He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy.

Total jobs, 1900. Response staff to deal with it, 165.

Highlights.

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.

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And they give these people guns?

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We had an armed response vehicle attend our last training day, so we can keep up to date on what they want from us and vice versa during incidents. As usual, it’s an excuse to go down to their car and look at all their toys. When I joined 20 years ago, they had unmarked Volvo Saloons, and you could always tell the firearms cars from unmarked traffic cars from the dents in the boot – there was so much stuff in there, it would only shut if you slammed the boot down on the contents. Battering ram and various other MOE (Method Of Entry) gear, ballistic shields, high power lamps, paramedic gear, bags of ammo, bags of god knows what, Volvo didn’t make cars with this stuff in mind.

These days, we have high performance German estate cars with much more room, especially under the bonnet. They have bulletproof windscreens, kevlar built into the doors, run-flat tyres, satnav, vastly improved handling (the volvos had a turning circle like an oil tanker), better radios, better storage for the toys. The users don’t seem to have improved in quite the same way, however. One of the crew referred to the other as Gollum, and to be fair, there was a slight resemblance. I enquired what his nickname was, if his oppo was a Lord of the Rings character, and he smugly said he didn’t have a nickname as he hadn’t done anything stupid at work yet. Which led onto the following nicknames for other members of the shift.

There was Sparky, so named for a little faux pax on his last taser requalification course. The X-26 taser has a second cartridge clipped into the handle, so if you need to reload it in a hurry, you’re simply reaching for one hand with the other, not fumbling around in a pouch on your belt whilst some crack-crazed lunatic runs at you with a knife, hell-bent on carving your face off then eating it. Simple drill. Release trigger, take off and drop the fired cartridge, grab the new one, stick it on the front, remove hand and fire. All can be done without taking your eyes off the target.

Sparky had a go on the range, and under the pressure of the scenario being run at speed, neglected to take his finger off the trigger when touching the old cartridge to take it off. Tasering himself in the process. Oops. As the taser tightens your muscles, he couldn’t take his finger off the trigger, or his hand off the contacts on the nasty end of the taser, thus tasering himself continuously until someone could force his finger off the trigger. Oh, how we laughed.

Or there’s Snuggles, who sent a soppy message to his wife on Whatsapp. Unfortunately for him, he mistakenly posted it on the team Whatsapp group instead. Which will take a while to live down.

Or there’s Banger. The ARV’s carry stun grenades, basically the worlds loudest firework, which temporarily blind you and throw out several bangs so loud they will blow your eardrums out, by the time you can see and balance again, you’re in cuffs. It’s unpleasant, but if you’re being naughty with a firearm it certainly beats a rifle bullet through the chest. These used to be stored in a bag in the passenger footwell, along with the two carbines they carry – a short barrelled rifle, more than accurate enough to take baddies out from 200M away.

Banger took the carbine out of the bag to repack it while his oppo was driving, and somehow managed to snag the pin of the stun grenade with the carbine as he pulled it out. It went off in the footwell, trashing the rest of the bags contents and setting fire to it in the process. How the driver managed not to crash as it went off, I’ll never know.

Stun grenades are now stored in a separate metal box with a clip closure lid.

Life’s a beach.

Some matters have to be run by those higher up the food chain, as in most jobs. One of these is firearms incidents. One shift, a number of years ago, a colleague of mine was duty inspector when I was controlling, and had to ring the duty superintendent in the middle of the night, over an incident involving something that was almost certainly an air rifle, not a real bang-stick. At the time, the duty supt was on a rota and had to be rung at home, the occasional phone call in the middle of the night being more than justified by the fact their salary is about twice mine.

Anyway, Bob, lets call him, looked at the supts roster, and our division intranet page said the neighbouring divisions supt was the duty that week. Only problem was, their rota page said ours was duty. Dilemma. It was now about 5.30am, and dithering was not an option. Bob takes the sensible decision and decides to ring ours, as being wrong in his 50/50 chance will incur less grief.

He looks up the supt’s mobile number, rings and starts the conversation along the lines of ‘Sir, it’s inspector Bob, I need to tell you about a firearms incident’. He goes on to describe what has been reported, how good the information is, what research has been done and so on, hearing the occasional ‘Ok’, ‘Mmm-mmm’, ‘right’ and so on, he keeps going. Eventually, he twigs that the supt isn’t asking probing questions as they should be. The following exchange took place:

“Sir, forgive me for saying it, but you don’t seem that interested’.

‘If I’m honest, Bob, I’m not. Shall I tell you something else?’

‘Please do’

‘I’m in Crete’.

That’s right, it wasn’t our turn on the rota. Specifically, our supt had taken advantage of it not being his turn on the rota to book a cheeky holiday, and was apparently sat on the sun lounger on a beach in Crete, it being 7.30 am there, ice cold lager in one hand and mobile in the other, alternately supping and commenting on the job. He told Bob that he’d done everything right, but that he really ought to ring the OTHER supt, and have someone address the failing in rosters.

