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.

Hometime!

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999’s

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.

Market forces

There’s a pub just off my old area with the wierdest licensing hours I’ve ever heard of, it opens from 4am until lunchtime. Yes, you read that right. Not lunchtime until 4am. It serves the major market just off the city centre, and caters for those who get there at stupid o’clock in the morning to set up their stalls. They could probably open for longer, but the regular clientele are notorious for not causing problems, so why risk it with more conventional drinkers?

One pleasant Monday morning, Bob and I were sent to a guy who’d rung up to confess to a theft. More specifically to the theft of a dozen wooden flowers from said market, spray painted gold, which he’d stolen on the way home from a night out. He told us the story when we got there.

He’d been in town the night before, was ambling home in a pleasant alcohol induced haze when he wandered past said boozer just as it was opening.

He popped in for one for the road, so to speak, entranced by a pub that opens just as the nightclubs are kicking out, and the bar staff explain why the hours are so bizarre. It gets to about 7am and he realises that one drink has turned into several and the girlfriend will be cross. Realising he’s in trouble and in the market, both problem and solution are magically in the same place.

He staggers off round the market, looking with increasing desperation for something to disarm the girlfriend related wrath. Eventually, running out of ideas, he sees the gold painted flowers, and salvation is at hand. Unfortunately, his last pennies had already been spent on lager, and in his confusion, he grabs an armful and runs.

He gets home, but is struck by guilt at depriving a hard-working person of their income. In his confused state, he asked the girlfriend what to do, who said ring the police and get it sorted.

Bob and I tootled over, and spoke to the still inebriated chap. He ‘fessed up, but couldn’t exactly describe where the stall was. Admittedly not our brightest move with the benefit of hindsight (it was a technical breach of PACE) but to clarify who the victim was, when he offered to try and find the specific stall, we accepted. We put him in the back of the car and drove off to the market.

Although he was genuinely trying his best, we just couldn’t find anywhere selling gold flowers, or indeed flowers of any colour other than what nature intended. Due to his inability to stand for long periods and the fact he was in custody, we’d have been in a lot of trouble if he’d fallen over and hurt himself, so we gave up fairly soon and took him in.

When the doctor said he was sober enough to be interviewed, it was done in record time, and then the duty inspector, Mr Onions (another old school legend like Bob, albeit with a Welsh accent so thick he was difficult to follow sometimes) authorised a caution. Another technical breach of PACE, I found out later, as without a victim we probably didn’t have enough evidence to charge him, and cautioning someone can only be done if you do, but that one was down to the boss, not me.

I asked Mr O. why he did this, as he was notorious for always choosing to charge if someone had previous convictions, and our man had plenty. His reply taught me a lot – “It’s the right thing to do” – legally we should have bailed the guy, then left him on tenderhooks for a month while we went back to the market and made further efforts to locate the stall in question. Only by this point the market was shut, so if we’d gone back the next available day, there’d be no guarantee the stall holder would be there again, and from the lack of pursuit at the time, they almost certainly hadn’t seen the theft anyway, so wouldn’t know they were a victim. Not an efficient use of public money to spend all that time for £5 worth of tat.

Our drunk friend had lots of previous already, so one caution on top of that wouldn’t have ruined his life or anything. He’d been silly but done the right thing ultimately, and the boss wasn’t going to screw him over for it. We drove him home to his girlfriend, and left him with it. We only had the flowers left to get rid of then, the boss signed the form to authorise disposing of them and suggested we give them to the nearest charity shop. Job done.

Buffoon of the week VI

There hasn’t been a buffoon of the week for a while, I’ve not seen anyone who I think really qualifies.

Until now.

Young Saddam Miah, drain on society that he so clearly is with 25 convictions on his CV, was lucky to get a suspended sentence for supplying class A drugs. In places like Thailand or Iran, he’d be hanging from a crane before long, and in the USA, he’d be in for so long, he’d forget what the sun looked like.

