Was sent this video as a link on Twitter – brilliant piece of work by ‘fonz4muppet’ or whoever created it
This is a re-publishing of the second blog from the partner of a serving police officer; reproduced with their permission. The author, Cheryl Burgess again raises a number of valid points about the need for everyone,where possible to support the March in London on May 10th and the seeming lack of support/interest in the various petitions currently organised to try and force a debate in Parliament.
Well it’s a week on from my first blog when I came out as the ‘wife of a Police Officer’ and supporter of #antwinsornetwork, channelling my frustration about Winsor Police Reform into a blog. So What happened Next?
Well, the earth did not stop spinning, life and it’s day to day demands continued as usual BUT something unexpected did happen. I started to receive tweets of support from complete strangers; partners of Police Officers, Police Officers, Retired Police Officers and ordinary people concerned about the consequences of the changes.
As I said in my 1st blog, I’m just an ordinary person and I have no allegiance to any political party. I’ve never publicly voiced my concerns about any issue, but it seems the ‘Genie’ is now out of her ‘bottle’.
Getting More Involved
I fully intend to support my husband and other Police Officers by attending the Police Event on 10th May in London. My husband luckily is on Rest Day and will be going, if he couldn’t I would be attending in place of him.
The public see the uniform of Police Officers or the warrant card, and huge numbers do value the help they’ve received from Officers in times of need, BUT what they don’t see is that Police Officers are real people with families and friends doing an essential job in society in very difficult circumstances.
Many Officers will not be able to attend if they are on duty, if their leave has not been granted, if they are needed in court, if for family reasons they cannot travel to London. Ironically, some originally intending to come along may now have to work as a Public Services ‘strike’ has been called for the same date.
I will join the Event and show my support in a visible way, and I will not be alone, there are a growing number of partners of Officers who will be attending, many in place of their partner who is unable to get time off.
The logistics of this are quite difficult, cancelling work, arranging childcare and travel. At the back of my mind I’m also worried that the Event will attract people who want to attack the Police and seek confrontation. But I will trust the Police Officers who are ‘working’ and policing the event on the day to keep me safe, and I will take this unprecedented opportunity to show my support in a visible way.
Police Officers are public servants who have a special role in Society, it’s not an ordinary job and any reforms need to take this into consideration.
The wider public deserves to know about the plans for Policing, and the proposed ‘reform’ of this essential public service. There seems to be no interest from the media in reporting this news. The 10th May Police Officers Event is an opportunity to show the public that planned ‘reforms’ of the Police Service will have consequences across society.
If you are a serving Officer and are undecided about attending the Event, PLEASE we need you to attend. If you are a partner or family member of an Officer and want to attend then find out from them how you too can get involved.
If you are a Police Officer or related to a Police Officer you will know the reality of the job and understand the impact of the changes. Stand up and show your support to Police Officers in their fight against Winsor Reforms.
If you can’t attend the Event there are still things you can do:-
- Write to your MP, express your concerns and ask for their support
- Get on the social networks and voice your concerns #Antiwinsornetwork .
- Sign the E-Petitions on the online Petitions site :
The final point I’d like to raise relates to the E-Petitions:
In an article in March about the proposed Police Event, The Guardian reported that there were 135,000 police federation members in England and Wales http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/mar/30/police-officers-protest-pay-conditions I asked myself, if this is true how come the E-Petitions have received such poor support to date?
When looking around the Government petition site I found out a pretty unbelievable fact:-
An e-petition to ‘stop the beer duty escalator’ has received more support than those petitions relating to Police Reform & the Winsor Report. The beer duty petition states “If we don’t show our support for the great British pub, we risk losing more pubs and more jobs within our local communities”. Its been signed by 29,322 as I write this Blog.
Doesn’t this make you think? – What are the consequences of not showing our support to the E-petitions against Winsor Reforms?
E-Petition: Reject Winsor Part 2 Completely
Currently 3,779 signatures – does that mean that more than 130,000 officers support it? http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/32177 -
E-Petition: Right to Strike
Currently 12,622 signatures – if the Government wants to take away the special status of Police as part of the reforms and treat as ‘ordinary’ employees then should the ‘Right to Strike’ be a consequence? http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31250
E-Petition: Protect Police Pensions
Currently 23,773 signatures – it seems that only a minority think that the current police pension scheme needs to be protected?
We can be ‘stronger together’ but to achieve something both Officers and their families need to do something – perhaps signing the E-Petitions is an easy first step?
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.
Although it’s fair to say in our game you can never plan ahead; you never know what the next job is going to be because you never know what The Great Unwashed will get up to; there are certain aspects of our work which do follow a sort of pattern.
Take for instance Saturday and Sunday mornings; if you’re on an early shift you know that most of your day will be spent mopping up the carnage from the night before; dealing with all the extraordinarily drunk, nay almost comatose, victims that nights couldn’t get the slightest bit of sense out of so were left with no option but to stick a calling card in whatever orifice they could find that wasn’t covered in blood, snot, vomit (or worse) telling said alleged victim to ring us back when they’d re-entered the atmosphere and landed back on planet Earth.
Beyond that there will be a cell block full of the ‘other sides’ – the ones locked up for the assaults, domestics, drink drives and whatever, that will be as equally covered in blood, snot, vomit (or worse) but out of the kindness of our hearts will have been offered a free bed for the night and something vaguely resembling breakfast the morning after.
Likewise, the Friday and Saturday nights before will have been one great melee of fight, scrap and punch-up in whatever town centre you happen to work … just because it always is …. just because the vast majority of the afore-mentioned Great Unwashed are utterly incapable of controlling their own lives so feel it is their solitary goal in life to destroy the happiness of everyone and anyone around them.
Sunday afternoons are good ones for domestics; Mondays for us are popular with shoplifters (never really worked that one out) and Wednesday nights seem to be burgling night. As ground floor level uniform bobbies we have no problem working this out – it follows a sort of set pattern, but for the life of me I can’t understand why our elusive bosses and planners continually fail to grasp these obvious facts – i mean the figures, and ohh boy do they love figures, are there for all to see plain and simple but the inability for some senior officers to plan for the expected never ceases to amaze myself or my colleagues.
So there you are, many things in a policeman’s lot you can sort of plan for … but then there are the odd occasions when nothing really does go to plan. Last Wednesday morning was such an example. Our first early – handover from night had been summed up as ‘dead all night’ and with not a soul in the cells, it all looked like, for a chance, at least some of us would be able to get on with our mountainous stack of outstanding enquiries.
Earlies start at 07.00 but we’re always in by at least 06.45 so the night turn can get off on time. Big Pete even had the kettle on and had printed the briefing sheets off so we could all sit down and go through a night of ‘nothingness’ over a nice hot cuppa.
