Butter, aka the world’s crappest attempted armed robbery.

Armed robbery isn’t usually a subject for levity. However I had to laugh at this one. The Muppet in question came into a corner shop near closing time today, with a toy gun in his pocket. Presumably wanting to have a clear escape route, he decided to wedge the door open with something when he came in.

He chose a slab of butter from the shops refrigerated display.

The look of confusion on your face about now is probably similar to the look on mine at the time.


Needless to say, the tin foil encased dairy produce didn’t achieve the desired objective.

Undeterred, he approached the bemused shopkeeper, pulled out the pistol and demanded money.

The shopkeepers response? “That’s not a real gun mate, piss off!”. This not being in the script running through the idiots head, he panics and runs off. Stopping of course to reopen the unwedged door on the way out.

I got accused once of making some of these stories up, or exaggerating the stupidity for literary effect. Not guilty, m’lud. If I was, he’d have slipped on the butter on the way out and knocked himself unconscious or some other such slapstick tomfoolery. No, I just describe them as they happen.

Because I’m not a moron, or so I’m told, it would never occur to me to try wedging a door open with butter, so the fact that someone tried it rather than, say, a door wedge, simply fascinates me. Every workplace has ‘that employee’ whose mere name being mentioned makes your eyes roll back and starts conspiracy theories about how they got and kept their job.

But there’s no entry requirements to being a petty criminal. There’s no tests, no exams, no interview to fail or probationary period to struggle through, no competition for vacancies. You can’t be sacked or invited to resign, so the inherent stupidity never gets filtered out.


The noble art of patience

Dealing with things politely and calmly is supposedly a hallmark of being British, but you wouldn’t know it these days.

Every time one response shift hands over to the next one, normally at 7am, 3pm and 10pm, it’s happy days for the controllers, all of a sudden you have a whole fresh shift to play with. Admittedly some are waiting for cars to come in from the previous shift, but at least no-ones tied up already.

So once we’ve had who is posted to what car, callsigns etc confirmed, out they all go. It’s not unusual to start handing out jobs at 3.30 pm and have totally run out of cars by 4.30pm or 5pm. Thus any new jobs that need an immediate response in the next 5 hours simply have to wait for someone to become free.

Currently (3am), the area I’m helping control tonight, we have 21 cars, 18 double crewed and 3 single crewed, all of whom are at jobs. There are 217 fresh jobs in the queue. So far, we’ve had :

Innumerable fights in the city centre. Hen nights gone wrong, random stupid people assaulting other random stupid people, all through alcohol, domestic assaults after and during nights out. One drunken idiot punches a mirror and cuts his hand to shreds during a domestic argument, then gets angry with the paramedics who come to help him. In the ensuing fracas, we end up putting him on the floor, injuring him more than he had been originally. Oh dear. How Sad. Never mind.

We have access to a good council controlled CCTV system, and watching the drunken mayhem on screen, I occasionally dream of having the cameras fitted with rifles and us having control. It would be a sensible setup, a twin-key system like they have in nuclear missile submarines so two of us would have to agree before we can open fire on people, but I can’t see the Chief Constable agreeing to it somehow. Oh well.

Two drunken gypsies locked in a house by a third drunken gypsy. In fairness, he was that smashed he probably just forgot they were there when he left, but listening to one of them rant and rave when they rang, it wasn’t going to end well for him when they got out. If you have to take one on, gypsies just do not give up fighting. Ever. No matter how badly they are outnumbered or hurt. They just DO NOT STOP.

One drunken car crash, another one probably drug induced. Drugs found in the second car indicate the driver is highly unlikely to come forward and claim it, so the crash will cost him his car, not just his no claims bonus.

Two armed robbers arrested off a motorbike for pointing a handgun at someone during their robbery. They crashed their bike while being chased by an armed response car, then legged it. Two 19 year old kids in tracksuit and trainers with a head start were caught on foot by the ARV crew, men in their late 30’s wearing heavy ballistic flak vests, carrying rifles, pistols, tasers, multiple radios, first aid gear, spare magazines, plus the usual baton, cuffs etc that normal officers carry, and running in uniform with boots on. Shame on you, kids, caught by someone twice your age.

A suspicious death, a muslim male in his early 40’s found dead in his home by family, apparently with drug paraphenalia around him. Ambulance tell us the family have already had his body moved to a funeral directors. Islamic funerals being what they are, they move fast, but they could have disturbed a crime scene. When ambulance get there, they soon clarify the ‘drug paraphenalia’ was medication, syringes etc prescribed by his doctor, nothing illegal, and there’s no suspicion of anything untoward.

Two idiots who ring to complain they answered an advert on CraigsList for someone who could duplicate money for a percentage of the proceeds. They brought £3,000 in cash, being told it would be duplicated to £6,000, and they and the guy they met would split the extra fifty-fifty. Surprisingly, the offenders contrived to keep the £3,000 for them selves, and leave these muppets with a box containing cardboard. They were gently reminded that trying to forge currency is a serious criminal offence, and they should speak to a solicitor before telling us anything more. If you want three grand, work for it like everyone else.

