We will fight them on the beaches, we will, er, oh, erm…

Earlier this year, a little weekend jolly down to London chez wife took in Winston Churchill’s bunker under Whitehall. Well worth a look if you’re even vaguely interested in 20th century history. Far more spacious than I’d expected, the contrast between that and Hitlers rather squalid equivalent in Berlin is vast.

Anyway, quite apart from WW2, it’s fair to say Winston was a remarkable chap. Not without his flaws, but remarkable nontheless. He has a namesake at work, however, who cannot claim the same status.

His namesake was a custody sergeant when I first met him, and had a knack for moving incredibly slowly. I’ve known officers take prisoners to other cell blocks than theirs if he was on duty, it was that bad. A pleasant guy, but moved like a heavily sedated snail.

Fast forward a few years, in our latest austerity induced game of musical chairs, my team ended up controlling a different area, and he was now a response sergeant on said area. The contrast between him and the other sergeant on the team was as vast as the bunker version of keeping up with the Jones’. When his oppo is on duty, life is great, things get done. When he’s in charge, it’s a nightmare.

Basically, he is what’s known as a decision-free zone. I realised that while in custody, he was probably just struggling to decide what to do next. He frequently can’t be got hold of on the radio, his office or mobile phone either. Normally a pain for a supervisor, but occasionally a blessing when we had to make decisions in a hurry that should have been run by him first. Simple questions often produce rambling answers that don’t address the question, but just raise more.

One time, my friend Bob sent a car to a domestic assault, as it was a repeat address, he sent Winston as well, force policy dictates sergeants should go to repeat domestics. It sounds nasty, so they’ve making on blues and sirens. Winston shouts up to say he’s going too, a few minutes later the unit updates via radio that they have arrived, then there’s the wait for their initial update…is anyone hurt/dead/running away/armed/fighting/under arrest etc.

About 5 minutes later, Winny pipes up, with his sirens blaring in the background, and asks what road it’s on again.

So he’s been blue lighting to a job, and he doesn’t even know where it is. Turns out he’s not even blue light / siren trained. In fact he’s failed his response driving course 3 times. If he’d had a crash, there’s no getting away from the fact his sirens are on tape and his GPS history is likewise recorded, proving his speed, dropping him in it big time.

His GPS is a blessing though, as occasionally he gets lost and has to be spoon-fed directions. Somehow, I have no idea how, he has qualified as an inspector, and when the boss is away, he takes the helm. It’s like having a dementia patient in charge.

I feel awful saying it, as he’s not unpleasant, he’s just useless. I used to wonder if it was just me being intolerant, but recently I was privy to a conversation between two sergeants where I now work, and one of them mentioned his name. Straight away, the other said ‘Oh god no, not that f*cking idiot!’, and they reeled off a list of fresh idiocy.

It’s not me.

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Buffoon of the week IX

Bob met the future Mrs Bob, and they marry and have a couple of kids. Things go wrong, Bob attacks Mrs. Bob and bravely runs off before the police arrive. The assault is duly recorded.

Fast forward a few weeks, and Bob, as yet unarrested, has moved back in, and things are calmer somewhat. It was difficult to understand why anyone would let their spouse back in the house like this before I joined, but life is invariably less simple than it appears. Fear of further attacks if you refuse, financial needs, especially where children are involved, family pressures etc. Both experience at work and someone outside the job helped me understand why it sometimes happens. Thank you, you know who you are, and you made me a better police officer and a more patient person.

Anyway, the police ring Mrs Bob up to see how she is, unaware that he has moved back in. When she speaks to the call taker she is hesitant, a strong indication that there’s someone else there, telling her what to say.

Bob does not help his situation by saying “Tell them you want to drop the charges or I’ll batter you again”.

Loud enough to be heard by the call taker.

On a phone call that is naturally recorded.

As he’s a known offender in contact with a vulnerable victim and committing further offences, it’s put on as a high-priority job, and in the space of 20 minutes, Bob goes from his version of domestic bliss to being under arrest for both the original assault and witness intimidation, which will be frowned upon by the judge.

Bob has earnt his Buffoon of the Week award.

Well played.

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore…

Harking back to yesteryear, I often hear of people bemoaning the lack of the good old Beat Bobby, they knew everyone, they clipped you round the ear if you were bad and if you told your dad, it happened again, etc etc. Beat bobbies, or neighbourhood officers as they’re known more and more, do valuable work (though I’d never give them the satisfaction of saying so to their faces, nothing wrong with a little rivalry). A lot of intelligence comes from them interacting with people and hearing or being told little snippets, or simply building good relationships with people long-term, so that when someone’s got concerns about a relative who’s got obsessed with Jihad and has started buying enough peroxide (a component of home made explosives) to keep the local Supercuts in business for months, they feel comfortable telling you.

