I was genuinely very saddened today to hear of the sudden death of Paul McKeever, Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, and tireless campaigner in protecting the rights of the officers ‘on the street’ and a thoroughly nice chap to boot.
In the last year alone, who can forget the rousing speech he gave at the mass rally of police officers, staff, family and friends in London on May 10th 2012, and his opening gambit “Colleagues, fellow officers, we ARE the finest police service in the world and YOU are the finest police officers in the finest police service in the world …”
If you need to remind yourself, just watch the video below (Paul’s speech starts at 2mins 57seconds)
And who can forget his masterstroke comments to Home Secretary Theresa May during the 2012 Police Federation Conference when Paul asked the assembled audience to “put their hands up if they believed the Winsor report into pay and conditions was independent.” He turned to Mrs May and said: “Not even you put your hand up.”
Many people have commented negatively on the Police Federation recently, and about the way it appears to have been heading, myself included, and I have had the privilege on more than one occasion of debating my thoughts directly with Paul on the phone. Needless to say, i don’t think he necessarily agreed with my ramblings, but what I can say is that he always listened and never criticised another point of view.
He was also forthcoming with plenty of advice and was more than happy to talk directly; not through a myriad of committees, or distant reps, or press officers, but directly – surely a credit to a man for whom nothing really seemed too much trouble.
The last time I spoke with Paul was in Manchester in early October. We were both there for the worst of reasons; the funerals of two police officers killed in the line of duty. Even then, with hundreds and hundreds of people around, Paul made time to acknowledge and speak with as many people as he possibly could.
I recall the point when he asked me if I’d been to see the DCC at Greater Manchester Police, how funny he’d found it that the Force had agreed to put my pseudonym on a Certificate of Special Recognition rather that my correct details, and then the sudden realisation he may have let the cat out of the bag too early. He hadn’t though. As he put it then “If that’s not a sign that Twitter has come of age in policing, what is ?”.
The Police Federation magazine was due to run an article with Paul, detailing his thoughts and reflections on his time in the police service. I do hope they still publish it for all to read. But just in case that doesn’t happen, you can read it now by clicking here.
Paul McKeever had already announced his retirement as Chairman of the Police Federation, and his successor, Steve Williams is all ready to take the mantle on. It’s a big pair of boots for Steve to fill, but the best legacy we can all leave for Paul, is to make that happen.
In the shorter term, @TheCustodySgt has already tweeted the hashtag #StandForPaul. It’s very early days yet; everyone at Federation Headquarters are in shock at today’s news, and obviously Paul’s family are devastated. Over the next few days we will be trying to see what assistance can be offered in preparing and providing a fitting tribute to the man who has led rank and file police officers through the most turbulent period in policing for many years.
If you use Twitter and / or Facebook, please tweet or post the hashtag #StandForPaul to show your support, and stand by for further information.
I personally feel proud to have met Paul McKeveer and being given the opportunity discuss matters with him on a one-to-one level (especially as I’m not even a Fed Rep !). Sleep well mate, you deserve that. RIP.
On Friday 18th January 2013 there will be an event at Bramshill Police Training College, Hampshire, led by DCC Gordon Scobbie of Tayside Police, the ACPO lead on Social Media issues, and ACC Sarah Hamlin of the Norfolk Constabulary.
The event, which is being run by Nick Keane, Digital Engagement Business Advisor with the College of Policing, has been arranged to discuss openly and look towards trying to establish a common Code of Practice and provide advice and better clarified information for police officers and staff using Social Media, both officially and unofficially, primarily Twitter and Facebook.
Present will be DCC Scobbie and ACC Hamlin, along with several other ‘official’ police tweeters & bloggers, representatives from the Police Federation, a couple of high profile non or former police officers that blog and tweet, and lastly but not leastly from the anonymous police blogging world, myself and @TheCustodySgt.
So why have we suddenly decided to ‘out’ ourselves so to speak, and attend this event, against all the suggestion and speculation from others online that the moment we walk through the doors of Bramshill, we will be pounced on by whichever Complaints & Discipline Department they’ve managed to rope in for the purpose, chucked in the Tower of London and never be seen again ??
I can only speak for myself, but from my point of view, its a simple matter that Social Media policy throughout police forces across the UK varies and for the most part is a great big mess. There are some very good examples of police use of Social Media – the various Greater Manchester Police divisions, and of course @SolihullPolice being those that immediately spring to mind, but of course there are other areas where it is painfully awful or non-existent.
At the present time, who can ignore the massive positive impact that @SgtGaryWatts from Devon & Cornwall police has had. From rising to a silly challenge on Twitter, to being overwhelmed by the result, to being a man of his word and doing exactly what he said he would … but not only that; by combining his ‘fate’ with a chance to help a little boy in need who many of us interact with on Twitter, roping in a few of his colleagues and mates, and producing the ‘#GangnamPoliceman video, Sgt Watts has done far more for the positive image of Devon & Cornwall police in a couple of weeks than many years of official waffle would ever achieve. And then there’s the small matter of thousands of pounds raised for a worthy cause into the bargain.
For my own part, and for a much less cheerful reason than Sgt Watts, #CoverForGMP changed in an instant the whole perception of how police on Social Media were seen and perceived. That from one little tweet during the lowest of low times in the recent history of the British Police Service, thousands of people rallied to show their support for their colleagues in Greater Manchester, and also for the people of the city as well, and on two cold days in October, more than a thousand of them made that solemn journey to line the streets of Manchester City Centre to say goodbye to two fallen policewomen, epitomises the good power that police use of Social Media can have.
