Duty – an old fashioned word

The comment from Grateful in my last post set me thinking about some of the reasons people give for being in the police and some of the qualities – if I can call them that – that are a prerequisite of being a cop. Grateful pointed out how the police had responded to an incident with professionalism and without judging any of the parties involved. I guess what they did was to carry out their duty without fear or favour. When you start to unpick that old fashioned clichĂ© you see how that works in practice. For example I helped to police a demonstration against the war in Iraq a while ago. Marching alongside older people and young families, as well as the usual smattering of grubby anarchists, I found myself feeling that, inside, my views and feelings were such that I could just have easily have been out of uniform joining in the procession; but I didn’t, neither did I give any hint of my views or opinions even when goaded by the black flag waving types who assumed that I was only one step away from being a member of the third Reich: without fear or favour.

On another occasion I dealt with the victim of a vicious assault; this was different because the people who attacked him were members of his own community who felt that the law and judiciary had failed them. He was an alleged paedophile who, in the absence of forensic evidence and faced with a victim too young to give a detailed account had, as they say, got off with it. A community had decided that they would ensure that he did not get off with it and taken the matter into their own hands. No matter how distasteful or abhorrent his alleged crimes I still had to simply see a man who was suffering horrific injuries: without fear of favour.

Interestingly, it is often people who feel that they deserve being favoured who try to influence the way in which we do our job; a number of my colleagues have dealt with incidents involving celebrities – premiership footballers or soap stars – and been faced with “do you know who I am?..” and taken great pleasure in responding “No…should I?”

There is a world of difference – at least in today’s world – between some poor lonely chap far from home becoming the victim of the theft of his wallet out of his back trouser pocket by a young lady positioned in front so as to – ahem- reach into his pocket unnoticed; and the same thing happening to a premiership footballer – sigh – we could make a fortune…damned sense of duty!

Advertisements

April 29, 2007. crime, life, philosophy, police, Prostitutes, sex, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Court in the act

I’m so busy at the moment: work is a bit mad; I’ve been given a date for my driving course, which is very exciting; and I spent a day last week at Crown Court in a wounding case where I had chased a suspect before a colleague had caught them ahead. And that is what I’m going to write about: Crown Court.

This case, on the face of it, was a strong one: a glass-in-the-face attack at a pub, the suspect legged it as we turned up. I chased him until I lost sight of him rounding a corner, a colleague was on that street ready for him. He had blood all over his clothes and another officer, at the scene, seized the glass that had his fingerprints on it and the victim’s blood. So, even without witnesses – and there were some – the guy was stuffed.

But, as is often the case, they plead not guilty and opt for Crown Court trial. That means that all the witnesses have to turn up on the day and hang around while well- spoken men and women in gowns and wigs bargain with each other. The offender was in custody but we still had his family hanging menacingly around; though we made sure that the witnesses were well away from them in the witness care area. They stay there until they are called to give evidence.

All day we paced and waited, eventually the court had whipped through the easy stuff, like plea and direction hearings and sentencing, and then, after lunch, it was our turn. So having sat there all morning we got to the point of having a jury sworn in and guess what he did (at this point anyone who knows anything about the legal process will be shouting the answer at their computer screens): he pleaded guilty. Agghhhhhh.

Why do they do it? A whole morning waiting – time off work for witnesses, court time booked etc etc. The simple answer is that a guilty plea, even at this late stage, will get them a sentencing concession; they wait until the last minute just to see whether all the witnesses will turn up -they don’t always, and this means frantic chasing around to find them.

Anyway, I suppose the result is still the same: GUILTY.

April 23, 2007. crime, police. 8 comments.

Acting tough

OK, public order training: all operational cops – those who don’t wear suits; you know, the ones who turn up at your house when you dial 999 – have to do a minimum of two days a year training for the occasion when the societal wheel comes off and there is large scale public disorder. You’ll have seen the sort of thing on TV: cops dressed in crash hats, dark coloured overalls, looking mean and dodging missiles.

The training takes place at our purpose-built training centre, with a layout of streets, junctions, houses and shops, all there for rioters to riot in and for the police to save the world in. For most of us who like physical activity, it’s two days of fun and frolics, with no paperwork at the end; for those who don’t like physical activity it’s two days of hot, sweaty hell.

The two-day course consists of, on day one: running through the already familiar routines for dealing with crowds; dealing with angry armed people; dealing with brick hurling rioters (wooden bricks – but they still hurt if they hit an unprotected bit); taking junctions with a shield team; forcefully entering buildings whilst having tyres and bricks dropped on you from above; and dealing with petrol bombs. Day two of the course consists of an exercise that involves senior officers tackling a staged public order situation and designing a strategy and tactics that we then fulfil (with varying degrees of success).

