La la, la la la la, la la la la la!

smurfTaking the train to work for a little bit as my car’s off the road, I was not best pleased to get half-way in one day and realise I’d neglected to pack a work-shirt in my bag. Especially as I was wearing a Smurfs t-shirt for the journey to work, that won’t be appreciated in the afternoon strategy meeting. Thankfully I manage to find a spare fleece hung up somewhere and conceal said Smurf.

Last week, I had to help the conductor throw an angry woman off the train for shouting abuse at random passengers because the compartment didn’t have fitted TV screens. Like you do. We get free rail travel in this force area as long as the journey is to, from or during work, on the understanding that you get involved in something like this if you have to, this was the first time for me in 20 years, so I haven’t done bad.

I mention the Smurf episode as talking to the duty Chief Inspector yesterday about why so many of his staff were on restricted duties, normally due to injury/pregnancy etc, one of them is restricted purely because he’s transferred from another force, and he hasn’t been supplied with uniform yet. It’s strange how I can find spare uniform when required, but the force who’s supposed to supply it to me can’t. I’ve got new trousers on order, and I’ve been waiting 2 months so far for them to arrive.

Incidentally, ‘Smurfing’ is a phrase used in financial crime. If you’re a drug dealer, and you have lots and lots of paper money to bank, you can’t just turn up at the bank and drop 5 carrier bags of £20 notes on the counter and not expect to get remarked upon. There are limits above which any financial transaction has to be reported to the authorities in one form or another, to try and identify suspicious transactions.

Let’s say the limit is £10,000. You employ lots of minions to take £9,900 each and go transfer it by Western Union, bank and then eBay, bank it etc, to go just below the trigger level for reporting. As this can involve lots of little people running around like lunatics to get a job done as efficiently as possible, it became known as Smurfing. Perhaps we should employ some of them to run the stores?

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Variety is the spice of life…

A quick chat with a friend on one of the control terminals, while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil, yields a disgusting sight. On a council CCTV monitor on the wall, on a busy Saturday night, a close in view of a couple sitting on the pavement outside a pub, clearly off their faces, and trying to prepare some kind of powder for consumption. It’s comical in a sad sort of way, watching them barely able to sit without falling over and trying to do something requiring fine motor skills with an expensive substance. I don’t know what it is, obviously, it could be cocaine, could be spice, but I know it’s not sherbet. 
One takes his phone out and they use the screen as a flat surface to line up their purchase. One quick snort each and you’d think it would be all gone, but no! Even drug takers are reacting to austerity and adapting. The female takes the phone and licks the screen to get the last of it. Eeeew. As we’re simply overrun with pub violence at kicking out time, we can’t send anyone before they’ve finished taking it, at which point they’re more likely to be an issue for the ambulance service than us. 

This squalid little scenario is probably repeated a thousand times across town on a Friday or Saturday night, but rarely quite so publicly. Sad that four billion years of evolution leads to this occasionally. I spoke to a friend at work recently, who’s wife qualified as an accountant, but moved to teaching as after 6 years of working with spreadsheets, she decided she’d prefer to deal with human beings. Unfortunately, after 6 years of dealing with human beings such as these, I long ago realised the opposite.

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.

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.

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. 

A dead man did it, Sarge.

One relatively calm night, we were sent to a punch up in a block of flats at around 5am. The usual scenario, everyone was drunk, everyone wanted to kill each other and no-one would tell us who started it. In a desperate attempt to not have to arrest absolutely everyone and sit with them all at hospital for hours, wiping out an entire shift, we managed to separate them and eventually got some sense out of one of them.

In short, there was a ‘party’ going on in one of the flats. No streamers, party poppers, cocktail sausages and pineapple chunks on sticks, no sherry and nibbles on trays, social discourse on current events, nothing like that. Drinks chosen for their alcohol percentage/cost ratio, bad music played far too loud and lots of inadequate people, surely a recipe for disaster. During the fun, it would appear that one of the contestants had been caught robbing things from another flat in the building, and the resident, a particularly gobby young woman, had repeatedly smashed an iron bar over the suspects head. Like you do.

No-one would put this in writing, so the burglary offender/assault victim got sent to hospital and we got and verified details of the others so they could be locked up later if required.

There was still the outstanding burglary of the flat to be looked at, however. The victim/offender had some car keys in his pocket which we’d deprived him of, and acting on the presumption that he would be lazy and park as close as possible, a quick spin round the block pressing his key fob found his car nearby. Which he appeared to be living in. As well as storing stolen property in. Car recovered, property booked in, on to the next job.

We played scissors/paper/stone for the paperwork and followup enquiries, and I lost. The packs of nappies and wetwipes I was quite happy belonged to the girl who’d smashed him over the head, but there were a few VHS video recorders in there as well (remember them?). One of them had initials stencilled on it, which suggests school or business rather than a private individual victim. The muppet who’d stolen it all was eventually bailed from hospital, so we didn’t have to waste a week sitting with him, and bailed back to me.

He complicated things somewhat by dying of a lighter-fluid overdose a few days after getting out of hospital. Which left me in a predicament. I managed to find the school the video had been stolen from, who were pleased to get it back so I could get rid of that without having to do a court file fairly quickly. But the woman who’d hit him over the head with the iron bar heard he’d died, presumed she’d caused it and went on the run for 6 months, as she thought she was wanted for murder.

I spent ages going round to her flat and relatives addresses and making all sorts of enquiries to try and find her, just so I could get rid of these bloody nappies and wetwipes, they became the bane of my life, but the more I looked for her, the more effort she put into avoiding me. Quite why I’d be coming round on my own to lock her up for such a serious offence clearly didn’t occur to her. Eventually I left them with her mum and washed my hands of it, as I was collecting weekly nagging letters from the property store, and was sick of them.

The only plus was that I managed to write the school burglary off to the dead man. There’s a number of Home Office approved ways to write crime reports off without charging someone if you can justify it, i.e. if the suspect is out of the country and likely never to return, if it’s not in the public interest, if the suspect is already doing serious time for more important matters etc. The holy grail of Home Office write offs is the offender being dead. And I did it. If you think I lack empathy (I don’t, it’s just rationed), you should have heard what the head-teacher said when I explained why I didn’t need a statement.