Officers are also using the same communication methods daily now, in crime appeals, missing people enquiries (the Social Media based response to the #FindTia and #FindApril appeals was massive) and in many other ways to engage and communicate with their communities, often allowing members of the public to interact with their local police officers on on the ‘same level’ for the very first time.
But police officers do have to be careful. Very careful. We are entrusted with a lot of highly sensitive and very personal information. It is vitally important that such information it treated with the care and consideration it deserves. But this shouldn’t stop officers speaking out when something is clearly wrong. They just have to be careful not to ‘cross the line’.
And therein lies the problem. The line moves, or in many places does not exist. Or moves after something has been said, and retrospective attempts are used to hold one or another officer to boot ‘after the event’. That, to my mind, just isn’t fair, right or proper.
So what can we do about it ? We need a clear set of groundrules; the same for everyone, everywhere; and ones that clearly tell people what they can and cannot say, and where that line is that can’t be crossed. I don’t doubt for one moment that at times, I’ve come very close to that line in some peoples minds (and parts of the country), yet in others I will have been nowhere near. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone, somewhere else equally thinks I’ve crossed the line, certainly if I have it’s been without intent as I try very hard to make sure I stay within the boundaries …. close to the edge maybe, but within nonetheless. But if I haven’t got a clue, and I try and be very careful and check things purposely, then what chance will the next man or woman have ?
And that’s why I’ve agreed to attend the meeting at Bramshill. Simply because I’ve been invited, that I’m aware that my thoughts and input will be considered and more simply, if I, and others in a similar position, don’t take the chance to engage when it’s offered, don’t use the opportunity given to put forward our ideas, our thoughts, our concerns, and also those of others not able or fortunate enough to take part, we are not in a position to complain when things don’t go how we want.
We may achieve very little after the event – but I hope we achieve a lot. either way, at least I (and I assume @TheCustodySgt) will be able afterwards to stand proud and say “AT LEAST WE TRIED”.
And to the comment that has been made, asking if we had ‘sold out to protect ourselves’ the answer is a big fat NO. We were indeed offered a certain amount of anonymity to attend the day but both myself and @TheCustodySgt have made our respective Senior Officer Teams aware of our attendance and are both attending with their approval.
Therefore we have advised the organisers that we will be there ‘as ourselves’ so to speak. We have not ‘cut a deal’ and remain subject to the same discipline rules as everyone else but are willing to act as a conduit or ‘go between’ for anyone else who wishes their thoughts to be known.
Ohh, and I for one am hoping they have some sooopa dooopa choccy biccies on offer during the break time !!
So here’s the story from A to Zee …. Sgt Gary Watts of the Devon & Cornwall Police said if he got 5,000 followers on Twitter he would do the ‘Gangnam Style’ dance on YouTube.
Or did one of his colleagues stitch him up good and proper, and simply tell everyone else that’s what he said ???
The story from the ‘horses mouth’ about events leading up to the making of the video can be read here –> http://www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/ABOUTUS/BLOGS/Pages/voiceofanofficer.aspx?post=7112553400058575462
Either way, the Twitterati responded in their droves …. and @SgtGaryWatts soon went over the magic 5,000 followers mark …. so he had no choice, did he ???
Add into the mixture a very good cause which is supported by many of the active Police Tweeters, #JoshuasJourney (@journeyjoshuas on Twitter) – a fund to help 12 yr old Joshua Wilson, who was diagnosed with his first brain tumour in 2004 age 3 and a half & following complex surgery due to the location of the tumour on the brain stem, was left with complex physical disabilities & needs – and you have the makings of an amazing journey for everyone involved.
Watch the video above … then don’t forget to click on www.superjosh.co.uk and make a donation to help raise the £25,000 needed to fund extensive house adaptations, inc a ceiling track hoist, a special medical bath, building work & other basic equipment to make caring for Josh easier and give him the best quality of life possible.
And then get on Twitter, follow @journeyjoshuas and all the #GangnamPoliceman team that made this all possible: @SgtGaryWatts – @WildlifeCrimePC – @Cvinniev – @ShinyHorse – @ChrisBraddon – @SamBiggs and the guy who put the video together @PeteAppleyard – each any every one of them is a real life SUPERSTAR !!
The account below is a Guest Blog, sent to me by another officer having read my earlier post ‘Out With The Frying Pan and Into The Mire’. It relates to a similar yet equally harrowing tale of the dangers ‘Frontline’ officers face every single day and night, trying to keep the public safe.
It was about 3am in the morning when the call came though – a violent domestic taking place at a house on one of the local rabbit-warren estates. One of those places that unless you worked it day in, day out, you would never know where you were going from one minute to the next.
I was single-crewed as I had been all night; as had become common practice with our bosses to ‘spread us around’; to give the impression to the public that we had more police on the streets than there actually were. Officer safety, as is so often the case, had taken a backseat to public perception and political manoeuvring.
Although this approach in itself often backfired as the same public who complained they ‘never saw a copper’ were only too quick to comment when they witnessed three or four single-crewed police cars whizzing by rather than just one or two with a double crew in – same number of police officers going to the jobs but the words ‘overkill’ and ‘money-wasting’ are often thrown about.
My thoughts were often more basic; things like if you have four police cars travelling through a town at high speed, surely the risk of something going wrong or someone crashing is double what it would be if you only had two cars responding ???