But it’s sad to say, they’re not a deterrent to short-term crime in itself. People may think they are, but they’re not. There’s very few Mensa members involved in low-level crime, but even the most illiterate, brain dead criminal knows if a beat officer is walking by, all you have to do is wait for them to go, or just walk in the other direction for a bit, then you can carry on looking for cars or houses to break into with impunity. If you get caught, it’ll be by officers sent by car.

It sounds like a cop-out, but the subject is well-researched. The average officer on foot will stumble into a crime exactly once in 8 years of foot patrol. I’m normally loath to refer to anything to do with American policing, as the country and its policing mentality is so different to here, but one thing I’ve found is interesting and relevant.

The Kansas City Police decided in 1972 to assess whether routine patrol, a fundamental part of police processes since policing began, actually worked in deterring crime or not. In essence, they divided Kansas City into a number of zones, and assigned each zone to one of three groups. The assigning was done so that as far as possible, each group had an identical balance of reported crime beforehand, to make it a fair experiment.

One area had the normal level of police patrolling, between actually going to incidents called in by the public, one group has three times the normal patrol level, and one had no patrol – between going out to calls, officers waited in the station or did other tasks, but performed no routine patrol. This was done for a year, and the crime figures and residents reactions researched extensively. The full report is freely available on the internet, should you choose to look, but in essence :

The public didn’t notice the difference when the frequency of patrols was changed.

Increasing or decreasing the level of patrol had no significant effect on residential and commercial burglaries, car thefts, theft from cars, robberies, or vandalism/ASB crimes.

The rate at which crimes were reported did not differ significantly across the experimental beats.

Public reported fear of crime was not affected by different levels of patrol.

Public satisfaction with police did not vary.

And yet still, people who should know better trumpet the idea of more bobbies walking on foot, because they think it’s what you want to hear. To the best of my knowledge, no-one in this country in any position of authority has ever even suggested that the experiment be replicated here in any form, to see if it’s still valid. The days of Dixon of Dock Green are long gone, but it was perhaps telling that in the original 1950 film ‘The Blue Lamp’ which led to the series, Dixons life on the beat ended when he was shot dead by an armed robber.

He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy.

Total jobs, 1900. Response staff to deal with it, 165.

Highlights.

Officers sent to a burglary in progress, when they arrive, one of the 3 offenders draws a handgun and pulls the trigger, the weapon clicks rather than going BANG. The offenders run, as do the officers. In different directions. Armed response are sent, a short while later one of the offenders is seen and succumbs to a taser. He is not the one with the firearm. The other two are believed to have driven off in a vehicle for which we have the registration, if/when the ARV’s see and stop the vehicle, the occupants would be well advised not to make any sudden movements. If they won’t stop, they’re liable to get rammed off the road if we can do it without danger to passers by, then arrested and interviewed if they survive.

Domestic assault reported, offender still on scene. As he’s a regular, we know from his PNC entry that he suffers from XDRTB – eXtremely Drug Resistant TuBerculosis. Due to the obvious dangers, we won’t attend without face masks, which on a busy Saturday night, have to come from the nearest hospital. For some reason the ambulance that is also sent either can’t or won’t provide us with masks. Maybe it’s policy, maybe they just don’t have any spare, I don’t know. Thie issues caused by XDRTB are slowly becoming more and more common.

It’s an obscure piece of UK law, so obscure I can’t remember the act and section, but in addition to the Mental Health Act allowing qualified medical personnel to detain someone against their will for mental health treatment, there is a provision in UK law where suitably qualified medical staff can authorise hospital detention against their will of a patient with an infectious disease. The disease has to be sufficiently dangerous as to warrant it for public safety. I’ve only seen/heard of it twice so far, but it will happen more and more.

That’s the legal theory, the practice is two officers sat at the end of your bed, with masks on, and if you threaten to leave, they threaten to make you stay. No Tasers, sparks are risky in a high-oxygen environment, so the options are going hands on or walloping you with a baton. Sensible people would want to stay in hospital if seriously ill, but not all our customers are sensible.

Ongoing enquiries into a long term MISPER (missing person). He hasn’t been seen for a month, and it’s not looking good. No bank account movement, no sightings, no CCTV, no indication that he’s fallen out with anyone seriously, or had any reason to walk away from his life. His vehicle has been found, with no indication anyone other than him has been in it recently. Near where his vehicle was found is the last location his mobile phone connected to a phone mast, mysteriously a couple of weeks ago, it turned back on for about 1/2 hour, out in the countryside. A rapid search of the area round there couldn’t find it or him.