Last random job of the night, officers attend an address to arrest a male wanted for failing to appear at court. It’s a Sunday night, so he’ll be out of court by lunchtime tomorrow. But instead of being patient, he jumps out of a first floor window and lands badly, with major back pain. His girlfriend informs us he already has a fractured back from a previous accident, so instead of a 12 hour stay in custody and some free food, he’s condemned himself to potentially weeks in hospital (also with free food) and never being able to walk again. Genius.

A day in the life of Bravo Mike 1

Callsign Bravo Mike one is a randomly chosen response car. Double crewed, both officers male and both have around 8 years service, which is more than average for response policing. Neither one is Taser equipped.

Job one, a family ring about their brother, who was arrested for breach of the peace last night. He was released this morning when he calmed down and came home this morning. He changed clothes, collected his wallet and phone and left, repeatedly saying sorry to his family. He left, saying he felt the same as yesterday and he didn’t want to be here any more and was going to book into a hotel. His marriage was breaking down, and as he self harmed yesterday, family reported him missing this morning when he left, fearing he was suicidal.

He had no car, as he’s been previously locked up for supplying controlled drugs, we have a description and photograph of him saved, and his photo is quickly emailed out to the officers looking for him. Several cars go, he is quickly located at a local hotel. Spoken to, he is not suicidal, just trying to make a clean break and move on, which right now involves a large cooked breakfast and then a few hours sleep. We leave him with it.

Job two, a tenant at the local YMCA starts kicking off at the staff, for no apparent reason. Suspecting he’s either drunk or on drugs, they lock themselves in the office while he merrily tries to smash his way round the lobby. They have his details, and a PNC check shows he has markers for violence, mental health issues namely depression for at least the last 4 years and alcoholism. We attend and speak to him, as he’s now in a calmer frame of mind.

Like a number of forces, we run a triage car system, a car with one PC, a paramedic and a qualified mental health nurse on board, the combination of medical knowledge, access to mental health information systems and legal powers on board can get people assessed and into mental health care much more speedily than before. Our man has no recent history with the mental health services, however, so there’s nothing they can add. As he’s calmed down, staff don’t want to kick him out, so on the understanding he stays calm, he’s allowed to remain. The same location had a heroin overdose death yesterday, so compared to that, todays visit ends well for everyone.
Job three, we’re contacted by an outside force, who have a victim reporting rape in a hotel in our force area. The nature of hotel rooms being cleaned every day dictates we preserve it as soon as possible, so the car blue lights there, only to find out the room number they were given was not used last night. The outside force is still speaking to the victim, as there were no guests last night who match the description of the suspect staff are aware of, we clear until some tactful questioning of the victim clarifies if we’ve been given the wrong room number or wrong hotel. Meanwhile, the correct room somewhere has probably already been vaccuumed, surfaces wiped and sheets changed, so goodbye to the forensic evidence.

Job four, a suicidal woman rings the police claiming to have taken an overdose, shouting and screaming at the operators. The address she gives doesn’t exist, so we’re struggling to find her, as are the ambulance service. We eventually find her after a third call, along with several boxes of tablets, and hand her over to the ambulance service.

Job five, caller rings as her neighbour has reversed into someone accidentally, and the other driver got out with a baseball bat and assaulted him. Like you do. By the time we get there a few minutes later, it’s over and he’s not badly hurt. The offending driver has left the scene, and the victim has to take his kids to a tuition class, so can’t stop too long. An appointment is arranged to see him tomorrow.



A random sample of 999 calls today.

The AA ring, attending a vehicle broken down on the motorway. As the AA are already sending a vehicle which is far more visible than our, no-one gains anything from us coming out, so we politely decline to attend.

The ambulance service ring as one of their crews has gone past some traffic lights which are out. Nothing to do with us, one phone call to the council to come and fix them and we move on. If there were a dozen calls about it, then maybe the congestion would justify us attending and trying to direct traffic until they are fixed, but based on one call only? Nope.

A crazy man doing cartwheels in the road. Not normal behaviour, especially when you’re naked. In the middle of winter. Although he’s clearly got mental health problems, you can’t expect medical staff to try sectioning him in the middle of the road, so we detain him under Sn 136 of the Mental Health act and take him to a secure hospital. Under a blanket.

A rather angry male rings complaining about the guy down the road from him, who’s dealing cannabis from his works van in the local pub car park, then driving home after a skinful. He’s angry because he’s rung us about it a few times before, so he says, and nothing has happened. he’s right, he has rung us before, so in calming him down on the phone and getting further details, I take the opportunity to tell him just how many open jobs we have at that point, and how many response cars there are to deal with it.

And moving on to the easily avoidable and therefore frustrating calls…

A rather stupid taxi driver who’s complaining as the prostitute he’s been seeing has taken intimate photos of them together and is now blackmailing him with them. Apparently, he thought it was romantic when she took them, although I fail to see what’s romantic about the back seat of an old Ford Mondeo. There’s not a lot we can do, as he won’t identify her, all we can do is suggest he make a discreet visit to an STD clinic, and stop seeing her. This sort of thing often happens from apparently random facebook friend requests, leading quickly to intimate video conversations and then demands for money, people have been known to commit suicide as a result. He doesn’t seem that bothered, so neither are we.