As was also the norm, the Control Room was struggling to get me any back up due to various disorders in one of the nearby towns. It was a Saturday night after all; end of the month; pay day weekend, which meant all the pubs and clubs were busier than usual, but as ever, there were no extra patrols put on duty to help out.
When I got to the location, which took even me a while to find and I’ve worked that patch for years, I entered the house through the unlocked, wide open kitchen door. There was debris everywhere, plates and food on the floor, dog crap everywhere and a broken cupboard with the doors hanging off. Oh I think to myself, must have been trouble in here.
I could still hear them fighting in another room; carrying on regardless, despite my very loud shouts of ‘POLICE STOP IT NOW !’.
I’m not afraid to admit my heart started to race at this time. It was fairly clear to me that there had been, or more likely from the sound of it, a fair bit of angry, probably drunken violence going on here. I was on my own. Literally. I knew there was no backup near; no back up for many miles away, if at all, yet what was I supposed to do ??
Our training (conducted in a nice warm fluffy gym with foam mats on the floor and an instructor who hasn’t seen the outside of a police station for a very long time) tell us that we should assess, and if the risks are too high then we should wait until assistance arrives. From where ??
I knew that I had to do something NOW, before someone got badly hurt, or worse, if they hadn’t been already – that’s the nature of the beast.
As I clambered into the lounge, over more discarded broken furniture intermixed with what were once I think, the children’s toys and randomly dispersed crushed cheap lager cans, I could clearly see the angry husband punching his partner on her head whilst she lay trapped underneath him on the sofa. She was crying, screaming and trying her best to hold him off from causing her even more injury, all at the same time.
She was nowhere near a match for him in build at the best of times, but with the added aggression of his temper, combined with alcohol, I couldn’t believe she’d kept him at bay this long.
I couldn’t get on the radio to find out where back up was as I was working on the same channel as the disorder in town. The chatter on the air was non stop with other officers asking for help, calling for ‘more units’, trying to make themselves heard over and above everyone else. The Radio Controller would have stood no chance of trying to keep up with what was happening on the ground.
Time or circumstance really weren’t on my side. I could seen the rain of blows continuing. I literally had no choice …. other than to let the lady in front of me get considerably more (and probably worse) injuries …. and in a snap second I had to make the decision to launch myself at the fella to get him off her.
I was literally rolling round the floor with a p**sed and drugged up muscle head when somehow on the radio I can hear ‘control to 1234 check call. 1234 are you in order?’, a pause and then ’1234, no reply’ I couldn’t reply, not without loosing a grip on the arm of Mr MuscleHead who was repeatedly and very actively trying to punch me over and over again. I can remember in that split second thinking was it worth taking the hit to be able to operate my radio to call for help!
After what felt a lifetime of rolling round on the floor with this fella, trying to punch me, bite me, head butt and kick me, I was somehow in a position to press my priority button. I could hear the control room ‘unit who pressed their priority button respond ?’ For goodness sake I thought, these super high-tech radios are all individually allocated, every time we press the transmit button it sends our badge number to the control room – they can clearly see on their screen exactly who has pressed the red button.
I manage to get out ’1234 need back up now, fighting male’. Control ’1234 what’s your location? We don’t have you attached to a job?’ ’1234 I’m at the domestic you sent me to, the male was attacking female and I had to step in’. I didn’t think saying my precise location of ‘under 17 stone of steroid, cocaine and alcohol fuelled meathead with a foot somehow stuck under the sofa and that I really would quite like some help’ would be appreciated…
Mr MuscleHead then took this opportunity when my attention on him had waned slightly to relaunch his attack on me. Listening to the tape back all you could hear was my wheezing and him shouting ‘I’m going to f**king kill you, you c**t!’ At this point I actually said “please don’t” ! Control finally managed to realise where I was and said back up was on route ….. from 15 miles away!!!
That left me with the prospect of 10 minutes or more, on my own, still fighting angry man. Great.
We carried on struggling but I started to realise Mr MuscleHead was tiring and somehow managed to reach my spray. Now I know it isn’t advisable to use in an enclosed room but at this point I was beyond caring. I managed to wriggle free from Mr MuscleHead and whilst laying on my back got a good spray right in his face as he stood over me about to put the boot in. Luckily he went down like the proverbial sack of spuds and with my own eyes streaming and snot pouring from my nose I managed to get him in a position where I could cuff him to the rear.
I knelt beside him trying to get my breath back when there was a scream of ‘you fucking cunt, what have you done to him? He can’t breath! You bastard!’
This was from his wife who was now beside him telling him it was ok and she would get me done for this and I would lose my job cos I didn’t have warrant! Please bare in mind at this time her left eye was swollen to a size I’ve only seen once before, her nose was bleeding profusely and she had clear finger marks round her wind pipe.
‘Control to 1234 are you in order? Where are you? Back up can’t find your location’
So out of breath and eyes streaming, still I had to direct back up to my location turn by turn whilst all they could hear was the female screaming at me that I shouldn’t have sprayed her fella as he had a heart condition – it seemed to have been working fine to me the past goodness knows how long !
At this point she even launched herself at me to try and help hubby! I couldn’t believe this was happening! I was now directing back up to me, trying to restrain her and keep an eye on hubby! Talk about multi-tasking! Back up finally arrived just as she sunk her teeth into the back of my hand breaking the skin and causing it to start bleeding and me a great deal of pain!
Back up finally took over the scene and I was taken to hospital for my hand to be treated. That was anther three hours of joy – not !! and to cap it all the hospital even wanted to charge me for a prescription for anti-biotics!