The kit is heavy and uncomfortable; the only concession I make to femininity is to ensure that I have sufficient perfume (Issey Miyake is good: nice and fresh) to counter the sweaty, musty smell that lingers around your boiler suit by the end of the first session – I only wish my male colleagues would make the same concession.

Our PSU serial was lead by Sergeant Khan: he has been a sergeant for about 7 years and doesn’t , at the moment, feel that he has to be the best at everything – this makes for a good couple of days. His briefing went like this:

“You don’t have to be the best at this – we can have a laugh and enjoy it so long as, when the chips are down and the bosses are watching, we get it right.”

So that’s what we did; take this example:

A line of helmeted and booted police officers fill the width of a road carrying riot shields; they chant rhythmically to keep in line with each other: “One, two, one, two, one, two”; at a junction the cry goes up “Hold the line” and the wall of shields stop. We wait poised, bent slightly holding our shields, waiting for the familiar drill: the sergeant shouts loudly,
“Shield to the left what can you see?”
“ROAD CLEAR SARGE” comes the over-loud, enthusiastic response from a probationer who is on his first course with us.
“Shield to the right what can you see?”
The reply comes in a voice that is a remarkably good impression of the upper class accent of John LeMesurier,
“There are a number of people in the street sergeant, they look rather cross to me and I don’t quite like the look of them.”
The line of shields wobbles and sways with suppressed mirth until the cry goes up,
“Missile” and the first of a hail of wooden blocks come raining on and over us, bouncing of the helmets of those who haven’t learnt to keep their heads down. We wheel into the junction and disperse the rioters.

Taking off our helmets after defeating the rioters we have a break; the end of the break is something I dread: during the exercise we sweat profusely into the soft padding of our helmets; during the break the sweat cools in the foam of the helmet; after break replacing the soggy cold sweaty helmet is a truly unpleasant experience.

The angry person exercise is quite good, it is meant to replicate the, not uncommon, situation when someone really loses it in a house and we have to don protective clothing and use shields to subdue them in a corner of the room. This is one occasion when the lighter officers (and I don’t just mean the women, because there are some hefty policewomen and some very slight policemen) have a disadvantage. The theory is that you pin the person in the corner with your shields and lift the shields so the they cannot hit you with the weapon – in this case a pickaxe handle or baseball bat. The most successful way is not to beat around the bush in the doorway too long and to ram them quickly, people who hesitate end up with the angry person dodging behind them: you don’t want that. It works well in an empty room; but, I am told by those who have tried it, is a nightmare in a furnished one. As an aside, this routine for tackling a wild weapon wielding person used to be called the ‘angry man’; political correctness intervened and made it the angry person – there are many quips expressing surprise that it hasn’t yet become the ‘reasonably cross person with a justifiable grievance’.

The climax of the first day is the outdoor exercise to deal with petrol bombs. For this we don our flame-proof overalls and all take it seriously. In pairs we have to walk through a wall of flame as the instructors smash petrol bombs at our feet: chins down, shields held in front, you lose all vision as the whoosh of heat bursts over and around you as you step through the flames. It is quite amusing for everyone though, when a probationer has not been before – especially when their colleagues have been winding them up before hand, by telling them that the course instructors expect a smart appearance and will check that their boots are properly cleaned; in short, they are encouraged to ensure that there is plenty of boot polish on their boots. The boots are flame-proof but boot polish is highly flammable. As they step through the wall of fire you can see the momentary panic as two flaming feet dance around in order to extinguish their boots.

At the end of the day we have done well: had a laugh but also ensured that we can all work together at the drills and techniques if we need to for real. Then it’s off home for a long hot bath – a shower just won’t cut it when you feel like this.

April 16, 2007. crime, girl-stuff, life, police, Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Dads and Daughters

I sometimes worry that my mum feels left out of some of the conversations I have with my dad about policing. Watching The Bill on TV I constantly carp about procedure and dad constantly compares to ‘his day’. The series Life On Mars had provided him with a host of reminiscences; he joined the police in 1972: right at the heart of the Mars years. “Was it really like that?” I ask, knowing the answer already – some of my older colleagues still remember the back end of that era – my dad goes misty eyed as he remembers the pre PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) days when the rules that governed the detention and treatment of prisoners were far fewer and, in the main, left to the discretion of the honourable police. I ask my dad whether he thinks it was better:
“No not better” he replies, “It was often brutal and open to corruption, PACE is restrictive but it was necessary. We cocked it up for ourselves by not sorting out some of the bastards in the job at the time.”
At this stage my mum tells my dad to calm down; I can only guess at some of the memories that put so much bite into the word ‘bastards’.

I have two days public order training this week where men are men – and so are the women! I’ll tell you all about it soon.

Oh yes; seeing as everyone is talking about it: I loved the Life on Mars ending…ahh bless.

April 12, 2007. life, parents, philosophy, police, TV cops. Leave a comment.