07.07 the first crackle came over the radio “Control to any early turn at Bigtown, can you make a Grade One please, knifepoint robbery at North Park Road, witness refusing details but states offender is still in view, details still coming in …”
Seven minutes past seven …. on a Tuesday morning …. !!!!
It’s worth noting at this point that the vast, vast majority of calls made to police bear little to no resemblance to what is actually occurring. Add to that a witness who is refusing details and the words ‘hoax call’ sit very highly in our suspicious minds. Dave and new girl on the block Kate both volunteer to go and take a nosey “Don’t bother you lot” Dave says “you know it’s a prank, we’ll be back in ten just keep the brew warm” and off they shot.
“Units making” called the Control Room “offender described as a white male, bald head, blue hoodie with some sort of logo on the front, light joggers and carrying a blue bag he’s just taken from the victim. Still trying to get victim details, the informant not being helpful in that respect”.
Discussion in the station refs room turned quickly to a debate about who had got it in for who this week and who was most likely to be trying to get an ex or a new partner ex in the mire with us. In fairness, there were plenty of names that came up quite quickly – we’re not short on numbers when it comes to potential offenders or victims – they’re normally the same people who just shift from one role to the other on a daily basis.
“TOA” I heard Dave call up just as I poured the second brew for me, Pete, Jamie and the skipper Daz, followed micro-seconds later by a screaming “ONE ON FOOT AMBO NEEDED !!!!” What the ….. !!!
Not entirely sure what was going one, we all grabbed panda keys of the job board and ran out of the back door across the yard and quickly rushed the game of ‘find the car that matches the keys’. “Update please” Daz shouted down his radio as we all tried in unison to wake the coughing, grumbling, Neanderthal beasts that were our ageing 100,000 mile plus diesel tractors, sorry Astra’s, and screech/crawl/splutter out of the nick towards North Park Road, a good few minutes away.
It was Kate that answered the sergeants shout “I’m with the victim, he’s got a knife wound to his stomach it’s bleeding a lot, I need an ambulance please as quick as possible by the entrance to the park. Dave’s gone off across the park after the offender – he still had the knife in his hand when we got here”. “PC Price, PC Price, Welfare Check” called the Control Room, trying to raise Dave over the air, but there was no reply. “PC Price, PC Price, Welfare Check ….”, still nothing.
It’s that sort of moment when you are really cursing; cursing yourselves for being so blasé about the whole job in the first place – presuming the incident was a hoax call just because this sort of job always is, cursing the cars because they are so much of a wreck because they are so old and worn out that no matter how hard you try, including the jumping up and down on the seat trick, there’s no extra power coming from anywhere to get you to Dave’s aid any quicker, and most of all you’re cursing Dave for getting himself into this situation …. on his own. “Control to PC Price, your location please, other officers are coming to you”. No reply.
By now, officers were being despatched from neighbouring divisions, the force helicopter was being scrambled and the firearms team were on their way …. all 30 miles from headquarters. This was a job that was right up their street, what they trained for day in, day out, and you just knew they would be foot to the floor, probably taking every risk they could, rules out the window, to get to the aide of one of their colleagues in trouble. “Keep trying to raise PC Price” Daz shouted down his radio. You could hear the tone of his voice had changed, Kate had confirmed our offender was in possession of a large knife; she had confirmed she had a victim with serious knife injuries, and now we had a lone officer, somewhere, following an armed and dangerous potential killer.
Suddenly Dave’s radio sprang into life “Control PC Price, damn radios don’t work round here, backup to the fountain in North Park. Male’s in the water threatening to stab himself still in possession of a large kitchen knife, 10 inch plus blade. He’s took his top off and gesturing me to go in a fight him. Have you got all that.”
It had only just gone half past seven, but for all intents and purposes it felt like hours. We were all with Dave a few minutes later and the area around the fountain was surrounded with nowhere for our man to go. The water around the fountain itself was probably only 24 inches deep but the problem still remained that he had a knife and was holding it to his own stomach. Dave was right as well – it was a bloody big knife with a big and nasty looking blade on it.
By this time the Control Room Duty Officer had been awoken from his slumber, had gone through his tick list and decided he’d better talk to us and impart his infinite wisdom on how to deal with the situation we now found ourselves in. “I am declaring this a firearms incident” he began over the radio “subject is believed armed with a bladed weapon and has caused injury to one person already. I believe he may cause further harm to himself, the public or officers present” No sh*t Sherlock !!! I’m beginning to realise why this guy is the Duty Officer. He continued “The threat level is medium (medium ??? he’s stood less than ten foot from us with a 10” blade pointing at his own stomach !!) I will authorise Taser as officers may need to protect themselves or other members of the public from the risk of harm”
I turned to Daz “Can they Taser someone who’s stood in two foot of water Sarge ?” I asked. “Haven’t got a clue” was the reply “but it don’t sound a good idea to me”.
Knowing the Firearms car was still a good 15-20 minutes away, between us we tried reasoning with the guy, to get him to put the knife down and calmly walk out of the water ‘so we could sort this calmly like adults’. Sadly this approach was met with a tirade of abuse and threats about what would happen to the ‘first copper who comes near’. I didn’t fancy getting my feet wet going it to get him out anyway thanks very much.
In fact the abuse and threats continued for a good twenty minutes, which handily filled the time gap until the firearms guys arrived. “Can you Taser him in there” Daz asked one of the firearms officers “I’d rather not” was the answer “it’ll either frazzle everything around or not work at all would be my guess”. Great. “But then he don’t know that” the other firearms officer said “so we can give it a go, warn him like, and hope he plays ball”.
Thankfully, as crazed as the guy was, he still had enough of his wits around him to realise that two blokes pointing bright yellow ‘guns’ at him and shiny red dots on his chest were a bad thing and he took the decision to do as he was told, drop his knife and walk very slowly to the edge of the fountain where the intention was he could be handcuffed and arrested, still however shouting, swearing and threatening the whole world around him, and by now, very, very wet to add to his problems.
All went well to start with; the knife was dropped into the water and our suspect made his way slowly to the edge of the fountain before very carefully climbing out. Once he had done so however, everything changed in an instant and our guy returned to being the absolute wild man he had been only a few minutes before. He ran, shouting and snarling. literally foaming at the mouth, directly towards one of the Taser officers who had no choice but to fire his device at the male, stunning him instantly and causing him to fall to the floor as the 50,000 volts thrusting through his body took effect. Even so, it took several of us to get the male contained, secured and handcuffed before anything else could be done. Even by now it was only quarter past eight in the morning and we still had a long day ahead of us.
It later transpired that there was no robbery; the whole incident had revolved around a domestic incident between the two guys, who had split up the day before and arranged to meet at North Park to swop some personal belongings. The victim, despite having a nasty hole in his mid-parts, refused to co-operate with the police or provide any account of how he got his injuries. The guy from the fountain claimed his ex had stabbed himself when he refused to get back together and in shock, he’d grabbed the knife to stop his formerly beloved from hurting himself anymore and then decided he couldn’t carry on either so wanted to kill himself as well. The anonymous witness has never been found and when the whole file was put to the Crown Prosecution Service for charging advice they decided not to pursue the matter due to the reluctant victim and lack of independent witnesses. ‘Without the independent account we can’t rule out the injury was self inflicted’ is the one line abbreviation of the CPS’s excuse for going no further.