There was no complaint from her against him and they were both given just a caution for the assault on me !!! Where on Earth is the justice in that ??
From the time I arrived till back up got to me I’d been on my own for 25 minutes! Oh, and later on, when I asked about the kitchen and if they had been fighting in there was told no, it had all been in the living room and the kitchen was always like that!
For about two weeks after on nights in the rural patch we were always double crewed. That slowly slipped away as Sergeants and Inspectors conveniently ‘forgot’ what happened outside the little bubble of activity in their own main town, and last night was another shift on my own with back up 20 minutes away – if they actually know how to leave the place and get to me!
And at 4:20am got the call ‘control to 1234, can you take an immediate domestic. Neighbours reporting couple been arguing all night and now can heard fighting. Location is…’
At least this time I made sure back up could start rolling straight away…
But I’ve never seen an elephant fly …. (oops sorry, wrong film !!)
I’ve selflessly stolen the title of this article from a tweet by @SuptTozer, the senior police officer in charge of policing the town of Shrewsbury and County of Shropshire; a place I bet most people have never probably heard of, so just for your info, it’s above and to the left of Birmingham …. near Wales …. but not quite !!
Superintendent Tozer, along with several of his senior officer colleagues had taken to the streets on New Years Eve to join their response team officers in dealing with the madness and mayhem brought about but the complete inability of a significant number of people to enjoy themselves without resorting to gobsmackingly large amounts of alcohol, which for a large part had no other effect than to make them smack someone else in the gob !!
** humble side thought – I know @SuptTozer is a Twitter follower of mine; i wonder if he saw my tweets over Christmas about when I arrived at Bigtown and the then Super used to insist Command Team staff worked the Friday & Saturday night shift public order vans so they ‘never lost sight of what it’s like on the ground’ ?? Maybe that’s where he got the idea from for this ?? Ok maybe not **
What I’m sure the good Superintendent intended to serve as a running commentary for his followers and the local community of frontline life in one town in one county on New Years Eve has unexpectedly been picked up and run a as news article by both the local and national press. The full list of tweets from @SuptTozer is here:
I was going to write my own blog about the events of New Years Eve, but in fairness all I would be doing was replicating more or less was was written above, just in a different place !!
Needless to say however, some people have already started to criticise the Superintendent for ‘wasting time on Twitter’ but surely what he’s actually done is ‘tell em exactly how it is’.
There are actually 21 tweets between 21.00 and 07.00 the next morning – 2.1 tweets per hours – hardly scandalous but certainly engaging, communicating and informing – all the sort of things police officers of any rank are supposed to do aren’t they ???
But what do the tweets tell us about one small market town in a relatively quiet county in the English heartlands ???
Well by just after 9pm they already had someone locked up for an offensive weapon, had several missing people to try and find, and another who’d taken an overdose. Out of all those jobs, only the one is a ‘crime’ matter which is what the Home Secretary says is all that police officers should be dealing with …. but who is going to sort the rest out …. outside of office hours …. during the New Year holiday break ???
Less than half an hour later a violent crime takes place right in front of them – it doesn’t say if this was alcohol related by my money goes that way !!
By midnight however, the good Super gets a feel of what nightshift bobbies have been saying for a long time – “I have a fleece, a stabproof + florie (fluorescent) jacket and I am cold”. Sir I get the humour in which the comment was intended (towards people dressed in very ‘flimsy’ clothing) but please let uniform buyers countrywide know how you felt – the kit is just not up to scratch !!
And so the night went on …. We learn that by 3am the local Custody Block was full – and that’s BEFORE many of the pubs and clubs closed !!! Drugs and drink-drivers feature also in what essentially would have been the recipe of makings for most town and city centres country wide on the same night.
But whichever way we look at it, the common theme throughout the night has been the general misuse of alcohol. As @SuptTozer tweeted at 4.30am “It’s been a night of alcohol related … now what’s the word? well actually it’s stupidity”. In fairness, as I worked New Years Eve night, I couldn’t have put it better myself !!
For me though, the most important ‘tweet of the street’ was at 4.50am when the Super typed “I have seen my officers stand being shouted, taunted and ranted at, and calmly go about their duty making arrests and keeping the peace” and again at 7am when he said “As I come to the end of my night shift, I give thanks for the many that do this time and time again, without fail: Thank you”.
Hopefully he had chance to tell his troops this in person as well, but it does make a great change as a frontline bobby from anywhere to see a senior officer recognising the work we do publicly, not just on New Years night, but every other day and night of the year. Morale amongst the troops is, as we all know, at an all time low. Sometimes it’s just a simple thanks like this that makes all the difference !
Happy New Year everyone …. no doubt we’ll see you again same time next year
What’s in a number you say ???? well quite a lot when the ‘scores on the doors’ shouldn’t be getting above 35 !!!
Sorry though if you were just about to get excited, this has absolutely nothing to do with darts ! -
I am of course talking about that favourite old cherry of ours, the drink driver. I reckon I must have bored everyone to death pre-Christmas with my incessant re-tweeting and re-posting of a series of anti drink drive messages, mainly based around the excellent Australian TAC videos which put the message out in a far more direct way than any UK Government agency or mainstream broadcaster would dare to. You can by the way, view them here > http://constablechaos.wordpress.com/category/drink-drive/
It would appear however, that over the Christmas period, not enough people viewed my blog pages or took heed of my advice as yet again, the jolly boys and girls in blue of Bigtown had no problem playing our annual festive fun-filled game of ‘Who Can Get The Highest’.
