Getting it out of your system

I could not get the old lady victim of the other day out of my system. Sometimes it’s like that, things go round and round your head: what difference will it make to her if I catch the bastards who attacked her? How many other lives did they walk all over the same day? My dad says you just have to put things to the back of your mind; in the old days drink was the answer (even for my dad) – now we are a little more enlightened, at least some of us are. I went for a long run, then a sauna and then treated myself to a facial at the gym: my skin had gone blotchy, probably with stress so the lovely Babor face stuff they have there was more than justified in my view.

This question of incidents sticking with you is interesting; I had a conversation with my dad not so long ago: he claimed not to be troubled by some of the things he’d seen; but when I pushed him he could dredge up, in great detail, memories of suicides, murders and fatal road traffic accidents – I think he was a bit surprised by the way some of that detail had stuck. It makes you wonder about the ‘hard-man’ attitude of some of the lads when it comes to things like post-traumatic counselling after serious incidents like child death.

I’m on nights this weekend, should be action packed and full of things to tell you. I already have a little snippet of news from the nick, but will try and do that one afternoon after I get up.

March 30, 2007. Babor, girl-stuff, life, make-up, night duty, vulnerable people, working women. Leave a comment.

Springtime, and the vermin come out of hibernation

It’s spring; yesterday I thoroughly enjoyed a day of walking my beat in the fresh spring sunshine. Spring also brings out some of the worst types of crooks. I was sent to deal with a report of a bogus gardener. Doesn’t sound too bad does it? As you will see though, these people are some of the most cynical and heartless…I’m struggling for a word to describe them that isn’t extremely offensive.

Typically these characters pose as someone offering a service; they target older, vulnerable people, most commonly women, aged 80+, struggling to maintain their independence in their own home. They either simply con their way into the house and steal from these people or, as in this case, bully the victim into having unnecessary work done on their house or garden, then charging them hugely inflated prices. In this case the lady was 87yrs old, proud and independent – until now. She was visited by, what appeared to be, jobbing gardeners who, without asking her, trimmed trees and shrubs in her back garden. They then demanded £750 for the, appallingly shoddy, work. She had £500 pounds in the house(!); they agreed to settle for that (out of the goodness of their hearts). It was only after she told the home carer about the gardeners that the alarm was raised – she didn’t even want the carer to do anything about it because, having realised she’d been done over, she felt stupid.

My job is, predominantly, to investigate the crime and catch the crook; but I couldn’t help feeling that anything we did in that line was secondary to what this poor old woman needed. Sat in the quiet of her living room, amongst the faded wall paper and furniture that must have been from the 1970s, she looked small and crumpled, as if some of the stuffing had been taken out of her (I understand now where that phrase ‘knock the stuffing out of you…’ comes from). My instinct was to gather people around her: friends, relatives anyone to protect her; but she refused to let me contact any of her grown up children; “Don’t tell them, they’ll have me put in a home…” was her reasoning.

I’ll bust a gut to catch these crooks: neighbours have given a description of the white Transit pick-up van used and the name on the side: ‘Gary’s Gardens’, though doubtless the name will have changed by now. My best shot is that the van will have been picked up by CCTV passing near to the local shops; I’ve already arranged for it to be examined by a colleague on another shift whilst I’m on my rest days.

Even now I can’t help thinking about this incident (as you can tell). The most enduring thought I have is not just anger at these bullies; but rather that they have no idea what they are doing to people: they are stealing far more than money.

March 28, 2007. crime, life, police, vulnerable people. Leave a comment.

Early shift: have I told you what I look like in a morning?

Early shifts are not my favourite: four 7am to 5pm shifts are not good; by the end of the third I am ready for bed at 9pm – irrespective of whatever is on TV or whatever offers of hot nights-out come my way. Getting up at 5.32am (those two minutes are important) to be in work for 6.45 is not good and requires the application of rather more make-up than would otherwise be necessary – in fact, it requires the application of under-eye products more normally used by rather older women.

O.K. moaning finished; it’s my job.