But here, he gets away with a suspended sentence. While it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and rant about the judiciary going soft, I obviously haven’t read the judges summing up or any pre-sentence reports, so I’ll refrain. But it’s fair to say he was happy with the outcome.

So happy, in fact, that he went out, got blind drunk in a hotel to celebrate, then threw a vase round reception to get the staffs attention. When they objected to his behaviour, he went outside and smashed up someones car, for reasons best known to himself.

That being naughty, he went back to court, and was promptly sent to prison for celebrating NOT going to prison.

The irony made me smile, but I doubt it had the same effect on him.

It’s not how many police officers you’ve got…

…it’s how you use them that matters. Yeah, right. While the Queens Speech meanders its way through Parliament, we meander through another day.

The total of outstanding 999/101 calls to be dealt with is around 2100 (having been down to 1200 only a month ago), thanks largely to cheap alcohol, plus hot weather and stupidity, which are free. For this week, neighbourhood policing basically stops and it’s all hands to the pumps to bring the workload down. Not out of concern for the response staff, (someone will always find us something to do whether it’s 999 calls or getting cats out of trees – true story), but the longer apparently inane calls go unseen, the longer the occasional one that’s actually really nasty goes unseen too. As mentioned previously, I’ve been to rapes and murders that came in as ‘we’ve had a bit of a row’ and minor verbal arguments over a garden fence called in as ‘The neighbour is killing my husband’, and I’m pretty sure every cop around the world has had similar. Until you’re actually there, you just don’t know for sure. 

As the Prime Minister said, “It’s not the number of MP’s you’ve got that matters, it’s how you use them that counts”. Oops, I meant to say officers, not MP’s. Silly me. Apparently if you’re in government and some of your MP’s are taken away by the electorate, you get to negotiate the issue to get new ones, even if they are someone else’s. if it happens to public services, not so much.

Looking at the Queens Speech, the draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill illustrates the point perfectly. It will be welcome, but like any legislation, it’s futile unless the staff are there to enforce it. After having the obvious pointed out to them, again, by Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley of the Met police recently, that moving staff to counter-terrorist functions moves them away from other areas of work, such as domestic abuse, child abuse and so on, the Home Office response can be summarised as 1) Overall police funding will be protected in real terms and 2) Counter-terrorism funding will increase by 30% over the next five years. 

So where’s this 30% increase coming from? If your salary doesn’t rise but your mortgage does, a small child can work out that you’ll have to cut back somewhere else. So whatever good work is required by the Domestic Violence bill will simply enter a queue, that will just get longer and longer. As you’re far far more likely to die at the hands of a violent ex-partner or a drunk driver than a terrorist, I’d question the logic of such a disparity in funding. 

Governments and propsective governments love trumpeting new legislation, but we don’t need new laws, we need the resources to enforce the existing ones. It’s quite simple, but from a government where the Home Secretary doesn’t even know the starting salary of police officers, a figure set by the very Winsor report that they commissioned, I’m not holding out much hope. 

Our queue of jobs has gone up 60% in the last 2 months, even with drafting in almost all beat officers for the forseeable future, the staff level has not. Notable jobs in the last few days are a teenage boy drowning whilst swimming in a local lake, a tragic sign of the weather. One idiot with a firearm chases another idiot (presumably without a firearm) through a school grounds, taking potshots at him, thankfully hitting no-one but terrifying children in the process. A call about a possible helicopter crash thankfully turns out to be a false alarm. We plan for a far-right protest march at the weekend, taking a number of officers away from attending 999 calls for the day. Football season is thankfully over for a couple of months, otherwise we’d be planning for regular weekend matches on top of marches. 

To add to the fun today, one of the radio servers fails due to the heat. Our radio and telephone traffic is handled over three redundant servers, each sited in a different building, and one of those starts dropping out radio traffic and telephone calls. So we’re proof against hacking, car bomb attacks and the like, but not the sun. Hmm. There was a news article on the BBC a couple of days ago, about certain airline flights in the USA that were cancelled due to the heat. 