Still, the victim is alive to tell the tale, none of us, especially Dave (thankfully) got hurt, and we all learnt a valuable lesson in not discounting weird 7am jobs as all from cranks and crackpots. On the rare occasion they will be true but we’ll never know when so we have to treat every job like the world is going to end.
Yay !!! I thought to myself opening my email inbox when I arrived at work today. OK, I admit, that’s not normally the sport of response we normally give – it’s more often than not more of a groan at the tirade of circular messages about what’s happening in Building 3 at some location we’ve never heard of (free pilates or yoga classes for HQ staff this week apparently!), but once in a while an email pops up that fills you with joy.
They tend to fall into three categories; 1) That leave you requested several weeks ago has finally been authorised; 2) Some brave magistrate has looked kindly on that War & Peace sized essay of a prosecution file you put together for Billy Burglar’s 107th charge and has finally sent him down the steps or 3) as in the case of this one, you’ve got your Public Order refresher course
Along with your Advanced Driving Course, or even better Pursuit Management Course, the Public Order refresher has to be one of the highlights of the job, with the added bonus that to keep up to date, you have to repeat it every year – three days of being dressed up like the Michelin Man, running round with shields and getting bricks and petrol bombs thrown at you by your colleagues – what a wonderful way to spend half your week.
Of course it’s not all fun and games – in fact very little of it is, it’s a lot of sweat and hard work and of course, there is a serious purpose behind it all; keeping up with the latest equipment (not that we’re ever going to see any of it), practising the latest tactics dreamt up by someone in an office who’s never had to ‘hold the line’ with several hundred baying football hooligans and the reality that when the brown stuff does hit the fan and Mr & Mrs General Public are clearing off, you, your puffy romper suit and four foot bit of clear plastic are running straight at the problem.
There is of course the minor negative point that your chances of getting a bank holiday off if you are one of the dwindling numbers of public order trained officers is fairly negligible, and you need to get used to having rest days cancelled at short notice but hey – who needs a life outside the job anyway.
But, back to the email: ‘PC Chaos, you have been nominated to attend your PO Refresher blah blah blah ….’please ensure that you have completed the online training package prior to attending the Training Centre. Officers who have not completed this package cannot commence Refresher Training and will be returned to their Operational Units.’
Online Training Package ????? For Public Order ????? What the …… !!!!
Perhaps someone has got the wrong end of the stick about last summers riots – just to confirm, it was the baddies that were running OUT of the shops carrying laptops, not the police running in using computers as shields !!!
Back when I joined the police we were trained using this novel concept – we were in a classroom being taught law, evidence and procedures by qualified Training Staff, the vast majority of whom were experienced current or ex-police officers who knew what they were talking about. We also had additional input from Professionals (Forensic, Medical, the Courts etc), Community Leaders and the like. All people with life experiences that would have some bearing on policing in this country, where things had gone right and where things had gone wrong.
I cannot recall how much input we had on PACE, the biggest change in policing style, methods and procedure for many, many years but it was extensive. Very extensive. (I just remembered, we were told we would be given our very own copy of the PACE codes to read and refer to – we’ve never had one – to this day – hmmm must put a req form in to stores I think).
But some things change rapidly in this game. We still get acres and acres of classroom type input on some issues, but on others, ohh I don’t know, let’s say a small piece of legislation like SOCAP, we are sent an email link to an online powerpoint presentation, full of mini videos and moving images, very cleverly designed by a high tech department of some force or Police Support Service somewhere in the country, but sadly totally incapable of working on our Sinclair ZX81 spec terminals in most police stations.
The outfall of the Soham Enquiry was another recent major example. The horrendous lack of inter-departmental communication that the Enquiry uncovered and the recommendations resulting from that were transformed for us lowly street life into a dozen pages on a computer screen that quite frankly, my young children could have made a better job of.
It seems that every vital piece of information we need to be trained about these days is being delivered by powerpoint. But do the powers that be realise this route is a one way street. Most of the information is basic, and what happens when you have a query or concern, or don’t understand something, or it’s wrong (not unusual). There’s none around with any experience or kjnowledge greater than your own; you can’t take it up with your divisional trainer because they’ve only had the same input as you (and probably understand it even less because they’ve not been outside the front door for many years) and there’s no point trying to make contact with Planet Powerpoint Creator because they’re the other end of the country and know even less what you’re on about … “Sorry, we’re only the Computer Department, we get sent a brief and create the slides ….”
What is good about Policing by Powerpoint though is that it gives the comfy seats upstairs evidential plausible deniability “What, the officer did what … well, no, he’s definitely at fault, look he’s had the training, I’ve got the automated ‘course completed’ email here …. call Professional Standards”.
I’ve got my own back though. I’m putting together a brief for a drug factory operation myself and one of my team are planning. We’re doing the full hog, in Powerpoint of course, with moving graphics, sound, drive past and helicopter provided video footage and anything else we can include that will rival the latest Spielberg blockbuster. It looks and runs fab on my soopa-doopa quad-core Pentium XZY mega gigabite computer at home so hope it’ll be okay on the works kit. Well I say I’m doing it, actually I haven’t got a clue …. but my nine year old is being very helpful as professional advisor and not shouting at me too much …. yet !
Below is a blog from another (not police) website I have re-published with permission from it’s author. It says more about what the husbands, wives, girlfriends and boyfriends of serving police officers have to deal with than I ever could …
A Blog about my motivation to join the #AntiWinsorNetwork.
I’m just an ordinary person. My life has thankfully been very ordinary.
I have no allegiance to any political party, I’ve never protested. I’m a very private person, I’ve never before publicly supported any cause – some might say I’m a little boring – hey I don’t even have a Facebook account. This is my first Blog.
So WHY have I suddenly taken to Twitter in support of the Police and against Winsor reforms.
Things you need to know:-
- I am married to a Police Officer and am proud to support him.
- I have achieved what I have in life through hard work and support from my partner.
- Since becoming a mother in 2001 I’ve worried a lot more about life and what sort of society my daughter will grow up in.
I met my partner in the mid 80’s (1984) he wasn’t in the Police. Shortly after he announced his plans to join the Police. Great I thought that’s a good career, he was in the services (Navy) when I met him, it will suit him well – and it has. Then in the early 90s we got married and I became the ‘wife’ of a Police Officer. It’s not something I usually shout about.