Earlies are often a time for routine work: I get chance to walk my beat, catch up on paperwork and make any planned arrests; at least that’s the theory. They are also the time for being dumped-on with a hand-over prisoner: this involves processing a prisoner arrested by someone else on night duty who couldn’t deal with them at the time, for example because they (the prisoner) were too drunk to interview or were arrested too late in the shift to justify the overtime. Nobody likes to deal with a prisoner for which they are not going to get the credit – all the glory (and the tick on the stats sheet) goes to the arresting officer.

Sunday morning was one of those occasions, I was the only ‘walker’, therefore I was the only one who could be spared to deal with prisoners in the cells. There were three, arrested making-off from the scene of a factory burglary; each of them juvenile; each of them with an excuse for being in the vicinity of industrial premises at 4am. Not a promising start; and it got worse. Their parents would not turn out to the police station to act as Appropriate Adults (this is required by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act for juveniles). Even though they were already awake, having been woken by officers with authority to search their houses they were resolute; their attitudes ranging from “I’m sick of being dragged out of bed by the cops for him” to “It’s too early, ring me back nearer lunchtime and I’ll see what I can do”. This meant that we had to rely on either Social Services to provide someone, or a volunteer from the rota of accredited Appropriate Adults (the fact that this rota exists should tell you something). To add to the logistical nightmare each of the junior crooks wanted a solicitor and, they all had the name of a solicitor to hand – each wanted a different one: it was going to be a long morning.

After liaising with the Custody Officer I reviewed the partially prepared file left by the arresting officer; he had done a good job. The case summary was complete, up to the current moment, outlining the circumstances: a taxi driver had contacted the police to report two youths acting suspiciously (probably ‘dogging out’) near to a small engineering company on an industrial estate; shortly after, a report of an alarm activation was received from the same location and three youths, two wearing clothing described by the taxi driver, were arrested near by after a short chase of two of them; the other affecting an air of nonchalant innocence as he strolled along the street -“What me officer?” – it didn’t wash.

At the scene of the crime a lap-top, printer and cash box had been stacked near to a broken window, as if ready to pass through; they probably hadn’t banked on setting off the alarm and had clearly not thought through their plan; this was probably an opportunistic burglary.

I discussed the case with Geoff, the detective covering the morning shift and he agreed to sit in with me during the interviews; I like Geoff he is professional and, importantly for a detective, in my view, not patronising.

At about 9am we had assembled the Appropriate Adult and solicitor (or more accurately legal executive, your have to have done something really bad to get an actual solicitor!). I had my interview plan, so off we went – everyone seemed weary and over-familiar with the process.

The method of interviewing follows a model and it works to our favour when there are more than one inexperienced prisoner who are prepared to say more than “No comment”. We allow each interviewee time to give their account of the evening’s events from much earlier than the time of the crime up to the time of their arrest. And so it went, the first round of interviews produced widely varying tales that, in the second round, we would use to tie the suspects in knots: because they couldn’t speak to each other they had no idea what their mates were saying so we peppered the interview with phrases like:
“That’s not what Liam said, he reckons you two were out together all night…”. Quickly the over-mature, testosterone-teen attitudes withered to be replaced by indignation as they realised that their best mates were busy protecting their own backs.

Despite the wearying process I was pleased; in the event Geoff and I carried out a good set of interviews that resulted in an approximation of the truth, though the two that the taxi driver had seen claimed they didn’t know that the other lad was actually going to force his way into an office. He, so far as they were concerned, was only going for a pee around the corner, there goes that best mate thing again – he was on his own. Crime Scene Examiners later told us that they had found more than one set of finger prints on pieces of broken glass from the window, so we shall see.

Eventually, after a tortuous morning, and after liaison with the Crown Prosecution Representative, all three were bailed to return to the police station another day when the original officer in the case will have the results of the forensic examination and the facts could be presented to the Youth Offending Team for a decision whether or not to charge them.

With great pleasure I left the remainder of the paperwork for the arresting officer and went out for couple of hours walk around my beat before home time. Whatever happens to the burgling threesome, the hands of the judiciary are tied by their age in any case. Their intelligence records suggest that they are often up to no good and two of them already have cautions for theft offences. At the moment, they are pretty poor crooks: hence they got caught; but time and practice will serve to make them better. Evidence suggests that they are unlikely, having gone this far down that road, to be diverted from it. As I walked, I couldn’t help wondering, as I looked at the different kids and different families I passed, which would turn out OK and which parents would be too busy/tired/drunk to nip this sort of thing in the bud; or am I being too hard on parents with tough lives?