Plus the usual mayhem of Saturday night pub fights. I drove past one on the way home from lates a few weeks ago, lots of handbags at dawn and punches flying. I started to pull over to ring it in, then realised that as there were bouncers watching who were free to ring it in, no-one was trying their get away and I couldn’t see any bottles/glasses/pool cue’s/chairs etc being used as weapons, I simply didn’t care. We spend too much time protecting people who don’t get a choice in what happens to them for me to be concerned about those who do.

Mesocricetus Auratus

Many moons ago, I came a cropper putting a door in to get an ambulance crew to an old lady who had collapsed. BASH went the big red key into her door, SMASH went the door into the wall, TINKLE went the semi-circular glass panel in her door made of triangular segments of glass, one of which bounced out of the putty and fell pointy end first into the back of my calf as I continued through the door frame. She was fine and I bled like a stuck pig, ruining her carpet, and couldn’t feel my toes any more. Good job there was an ambulance outside. 

Anyway, some nerve damage and blood loss and several weeks off work while my leg sorted itself out. A few days of being bed bound in single quarters and then it was time to start venturing out. One day, I dropped my car off for the MOT at 9am, took the bus back to quarters, then went back the same way at about 3pm to collect it.

Walking towards the garage, I was soon aware of a group of school kids, about 10-12 of them, walking along ahead of me looking furtive. One was holding a hamster cage which looked suspiciously new, spotlessly clean and with various bits still cable-tied to it. What clinched the opinion of teenage naughtiness was that they kept looking behind them, occasionally one would put the cage down and walk off, then run back and grab it again.

Hobbled as I was, keeping pace with them wasn’t difficult, especially when I could hear the conversation centred around the fact one of them had stolen it from a nearby pet shop. One by one, they started peeling off and going their separate ways, as the group got closer and closer to one of the local police stations. Down to three by now, they crossed the main road to go past the local nick, and from my point of view it couldn’t get much better than this. Warrant card out, ‘Where did you get that from? You’re nicked, come with me.’ etc. etc. His reply to caution was golden – ‘I didn’t nick it, Chris nicked it and gave it to me.’.

His face broke into a smile when I said he was no longer under arrest for theft, then promptly sank again when I changed it to handling stolen goods, which carries a higher maximum sentence anyway. Lodged him in the cells, rang his mum etc etc, and was then informed his friends were in the front office waiting for him. I went out and asked who Chris was, then promptly arrested him too when he stood up. He didn’t speak, he just cried.

As they weren’t far from home, neither were their respective mothers, once my statement was written and the pet shop spoken to over the phone, I handed them over to someone actually on duty, who had them both cautioned for their inaugural offence and out again within the hour. I took the hamster cage, hobbled to the petshop and handed it back, and just made the garage in time to collect my car, the forthcoming overtime for the afternoons entertainment on a rest day having just paid the bill.

The year before that, overtime also paid for the MOT but involved a foot chase with an incompetent shoplifter, an hour in A & E with him with his leg bleeding (oh, the irony) and a waiting room full of drunken lunatics, one of whom I had to have a fight with. This gave the shoplifter a chance to escape whilst cuffed, which he promptly did, and cost me cakes for the shift for the professional faux pas involved and the humiliation of going to stores the next day for new handcuffs.

Mesocricetus Auratus is the Latin name for the Golden Hamster, the most popular breed for such pets in the UK, and they were certainly golden for me that year. It beats fighting drunks for your money.

And they give these people guns?

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We had an armed response vehicle attend our last training day, so we can keep up to date on what they want from us and vice versa during incidents. As usual, it’s an excuse to go down to their car and look at all their toys. When I joined 20 years ago, they had unmarked Volvo Saloons, and you could always tell the firearms cars from unmarked traffic cars from the dents in the boot – there was so much stuff in there, it would only shut if you slammed the boot down on the contents. Battering ram and various other MOE (Method Of Entry) gear, ballistic shields, high power lamps, paramedic gear, bags of ammo, bags of god knows what, Volvo didn’t make cars with this stuff in mind.

These days, we have high performance German estate cars with much more room, especially under the bonnet. They have bulletproof windscreens, kevlar built into the doors, run-flat tyres, satnav, vastly improved handling (the volvos had a turning circle like an oil tanker), better radios, better storage for the toys. The users don’t seem to have improved in quite the same way, however.¬†One of the crew referred to the other as Gollum, and to be fair, there was a slight resemblance. I enquired what his nickname was, if his oppo was a Lord of the Rings character, and he smugly said he didn’t have a nickname as he hadn’t done anything stupid at work yet. Which led onto the following nicknames for other members of the shift.