It didn’t even make the challenge any more difficult when I read on some local papers website or another that their local police force was proudly announcing they had ‘breath tested and arrested fewer drink drivers this year than last’ in such excited terms that you would think the war had been won and Billy Ten Beers had hung up his Allegro keys for good. It’s an example of how a bad message can easily be spun to make it sound like the bees knees !!!
Of course the reality of what they were saying is exactly what they had said – they had breath tested fewer drivers, not that there were less drink drivers out there – but the message wasn’t intended to be sold that way. the whole press release had been written to make it sound like there were less law breakers on the roads rather than admit there were less law enforcers on the roads to catch the law breakers in the first place – but why ruin a good story with a few facts ???
I can still remember the days, not that long ago to be fair, when our Inspector had sufficient staff available to actually allocate a car at night solely to the purpose of hunting drink-drivers. We used to take it in turns to crew the car and of course, if any emergency came in that extra hands were needed for we would attend, but other than that we were a ‘non-deployable’ resource, dedicated to eradicating the scum of the road.
Sadly, those days are no longer with us, and less drink drivers are being caught. Not, to my mind, because there are less of them … but because there are less of us to look for them or lie in wait like some wild tiger, hidden in the undergrowth, waiting for a nice juicy antelope to wander past.
Anyway, we like to buck the trend at Bigtown nick, and carry on regardless. call us old-fashioned but despite all the hype, hypocrisy, think tanks and task meetings, in all the interactions myself and my colleagues have with the Greater Good of the British public, they say they would rather we were out there catching thieves than sat at a desk catching writers cramp …. so as much as we can, we do like to keep them happy where possible. And everybody hates a drink-driver, so they’re fair game for all …..
And so the gauntlet was set for this years round of ‘Who Can Get The Highest’. There’s no need to go far into the very simplistic rule of the game suffice to say that over the Christmas to New Year period, the officer who arrested the drink driver who blew the highest reading on the in-station breathalyser wins. There’s no prize , other than the kudos – we wouldn’t like to be seen to be trivialising the whole sorry episode; rather it works as an incentive for us to focus what little ‘downtime’ we get in a positive manner.
There are of course some who don’t see it in the same way as us. They tend to openly, loudly, and generally incoherently shout that we should be ‘out there catching proper criminals; granny muggers and rapists, rather than hounding innocent motorists’ …… except that these people aren’t ‘innocent motorists’, they are the very ones who will (and indeed do) run over Granny Miggins at the bus stop, or plough their two-tonne missile into the back of your perfectly legitimately, safely parked pride and joy and then scarper into the night without a care in the world for the destruction and devastation left behind. Generally of course, they are the people subsequently sat in the back of the police car with the grand prize of a visit to our cell block awaiting.
But back to our competition. What i can say without a doubt this year is that I didn’t win. I didn’t even come close. During our little campaign the highest reading obtained was 148. I only managed a 103 – still three times the drink drive limit but it just didn’t cut the mustard. Even on the day where I caught three drink drivers during the same shift they wouldn’t let me add the totals together which I thought was slightly unfair. I didn’t see the problem in my logic but it did get pointed out I wasn’t playing by the rule so hey ho !
Of course on a more serious note, what we found to be most worrying is not the numbers of drink-drivers we do continue to catch, but the increase in the levels of their intoxication. It’s not that long ago that the majority of people blew in the 50’s or low 60’s – it wasn’t very often than you got people much over 70 (twice the limit). Now a great deal of those caught are close to or over the 100 mark, many are a lot, lot higher !! – a very sad state of affairs if I may say so.
My saving grace though is that if we look at last year overall, I was by and far the winner of the annual ‘Scores on the Doors Trophy’, stemming from an incident a few months back where I carried out a breath test on a guy at an RTC who was fairly coherent, standing, talking and although appearing slightly tipsy, gave no indication of the level of his intoxication … until the numbers came up on the roadside breath test machine as 177 !!! – I have to admit at first to thinking that the device had gone wrong. There was no way in the world the guy appeared to me to be FIVE TIMES the drink drive limit.
His luck didn’t fair much better back at the station when at his first attempt on the in-station machine he only managed to provide one of the two legally required breath specimens, but that reading was 193 – yes you read that right, one hundred and ninety three !! And bear in mind this was a guy who was still walking, talking and carrying on regardless. Me, at half that level of drunkenness, I’d have been flat on my back and comatose.
Not being one to give up easy, and determined this guy was not going to get off with a technical ‘fail to provide’, we sat him down for fifteen minutes and then gave him the option of trying to blow again – the result then being a slightly more sedate 188 and 184 !! (for anyone not aware, it is always the lower of the two readings that is used evidentially to charge a person – see we are kind still)
So that’s that then. And my New years Resolution for 2013 – ‘Must Try Harder !!’ Look out drink-drivers of Bigtown, not only will you have me trying to regain the crown, you’ll also have my colleagues trying to outdo me and get even higher !!! – maybe your Resolution should be to throw the drink-drive towel in now !!
Ohh, and whether it be Christmas, New Year, or all year round, before you go out on the ‘razz’ again, here’s a question for you :
T’was The Night Before Christmas,
And all through the town,
With fools misbehaving
And acting the clown …….