The only time I’ve put my head above the parapet questioning the job of a Police Officer was in the late 90s thinking about starting a family and recognizing the stress of my partners job at the time, I was driven to writing to the then Chief Constable of his force questioning their ‘Investors in People’ commitment and support of family life. My husband was taken aside and ‘spoken’ to about my letter, but as he pointed out then, he didn’t write the letter so if they had a problem with what had been done they should speak directly to me – we might be married but that doesn’t make us 1 person!
Like many we’ve been caught up in the day to day things of life, juggling work and family and suddenly here I am all these years later waiting for him to complete his 30 years service (only 4 more years to go – yes I’m counting down).
We’ve planned for this and based important financial decisions on 30 years of service …… I’ve put up with the reality of being the partner of a Police Officer for long enough!
- I’ve put up with the shift work. When I was expecting my daughter the other expectant mothers thought I was a single mother due to the clash of shifts with the early evening timing.
- I’ve got used to 1 weekend in 4 off and shiftwork and the impact this has on any kind of social and family life.
- I’ve got used to pacing the floor when an hour after end of shift he’s not arrived home and your mind starts to think the worst (at least communication is easier now with mobile phones).
- I’m aware that he’s never off duty – I can remember at least 2 occasions when he’s had to intervene as a warranted officer during rare family days out – one with a shoplifter and 1 with someone ‘high’ walking in the middle of the road into the path of cars who we came across whilst walking our dog with friends.
- I’ve got used to juggling my work around shifts and childcare.
- I accepted that rest days sometimes have to be re-rostered or leave cancelled when something occurs which requires Officers to step up and do what’s needed.
I knew things would be like this and have accepted and supported him for 26 years in the job – my partner does not do an ‘ordinary’ job – when booking on he doesn’t know what his shift will hold. Like all couples we talk about our ‘workday’, so I know firsthand the reality of his job. I’m not looking for sympathy it’s just the nature of the job.
So why am I suddenly publicly standing up and tweeting about his job and the Police reforms.
I know the UK has been (and perhaps still is) in Recession
My partner and I work, pay our taxes, our pension contributions and bills and from what’s left try not to live beyond our means.
We are contributing to Society him as a Police Officer and myself as a ‘business owner’.
We do not expect anyone to take care of us, but need to be realistic that a Police Officer has higher risks than many jobs of injury, disability or worst.
Here’s my understanding – and excuse me if it is too simplistic but someone once told me : KISS – Keep It Simple Sweetheart…..
The current Government has identified the need for cuts across public service budgets – Mr Cameron gave a speech in 2006 regarding his vision for policing and since coming into power in the coalition government Mr Tom Winsor has been appointed to carry out a review.
The Winsor review proposes radical changes to Policer Officer terms and conditions and pensions and appears to mirror much of Mr Cameron’s 2006 speech content. Proposed changes will apply to new Officers but also importantly those currently in the job.
Police Officers are not being seen as a group to be treated as a ‘special case’ when considering reform despite the following:-
- They hold the Queens warrant and are not allowed to strike
- A Police Officer has higher risks than many jobs of injury, disability or worst.
- A Police Officer is never off duty
It’s my understanding, and I’d be delighted to be corrected if it’s not the case, that the proposed reforms include:
- If an Officer is unfit to do the role (injured on duty and no longer able to work for instance) they can be sacked.
- 30 years service is being changed with Officers needing to work longer until retirement. (so at 60 if they are not fit for active duty can they be sacked ?)
- Increased pension contributions for the same final package
There is a lot more detail this is just a snapshot of the highlights for me. I have been tweeting for weeks that we should ‘value our police’ and that Police Officers do not have an ‘ordinary job’ . I would like to say publicly that I’m wholly supportive that if these changes do come into effect then Police Officers should be given the same employment rights as the rest of us which includes the ‘Right to Strike’ .
I worry that one day they will be able to strike if the job is treated as an ‘ordinary’ one but in reality that’s easy to prevent:-
This Government should Respect that Police Officers are public servants who have a special role in Society and it’s not an ordinary job and introduce reforms that take this into consideration. Do this and the Right to Strike is no longer an issue.
I persuaded my husband to write personally to our MP seeking her views on the proposed policing reforms so we would know which party to support when exercising our right to vote in the future. In her email response our MP, Caroline Dineage stated :-
“I believe that the reforms are fair and necessary for the taxpayer and the country. My own brother is a police officer (Portsmouth) so please be assured that this is a matter very close to my heart. I’m sure that even he would agree that the level of police pensions, pay and conditions is simply not sustainable…….” C J Dineage Gosport MP, 13th April 2012.
Before receiving this I hadn’t thought about using ‘family’ to support policy or views but on this occasion if it’s good enough for MPs then it’s good enough for me. My relationship to a Police Officer is explained above and here is my policy….
If you are related to a Police Officer you will know the reality of the job and understand the impact of the changes. Stand up and show your support to Police Officers in their fight against Winsor Reforms.
Write to your MP and start spreading the message #Antiwinsornetwork – Stronger together.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.
It’s only been a few weeks since I posted on here about the number of RTC’s we attend where a major contributory factor to the injuries received is the lack of wearing seat belts – see http://constablechaos.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/clunk-click-every-trip-please/
Yet this in the early hours of this morning, the Chaos shift had to turn out to yet another scene of mangled debris and destruction. This time we were met by the sight that we see far too often, and is so easily avoided.
The driver of the only vehicle involved in this collision was out of his car by the time we arrived. By out, I mean ejected ….. through the windscreen and onto the not so soft, fluffy and forgiving tarmacadam surface of the carriageway.
Sadly, there was nothing that could be done for this guy – he was dead by the time we arrived; probably (and hopefully) he’d died instantly and without too much suffering. But there would be suffering; the dead person was only in his thirties – somewhere this guy would most likely still have a mom and dad around, possibly a partner, maybe even kids. Whatever the make-up of this man’s personal circumstance, someone will suffer the consequences of his actions for a very, very long time.
I mean YES the guy was travelling far too quickly (witnesses told us that straight away), YES he was on an unlit country road (but you should still drive to the conditions, speed limits are exactly that, a limit not a target), YES he probably was late home and YES the whole sequence of events was most likely his own fault – but that is no comfort to those left behind; and even less comfort will be the fact, and it will come out at the inquest if not before, that if he’d spent two or three seconds fastening his seat belt, the whole outcome would 99% guaranteed have been a different matter.
With the scene contained, and the Road Collision Team in place to begin the investigation proper, it was down to myself and our Sarge to break the news to the family. Thankfully, the chap had ID on him and it matched the keeper details of the car, which came back to an address less than a mile from where we were.
We arrived at the address within a couple of minutes. Lights were still on downstairs. You need to have been in the position we now found ourselves in to understand the thoughts and feelings that were going through our minds. There was no need for the Sarge or I to converse on the matter any more; as experienced coppers we both knew what lay ahead.
