the general CID office at the weekend looking after the department on call. A young cop who was a ‘go-getter’ came through my door. This was a young ex-military cop who was on the face of it a good performer. Getting lots of arrests and putting in good intelligence. He even tried to get onto my team at one point. I vaguely knew him. He started to tell me he had some intelligence that I needed to see. It was a vehicle registration number and a mobile phone number of one of our targets. He went on to tell me he thought he had better bring it to me directly because he knew intelligence was restricted and he wanted to make sure I got it. Naive and mistake number one.

He then past me the scrap of paper.

He asked, “What’s going on with them at the moment, are you looking at them?”

Mistake number two.

Obviously I ushered him out of my office with some rebuke about restriction for a reason. I wasn’t happy. I checked this lad on the box. He was putting in lots of intelligence, intelligence he shouldn’t have been getting. So I called Professional Standards – the arch enemy of real cops but necessary when you think you have a mole.

They put the lad under, well let’s call it ‘scrutiny’. They linked him to an organised criminal group that were dealing drugs on our patch. He was related to one of them, which wasn’t immediately obvious because they were different ethnicity. They then monitored his use of the computer systems.

They noticed he was searching regularly for a lad who was wanted for a murder in our district, he had shot and killed someone in a nightclub fight. They then secured the cops phone records and found at the same time he was searching this lad, he was also on the phone to him. On the number he had given to me. Not bright is it, but criminals at this level rarely are. Because a criminal he was.

And that’s mistake number three. Three and you’re out.

Of course Professional Standards challenged him. But they couldn’t prove he was passing intelligence to the wanted person, just that the call and the computer use was at the same time. So the lad was offered the option to resign or face a full inquiry into his activities.

He resigned.

I had a second ‘good lad’ approach me to join the team. He pestered me. He went to the same gym as me and tried to interact with me socially. I kept him at arms length. I then discovered he was living in a rental property of one of our level two dealers.

Mistake number one.

And was being supplied cocaine by him.

Mistake number two.

So much in fact, he was in debt to the dealer and it was probably the dealer who was trying to get him on my team.

Mistake number three. Three strikes and you’re out.

I again informed Professional Standards and this lad was sacked.

This is real life policing when you run a drugs unit. Real life ‘Line of Duty’ stuff. There is absolutely no doubt there are criminals operating inside policing in the UK today. They’re not called Organised Criminal Gangs for no reason. They are organised.

The point to this article is this.

I now lead a team that has built a whistleblowing application. If I, as a seasoned DI, didn’t know what two of what appeared to be good cops were up to, how can you running your business know what your staff are up to?

When you climb the leadership ladder you get further away from the team and the truth. They naturally withhold things from you because, even though they work for you, they do not see you as part of ‘their’ team. They will close ranks and not report when things go wrong. They protect each other. And getting one of them to inform you what is going on is difficult. Especially if you expect them to tell you face to face. They won’t.

Even the honest ones won’t. They just stay away from any wrongdoing but don’t report it. You probably think, ‘Nah, that’s not my team, my team would tell me.’ And yet you know what happens to a ‘grass’ – I’m not talking something the mafia would do. I’m talking what the team would do. Make life difficult.

So the best option is to always have a route that anyone in your business eco-system can use to get information to you without having to identify themselves. That route is Aranea. Encrypted, hosted off your servers and totally anonymous. The system will get information to you so you know the groundtruth of what is going on inside and external to your business. And it starts at just £49.95.

Talk to us to get that information to you.

Thanks for reading my story, it is surprising how many I have from my time policing and being in Afghanistan and the Cayman Islands. I have lots more, so stay tuned!