The police were being pulled
From pillar to post
To drink drives and damages
But Drunks it was most ……
Well, it wasn’t much to ask was it ?? For the local ne’er-do’-wells to give it a rest for one night … I mean what difference does one night out of a whole year (no purpose just pointing out to them how many other periods of darkness they get to carry on their buffoonery every year, the concept of cyclic movements would be well lost on them anyway and no doubt the only time the number 364 appears in their mindset is when counting the number of bottles of Frosty Jacks they’ve forgotten to pay for this month !!)
And so out Christmas Eve nightshift had begun. In a completely RIPA free and clandestine movement, I’d diverted from my normal route to the nick to carry out some undercover surveillance of the High Street on the way in – trying to gauge to mood (and more importantly the numbers) on the streets of Chaos Town to mentally prepare myself for the night ahead.
And yup, there it was; quarter to ten and the late shift (all two of them) were already breaking up fights and trying to coerce the more violent of the two into the relative controlled area, comfort and safety of the back of the ‘standard issue and completely impractical for any use other than the school run’ Vauxhall Corsa – the only working vehicle back at the nick and for which the keys had had to be forcibly removed from the sweaty and reluctant palms of a Community Support Officer who’d failed to grasp the concept that the need to preserve the peace and prevent persons coming to further harm was slightly more up the scale of important things than him tootling round trying to stop the kids playing football on the communal grass outside Primrose Gardens flats (the job he had been tasked with).
I had no choice but to stop the car and given them a hand in controlling and containing their new best friend who promptly repaid the favour by seizing an available opportunity to sink his dirty, smelly teeth into the forearms of one of my colleagues. Ohh joy, I haven’t even started work officially yet and there’s going to be paperwork !
With the arrival of a police van and backup from another nick, we were able not only to transfer ‘Teeth man’ into the back, but also provide transport to the chap he was scrapping with who,instead of taking the opportunity to disappear from the location during the kafuffle and confusion, decided not only to hang around but to continue his attempts at world annihilation with every and any passing member of the public he could. Round One to us !
Walking into the briefing room a fair few minutes late due to assisting my colleagues on the way in did not even excuse me from the immediate torrent of abuse from my colleagues about my time-keeping, and even my pleas to the sergeant, who had already been made aware of my situation, had fallen on deaf ears. Nothing, bar nothing, it seems, stepped in the way of the ‘Late Buys Cakes Act’ and so I had no option but to accept the guilty verdict passed against me.
In reality, i really didn’t have enough time to present my defence before briefing was rudely interrupted by the first ‘Grade One’ call of the shift …. “Any late or night turn available for a disorder outside the George and Dragon on Crown Street, reports of twenty plus fighting, chairs being used as weapons, any unit can respond ? …”
And so the night began. What troops we had available, from both lates and nights, set off into the night to encounter yet another drink fuelled frenzy of less than civilised buffoons who clearly need to lay off the wine gums if they can’t handle them. Myself and big Pete, who had jumped in with me, never got to that job to join in the fun (although we were told later there really were twenty plus fighting for a change and it had taken quite an effort between the six officers that attended to restore calm and order even for a short while), as less than two minutes into our blue-light journey we were diverted to a Grade One domestic assault taking place on the other side of town.
With a quick squeal of the wheels and a glance at the map book I always carry, we were about turned and on our way to one of the nicer parts of town where we very rarely get any calls. The Meadow Grange estate this wasn’t …. although the smartly lawned detached properties with flowerbeds and cars outside with all the windows and wheels still attached certainly drums up more feelings of streets that should be named after pleasant flowers than those in the reality of Meadow Grange.
“Not been up here before” piped up Pete as we scooted along the road, trying to spot the property we were looking for. In most parts of town, it’s fairly obvious where you’re going …. the massively increased noise; hoodie wearing crowds outside in the street hanging onto their trophy Staffie Bull Terrier on a bit of rope with one hand, whilst on the other arm is the ‘Trophy Tracey’, ill-fitting tracksuit wearing; nose, ear and probably many other appendage pierced; can of cheap lager in hand, heavily pregnant girlfriend. The house of choice itself, will of course have the bins chucked over in the front garden, sorry patch of mud where no grass has grown for a very long time, and a minimum of half a tonne of compressed aluminium which were, until the previous two dozen domestics, clearly identifiable as Frosty Jacks or Stella cans.
Not this time though …. the driveways here were lined with BMW’s and Mercedes, sprinkled with the odd Jaguar for good measure. Don’t get me wrong, domestic related incidents and violence occur in all walks of life, it’s not just something which afflicts the impoverished, but for good or bad, its fair to say we very rarely get calls to this part of town. As we pulled up outside the relevant address, I must admit to a double-take … there were no outward signs of disorder, no inkling of disarray, no hordes of nosy, interfering neighbours waiting our arrival, no camera phones on ‘pause’, holders hoping their wibbly-wobbly footage would earn them fifty quid from the local news channel. No, it was the epitome of calm and tranquillity … and there was a Bentley on the drive.
Pete called up on the radio, much I guess to ensure we were in the right place (this may come as a shock but it’s not in the slightest unusual for police officers to be sent to completely the wrong address after a calltaker, many, many miles from where you are and without any local knowledge just types in the nearest sounding street name to what they thought they’d heard and hopes for the best) only to have it confirmed that on this occasion, yes the details were 100% accurate. The Control Room despatcher also told us they had played back the recording of the initial call and thought possibly it was a child calling so most likely an argument between the parents.
