We have been contacted by a number of team members this week. Different teams, other ends of the country, but the same story. Tales of bullying, corruption, illegality and the same old faces doing the same old things. We have been asked not to publish two of the stories, but they wanted us to be aware of them, and of course we will respect that.
Although we don’t really want to become a counselling service for traumatised SAR volunteers, we are happy to listen and sympathise where we can. And if you want to just tell us about things without it being published, then we will always respect that.
Some behaviour we have been informed of is quite clearly a police matter, the same names have cropped up regarding inappropriate sexual conduct towards female team members. We would urge those of you who have raised concerns to contact your local police or report via Crimestoppers. Young female Lowland Rescue & Surrey SAR team members need to be aware that there is a risk to them when attending LRFR courses or on callouts/training sessions. “Banter” is not an excuse for inappropriate behaviour.
What we really want to do is act as a portal for getting information out of teams and into the public domain. We know that a lot of the culprits seem to show no shame, but here’s hoping that shining some light on their behaviour may make it uncomfortable for them
As always, the volunteers – the people that give up their time, time with families and mental health are not our target. This site merely provides an outlet for those who know that bad practice is occurring, but don’t want to be thrown out of their team for saying so.
The Search Dog Heroes project (SDH for short) is a million-pound funded project, working with Missing People and funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery. In short, it’s a lot of money, that has been generously donated by ordinary people, and in concept a pretty good idea. That concept was that 200 hundred dogs would be trained “to an operational standard” using this funding (as well as collecting and storing scent items off vulnerable people to help them be tracked in the case of an emergency). These 200 dogs would be “trailing” dogs, capable of following a specific scent derived from these boxes, as opposed to “air scenting” dogs that just detect any live or dead humans.
Part of the rationale for such a large sum of money being lobbed at the doggy set was that in all the years of training, arguing, dog-walking and setting standards in LR, zero trailing dogs had reached the required standard for deployment. Clearly a shake-up was required, and a big-money project seemed to be just what the doctor ordered.
With this much money at stake, the obvious criteria for a project lead would be:- someone who is heavily involved in Mountain Rescue, Lowland Rescue, Some Other Sort of SAR in the UK and who had a track record of working with and training trailing dogs, preferably with the Police in the UK. However, this was all a little too “obvious” for Lowland Rescue, who plumped instead for Ann-Jo Proos, who fits precisely none of these criteria.
She does however have a cosy relationship with the head of Surrey’s Dog Team. This was considered much more of a relevant factor than the fact that AJP is an individual with no operational experience, resides in France and, one might argue a dubious track record of training trailing dogs to any reasonable standard, but who is best mates with the Surrey Dog Clique.
Its worth just noting that AJP has never deployed a trailing dog operationally, and is certainly not well known for producing large quantities of trained trailing dogs. In fact, in the 2 years since the contract was awarded, only 2 teams have passed the assessment. One who provided accommodation to AJP on her visits to the UK, and the other based in the Channel Islands, who also stayed at the same address…
These double standards were in evidence again when a number of handlers were strong-armed into travelling to France to train at AJP’s “facility”, and charged an arm and a leg for the privilege. Of course, those in the ‘inner-circle’ were not charged at all.
So, what have we achieved with the million pound bung? To date, 2 dogs have been qualified (one of whom famously indicated at a spot covered by 360° CCTV, that the misper had clearly never visited). The standards required by LR to qualify are now laughably low, as they rush to pass their mates before the money runs out. There are numerous tales of cheating – helping and nobbling the right and wrong candidates, as determined by the assessors. Some assessors were recruited who had never even seen a trailing dog work, just to try to salvage something from the scheme.
There are talks of plenty of moves of handlers from team to team, which was always the case, usually as the result of bullying. But more disturbingly there is talk of individuals and even teams leaving the LR organisation, because the reputation has been so utterly damaged by this fiasco.