There was Sparky, so named for a little faux pax on his last taser requalification course. The X-26 taser has a second cartridge clipped into the handle, so if you need to reload it in a hurry, you’re simply reaching for one hand with the other, not fumbling around in a pouch on your belt whilst some crack-crazed lunatic runs at you with a knife, hell-bent on carving your face off then eating it. Simple drill. Release trigger, take off and drop the fired cartridge, grab the new one, stick it on the front, remove hand and fire. All can be done without taking your eyes off the target.

Sparky had a go on the range, and under the pressure of the scenario being run at speed, neglected to take his finger off the trigger when touching the old cartridge to take it off. Tasering himself in the process. Oops. As the taser tightens your muscles, he couldn’t take his finger off the trigger, or his hand off the contacts on the nasty end of the taser, thus tasering himself continuously until someone could force his finger off the trigger. Oh, how we laughed.

Or there’s Snuggles, who sent a soppy message to his wife on Whatsapp. Unfortunately for him, he mistakenly posted it on the team Whatsapp group instead. Which will take a while to live down.

Or there’s Banger. The ARV’s carry stun grenades, basically the worlds loudest firework, which temporarily blind you and throw out several bangs so loud they will blow your eardrums out, by the time you can see and balance again, you’re in cuffs. It’s unpleasant, but if you’re being naughty with a firearm it certainly beats a rifle bullet through the chest. These used to be stored in a bag in the passenger footwell, along with the two carbines they carry – a short barrelled rifle, more than accurate enough to take baddies out from 200M away.

Banger took the carbine out of the bag to repack it while his oppo was driving, and somehow managed to snag the pin of the stun grenade with the carbine as he pulled it out. It went off in the footwell, trashing the rest of the bags contents and setting fire to it in the process. How the driver managed not to crash as it went off, I’ll never know.

Stun grenades are now stored in a separate metal box with a clip closure lid.

Life’s a beach.

Some matters have to be run by those higher up the food chain, as in most jobs. One of these is firearms incidents. One shift, a number of years ago, a colleague of mine was duty inspector when I was controlling, and had to ring the duty superintendent in the middle of the night, over an incident involving something that was almost certainly an air rifle, not a real bang-stick. At the time, the duty supt was on a rota and had to be rung at home, the occasional phone call in the middle of the night being more than justified by the fact their salary is about twice mine.

Anyway, Bob, lets call him, looked at the supts roster, and our division intranet page said the neighbouring divisions supt was the duty that week. Only problem was, their rota page said ours was duty. Dilemma. It was now about 5.30am, and dithering was not an option. Bob takes the sensible decision and decides to ring ours, as being wrong in his 50/50 chance will incur less grief.

He looks up the supt’s mobile number, rings and starts the conversation along the lines of ‘Sir, it’s inspector Bob, I need to tell you about a firearms incident’. He goes on to describe what has been reported, how good the information is, what research has been done and so on, hearing the occasional ‘Ok’, ‘Mmm-mmm’, ‘right’ and so on, he keeps going. Eventually, he twigs that the supt isn’t asking probing questions as they should be. The following exchange took place:

“Sir, forgive me for saying it, but you don’t seem that interested’.

‘If I’m honest, Bob, I’m not. Shall I tell you something else?’

‘Please do’

‘I’m in Crete’.

That’s right, it wasn’t our turn on the rota. Specifically, our supt had taken advantage of it not being his turn on the rota to book a cheeky holiday, and was apparently sat on the sun lounger on a beach in Crete, it being 7.30 am there, ice cold lager in one hand and mobile in the other, alternately supping and commenting on the job. He told Bob that he’d done everything right, but that he really ought to ring the OTHER supt, and have someone address the failing in rosters.

A few years later, the system changed during one of our massive reorganisations, and there was now one duty supt for the force on duty overnight. In the plethora of emails that always accompany a massive change, I must have missed this one when I had to ring one out. Getting his details off the roster, I looked up his home address, got the landline and rang. Several problems with this approach were revealed.

1. 3 years ago, said supt had got divorced and moved out of the marital home.

2. He hadn’t updated the system with his new address.

3. His ex-wife wasn’t best pleased to be woken at midnight by me asking for him.

Although she was very polite, I could tell she wasn’t pleased, and wasn’t in the least bit surprised to have him come in 20 minutes later, complaining in a patronising manner about the ear-bashing he had presumably just received. I put my hands up to missing this one of many many changes, and the supervisor tactfully pointed out that if his details had been updated, then this wouldn’t have happened. Which I found amusing. The way he handled it, I can see why he got divorced.