March 26, 2007. crime, girl-stuff, life, make-up, police. 1 comment.

More hot news…and I do mean hot!

Check ‘News From the Nick’ for an anecdote from a few months ago that is, I promise, true.

March 23, 2007. gossip, in the poop, man parts, pain, police, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Domestic Bliss…not!

I realised the other night that I hadn’t told you anything more about last week’s night duty; what reminded me was a Channel 4 programme about domestic violence. Domestic disputes are one of our most common incidents; you can almost guarantee at least one on each night or evening shift and many of my colleagues are cynical about them (oh come on Sarah, I thought you were going to be honest. Oh all right then, I too am sometimes cynical).

On night duty I was working with Gary; I don’t particularly like Gary , he is chauvinistic and, after an acrimonious divorce, cynical about women. His idea of ‘down-time’ patrolling is to take a detour into the nearby City Centre to leer at scantily clad women half his age, which makes me uneasy, not least, because they are my age – what does he think about? Don’t get me wrong, Gary is a good cop, experienced and hard working, brilliant in a violent situation and a good thief taker, but I think life has made him hard and he seems to have little compassion.

On Thursday night at about 2am we received a call to attend a domestic dispute, the radio operator told us that the address had a Domestic Violence marker – these are tags placed on the computer system to show where there is a history of domestic violence. The call had come from an anonymous neighbour who reported the sound of the couple fighting; we put on the ‘blues and twos’ and hurried to the address – we used the vehicle’s emergency equipment not to get through the traffic, there wasn’t much of it, but rather to give advance warning that we were on our way, that sometimes has the effect of stopping violence taking place – we wouldn’t have used the equipment if we were hoping to catch a thief.

Gary hates domestic disputes, all the way there he gave me his rant about what a waste of time it was helping these women, when all they do is end up going back to their abusers. And he’s right – about them going back – many women return again and again to men who mistreat them (it is predominantly, but not exclusively, women who are the victims).

I dislike domestic disputes for different reasons, they make me nervous: always volatile and charged with emotion, you can never tell what they will hold. Often you end up in the kitchen of a house, I don’t know why, and that is the worst place: full of potential weapons.

We knew, when we arrived, that it might be bad. As we pulled into the street there were two or three women stood at the front of their own houses, arms folded looking in the direction of the address. As we pulled up they turned away and went inside, not wanting to be involved. We could hear shouting from a man inside and shouting/crying from a woman, but couldn’t hear what was being said. Gary banged on the door loudly, I stood to the side holding my Asp hidden behind my forearm. The shouting stopped, Gary banged on the door again, the curtains flicked momentarily to the side and we got a glimpse of a male face.

“Get in there, it’s the ****ing law”, shouted the male voice. The door opened a crack, into which Gary inserted his large Magnum boot.
“What’s going on mate, people are phoning us saying it’s world war three in here…” said Gary,
“****ing can’t have a conversation with your bride these days can you. We don’t need you, it’s sorted”, came the reply through clenched teeth, from a face contorted with anger.
“We need to come in, where’s your wife?”
“She’s inside, doesn’t want to speak to you”, each word virtually spat out.

I could feel the knot in my stomach tightening as the inevitable approached,
“You know the score, we need to come in and make sure everyone’s alright.” I said,
“Oh the woman speaks does she, want to check on your sister do you? I told you we’re fine”, sneered the male.
“So you’re both OK then”, said Gary, his tone lightening,
“Yes, we’re fine” said the male attempting to reassure us. I was becoming anxious that we hadn’t made sure the female was OK.

“Right then,” said Gary. The male visibly relaxed as he thought that we weren’t going to force the issue, at which Gary heaved all his fifteen stones through the door and in a second pinned the male into a corner of the porch.
“As my colleague said, we need to come in, …” explained Gary very close to the cursing males face.