A depressingly large amount of front-line police work involves doing the thinking for people who are just incapable of doing it for themselves, and he is no exception.

In the cold snap, there’s also the usual swathe of idiots leaving their car running unattended outside to defrost while they stay in the house nice and warm. Only when someone gets in your car and drives off, it’s not quite so convenient. Even less convenient when the insurance company rightly refuse to pay out.

If you wait longer than you’d like for the police, you are probably waiting in the queue behind people like these.

Buffoon of the week X

A long time ago, my friend Chris and I went to a report of two guys breaking into a car, called in by the car owner. One quick drive, a little foot-chase and a scuffle later, and we had two idiots in custody. Not particularly exciting unless you were there, I’d have forgotten about it by now were it not for their buffoon of the week status.

In short, these two idiots got completely off their faces on cannabis, to the point where they could barely walk or speak, decided to steal a car and proceeded to try breaking into this one with a screwdriver. Only in their impeded state, they managed to break the screwdriver. They decided, in their genius at 2am, to approach the nearest house and ask if they could borrow a screwdriver or two.

And chose the house where the car owner lived. Funny that, it being parked near to his house and all. They woke him up and asked if they could borrow a screwdriver, he looked at them, looked at his car, figured it out fairly quickly and asked them to wait outside while he had a look for one. Needless to say, he stepped inside and rang 999 instead. That was dumb enough of them.

What really put the icing on the cake in thick, tasty, artery-blocking layers was the fact they were still there nearly 10 minutes later, when we arrived, waiting patiently. Well played. Don’t do drugs, kids. Drugs are bad for you. They’ve certainly earnt you the Buffoon of the week award.

Sex, lies and videotape.

Another cabinet minister bit the dust for telling fibs recently, Secretary of State Damian Green this time. It’s a teensy bit rich of him to complain about the lack of integrity in a retired officer who investigated him then talking to the press, when it was him viewing pornography in the House of Commons when he should have been working, then repeatedly lying about it, that caused the situation in the first place. While an individual disclosing information about an enquiry is wrong, it’s very definitely the lesser of two evils, compared with a cabinet minister being allowed to lie and get away with it.

The officer concerned approached the Cabinet Office enquiry first, before he spoke publicly, but was not asked to give evidence to the enquiry, so speaking to the press appears to have been a last resort. It doesn’t exactly fit the letter of the law, but morally he’s a whistleblower and should be protected as such. A police officer, NHS worker or local government employee who spent hours viewing porn when they should have been working would get sacked, so I don’t see why Green should be any different. You’d have thought he’d have learnt from Andrew Mitchells mistakes. Oh well. In the words of Sergeant Major Williams from It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, “Oh Dear. How sad. Never mind.” If you want to whine about integrity, practice what you preach.


Another night on control, and it seems to be a night of changing priorities. A frequent complaint is ‘We called you about <insert serious offence here>, they got away before you got there, then we had to wait for ages’.

No-one enjoys making people wait to be seen, but current risk is usually more of an urgent concern than the offence itself. Pissed off though you may be at having to wait for hours, if the risk is over and the delay doesn't cause you further risk, then it's sometimes just tough luck. So...a sample of things that slipped down the running order, 6 jobs that landed within a couple of minutes of each other, with no cars then available. 

A mobile phone robbery. Graded as immediate as it should be, but the offenders are long gone. We catch personal robbery offenders either because we get a description, swamp the area with officers and catch them running off, or they're morons and they rob people they know. We have neither advantage here, so the victim is told to go home where they'll be safe, and we'll see them as soon as we can. He's probably still fuming about it, but he was safe and no worse off.

A domestic violence offender is seen near his ex's house. He's not right outside, not trying to force the door open or vandalise her car, and she can't see him any more. Although he needs locking up for the original assault, he's not a current immediate risk, so it's deferred for a visit in the morning, with the proviso that she's to ring 999 again should he return.

Theft from a car. In a similar fashion to robberies, we only catch people for this if we catch them running away, and with no staff free and no personal risk involved, it waits. If they don't leave any blood on the broken car window, there's no point sending for scenes of crime, fingerprints are recovered in only around 2% of car breaks. Recorded as a crime over the phone, sending a bobby in person to say 'Yep, there's definitely a broken window and no stereo' and then record it takes longer and is no more effective. So no visit.

Suicidal male rang the 999's. As he'd taken an overdose, rather than using sharp objects, and we have no previous history of violence from the address, we left that with the ambulance service, as it's purely a medical issue.

Previously violent shoplifter, who returns to the same shop. Although he needs locking up still, and is committing another offence on this occasion, he's not being violent this time. It waits.

Suicidal woman, self harming with razor blades. That is down to us, so it's next in the queue. Hopefully she won't inflict fatal injuries before we get there, as the ambulance service won't go without us.