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.



‘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.

Burning questions

Morning log count – 2550

One fringe benefit, if I can call it that, of terrorism is an increase in armed response vehicles, such that they are usually much more readily available for non-terrorism incidents. Although as detailed before, they have a wide variety of lethal toys on board, an ideal scenario is one where they finish the day with the same number of bullets as they started. 

So meet Bob. Bob split up with his wife and moved out, and retained access to their child, Bob junior. One day, bringing Bob junior back to his mum, Bob lost the plot completely about his forthcoming divorce, and the soon-to-be ex-wife rang hysterically as he had locked himself and Bob junior in the car on her drive, after pouring petrol over the car, and was now sat in the front with a lighter, Bob junior strapped in his car seat in the front, and the petrol can on the back seat. 

An armed response car is sent along with everyone else, including the Fire Brigade, and having heard the job over the radio, request authority from the inspector to take a critical shot when they get there, i.e. shoot Bob through the head with a rifle before he starts trying to light the lighter. The boss considers it, but declines at this stage based on the grounds that : 

*The petrol sloshed around was on the outside of the car, not the inside, and will be difficult to ignite from inside the car.

*Bob has had several minutes to try and light up should that really be his intention, and has not done so. 

*Petrol burning on the outside of a car will not be immediately dangerous to the occupants. 

*Fire Brigade are on scene and in a position to drench the car in foam in a couple of seconds, should Bob be so silly. 

An officer, armed or otherwise, can always use lethal force despite lack of such authority, if such a situation changes and there isn’t time to discuss the changes with anyone, largely common sense, but also national police policy, thank God, but there turns out to be no need. Although a negotiator is called, Bob is talked out of the car fairly shortly and arrested. Good luck trying to get access to your child through the courts once you get out of prison. 

Anyway,  as always, there is a debrief after an incident where we’ve come close to shooting someone. Questions raised : 

If the petrol had been sloshed around INSIDE the car, would they have been given the authority? Yes. A bullet passing through glass is very unlikely to cause a spark. It will, however, then pass through  Bobs skull, and cause him to stop doing what he’s doing. 

Would a bullet have been deflected by the glass enough to endanger Bob junior? Almost impossible. A bullet going at 2,500 feet a second will not be deflected much in the 1 or 2 foot gap between the window and Bobs head. 

Once the bullet had passed through Bob, would it have caused harm anywhere else? Very unlikely, we use hollow-point bullets which fragment on impact for that exact reason. He was parked near to a wall which would have stopped any fragments going further. 

Unpleasant questions to ask, but necessary. Some of the questions asked have to be answered at the scene in a few seconds, some after the event, we have all day, but we would prefer to learn from success as well as failure.

Finders Keepers, Finders weepers, AKA Buffoon of the week VII

This buffoon of the week winner was dealt with by a friend of mine, not me, so is a third party winner, but worthy of note nontheless.

Bob was stupid and a small time burglar, who was happier burgling abandoned houses as there was less chance of being disturbed or bothered with. He would steal copper piping and other metalwork from boilers in abandoned or neglected houses and sell it to scrap yards, for pennies. He must have been paying himself well under the national minimum wage given how much time the whole process would take, no holiday pay or sick pay either, it would have been better to get a job stacking shelves in Tescos, but that was his problem, not mine.

One day, Bob hit the jackpot. He was burgling an abandoned house, when hidden in the kitchen, he found £70,000 in cash! Happy days. Drug money, concealed in a house by someone unwilling to keep it at home, and not concealed very well. Bob has just collected more money in a five minute expedition than he will possibly ever earn in a lifetime of burgling empty houses. The sensible thing to do, bearing in mind it must have crossed his feeble brain what sort of person has £70,000 in cash and a need to hide it, would have been to keep very very quiet indeed about it. Bob cannot have been unaware of drug gang activity in the area, even if he wasn’t involved in it except as a customer.

So silence would have been golden. What was NOT golden was going on Facebook and bragging about having found said sum of money. Although keeping it instead of handing it in is illegal, the police were the least of Bob’s problems from here on in. Bob received a death threat fairly quickly, giving him a day to make arrangements to hand the money back, or else. Unfortunately for Bob, he spoke to the police and spilled the beans, who came, promptly confiscated the money, then served an Osman warning on him and his family.

For the uninitiated, an Osman warning arose out of the case of Osman v United Kingdom [1998] , in a nutshell the police had information that the victims life was under threat, from an obsessive teacher at his sons school. They didn’t take effective measures to protect the families lifes, the teacher ended up killing two people and wounding two more, and out of this arose the Osman warning – If the police have information suggesting your life is at risk, but not enough evidence to arrest someone yet, they have a legal duty to come and tell you that information suggests there is a risk, and to take appropriate precautions. This normally means moving house in a hurry, and if you choose to ignore the advice and something bad happens to you, then they aren’t liable.

Frequently they are served on gang members because of threats from rival gangs, in which case it would be tempting to stand back and let natural selection sort out the problem and then arrest the survivors, but the law is there to protect everyone, even those who break it. But I digress.

Bob now knew who he had taken the money from, and suddenly unable to give it back, needed no encouragement for him and his family to move house. My friend, who relayed the tale to me, took a statement about the threats while the family were packing their life into a removals van and moving to Scotland. To be specific, he persuaded them to leave the washing machine in the hallway until last, and he used it as a desk, quizzing them for details as they passed him at speed whilst loading the removals van and writing them up in the periods they were out of speaking range. He finished the statement just as they came for the washing machine, practically threw it onto the van in their haste, and were the far side of Hadrians Wall several hours later, never to return.