There was already evidence enough to arrest at least one of the parties to prevent a further Breach of The Peace from what we had heard outside and by now the van had arrived to back us up. The male was cuffed and taken into the rear of the van while we established what had taken place.

The female was stood in the kitchen with defiant expression, long hair stuck to her face with sweat. She had a burst lip and a red mark on the side of her face, she also looked like she was holding her ribs on the left side. It was clear she had been assaulted, I passed this information to Gary whose response was,
“We’re wasting our time, she won’t make a statement.”
I replied,
“He’s coming in for Breach of the Peace anyway, if you book him in I’ll see what we can do here.”
“You’re wasting your time; shout me up when we you’re ready, I’ll come and get you.”
Gary went off with the male to the custody office; I stayed, the female had still barely spoken a word and was stood, her back to the sink, arms folded staring at me with resent and anger.
“You look like you are in pain.” I said,
“You know nothing,” she replied through gritted teeth, “Why does it have to be like this, he’s so good with me, and I just wind him up. Now you bastards have taken him it’ll just make it worse”
“It doesn’t mean that it’s OK for him to kick shit out of you when he feels like it.”

And so it went on almost predictably, she refused to give an account of how she got her injuries, despite it being as plain as day, and refused medical treatment. The background of the couple was a sorry tale of violence, drink, depression and prescription drugs: she always having him back in a tearful reconciliation, he dodging prosecution for violence against her.

In the event he was detained overnight for a Breach of the Peace based on our evidence of what we had heard and seen. He went to court the following morning when, if all went to plan, the Domestic Violence Officer (DVO) would get round to see her in the cool light of day before he got back. The DVO would have another go at convincing her to support a prosecution, if nothing else to get him into some sort of sentence that features Anger Management training or similar work.

The incident was a perfect example of what the Channel 4 programme was trying to demonstrate, that men who commit violence against women are often manipulative and create a dependency that makes it even harder for women to escape their situation.

On the face of it Gary seems to be right, we do often seem to waste our time but I think that’s a very superficial view. We, the police have a role to play in dealing with domestic disputes but we, not necessarily the police – society as a whole, have a role to play in breaking the hold that these bullies have on vulnerable women.

March 20, 2007. alcohol, Domestic Violence, drugs, night duty, police. 6 comments.

“Are you never off duty?”

Having shaken off the malaise that comes with night duty I went shopping into town with my mum on Saturday. We haven’t shopped together as girls for ages so, it being Mother’s Day, I thought it would be nice. Besides, call me mercenary, but I hardly ever come back without something she has treated me to. The question in the title of this post arises from a conversation we had, among the scarily priced handbags, in Selfridges; it went like this:

“What are you looking at?”
“Nothing, why?”
“Yes you are, you’ve seen something haven’t you; your dad was always doing it, it drives me mad.
“Sorry, I can’t help it; I just sort of notice stuff that I didn’t used to.”
“Are you never off duty? – silly question, I’ve lived with your father for thirty five years.”

And that short conversation summed up a great deal because what was happening behind the scenes was that, I had spotted a woman whose furtive glances around, and particularly at the ceiling, gave away her intentions. Nothing exciting happened, and our shopping trip wasn’t spoilt; but I caught her eye and in that glance something passed between us that simply said “I know what you are up to”. The glance I received in return said “…and I know who you are…”, though she probably thought I was a store detective rather than the real police, anyway off she sidled to, no doubt, steal something from somewhere else.

My mum’s comments though, lingered. Of course when you join the police you are made fully aware of the legal restrictions on the private lives of Police Officers: things like not being able to have certain business interests and having a discipline code that extends into your private life. The real restrictions, I think, are in the standards you apply to yourself; these are the cheesy reasons that you put on the application form and mention at the final interview in response to the question: why do you want to be a Police Officer? Had I seen a blatant criminal act in Selfridges I would have done something about it, I would have had to; and my mum knew it.

As it was we carried on shopping and I ended up with a gorgeous shirt dress from Monsoon and a pair of black footless tights. It’s a funny thing fashion though: the shirt dress, on its own, is short enough to be indecent, but worn with the footless tights is attractively stylish (I hope); and I was right about the treats: we spent forty minutes in the make-up section of Debenhams and I came away with a new Clinique foundation and mascara – a treat because I’m normally a No 7 girl.

