The yoof of today

I’ve been on a bit of an operation this week aimed at curbing incidents so frequent that they are simply titled YCA: Youths Causing Annoyance. What this basically means is tackling instances of anti-social behaviour by disenchanted young people hanging around – apparently- aimlessly. For us it means the wielding of techniques and powers such as the power to seize alcohol form under eighteens in public – an anomaly in the law being, until we were given this power, that all the offences relate to licensed premises i.e. the purchase and sale of alcohol to young people, not the possession of it by them. We also use a video team to capture images of the offenders, to use, where there are no blatant offences, to show their parents later – the idea being that the parents will be shocked into better parenting and curb their offspring’s excesses. That’s fine as far as it goes but presupposes that the parents actually give a damn.

I have to say though that the tolerance in the UK for all things young is low. Youths seem not to have to do very much to cause annoyance; simply hanging around on a street corner is annoying apparently and explanations to callers to the police by our control room staff of what the law considers anti-social behaviour to be, doesn’t wash. So I often feel that I am treading a line between enforcing the law and harassing kids who simply want to ‘hang’ with their mates. There is precious little will, it seems to me, to spend any money on providing the sorts of places that are actually likely to be used by today’s young people.

Anyway on a lighter note and talking of all things young; I have a week off next week and am hanging with my good friends Jacqui and Tracy in – this was an impulsive last minute thing – Argassi…what? you don’t know where it is?…it’s on the delightful (I am told) island of Zante (Greece, you uncultured lot!). And as if that wasn’t enough I shall be returning not to my regular beat but straight to the Force Driving School for my driving course – oh joy! I am very excited, though curious to see what the driving instructors are like, I am told they are predominantly older traffic officers and they – traffic officers – are a funny breed. So, from pedalo to police car: should be fun.

P.S. Sorry about the dodgy picture, I don’t know him – honest!

May 11, 2007. girl-stuff, life, police. 4 comments.

CSIs: this weeks heroes

Just once in a while you get the feeling that the battle against evil is not lost. Do you remember the old lady who was conned by the dodgy gardeners? We had some success: firstly the CCTV from the garage identified the van, but not the driver; but the van was stopped in another area when someone reported suspicious gardeners (you must look really dodgy to be a suspicious gardener). The driver was identified as Shane McDogger a well known crook of the travelling fraternity. He wasn’t arrested because he wasn’t wanted for anything – no outstanding warrants, nothing – but there’s more.
While I was mooning about and being generally over- emotional about the poor old lady’s plight, other more professional officers – Crime Scene Examiners to be precise – were reinterviewing the woman, who was a bit more astute than she looked when I met her. She was able to point out that, whilst savaging her garden, the unpleasant pair were smoking and discarding their dimps beneath the bushes; in fact the ace witness was even able to point some out to the scientific sleuths. And you know what cigarette ends are good for don’t you? DNA. Whose DNA do you think was on the tip of about half of the dog ends? Yep, Mc Dogger.

As the officer in the case I have, with great pleasure, arranged for a Wanted marker to placed on his record on the Police National Computer so that the next time an officer comes across him, he will be arrested – I do hope he is stopped by a dog handler and runs away.

It is worth mentioning at this juncture, that our CSIs do not have the glamour of their counterparts in LasVegas or Miami; they are not allowed to waltz all over crime scenes in amazing Armani or Gorgeous Gucci; but with ruthless professionalism they do a marvellous job. They are definitely not as good looking as Jonathon Togo ; but I forgive them.

May 5, 2007. crime, girl-stuff, men, police, TV cops, Uncategorized, vulnerable people. Leave a comment.

Boy talk…what they really say about us.

Girls, have you ever wondered what men really say about us when we are not there? Read the latest News From The Nick for an insight into men’s minds. I’m breathless just thinking about it.

May 2, 2007. girl-stuff, gossip, in the poop, men, police. Leave a comment.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

“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.

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.

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