For his sheer ability to snatch disaster from the jaws of good fortune, Bob certainly deserves his buffoon of the week award.

Crystal balls…

No surprises, the Monday morning inquest / hindsight brigade are out in force in the papers today. Why was this allowed to happen? One of the London Bridge attackers was known to the police and the security services!

Along with about 20,000 other people.

His ‘footprint’ on the system was minimal. He associated with Anjem Choudary, along with thousands of other people over the last fifteen years or so. He ended up featured in a documentary recently about extremism, although I haven’t watched it, I’m pretty sure he didn’t break the law on screen – the dire ‘Benefits Street’ program resulted in prosecutions when this happened, and I’m pretty sure if they’ll do it for benefit fraud they’ll do it for terrorism.

There have been plenty of people who have done more to be of interest to the security services than him – as evidenced here, for example, nearly 300 arrests in 2015-2016, of which 100 resulted in prosecution. So he simply wasn’t towards the head of the queue. Bar a crystal ball, I invite any of the armchair critics to say how they would have done better, without infinite resources.

It appears to have escaped the notice of those who write for the Sun and the Daily Mail that associating with someone of interest or ranting and raving on TV isn’t actually evidence of criminality in itself. The moment we decide to lower the standard of proof, we simply make the problem worse – detention without trial based on suspicion only was tried in Northern Ireland in the 70’s. It was called Internment, and it did more for IRA recruitment than anything they could ever do.

I can only conclude that they’re writing this ‘Why?’ drivel because it sells papers, rather than because they’re genuinely stupid enough to not know the answer. The police and security services have been saying for years that it’s impossible to watch everyone, and it’s not a difficult concept to get your head round.

Big boys games, big boys rules…

It’s difficult to decide who should have less sympathy here, but on balance, I’m going to go with the family. Complaining about the police ‘executing’ your son when he had a silenced pistol and ammunition in his possession is just too ironic for words.

Not that I’m excusing it, but most armed criminals don’t actually want to pull the trigger. Not on moral grounds, they just want to rob whoever it is successfully with the minimum of fuss. The mere presence of a firearm is normally all that’s needed. The days of baddies not loading their guns before a robbery so there’d be no ‘accidents’ that put them on the wrong end of a rope are gone, as, thankfully, is the rope, but the principle is the same.

But having a silencer on a gun is a pain. They’re expensive, more difficult to get hold of, they make the weapon more bulky, difficult to operate and less powerful, all those payoffs are only worth it if you actually intend to shoot someone.  The resistance once assassinated a Nazi collaborator in hospital in Copenhagen in 1944, a single assassin dressed as a doctor walked into a ward full of patients with a silenced pistol called a Welrod concealed, walked up to their bed as if doing a checkup and shot them in the head without anyone noticing. But they’re a big bulky thing, you wouldn’t take it out if you just wanted to scare someone, and the same applies today.

So on balance, tough. As the saying goes, play stupid games, win stupid prizes. The surviving occupants of the car aren’t saying much to the IPCC, which is slowing things down, probably because they might end up facing charges of supplying class A drugs, possessing firearms or conspiracy to murder even, but that’s hardly the IPCC’s fault.

Sympathy meter reading? Zero.

On a lighter note, forks found at work today? Also zero. Today’s lunch was reheated Risotto. Eaten with a teaspoon.

It’s a good start to the day when…

You’re three hours late to work, because of someone threatening to jump off a motorway bridge and kill themselves. I’ll be bringing the cakes in tomorrow for lateness, courtesy of the Independent Cake Punishment Commission, the ICPC. Any similarity to any genuine independent organisations who investigate the police is a pure coincidence. The ICPC don’t take 4 years to investigate something, the decisions are quick, just and final.

Or you get in the door at work to find your sergeant struggling on the floor with a geriatric having a paranoid mental breakdown through too much cannabis use. As one half of the fracas is trained, half the age of the other and twice the weight, it seems rude to get involved, so you just stand and watch in amazement.

On the plus side, it gets better. I’ve made myself semi-redundant today. Normally, my job consists of listening to peoples request for more officers, looking sympathetic, then saying ‘no’, as there’s no-one available I can suggest moving. Today I passed a milestone, when someone actually assessed their situation for themselves, came up and pretty much asked and answered their own question all in one go. With the word ‘No’. I didn’t even have to speak. So, back to the crossword.

I don’t take joy in not being able to help, I just refuse to feel bad about it either. It’s not my fault there’s so few toys in the box. And this is when we’re 12% over minimum staffing today on earlies. Lates, when we’re predicted to be 10% under, will be a nightmare. I’ll be in the garden with an iced lolly or two by then, listening to my son tell me about the last day of his SATS.

Total jobs ongoing just now, around 1300. It’ll hit 1450 or so by 9pm tonight. With less than 200 officers to deal with it all. Not my problem.

What is my problem right now is an eternal one, namely “Why can I never find a bloody fork in a police station when I want one?” There’s thousands of spoons in the various kitchens round the building, enough knives to carve Michaelangelos David out of the nearest tree, but can I find a fork? No. I’m reduced to eating a reheated Chicken Fajita with two spoons. Paranoid thoughts start creeping in about which one of my colleagues has opened a highly profitable second-hand fork shop, until the fajita is gone.

 P.S. finishing this off the day after it happened, I found out why the woman wanted to jump. She was a single mum who’d met a new fella, who moved in and months later murdered her child. Grief and guilt being what they are, I’d probably want to jump too. My son got an extra big hug before bed tonight.