Without going into the tedium of fluid dynamics too much, air changes its behaviour as it gets hotter, both as it flows over the wings and goes through the engine, and above certain temperatures, some models of plane cannot safely be flown. Which begs the question of why our computer servers aren’t tested through a proper temperature range, and fitted with adequate cooling systems. Imagine having something like July 7th or any of the more recent attacks happen, and 1/3 of your radio coverage being taken away at the same time, it doesn’t bear thinking about. 

On the plus side, due to a sudden resupply of plastic forks (thanks mum!), I am no longer reduced to eating my dinner with teaspoons. So it’s not all bad.

Cutting comments…

The blog is a year old, as this week, yay me! Moving on…

Having had a fun time in Wales at a friends stag weekend, as you might expect, most of the participants were police connected one way or another. Much was made of the fact that the two advanced grade drivers in the group did very badly in the go-Cart racing. More to do with body-weight and power-to-weight ratios than ability, I think.

Slightly more serious was chatting with one of them at breakfast, a traffic officer in a county force. Five years ago, his department had 60 officers. Now they have 17.

But they’re not expected to cover the same area any more. Oh no. They have to cover the neighbouring police force as well, due to a sharing arrangement, that sees their responsibilities double, and their staff cut by nearly 75%. They still have the same number of fatal or serious road accidents to investigate, as well as normal duties.

But a cut in budgets doesn’t mean a cut in front-line numbers. David Cameron said so. 

Guess he didn’t know what he was talking about. If we cut the cabinet down to about 8 cabinet ministers and told them to run France as well, I wonder how they’d do?

Playing to your audience

Many moons ago, when I lived in Police Quarters (think halls of residence for coppers), as the new boy on shift, I was responsible for keeping the tea kitty stocked. Quelle surprise. One sunny day, I drove down to the local ASDA on my day off to stock up on coffee, teabags and UHT milk. And custard creams.

As I got out of the car, I saw a car with several security guards struggling with one of the occupants. Approaching one of them who could actually talk, I flashed my warrant card and enquired. It was a shoplifter who’d gone out with lots of spirits and was having a fairly determined attempt at not being detained. They’d already called the police, as he wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry, I rang up and got control to slow the car down, so they weren’t risking a bump on the way, then joined in the fun.

With a bit more of a struggle once they, I and the arriving bobbies got him out of the car (this was pre-leg strap days), we got him cuffed and into the panda car. It would have been obvious to anyone that his chance to get away had passed, but he kept fighting like a good’un. I’ve never understood why people do it personally, once there’s no benefit to be had, but some demented kind of pride makes some people keep going for hours, long after common sense or self-interest has left the building.

The best bit was this was just about the time that Disney released The Lion King, and as part of the publicity they commissioned a number of Disney themed play-buses to public spots, which included the local ASDA. The compere, for want of a better description, was in costume and giving a running commentary via microphone while all the fisticuffs was going on, an entirely supportive one I hasten to add, and we had somewhat of an audience. When he was finally contained in the police car, still shouting and swearing and bouncing round on the back seat like an angry wasp, the compere insisted we all bow for the crowd, who gave us a round of applause into the bargain. It has to go down as one of the more surreal arrests I’ve been involved in.

I was feeling most amused at this point, agreed with the bobbies to meet them at the custody block, grabbed the tea fund supplies quickly, then motored over. This was pre 9/11 days and the IRA had given up by this point, so station security wasn’t as rigorous as it is now. Once you were inside in civvies, no-one challenged you and crucially no lanyard with your ID was required. I got the pin code to the cell block as it wasn’t my station, got within sight of the desk and waited for my man to get to the head of the queue.

Just as the previous prisoner was taken to his cell, the custody officer, angry little dwarf that he was, looked at me and said, quite sincerely, ‘Who brought you in then?’.

Time to buy better clothes, apparently.

Still, that didn’t take the shine off a day where I’d been cheered on to do my job by a crowd whipped up into a frenzy by Simba the Lion.