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?