I suddenly remembered watching one of those TV Cops on Camera type shows – it may have been Traffic Cops or Road Wars, I can’t recall, but I clearly recalled at this point a scene where a traffic officer had to go and tell a family their daughter had been killed outright; crushed by a lorry driver who it later turned out had been on his mobile phone. He referred to this point as ‘The Longest Walk’ and he was right – there were two of us there but it was one of the loneliest places you would ever want to be.
The knotted sick feeling in our stomachs was only compounded walking down the short garden path as we realised, around us were the signs of children; a skateboard; a bike just left propped against the wall; a toy JCB on the grass – these were things that despite the hours of darkness, just shone straight at us as if illuminated by an arc lamp. It really doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the job, this is one task that will never get easier.
Standing at the front door, we could see the TV on in the front room, but on knocking it seemed to take forever to get a response. After what seemed like eternity, but was probably only a few seconds, the door was answered by a pretty young lady, tucked up in her pyjama’s, of somewhere around the same age as our victim. “May we come in a moment” Sarge asked in somewhat of a low voice (which in itself was unheard of for him). “Of course” was the reply “is it my husband you’re here to see, he’s not home yet, due any minute if you don’t mind waiting”. Deep breath time.
“Shall we sit down” I said, trying to be as calm and reassuring as possible, but that was it – instantly, call it woman’s intuition if you like, but instantly she knew something was wrong, and it was bad. “What’s happened, where’s MIke, is he okay, has he been arrested” all blurted out in about half a second. “I’m afraid there’s been an acci…” what about as far as the Sergeant got before the poor lady in front of us realised where this was going and simply collapsed into a screaming heap on the floor in front of us.
Almost immediately, the children appeared in he doorway behind us and came running over to mummy; crying and screaming although at this point they knew not why – just that mummy was very upset herself. It was horrendous. I’ve been around the block and back a few times, seen and dealt with almost everything the great British public could throw at me, but right then I’d rather be anywhere else in the world. But I couldn’t be; that’s the job we do, and just another of those things that gets forgotten about when the number crunchers are dreaming up ways to further reduce our numbers and capabilities.
“Is there anyone else, family, we can call to come round and be with you ?” I asked. Through the sobs we established the nearest relatives were Mike’s parents, 30 plus miles away. We needed them here … and now. Sarge left the room quickly to radio the control room and get them on the case – we needed officers at their door pronto; and them transporting over here even quicker. The traffic department were great – there was no way we would let the parents drive themselves after receiving news like that and given the circumstances it was decided they would be ‘blue-lighted’ here to support the family. Even then, time stood still whilst we waited their arrival. There is simply no level of training (especially these days) that can prepare any officer for a scenario like this; only time and experience. And sadly this was by no means the first, nor will it be the last time yours truly was in this position.
Once mum and dad had arrived, we gave them all the information we had, excluding the seat belt knowledge; that could wait for another time. We explained what would happen next and that a Family Liaison Officer was already allocated and on the way. Once the FLO arrived, we said our goodbyes, offered our sympathies and left the family to grieve in piece. We had been there a little over an hour, but it felt like all night. I don’t think a word was said on the whole drive back to the station nor for the rest of the shift, which thankfully was very quiet.
It’s very rare that I take my work home with me, but this was one of those times when it was unavoidable. My house was all quiet when I got home. Mrs Chaos and the Chaos kids were all still fast asleep in bed. I sat in silence on our sofa, and am not ashamed to say the tears rolled down my cheeks. Not for the dead guy, not really; but for the wife and children, and his parents, left behind to deal with the aftermath, all because he couldn’t be bothered to put a seat belt on.
I also knew, that within a couple of days, I would be stopping another motorist for a seat belt offence, and I knew that without a doubt I would be on he receiving end of a tirade of abuse, demanding to know why I “haven’t got anything better to do’” and why I’m always “persecuting the innocent motorist”. Personally I would like to look at it as saving your life, but there’s no need to thank me.
And one random image keeps coming back into my mind – nothing to do with the mangled car, or the shattered windscreen, or the casualty lying in a mangled heap in the carriageway – no; it’s the sight of a small yellow plastic toy JCB lying on the grass by the victims front door.
There is an unwritten rule in the Policing world …. well there is in ours, I don’t know about your part of the Empire … it is a simple rule; one that has served police officers up and down the land very well for many, many moons, and it is this: …. never, ever, under any circumstances, under any amount of pressure or boredom, should any part of your shift be referred to by use of the ‘Q’ word.
For it shall be written in the sands of time, that whomever shall utter the phrase “it’s q…. tonight” shall have befallen on them, a fate worse than the great locust plague of 1327, a fate far worse than the great snowballing of 1981 and a horror of proportions not seen since the appearance of Teresa May at the 2010 Police Federation Conference. “I will always support you …..” aaarrggghh the nightmares are starting again !!!
No, dear colleague, should you ever mutter the aforementioned phrase, then it is decreed that the peace and tranquillity of which you comment and enjoy, will be shattered almost immediately by the sounds of ringing bells and the sights of flashing lights and the calls begin to deluge into the police control room. If you’re really unlucky, and it’s a full moon as well, prepare to be taken into a dark alley by the rest of your shift, never to emerge again.
And this is how it was, last Tuesday night. A Tuesday. Generally considered the least busy night shift of them all; nothing ever happens on a Tuesday. Not sure if they do omnibus re-runs of Jeremy Kyle on a Tuesday night but if feels like they do – Bigtown currently resembled a town where everybody stays indoors, glued to ITV2 or whichever channel is playing the repeats.
It was about half past midnight; myself and Big Pete were two and a half hours into our nightshift – we hadn’t even been sent to a single domestic, that’s how peaceful the evening was. I was driving, Big Pete was doing his best to stay awake in the passenger seat – I’m not sure which was the worst; listening to him ramble about the ongoing saga of his broken boiler and the unsuccessful attempts of some cowboy plumber he’d found in the small ads to fix it, or the intermittent snoring when his brain went into intermittent shutdown.
During one of Pete’s momentary lapses of sleeplessness he quipped up “God Chaos, it’s bloody quiet out there tonight, it’s really gonna drag”.
I glared at him. He’d said it. The ‘Q’ word. He knew he’d said it; I knew he’d said it. Pete just shrugged his shoulders “What’s into you ?” he muttered, obviously pretending he had no idea what he’d done. And, as if on queue, through the stillness of the night we both heard the sound of squealing tyres in the not too distance. “Bloody boy racers” commented Pete “one of these days, someone’s going to kill themselves or more likely on of the birds they’re trying to impress”.
“Yeah, you’re right” I replied “probably down the Radley Road, might as well go and have a word there’s nothing else happening”. Radley Road is a small industrial estate, not far from the town centre where we currently were, and a regular meeting place for the local boy racers in the evenings. In fairness, down there they aren’t in anyone’s way, they don’t cause any bother, and apart form the odd bit of foolish larking about in their cars we don’t have any problem with them. Besides, most of them have spent a fair few quid ‘modding’ their Fiesta’s and Saxo’s up and they last thing they want to do is prang them.