A few years later, the system changed during one of our massive reorganisations, and there was now one duty supt for the force on duty overnight. In the plethora of emails that always accompany a massive change, I must have missed this one when I had to ring one out. Getting his details off the roster, I looked up his home address, got the landline and rang. Several problems with this approach were revealed.

1. 3 years ago, said supt had got divorced and moved out of the marital home.

2. He hadn’t updated the system with his new address.

3. His ex-wife wasn’t best pleased to be woken at midnight by me asking for him.

Although she was very polite, I could tell she wasn’t pleased, and wasn’t in the least bit surprised to have him come in 20 minutes later, complaining in a patronising manner about the ear-bashing he had presumably just received. I put my hands up to missing this one of many many changes, and the supervisor tactfully pointed out that if his details had been updated, then this wouldn’t have happened. Which I found amusing. The way he handled it, I can see why he got divorced.

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.

That really takes the biscuit…

Sitting down this evening, I didn’t even have time to get my computer logged on and my epaulettes on before the phone rang with one control room asking for help with workload. The suitably sympathetic noises made, I ended the call and scoured the system for the workload in our different areas and rang round for the staff numbers, to see who’s worse off.

They weren’t unreasonable in asking for help, but one of the other divisions had twice as many calls to get to per officer, including one where someone has been shot in the head with a shotgun, and has already had ten officers from the support unit/reserve. As there was a good case for two of the other, less busy divisions to provide a bit of help, I approached them, only to be told in no uncertain terms to go away, as they had both just had shootings land too, both with injuries. So, division one rung back and politely told ‘You’re on your own’, division 2 told ‘We’ll try and find you some beat bobbies or PCSO’s to stand on scenes to release your response officers’ and divisions 3 and 4 told ‘Oops, sorry, don’t shoot the messenger. The log count has gone up another 150 open jobs since yesterday. The duty superintendent is trying to find extra resources, with about as much effectiveness as dancing to make it rain.

So that’s the first 45 minutes of my working day. On the plus side, someone’s brought doughnuts in. Which is nice. And now I’ve got the time to write this, as there’s very little for me to do just now. 

I’m beginning to think this spurt in demand is more than just a spurt. It’s lasted about 3 weeks now, a normal workload of about 1200-1500 open calls at any given time, (obvious peak times like New Years Eve apart), has been bouncing around the 1800-2200 area for the last 3 weeks, and drafting lots of beat bobbies in to deal with it sounds great, but it’s barely keeping pace.

Much though we like to poke fun at beat bobbies for being semi-retired and all having a shiny seat on their trousers as they spend all day sitting down, their normal community work needs doing, and it just isn’t getting done. As we approach Summer, it’s only going to get worse. I may start a surreptitious sweepstake about the highest open job count between now and September. If this doesn’t scuttle the Maybot’s stupid observation that how to deploy staff matters and numbers do not, I don’t know what does.

Meanwhile, in the Met, an officer has been taken off response duties, for A YEAR, over an open half-eaten packet of biscuits he found left on a table at work, and shared out with his team at the end of a shift. A year. A rough calculation, allowing for annual leave, court dates and training courses, suggests he could have gone to approximately 700 or so response jobs in that time. We don’t help ourselves.

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.

Monkey Business

One of our cars was asked to account for why they hadn’t got to a job they’d been sent to nearly two hours before. A reasonable question that I ask regularly, but the answer was one of the most surreal ones I’ve ever heard. 

In short, the two officers had been sent to the job this quiet Sunday morning, and were on the way, when they saw two young lads pulling a green wheely bin along the pavement. Gardening not normally being an activity associated with 14 year old boys, they stopped for a word, and enquired as to what was inside the bin. The lads were reluctant to say, but lifting the lid revealed a brightly painted statue of a monkey, that only just fit inside the bin, and the monkey was eating a banana. Kitsch in the extreme.

The issue of where it had come from arose, and they hotly denied having stolen it from anyone, and the one says to the officer ‘We didn’t steal it, we found it, I can show you where to prove it. There’s a gun there as well!’  

Dubious, but going with it, they make the two lads load the monkey into the car and go and have a look. Sure enough, in the garden of the void house the monkey came from, they show the officers a firearm, hidden behind some woodwork in the garden. It turns out to be real, a WWII relic but still perfectly serviceable, so that’s recovered for forensics too. 

Then to top it off, one of the lads reveals that he cut himself whilst loading the monkey into the car, and bursts into floods of tears. As the house was unoccupied, there’s no actual victim for theft of monkey, so they are driven home and told we’ll come round and take it further if anyone comes forward later on. 

I’ve heard some genuine but mundane reasons why people haven’t got somewhere on time, some interesting ones and some that were pathetic, but this takes the biscuit. Or rather, the banana…