Butter, aka the world’s crappest attempted armed robbery.

Armed robbery isn’t usually a subject for levity. However I had to laugh at this one. The Muppet in question came into a corner shop near closing time today, with a toy gun in his pocket. Presumably wanting to have a clear escape route, he decided to wedge the door open with something when he came in.

He chose a slab of butter from the shops refrigerated display.

The look of confusion on your face about now is probably similar to the look on mine at the time.

Butter.

Needless to say, the tin foil encased dairy produce didn’t achieve the desired objective.

Undeterred, he approached the bemused shopkeeper, pulled out the pistol and demanded money.

The shopkeepers response? “That’s not a real gun mate, piss off!”. This not being in the script running through the idiots head, he panics and runs off. Stopping of course to reopen the unwedged door on the way out.

I got accused once of making some of these stories up, or exaggerating the stupidity for literary effect. Not guilty, m’lud. If I was, he’d have slipped on the butter on the way out and knocked himself unconscious or some other such slapstick tomfoolery. No, I just describe them as they happen.

Because I’m not a moron, or so I’m told, it would never occur to me to try wedging a door open with butter, so the fact that someone tried it rather than, say, a door wedge, simply fascinates me. Every workplace has ‘that employee’ whose mere name being mentioned makes your eyes roll back and starts conspiracy theories about how they got and kept their job.

But there’s no entry requirements to being a petty criminal. There’s no tests, no exams, no interview to fail or probationary period to struggle through, no competition for vacancies. You can’t be sacked or invited to resign, so the inherent stupidity never gets filtered out.

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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!

Triage

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.

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.

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.

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.