I pulled out from our hidey hole half way along the High Street and started to head towards Radley Road; only a minute or so away. Then the screeching came again, this time from just in front of us, and as if on cue, an old silver Vectra came tanking round the corner from Crown Street almost on two wheels and took off ahead of us – I don’t even think they had time to register a car was behind them, never mind it was the police. This was either going to be a drink driver or some kids had nicked the car. i put my foot down to try and catch up while Pete called up on the radio in the hope there might be a likewise bored and nearby fast response car to give us a hand.
The reply from the Control Room wasn’t exactly as we’d expected “Roger that, we were just going to call you up, we’re getting a Grade One intruder alarm at the Co-op on Crown Street, multiple activations from the premises, unknown if offenders still on scene”. We knew – they weren’t. Our money was on them being in an old silver Vectra now hurtling along the High Street away from us.
“This is better” Pete exclaimed, “let’s wake the rest of the shift up then”. The problems with his boiler (and his snoring) faded quickly as Pete called up on the radio “Yes Control, behind a vehicle now, an old silver Vauxhall Vectra, believe its the offenders from the Co-op break in, several occupants,vehicle is FAILING TO STOP, need response cars and a helicopter please”. Within micro-seconds, the radio was full of transmissions as everybody wanted in on the action. The nearest response car was a good ten miles off at the moment so until they played catch-up, it was down to us, in a three year old 1.7 diesel Astra with just short of 100k on the clock. “Don’t you dare lose ‘em Chaos”, Pete shouted, he was getting quite excited now “cakes if you do !”
Thankfully both Pete and I had done the Pursuit Management Course, so the Duty Officer at HQ was happy to let us run with the job until the big boys arrived. Let’s face it though, this is what most of us joined the job to do – drive round fast, chasing cars and catching the bad guys. All we needed now was the Starsky & Hutch music and we’d be ecstatic. Both of us being pursuit trained allowed Pete to give the required commentary, updating the control room as to location, speed, road conditions and risks, so that the response units coming knew exactly where we were going at all times, and the Duty Officer could ‘manage’ the incident (tick the boxes on his little book so he had plausible deniability when it all went wrong) while I concentrated on the driving.
We fully expected our quarry to head of into one of our housing estates; a myriad of houses, flats, narrow streets and tight corners, criss-crossed with paths and alleyways where they could easily abandon the car, hop a few fences and be out of sight in seconds – but these guys didn’t; they carried on towards the bypass and open roads. Good for us but bad for them. Away form town they had far less places to hide, it would give us more time to get extra patrols into the area and tighten the noose. “They ain’t local” Pete quipped up “they haven’t got a clue where they’re going” as the cars driver got to the first roundabout and took a sharp left, heading back along a parallel road to the one we were on. This played even further into our hands as they were now heading back towards several fast response units and a stinger car.
And, as if our luck couldn’t get any better, overhead appeared the police helicopter. Whatever they did now, the chances of getting away had dropped dramatically; the eye in the sky above does 170mph and goes anywhere in a straight line – it doesn’t have to worry about junctions and corners. If they abandoned the car now, the high power cameras and lights on the helicopter would be tracking their every move
Having the helicopter there meant we could pull back, let them and the response cars take control and listen in as the perfectly executed ‘sting’ took place along the bypass ahead of us. For anyone not in the know, a ‘Stinger’ or ‘Hollow Spike Tyre Deflation System’ to give it it’s proper name is an extendable plastic bed filled with (very, very sharp) hollow metal spikes sticking up that fill pierce the tyres of any car unfortunate to drive over it (including the odd pursuing police vehicle it must be said). Once you’ve driven over a stinger, the air starts coming out of your tyres in a relatively controlled fashion but still very quickly, and within a few hundred metres the tyre will be flat. Keep driving then and the tyre will shred and disintegrate and you’re running on the metal rims of your wheels. Neither an easy or a clever thing to do.
Although we were no longer ‘part of the action’ we remained nearby waiting for the shout that the vehicles occupants had ‘decamped’ or run off from the car and sure enough that happened quite quickly. The car crashed through a farm gate; three people starburst from the it and ran towards the nearby barn buildings. The crew in the helicopter were by now in their element – this is what they do and keeping tabs on our errant quarry was not going to be a difficulty for them.
By the time we arrived in the farm yard, the guys in the fast response cars had rounded up two of the runaways and were fairly confident they knew where the third was hiding. A dog unit was nearly upon us so there was no point heading into the pitch black barn, not knowing exactly which corner the toe-rag was hiding behind (and what he may have been holding onto – there’s some pretty nasty spiky things kept in farm barns and I for one didn’t fancy coming face to face with a hoe wielding maniac). We set about securing the exits to the barn so there was no means of escape … and waited the arrival of Rage; land shark extraordinaire.
Within minutes he was here; we all dropped back a step or four. Rage has a heck of a reputation in our force; he’s not overly fussy who he takes a chunk out of; cops, robbers, passing nuns on their was to morning mass – they’re all the same to Rage. He operates on a simple system; if it moves, it’s a target; and Rage rarely misses his target.
Released from the confines of his mobile kennel by Steve the handler, Rage was very soon nose to the ground and on the trail of miscreant number three – literally dragging Steve across the farmyard and in the direction of a large rusty old barn in the corner. Despite Steve the Handlers warnings, the remaining rascal clearly believed he was in a position to outwit both us and many kilograms of slobbering fur covered muscle and teeth, big teeth, big sharp, pointy teeth
It would be wrong of me to say I was more than slightly amused at Rage’s response to the challenge our law-breaking friend had set him. In fact, we were all very amused, it’s fair to say. The barn was full of stacked bales of hay, which our quarry seemingly thought would provide adequate protection against the sniffiest nose in the west. To Rage, however, the bales were just one big staircase, made for leaping up, and behind one of them lay dinner …. sorry the person he was trying to locate …. no, I was right first time, dinner. I’m sure the scream came before the snarl. Steve had shouted again to the hider that Rage was seeking to show themselves and stand very still. It hadn’t worked. As Rage had got within licking distance of our guy, he broke cover, trying to bound and jump along the top of the bales, stacked like loose Lego bricks.
Rage was on him, in a flash. There was no small, hops and jumps from the dog. Just one or two Olympic style launches well worthy of a Gold medal, but to Rage, at the end of the flight lay moving flesh, and in what seemed very slow motion Rage locked on, teeth embedded into the runaway’s right arm in a text-book capture and with all his weight fully at work, Rage swiftly brought his prize catch tumbling to the ground in a fit of screams and shouts of agony befitting of someone who’s just felt the full weight of the law literally clamping down on them.