As mum answered the door, I’m not sure who was the more surprised – her seeing two Ninja Turtle clad blokes in black on her front doorstep, or us seeing a rather glamorous lady dressed up to the nines, looking as if they were on the way to some posh doo at a top London hotel. Certainly not looking like a person who until several minutes ago had been in the throws of a nasty domestic. On explaining why we were there, m’lady called her husband “Dominic …. there’s two police officers at the ‘front’ door” (with quite and emphasis on the word ‘front’). “Blimey” I muttered to Pete “maybe we were supposed to go round the back”. Pete sniggered back “I’ll get a CAD warning done when we get back to the nick”.
Dominic then appeared. A gentleman some considerable age older than the lady of the house, but equally well dressed in Dinner Suit and bow tie. ”I’m terribly sorry officers” he said “I think our daughter may have telephoned you, she does have a habit of getting rather excited if she doesn’t get her own way”. I spoke with daddykins whilst mummy took Big Pete to have a word with their darling daughter Natasha but it wasn’t very long before I heard Pete’s raised voice followed very shortly afterwards by him stomping down the stairs pursued by a very apologetic mother.
“Of all the things …..” Pete was saying is one of his ‘not very happy’ tone of voices. Without saying a word to me, Pete turned to the father of the house and said “It’s half past ten on Christmas Eve, there are few enough of us on the streets as it is. I’m afraid Sir that we really don’t have time to deal with children ringing us up on the nines saying she’s being abused just because you won’t buy her ANOTHER pony for a present. We’ll wish you a Merry Christmas and leave you to speak to her Sir, madam. have a good evening.” And with that Pete was out the door before I could say anything more.
The rest of the night shift was one complete blur of pub fight, club fight and domestic fight; the two interlinking factors in both being the words ‘fight’ and ‘copious’ as in the vast amounts of alcohol ingested by every single person we had the great displeasure of dealing with. Add to that more drink drivers than you could shake a stick at and the odd ruffian for one or another piece of criminal damage and you get the general picture.
By not much after midnight, the cells at Bigtown were full, and we were having to take prisoners to Medbury, some 30miles away. it sort of focussed your mind a bit, worrying that if we had to make that journey, followed by a long wait to book your prisoner in, followed by the drive back, it would keep us off the streets longer than we liked and more importantly, leave your colleagues short staffed back at base. For that reason above any other we probably let go a lot more people than we would have done under normal circumstances, but it really was a case of flying by the seat of our pants ……. again !
Things hadn’t really calmed down by 4.30am on Christmas day morning, when we were mostly all back at the nick doing paperwork and handovers to explain why we’d spread half of the towns night-time revellers across four different cellblocks in a fifty mile radius when the next big job came in. A farmer out in the rural section was on the way to check his cattle when he’d come across an old van, well planted into an old wooden electricity pole, which was now dangerously swinging across a country lane.
The power cables, once so neatly and professionally fixed to the upper arms of the pole were now dangling only a few feet above the road surface itself, and were putting on quite a spectacular light show all of their own; indeed when we arrived, we were most impressed and I must say, it was a far better show than last years bonfire night effort by the Bigtown Rugby Club – sparks and arcs of shorting light flew in every direction – mainly ours – and gave Pete and I the distinct impression that they really didn’t want us getting any closer to them ….. which was fine by us !!
Having called the control via our radios, and asked them to get the electrical emergency people out on the hurry-up (at 4.30 on Christmas Day morning yeah right !!), we then decided it was (relatively) safe enough to check the crashed vehicle for anyone still in it. Thankfully there was not, but things never being that simple, especially when we had every intention of not being late off from work that morning, there was a bit of blood around inside the van and even more empty beer bottles.
So now we had a missing potential casualty, with injuries, and probably drunk, somewhere in the pitch black, at silly o’clock in the morning, with no idea how long they’d been out there, and no idea which way they’d gone. And on top of that, we had our own version of the Northern Lights right in front of us, and a farmer who cared for none of this as he had a couple of hundred cattle that not only needed checking on but would very soon need bringing back this way to the farmyard for milking. “Not this time they won’t be” Big Pete said to the farmer in a very lame attempt at bringing some humour to the situation “not unless you want to start producing flame grilled steak a-la-carte”. I don’t think the farmer saw the funny side in fairness.
“How we going to find this muppet quick then ?” I asked Pete hoping for once he had some intelligent brainwave of an idea just bursting to get out.
“Scratch me” he said “dogs went off at 4, helicopters not been running all night so I hope you got a good torch”.
“Only one thing for it then” I replied as I called the Inspector up on his radio and broke the news to him that we would need every available man, woman and Senior rank (aka him) on duty to come and help find this guy before things got worse than they already were. While the Inspector did his best to rally us some extra troops and come up with the most plausible reason why he himself should not have to leave the relative warmth and safety of his office Pete and I, aptly assisted by the farmer and his son who had by now appeared on the scene set off to start a first cursory search of the surrounding lanes and fields.
After fifteen minutes of getting very cold, wet and muddy, and finding absolutely nothing we reconvened at the scene of the crash to await for our reinforcements to arrive. And then our Christmas miracle happened. In the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, seemingly out of nowhere appeared Santa Claus ……. albeit not very podgy, and without the long curly white hair and beard …. and without the ho ho ho, but still, dressed in a santa suit came, or rather staggered, a very inebriated young man, sporting a very nice bump to the head and the odd scratch or two in other places.
“You alright Santa” Big Pete called over, now having regained his sense of occasion, “what’s the matter, you look like you’ve crashed your sleigh !”