I’m on 1-9 shifts today, tomorrow and Wednesday so will write some more another morning.

March 19, 2007. girl-stuff, life, make-up, philosophy, police. Comments off.

Hot news!

As promised I’ve started the gossip column; it seems though, that when I update that page I also have to do a post, otherwise nobody will no I’ve updated it. So, read on and enjoy the first tit-bit in News From the Nick…

Hot News

March 15, 2007. gossip, in the poop, life, police. 2 comments.

Why am I awake?….

…You might well ask. I should be asleep; I need to sleep; but next door have a man with a pneumatic drill in their garden digging up the patio. I don’t know how these serial killers get away with it – burying bodies beneath patios – the amount of noise they make must surely draw the attention of every night-working Police Officer for miles. I think what I shall do is spend an hour or so browsing the internet, reading a book and then go back to bed; I’ll leave a note for mum to tell her I will be up later, the joys of still living at home; I don’t know how people with kids do it.

The week, so far, has been quiet – nothing out of the ordinary, the usual range of domestic disputes, a couple of short car pursuits – not alas, involving the car I was in, but we did get to chase one of the offenders on foot after the vehicle was abandoned a couple of streets from us; the fool simply ran in the wrong direction straight towards us.

We did have an inconvenient tussle last night. We went to make our contribution to the city’s night time economy by getting a chicken tikka on nan bread from our favourite kebab shop. The cops are always welcome at the Sajan and get discount; this works well because the discount encourages cops to buy their food there, which means the kebab shop has a greater than average police presence during the night.

While waiting for our kebab we heard a loud bang and a female voice shouting and swearing a short distance up the street. Running out of the shop we saw what looked like a wild woman flinging herself at a man wearing a business suit. She was wearing a very short skirt, no tights and one ridiculously high heeled shoe (the other seemingly lost in the tussle, she hadn’t had the sense nor opportunity to realise that she would have found the whole business of attacking the man easier without both shoes), her top was bright pink and, what has been described unkindly in the media recently, as a muffin top: a ‘muffin’ of fat flesh, revealed by the cropped top, hanging over the waste band of her skirt. The side window of the shiny red BMW beside the couple was smashed and the conversation we heard was as follows:

“Get off you mad bitch, you are getting no more off me, f*** off while you can the law’s here now.”
“Slimy two faced bastard you owe me twenty quid.”

I grabbed the female’s arms from behind but she objected and tried to head butt me with the back of her head, as she did this she lost her balance and slipped off her remaining shoe causing both of us to fall to the floor. I fortunately landed on top and managed to pin her arms before cuffing her. Realising she was beaten she did what many of our regular customers do: asked for a spare cigarette and asked whether she would get bail.

After shouting up for a van and placing her safely in the back we spoke to the, very reticent, man. He claimed to not know the woman who had attacked him, she had obviously mistaken him for someone else; he added that he felt sorry for her as she was clearly mentally ill and out of the goodness of his heart did not want to press charges for the broken car window.

He declined to provide his personal details, so we PNC checked his car to make sure it wasn’t a supect or stolen vehicle – it wasn’t, in fact it was from a very respectable part of town – we then let him get on his way.

At the nick, as expected,  it transpired that she was a ‘working girl’ and he was a client who had short changed her. We charged her with a public order offence and bailed her to attend court in a week or so. We will be the only witnesses to the incident; she will, in all likelihood, plead guilty, get fined and have to have more shags to pay the fine.

By the time we had finished sorting the prisoner out it was too late to go back for the kebab so I ate two packets of cheese and onion crisps, a Mars bar and a Kit Kat (chunky) from the all night garage.

March 14, 2007. anti-social behaviour, life, night duty, police, Prostitutes, sex, Uncategorized. 1 comment.

I’m going to be so tired…

Waiting for night duty to start is horrible, I always end up doing the same thing: treating the first day as a day off, doing loads of stuff and then being absolutely shattered when it’s time to go to work. Today, for example, mum and dad have been out all day so I’ve walked the dog twice and been in to town to shop for some new gym clothes this afternoon; I’ve resisted the temptation to actually go to the gym; that would have been madness.