Even at this point, their was no way I, or any of the other officers who had stood and watched the aerobatic performance of a lifetime, were going any closer. Rage was still in full work mode, and wouldn’t be to concerned about taking dessert out of one of us. Steve quickly went over, gave the release command and Rage snapped instantly from the spawn of several devils into slobbering, licking, ‘rolling over so you can tickle my tummy’, puppy dog mode. “He’ll be fine now” Steve called over. In unison, the rest of us called back “Don’t worry we’ll just wait here”. Steve soon came over, handcuffed prize on his arm, muttering “wusses” to us, and followed behind by his ever-obedient, tongue hanging out, drooling, tail wagging companion. But I swear as Rage passed the rest of us, he glanced over with that ‘I’m watching you’ look, weighing up which one of us he’d have a chomp at if only he got the chance.
With all the excitement over, and all the suspects rounded up, we got chance to go and examine the car to find out just why they were so keen not to stop and talk to us. The reason soon became perfectly clear, as the car was crammed full of bottles of alcohol; whisky, Jack Daniels, vodka, gin and other drink, plus pack upon pack of cigarettes, several thousand packs in total. We had had an excellent result. The guys we had captured were wanted across several force area for a multitude of shop and garage burglaries, targeting alcohol and cigarettes, and hopefully would now be spending a lot of time at Her Majesties Pleasure.
We got back to the station, the adrenaline still running, but quite looking forward to the forthcoming mountain of paperwork that undoubtedly lay ahead of us. A few of the others who hadn’t been on this job were at the nick when we got back. “Great job” they said “but it’s all right for you glory chasers – while you were out there having fun, we’ve been run ragged here”. “How come” I asked, “It’s been dead as dead can be all night”. “It was” the Sergeant shouted over “until that job of yours, then it all kicked off and we’ve not stopped since”.
“Pete” I said to my colleague, who was happily ignoring the rest of the team and already had his head buried in the mountain of forms we’d need to complete “Pete, this is all your bloody fault, saying is was you know what out there; you can go and grab us some cakes for that”.”Make ‘em cream ones” shouted one of the others as he sulked out of the door a few minutes later muttering away to himself.
Video produced by Kent Police Federation
Much as I like to make jovial comment in my blogs about our Shift Inspector and his Harry Houdini like ability to disappear and hide in his nice warm office when things happen, I would like to point out this is all done in jest and actually I, and I’m sure most other officers, have the upmost respect for their ‘gaffer’.
If you think about it, the Inspector (Uniform or CID) probably has one of the worst jobs going in the police force (service). On the one hand they are responsible for their shift, the Sergeants and PC’s working below them. They have to put up with all our constant complaining about the latest pathetically stupid idea filtering down from upon high, which is plainly clear anyone who’s stepped outside the front door of the nick in the last five years cannot work and will not work, but the Inspector still has to make it work.
They have all the management responsibility for their team but with none of the power to control who they will have working for them on a day to day basis (a multitude of other departments control training, court appearances, abstractions, re-rostering etc); they have to deal with our welfare issues … “boss, I know Bigtown are playing Littlechester Rovers but I really need next Saturday off; it’s the wedding anniversary, we’ve worked every Saturday for the last two months, the wife is threatening to leave me and is convinced I’m having an affair”; and in most areas, the Duty Shift Inspector will have to double up as the Custody PACE Inspector, so then they have to deal with the vile little charmers we brought in for beating up their other halves or trashing the local town centre and who want to do nothing but complain about us because they ‘ain’t done nuffin f’in wrong’.
From the other side of the coin, they have to filter all the rubbish coming down at them from above; trying to make sense of the latest pathetically stupid idea filtering down from upon high, which is plainly clear anyone who’s stepped outside the front door of the nick in the last five years cannot work and will not work, but the Inspector still has to make it work. Every day they have to deal with the pseudo politicians upstairs whose main goal is about as far removed from fighting crime and keeping our streets clean as the winning of a shiny gong could possibly make it.
Every day they get thrown at them some set of figures, or pie chart, or similar, telling them that it doesn’t matter how many rapists and burglars they caught last month, there were one too many shoplifters than the Superintendents forecast, so we’ve all done exceedingly badly.
They really are stuck in the middle. They really are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Whichever way they turn, they can’t win, and when it gets sticky, it always will be their fault. Although I think it’s fair to say the Inspectors will get far more backing from underneath than above.
So rather than make another jokey quip about my guv’nor and his weakness for chocolate covered Rich Tea biscuits, for once, just this once mind you, I’m going to say “CHEERS BOSS !”.
Ohhh and by the way, we hid your biccies in your flat cap on top of your locker – we knew you’d never need to look there lol
A chance reading of a re-tweet by one of my followers on Twitter led me to a website set up by Sam Billingham from the Dudley area in the West Midlands. A quick read of her story convinced me that this was a person who deserved all the help she can get in supporting and assisting victims of domestic abuse – victims like herself; a survivor of years of violence at the hands of a drunken, violent partner and father to her child – a man who was supposed to care for, cherish and protect the two most important people in his life. You can read more of Sam’s far too common story on her website www.survivorsofdomesticabuse.co.uk
Sam and her website offers online (through Facebook and Twitter), in-person; group and one-to-one support for victims of Domestic Violence, and if you don’t live locally to their base area, there are a number of other telephone helpline numbers listed for people to make contact with someone who can help, or just someone that will listen.
Sadly, like virtually every other police officer throughout the UK, domestic abuse is something we have to deal with every day. In fact, I can’t remember a shift in recent times when I didn’t attend at least one ‘domestic incident’. Whatever the reasons given for these ‘incidents’ occurring; poverty, deprivation, jealousy, alcohol (the biggy) or whatever it may be, the simple fact is it shouldn’t. And in fact while we’re at this point, I’ve attended domestics in squalid council flats, but then I’ve also attended them in million pound plus houses, so clearly domestic violence knows no limits.
Far too often, police officers hear the same excuses from the victim; “It’s all my fault really”, “I made him/her do it”, “He/She’s not normally like this” .. trying to make excuses for the actions of another person. Is it fear, denial, or an inability to understand what is actually going on ? Maybe it’s a mix of all three, but it is imperative that as police officers we step in between and do our utmost to break the cycle of violence and abuse.
More than once, I’ve been to an incident where one party or the other is carried out on a stretcher still begging with us officers present ‘not to arrest him/her, it was an accident, it’ll never happen again’. And more than once police officers have let themselves down by making the assumption before they even get to the job that ‘ohh it’s only them again’. Unfortunately, the risk is that that sort of apathy will eventually lead to someone being killed – but I can guarantee it won’t happen on my watch !!!
And people do get killed as a result of domestic violence – figures show more than 9 out of every 10 women murdered die at the hands of a current or ex partner. If that’s not enough to treat every call to a drunken falling out as serious as the next, I don’t know what is. In fact this is a statistic I regularly point out to many of our regular victims who refuse to co-operate with police in the vague hope that at some point it might strike home.