Bank Holidays: a time for family, friends and fighting

There are recognised trends that, pretty much, give the cops an idea of the types of incidents they might have deal with in a particular tour of duty. Bank Holiday weekends, for instance, often combine families, friends and alcohol; add sunshine, barbecues and neighbours and you have a heady mixture. In our house when we have a row we cross swords with sarcasm, spite and verbosity; other families’ lack of education, failure to have learnt adequate social skills and poor communication skills make their techniques for resolving family disputes more limited.

The radio message we received, early yesterday evening, filled us with dread:
“We’ve got a report of a large scale disturbance in Jade Goody Way – can you attend, over.”
This wasn’t really a question but an order,
“Roger, show us to it – any back up?”
That was a real question; Jade Goody Way is a hell hole where some of the worst families in our city uneasily rub shoulders with each other. Sirens on, to alert people of our impending arrival, as much as to get us through the traffic, we made our way with haste, though our insides screamed at us to run away, rather than face fighting with these hard bitten people.

Pulling into Jade Goody, apart from the usual thud of an object hitting the side of the car – in this case a chicken leg, we were met with an eerily silent scene of mayhem. Burger buns strewn across the street, blood or ketchup splashes on the road – and no we didn’t dip our finger in it to test- a sherry trifle apparently flung at the front of a house, a glass topped table splintered in the street and fence panels kicked out of a number of scruffy front gardens. At the centre of it all a ’03 black Range Rover with its door open and engine running. We approached the car and were joined by a skin headed man aged about 35yrs wearing a smart brown suit and cream crew neck sweater; around his neck was more gold than I could afford with six month’s wages – but not nice gold: thick garish kerb necklaces and the like. If he had been a dog he would have been an Staffordshire Bull Terrier, I recognised him as Terry O’Neil a National Crime Squad target criminal:
“Can I help you officers?”, his voice an amused, feigned, interest in us,
“We’ve had a report of a disturbance in the street here – it looks like there’s been quite a scrap” I said,
“No problem here miss” he replied, using the term of address of people who have spent time in prison.
“All the same, we’ve got to investigate, I’ll knock on some doors”.
“Help yourself miss, but nothing has happened, you’ll see.”
He leant against the Range Rover and casually lit a cigarette, watching as we picked our way through the debris towards the trifle-attacked address. The door was open so we shouted and entered, there was nobody in the house, but at the back was a group of two women and a man; he was nursing a bloody nose; the gas barbecue was incinerating forgotten chicken legs. Our inquiries were met with stone-wall denials of any incident; we met the same response at each of the houses we visited. At the houses that seemed to have escaped involvement, there was no reply, at the others the best explanation we were given was that it had been a ‘wild party’.

Frustrated we left, O’Neil nodded consiprationally at us as we left, our tyres crunching on crockery; he strolled over to the first address we visited as we pulled away. We had spent 30 minutes for what?

Later, I bumped into one of the Jade Goody alcoholics leaving the off licence with three 3- litre bottles of White Lightening; I asked him what was at the bottom of the dispute. To save face for him I made it look like I was turning him over – not that I had cause – he emptied his pockets as he told me that O’Neil’s brother lives in the close and had revealed, in a drunken state of O’Neil family invulnerability, that he had been shagging women at three different addresses in the street. Not unexpectedly it had kicked off and O’Neil had been called by his brother, whisked away somewhere and O’ Neil had returned with compensation – though how much you get for having your girlfriend/wife/lover shagged by the brother of a big league crook goodness only knows.

I had some useful intelligence for the National Crime Squad (who, for all I know, could have O’Neil under surveillance and been watching it all); but I find incidents like this madly frustrating. In this climate of targets, we – the police – can not afford to spend time investigating incidents and crimes where we are not welcome. What did I have to show for this? No crime recorded, no victim identified, no suspect arrested: no tick in the box.

And on another level, are there communities that, with people like O’Neil in them, live outside the rules and morals that govern the rest of us, I felt superfluous on that street: O’Neil was the man sorting it out, not us.

April 9, 2007. alcohol, anti-social behaviour, crime, Easter, life, philosophy, police, sex. 6 comments.