I hope I’m working with someone decent tonight, you can’t always guarantee who you will be working with on nights. We don’t walk our normal foot beats but double-up in cars. You never know what will happen during a week of night duty, it can be dead or the world can go mad, just no way of knowing.

On our big night out on Friday I was chatting with Jacqui and Tracy about writing this blog; they think I’m mad – neither of them did English A level like me and neither of them write anything they don’t have to. What they did like though, was the idea of having a gossip/news column to report on the intrigue that goes on in the police station. Admittedly this was after several WKD (blue) and based on the fact that we had seen one of my Superintendents (young, talented, tanned, slim, dark-haired and handsome) schmoozing a girl my age, wearing far less than me (just), with far too much make-up; and she was being far too full on with him for my liking, the tart…and how very indiscreet.

Anyway, the task of producing a gossip column seems more difficult now I’m faced with it; I’ll have to be very careful about names, dates and places for fear of me getting in trouble. I’ve created the page but not wrote anything yet.

Watch this space because I do quite fancy being a gossip columnist!

March 12, 2007. girl-stuff, gossip, life, night duty, police. Leave a comment.

Strange people in strange places

One of the things I love about my job – apart from the uniform, and the chance to carry weapons around, obviously – is the fact that I meet lots of really interesting people and get the chance to go into places that people don’t normally. On my patrol area is a crematorium; early in my career I had to take a report of criminal damage there when some of the leaded windows were smashed by, presumably, rock chucking youths. After taking the details in the office I went around the back to speak to the ‘technician’ to see if he had had any particular problems with youths. There started a strange acquaintance – I step back from saying relationship; and no I’m not going to tell you I fell in love with the guy (please!) – the place is warm, has a kettle and there is someone to chat to, who is always glad of a bit of company, on quiet cold days. But, it is the weirdest thing to sit next to a stack of coffins waiting their turn to go into the fiery furnace, drinking tea with a backdrop muffled funeral sounds coming from beyond the curtain.

John the guy in charge of the furnace takes great pride in his work – which is quite technical, there is more to the process than simply sticking the box in the fire – he has dignity and respect for the dead people he incinerates. I do have to say though, that he is almost a caricature of himself, over six feet tall, skinny, with big hands, his lank hair is thinning and always looks like it could do with a cut; and guess what, he lives at home with his mum. I think he spends too much time on his own but I’m not about to do a Cold Comfort Farm job on him; and I know he passes an appraising eye over me – but why wouldn’t he god dammit? I might be doing him a disservice because he is really interesting to talk to, all that time on his own makes him quite well read, he doesn’t seem to spend (all) his time poring over porn books but reads a wide range of novels and historical books.

In the UK we have a very hands-off approach to death, disposal of its products is all very clean and is done for us. This isn’t the case all over the world. A girlfriend of mine went to India in her gap year; where it wasn’t unusual to witness bodies burning on rafts of wood on the river Ganges, the bodies being subsequently left to decompose in the river. Incidentally, the quality of that burning depends on the amount of wood a family can afford for the fire, this isn’t always enough and partly burnt bodies are often to be seen in the water. Anyway, the point of mentioning all that is to say that I dared myself to watch one of the bodies being burnt; looking through the little glass window in the furnace door I was surprised how unsurprising it was; it burnt like you would expect it to, fat sizzled, skin blistered, hair singed. Sounds grotesque but it made me think about spirituality and reinforced the fact that all we dispose of in the flames is the container, whatever the element of life is is long gone by that stage.

Anyway, enough of all that philosophising, I only mentioned it because I popped in there for a cup of tea today. Tonight is Friday night, a night very much for the living. I am on night duty next week so intend to feel good this weekend because I know I’ll feel shit by next Friday morning. Me and my good mates Jacqui and Tracy are going in to town tonight for a dance and a drink (or two) and an expensive taxi back to Jacqui’s flat.

Look out guys we’re gonna be gorgeous!A good night out

March 9, 2007. alcohol, dares, death, gore, life, philosophy, working women. 2 comments.

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