As always, this whistleblowing site isn’t here to knock those that give their time to serve their communities. It doesn’t harbour a grudge against the organisation, its aims or the majority of the staff. What it will continue to do is point out where money is being diverted or misused, where laws are being broken, where there is hypocrisy and especially where there is bullying. This story has a sprinkling of all of the above, and we’ll keep you posted on any progress. You never know, we may have 3 dogs qualified if they give us another million quid.
This shows the absolute contempt the Trustees have for public safety and advice from the Police. They are now using unmarked cars with covert blues! The three Trustees were the only people who put themselves forward for driving courses and did a 5 day fire service course. This did NOT cover driving covert vehicles on blue lights which carries an increased risk which they are not trained or experienced with.
It is going to end badly. Paul Kenny, Steve Owen Hughes, Gavin Stevens and the PCC David Munro are all aware of the risks and danger yet not of them have the balls to do anything about it…. until Surrey SAR kill. The informal bet within Surrey SAR is still running that James Rossell will crash and kill first. Blues on unmarked cars makes it sooner rather than later.
This really does make a mockery of the NPCC advice and shows how ineffective Lowland Rescue and Gavin Pritchard are if they can’t control member units.
Today Seamus put up a post about us being recognised as ‘key workers’ on a fire station mural. I said that we weren’t really being honoured, but just that you can see a quarter of one of our Fleet of vans in the background of a photo of some firemen.
Jackie, my girlfriend, said that she was pretty certain that we weren’t on the official list of key workers too. But then she works in a hospital, so she can be a bit grumpy sometimes. Seamus pointed out that seeing as we had now expanded The Fleet to more than one vehicle per member, that we have a lot of keys to look after and so we did count. I’m so glad he’s running things, as I can be a bit of a ninny sometimes with this sort of thing.
Now the pubs are open, I put my dress uniform on and took The Interceptor down to the Peasant’s Arms in the village, to see if there was a key workers’ discount on Pint & Pie night. The landlord pretended he didn’t hear me and charged me full whack anyway – well at least he asked for quite a lot of money. The locals round the bar always snigger when I go in there, and he seems to charge me much more for my drinks than anyone else, but it is important to show the little people that heroes have downtime too. It’s a burden, but it’s just part of the enormous responsibility of my work. Just one man, trying to make a difference, one blue light run at a time.
Surrey SAR have a new car which isn’t needed by the team as history repeats itself again.
They plead poverty and beg for vehicles from David Munro (Surrey PCC) or the Chief Constable of Surrey Police who donate some great practical vehicles for SAR such as the Amarok or Defender. A short while later they then get a grant from an organisation, buy a new vehicle and flip the donated vehicles for cash. It won’t be long before this vehicle is sold and the begging letters are sent again. It’s not illegal, just immoral and misleading the donors as to their intentions over how the vehicle will be used.
This Volvo is not a practical vehicle for SAR yet it will be modified to police specifications which is crazy as they are not a blue light service nor an emergency service despite Seamus Kearns latest Guildford Lottery money request claiming they provide an emergency service.
The NPCC and Dept for Transport position is quite clear on the Lowand Rescue use of blue lights. This raises questions as to why are the DfT funding vehicles like this for Surrey SAR?
There are other organisations who could make better use of this vehicle such as transporting blood or a genuine blue light emergency service.
Surrey SAR have a huge amount of resources and many LR teams are envious of their assets. It is a shame the Trustees won’t donate older Surrey SAR vehicles to other LR teams who would be grateful to receive any vehicle. We know they won’t as solicitors fees don’t pay themselves and they are really running up the legal fees on irrelevant cases.
Sadly for us in Surrey we will no doubt see the Trustees hurtling from their homes in Hampshire and Berkshire on blue lights on their way to non urgent calls for SFRS in this vehicle whilst putting lives at risk as none are emergency services experienced drivers.