I’ve been tagged…

…not the type of tag that keeps you indoors when you would rather be out robbing; but the type that you used to get when you were little followed by the words “You’re it…”. So, I’m it and I have to choose seven songs or albums that feature in my life at the moment. I had a look at some of the others on the tag list to get some ideas and was particularly inspired by Nurse Myra’s work themed selection. Here’s my go:

  1. First off is too obvious really and is a follow up to last weeks duty: Police and Thieves by The Clash. This is a track that haunts me; my dad loves The Clash he says they are the backdrop of the rebellious youth that was never his, or something like that. Every time I am on nights you can guess what he is singing, in that awful embarrassing dad way, as I leave the house…it’s no wonder I’m single.
  2. Next is the ‘getting ready to go out’ track that everyone has; you know what I mean- bra and panties, hairbrush, and half a bottle of wine before you leave the house. Please don’t laugh…it’s Gina G with Ohh Ahhh Just a Little Bit…Oh come on! I was thirteen for goodness sake.
  3. Oasis, Don’t Look Back in Anger; I grew up with Oasis, everyone I know loves them.
  4. What do you think of the latest Take That single? I love it and for people who were at school when I was it’s great: Take That were huge then and now they are huge again; and they’ve stuffed it up that poncey arrogant sod Robbie Williams. Anyway, the track of theirs on my MP3 player that makes me want to sit down and sigh (even if I’m in the gym) is: Back for Good
  5. Kylie or Madonna? My girl icon is Madonna and my favourite album is Music. I can’t believe she has been having hits longer than I’ve been alive and still manages to be so cool.
  6. Arctic Monkeys, Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor. I know I go to clubs and dance to a lot of crap that has never seen a real musical instrument; but I think, at heart, I’m my dad’s daughter. This band are where I think the future of music should be: real people playing real instruments and not just going after the big deal all the time. The Arctic Monkeys started off here – on the web – and I was there; I downloaded their songs before they were huge. If I could persuade my friends that studentsville was cool, I’d be at alternative gigs all the time..hey ho.
  7. Lastly another of my dad’s classics that seems to be in my DNA. I don’t know how he ever convinced his police mates that he was so establishment oriented, all he ever did when we were kids was take the p**s out of his job; still never did me any harm. He loves Elvis Costello and Watching the Detectives is just great.

I’m off today and tomorrow (annual leave today and bank holiday tomorrow, hooray!) going to the seaside with friends tomorrow if it’s nice, and taking our Easter eggs, you don’t know where I can get one do you?!

P.S. I’ve just looked through the list of categories to include this post in and couldn’t find many: they make pretty grim reading, I must have a horrid life!

P.P.S. I only had two people to tag in my blogroll who hadn’t already been done!

April 5, 2007. Easter, girl-stuff, life. 4 comments.

Rob from the rich and sell to the poor (at very reasonable prices)

Picture the scene: a Transit van trundles from an early morning call at the inner city wholesalers heading to a small shop on the rural outskirts of our glorious city. The beautifully crafted Lindt Easter eggs are intended to make a profit from weekend tourists to the expensive village craft shop. The yokel driver pulls into the local all night garage for some cigarettes and is offered tea and conversation by the kind and lonely local garage attendant. Whilst the van is on the forecourt, parked where directed – so as not to obstruct the pumps – another Transit van, this one rather scruffier, reverses up to the rear doors of the egg laden van and in a matter of moments liberates the contents intended for the rich into the back of a van of the poor.

We role up in response to the shocked call of the attendant who is consoling the van owner; in any case I need to visit the garage because, going off topic for the moment, I’ve been told that the van used in last week’s bogus official incident went there for petrol and there is a CCTV tape waiting for me. Anyway, blow me if the small area of the forecourt where the van was directed to park isn’t the only bit of the forecourt not covered by CCTV; would you believe it?

I take details from the bitter eggless van man and speak to the shocked local garage attendant who is stunned that such a thing could happen on her watch – after all, how did the thieves know to pick that van? At police school they teach you about body language, it is uncannily telling when someone is being less than honest, but evidentially useless.

I guess that local enquiries will reveal that Lindt Easter eggs are popular in our inner city community this year; and I guess that they will all have been bought from Asda or Tesco (“…but I seem to have mislaid the receipt officer…”); and I guess, in a week’s time all the evidence will have disappeared – a modern Easter miracle.

April 4, 2007. Chocolate, crime, Easter, life, night duty, police. 3 comments.

More News from the Nick

I realised, during last night’s unusually quiet shift, that I hadn’t shared my latest snippet of news with you as I promised. It also gives me the opportunity to introduce one of the latest additions to our shift; this one particularly notable because he is an new sergeant and particularly hunky; that said there are reasons, as you will gather, that he might not make the ideal future partner for a girl…not that I’m in the market you understand.

I’ll write more about the weekend night in the next couple of days; today I’m taking advantage of the lovely sun and the fact that, in view of the quietness of last night, I was able to take 2 hours time owning and got to bed at shortly after 5 am.

There are many theories about the best way to recover from night-duty, mine is that you should get out of  bed after as little sleep as you can bear, make good use of the day and then collapse into bed at a normal time later thus getting back into a regular sleep pattern quickly; others sleep late and go out on the lash till late…a not unattractive prospect but only delaying the inevitable struggle to return to normality, in my view.

April 2, 2007. alcohol, girl-stuff, gossip, night duty, police. 2 comments.