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.

‘Tis the season to be jolly

Unless you’re caught in the recent cold snap, in which case it seems to be the season to beat the crap out of your wife/girlfriend. Domestic assaults tonight beyond measure, possibly partially snow-induced cabin fever, and aggravated by the fact that the snow makes it slower to get to jobs. Anything non-essential waits for morning due to the weather and the risks in driving.

One job is a particularly nasty stabbing, a known criminal stabbed in the chest and narrowly missing the heart. As is often the way, the victim doesn’t want to talk to us, and will likely settle matters privately once he’s recovered. While it’s tempting to just leave them to it and let natural selection do the work, we have to make efforts to convince them to speak to us, but to no avail this time.

There’s a run of home invasions, groups of armed offenders storm houses, assault and subdue the occupants and then rob them of any valuables. The groups seem to be particularly targeting asian families and stealing the large amounts of gold jewellry that are traditionally held at home, not racism, just good business sense if you’re an amoral robber, but I doubt the victims families will see it that way. God help them if they ever get cornered by family members – I’ve been to jobs before where a robbery has gone wrong and the offender has been quite glad to get arrested, as family or passers by had detained them and were about to carve bits off them. Occupational hazard. My heart bleeds, but not as much as them.

Another particularly nasty domestic assault, where a young woman assaults her father for no apparent reason, and gives him serious injuries before running off. Her mobile phone is pinged to a certain area, so her description is passed out over that area and any addresses she’s connected with inside the area of the phone ping will get searched at 5am.

There’s also a series of coordinated raids to arrest a murder suspect, 4 addresses are getting hit at the same time, so wherever possible, other work will get put on hold round that time to free up the necessary staff. The offending party has a weakness for machetes and is unlikely to come quietly, so we aim to be in a position to safely overpower him whichever one he’s at and however aggressive he will be. Few things in this job give more satisfaction than hearing a police dog have a good nibble on a dangerous suspect, but there just aren’t enough dogs to have one at each address. So it’s riot shields and tasers at the ready.

Last task of the night, deciding who’s bringing what to the buffet tomorrow night. I’ve drawn mince pies.

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.

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.


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.