We do, at Bigtown police station, have Domestic Abuse Officers. They work in the Domestic Abuse Unit. All two of them. In a town of approximately 145,000 people. You don’t have to have an A Level in Mathematics to work out that even if it were only a tiny, tiddly fraction of Bigtown’s population that were perpetrators of Domestic Violence (and sadly it’s not), then having only two people two monitor, asses and control all intervention matters is not enough. By a long shot. These two, fine, hard working officers have to risk assess every job the response teams attend, based solely on the ‘Domestic Incident’ reports we file; they have to liaise with doctors, health workers, social workers, schools and all the other agencies involved in Social Care of the masses.
They also have to bear in mind that if and when things do go wrong, it will be all our fault. When a significant risk has been identified to an individual, one of the two officers on the unit will try their utmost to maintain a personal relationship with that victim, regularly meeting up to debrief and try and ensure their ongoing safety – not bad going when you consider most of the people they are trying to help still haven’t come to terms with being a victim yet …. ohh yes, and the fact that each of the DA Officers has upward of 100 ‘serious risk’ cases on the go at any time.
Compare that to the fact we have a team of EIGHT, yes EIGHT officers, supported by even higher numbers of CSO’s at Bigtown Police Station, who’s role it is to find activities and adventures to keep naughty kids from spraying graffiti on the school wall and kicking footballs against Granny Smith’s bungalow – I’m not saying that’s not important but it’s a parenting issue, a Youth Service issue, and this is a matter of priorities – in my book, stopping one person from dying at the hands of their supposed ‘loved one’ is a lot further up my scale of things to do.
So please, consider this, if you’re still reading this page:
If you’re a police officer; treat every Domestic Violence issue as if someone’s life depends on it – that very well may be the case !
If you’re a victim; you’re not alone despite what you may think – talk to your local police, or visit the SODA website or one similar, get the help you deserve
If you’re a survivor; and have come out the other side, consider helping those still stuck in the cycle of abuse. Help them realise there is light at the end of the tunnel.
If you’re an abuser; seek help – it is out there, and it may support you in getting your relationship back on track. Or at the very least, save yours, or someone else’s life !
Either way, if we all work together, we can aim towards the time when Domestic Violence has had its day !!!
…. the Black Panther ….. and wasn’t he a panther ever so black !
Okay, first things first; you have not seen a black panther running round the streets or fields of the UK, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. Why ? Simply because there is no such animal !
A ‘black panther’ is typically a melanistic colour variant of any of several species of larger cat. In Latin America, wild ‘black panthers’ may be black jaguars (Panthera onca); in Asia and Africa, black leopards (Panthera pardus); in Asia, possibly the very rare black tigers (Panthera tigris); and in North America they may be black jaguars or possibly black cougars (Puma concolor). Melanistic leopards are the most common form of black panther in captivity and they have been selectively bred for decades in the zoo and exotic pet trades. Black leopards are smaller and more lightly built than normally-pigmented individuals. The name ‘panther’ is merely derived from the Latin Panthera, the feline genus which contains lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars.
Right, now that we’ve got that out the way (thank you Wikipedia), what is it you’re reporting seeing running across the road in front of you this evening Sir ???? and would you mind blowing into this little machine please !
Seriously though, every now and again we get a report from a member of the public that they’ve seen what they loosely describe as a puma, a panther or otherwise a ‘bloody big cat’ jumping across a (normally deserted country) road in front of them – we had another one this evening. Some of these reports we can easily discount as a feeble excuse for crashing the car, the effects of excess alcohol or sheer madness, but some of the reports, like the one tonight, come from reputable sources who are genuinely concerned, have no axe to grind, and have clearly witnessed something out of the ordinary and genuinely concerning.
Tonight’s report came form a Paramedic on his way home from a day shift at the local Ambulance Station; certainly a witness we would have faith in and one I’d like to think wouldn’t be making this up for the attention. In this instance, the chap was driving home down a country lane when he came across the said creature in the middle of the road, happily chomping away at some form of roadkill upon which it has stumbled (or created for itself). The animal had been caught in the glare of the informants car headlights for a number of seconds before bolting off through a nearby hedge, never to be seen again.
Given the reliability of the witness, and the fact it was a slow evening, myself and my oppo Big Pete decided to venture out into the wilds and see what we could come across. We weren’t expecting to come face to face with Larry the Leopard so we decided we’d be safe without the team bazooka. I do remember seeing on the news many years ago, some CCTV footage from a factory somewhere in the Midlands I think, where there’d been a number of big cat sightings which had all been discounted, then the CCTV camera at the factory had clearly captured mummy and daddy puma and their little puma cubs (or whatever they’re called) walking in a line past the front of the factory at night, all in full view of the cameras. A bit hard to deny after that. I did a quick hunt on Google so that I could put a link on here but couldn’t find anything – if anyone can supply the link please send it to me via the contact page and I will update.
What Pete and I weren’t expecting was to trundle up to the point on the lane where the ambulance guy had said he’d seen the creature and find a half eaten lamb on the side of the road with some pretty nasty looking bite marks on it – this was not a fox I thought to myself. What un-nerved me a bit more was that a few years back myself, Mrs Chaos and the Chaos kids had been visiting friends on their farm in Devon when they’d had an attack on their livestock. The vet had been out to repair the damage on a couple of ewes but had had to destroy a couple more due to injury. He was adamant then that the injuries had indeed been caused by a big cat.
So, are there hoards of wild big cats roaming around our countryside, going undetected by farmers, landowners, and the ever increasing number of leisure users that find themselves in the wilds of our green and pleasant land. The short answer is I don’t know …. but it would be fairly feasible …. I think. Or it certainly would have been 20 or 30 years ago. If you were not aware, prior to 1976 you could keep just about anything as a pet, and certain well-known department stores used to sell just about anything, up to and including lion cubs !!! – see the documentary Christian – the Lion Cub from Harrods for a start.
After the introduction of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, people were forced to get rid of their leopards, monkeys, wolves and god knows what else was living in their spare rooms; most passed the animals onto zoos and safari parks but some just simply let them go ….. outside ….. into the British countryside. Some of these animals would have perished, not being native and all that, but clearly some survived – and this will undoubtedly be where the ‘panther sightings’ came from. The question now is will they have been able to survive, encounter similar species, breed and remain relatively unnoticed ??
Anyway, even after much munching around in the darkness we couldn’t find it or any trace of where it had gone, whatever it was. It was probably sat up a tree at the time, either laughing at us or deciding which one of us would make the best dessert. Much to our disappointment we were redirected to (another) domestic at 83 Primrose Gardens so our hunt for mega-moggie would have to take a back seat for a while. But we’d be back ……
…… And in not too many weeks, we’ll get another call from a reliable witness who’s seen another big cat, so to pinch a phrase from Mulder and Scully, something is out there …..