This weekend saw another Lowland Rescue AGM and another missed an opportunity for change and to drive things forwards into the 21st century. The same old ineffective people are running this charity and they still have no control or influence over individual county teams. What is the point of them?
Sadly Gareth Pritchard is still the chair and still got his head stuck in the sand when it comes to problem SAR teams.
Apparently “Lowland Rescue are committed to supporting diversity”. Not sure we agree with you on that one Gareth, it is looking very white on that Committee & Trustee membership list. 2000+ operational & support members within LR and not one BAME person has a position in LR nationally.
Looks like it is not just Surrey SAR who have issues regarding respect for race and diversity, inviting a few women onto a management team doesn’t suddenly address the pale, male and stale attitudes that are dominant.
Neil Balderson likes a bit of PR and infographics, how about releasing one on the ethnicity of LR team members or is it too embarrassing as it shows how out of touch with society LR has become?
Hopefully @johncoffey66 has figured out by now that as 5 days have passed and they still haven’t respond to him, they never will.
Seamus Kearns, James Turnbull and James Rossell all have their fingers twitching over the keyboard, ready to answer social media messages and post up how good they are and how they want money for being an “emergency service” but none of them will respond to messages like this as they raise valid questions and Surrey SAR Trustees don’t like being asked questions.
Why do Surrey SAR follow someone with views like @ReasonedUK? Good question. If they ever do respond then it’ll be some spin to divert the attention away from them. Don’t ever think of applying to join the team @johncoffey66 , you won’t get in as you have challenged them and they don’t like that for a start.
People should also question why there is only one BAME team member and why previous BAME have been treated adversely/ bullied out of the team. Racism and sexism are very real problems in Surrey SAR. There are plenty of screenshots we could post with Trustees/management making inappropriate comments.
There are other worthwhile Charities that deserve @johncoffey66 support, ones that do respect race and diversity. Surrey SAR are not worthy ……yet. The existing Trustees and Management Team need to be removed and start again from scratch. Surrey SAR is too broken to continue with credibility and integrity.
BREAKING NEWS. LOCAL NEWS LIVE Breaking: SAR team to be honoured with monument.
In a move echoing the national emergency services monument, our local team will also be immortalised by local artist Crejinda Maltinwort. The statue, cast in bronze, will depict a group of overweight responders in ill-fitting jackets desperately fighting over a remote control unit as a drone crashes into a huge pile of cash. The cash will be stuffed in a military grade all body webbing system, sitting on the bonnet of a blue-lit liveried subaru impreza, as a barrister watches and rubs his hands in expectation of another futile legal case. A dog wearing a harness will bark randomly at passers-by to symbolise the high rate of missed targets.
Team member Tim Heaton said “It’s about time we were honoured for our work, and hopefully it will result in a bit more cash flow. Sharp cars and legal fees don’t grow on trees you know.”
Like any organisation run by, and for, the benefit of three privileged white dudes, SurSAR will have its own issues with the BLM movement. We wonder how they will cope considering a) the general demographic of the team, which is about as far from diverse as you could get, and b) their shabby record of dealing with women, minorities and anyone speaking out against the leadership. We are aware of a number of sexist posts by the leadership, shared on internal messaging systems and of bullying of BAME members, leading to them leaving the team. Reform of the leadership team is long overdue, but a good hard look at their privilege probably wouldn’t go amiss.
About 90% of the Surrey population is white.
SurSAR has around 60-80 members at any one time.
If SurSAR membership represented the racial make up of Surrey then SurSAR should have 6-8 BAME members.
There is only one BAME person on the team.
At selection days there is usually a reason to reject non-white people and reasons such as “they were a bit strange” or simply “they would not fit in with the rest of the team” are two commonly used phrases by the selectors.
BAME members who are taken on by the team and more than capable of doing the role are made to feel unwelcome and not included and they leave.
Management have previously told team members to stop helping BAME members with competency tests so that they fail and are managed out of the team. This does not happen to non-white members who are given the extra training to help them pass.