“F*** of you fat b*****d or I’ll f*****g do you right” came the short but to the point reply.
“Ten quid that’s our man” then” Pete quickly said to myself, the farmer and his son. Before we’d even taken a couple of steps towards the lad he piped up “I didn’t f*****g crash it on purpose anyway, I wasn’t f*****g drivin’ ….. “
“Bets are off” Pete shouted “can’t take your money on this one, too easy” and promptly informed our newest friend that he would be spending the majority of Christmas day as our guest at Bigtown Police Station.
Now you’d have thought he would have been pleased about that; a nice clean, warm bed to sleep and sober up in; free food you didn’t have to cook yourself or wash up afterwards, and pleasant company, but no, ohh no, Muppet Chops had to want to fight the world didn’t he. So ….. at 5 o’clock on Christmas Day morning there we were, rolling round in mud, wet and god knows what else, on a farmers country lane with still the electrical equivalent of the Millennium Fireworks going off all around us.
By the time another crew arrived to assist, and with the help of farmer & son, we had our man trussed up better than a turkey waiting for the oven. The other crew were happy to take our prisoner off our hands and into the back of our van, but weren’t so polite about telling Pete and myself that neither of us smelly, cowpat covered degenerates was getting anywhere near their nice clean police vehicle and that we should both go and find the nearest pond and jump in it to clean ourselves up before even thinking about returning to Bigtown nick.
As they started to drive away, one of the guys stuck his head out of the van’s side window and shouted “Merry Christmas Chaos” and off they went into the night.
“Yeah, and a stinking Merry Christmas to you too” I shouted after them, then turned to look at Big Pete who was in just as bad and filthy a state as I. What else could we do, but just stand there and laugh at each other.
“Happy Christmas Pete” I said. “And the same to you with Jingle Bells on” was the reply.
And we both jumped back into our panda, wound down the windows, and took a leisurely drive back to the police station to start another round of paperwork …..
The can be few people anywhere in the world who have not been shocked to the core by the horrific events that befell the small town of Newtown, Connecticut, USA on December 14th 2012
TWENTY SIX innocent people, TWENTY of them aged just SIX or SEVEN years old lost their lives in a hail of gunfire within their own community school – a supposed place of safety.
For those of us in the United Kingdom, it is something we can closely relate to. It’s not that many years since this type of evil visited our shores, when in March 1996 sixteen children and their teacher were shot and killed in the Dunblane tragedy in Scotland.
Without going into the why’s and wherefores’ of the American gun obsession culture, it’s plain for all to see that tragedies like this will continue to happen until something changes.
In the meantime, for the families and friends of all those affected by this tragedy, life will never be the same again. Christmas is cancelled; life as they all know it has been cancelled.
Above all else, in this day and age, it’s a plain and simple fact of life that no parent should ever have to bury their own child.
And also, don’t forget the trauma, pain and emotional scars that will be left on the emergency personnel who responded to this tragedy, the police, fire and ambulance personnel for whom no amount of training could have prepared them for what they were about to encounter.
People quickly forget the first responders; those that are just ‘doing their job’ but as someone who has had to deal with one too many individual tragedies myself, I cannot begin to imagine how to begin dealing with a disaster on this scale.
And then there were the people upon whom it fell to tell twenty six families that their loved ones would never be returning home again.
So, what can we do to help ? In physical terms, two funds have been set up to help those left to death with the aftermath of the dark cloud which has beset this quiet corner of the United Sates.
The people of Sandy Hook have set up their own fund via the Charity Giving Site EverRibbon. Their message is:
We are the parents of the children who survived. We are the classmates, friends, and the little league coaches. Sandy Hook is where we live — it is our proud community.
We ask the world to join us not only in our grief but also in our burning need take some of the burdens off these families in their time of incredible pain. To bear their cross in some small way.
We intend to use donations to pay for immediate needs, including funeral services, as well as ongoing living expenses such as food, mortgages payments, daycare, insurances and fuel until they are back on solid ground.
Please help us help our own neighbors beyond sharing their tears. All net funds received will go directly to the families who lost children and immediate family members.
You can donate directly to their appeal by clicking on the image above or this link –> My Sandy Hook family Fund
Alternatively, the Sandy Hook School Support Fund has been set up by United Way of Western Connecticut and the Newtown Savings Bank to provide support services to the affected families and community. Among other efforts, it will support day and night walk-in hours at the Newtown Youth and Family Services Counseling Center
To donate to this appeal click on the image above or this link –> Sandy Hook School Support Fund
If you can, and I know times are hard for all of us, but they aren’t as hard as they will be forever for the Sandy Hook families, please do make a small donation to one or both of the above appeals. A couple of pounds from each of us could go a very long way to relieving many of the extra burdens the families will have to face – and remember state aid and welfare is not as forthcoming in the USA as it is here !
As most of the readers of this blog will have some connection to the emergency services, be it police fire or ambulance, and most of us will have kids of our own, or even grandkids, consider yourself being on duty and listening to the radio traffic from the YouTube clip below coming through in real time. Ask yourself this – how would you react ??
Please repost this article on your Facebook and Twitter pages and anywhere else you can, to raise awareness and encourage others to help.
On Twitter also use the hashtag #TwitterCaresForSandyHook to show your support. Thank you.
Got kids ??? Then think, before YOU drink, before YOU drive !!!
I’ve created this one using clips from the hard-hitting Australian TAC video’s set to a very familiar soundtrack to try and get the message across in a different way – STAY ALIVE – DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE !!