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 !!
With the Christmas Party season in full swing, it’s worth remembering you could still be over the drink-drive limit well into the following day !!
This was one of the most emotionally charged of all the Victoria, Australia, Transport Accident Commission (TAC) campaigns.
It was created in three parts that went to air sequentially in the days leading up to Christmas.
A Christmas Anti Drink-Drive advert by the Australian government
So here we are, exactly one week before the (not very well) publicised Police and Crime Commissioner Elections.
The ‘what’, many of you will be saying, well many of you that aren’t ‘in the job’ because, and let’s face it, if you aren’t, or haven’t felt the need to carry out the online equivalent of sticking pins in your eyes by following our continual harping on about this delusional fiasco, is ‘What on Earth is it all about’ ?
It’s a good question ….. and oddly enough one that I’ve been asked more than once the last couple of weeks by people at jobs I’ve attended. A strange diversion of conversation when you’re in the middle of taking a statement about their house burglary or assault, but it would appear that the bobby in their living room is the only point of direct reference they have had … and we do have the word ‘POLICE’ stapled to our backs !
It seems people have caught the odd advert in the middle of watching Coronation Street or have seen a snippet on the news, but that is the extent of the knowledge sharing on what is billed as the ‘biggest shakeup of policing in a generation’ or something like that.
I’m not sure these people entirely believed my when I said “Sorry, can’t talk about that, more than my jobs worth” preceded by a loud and sharp intake of breath a la some dodgy second hand car salesman you’ve just asked for a discount.
And when I clarified by saying “Well you see, police officers are prohibited from interacting with anyone involved in the elections, can’t talk to the candidates or their representatives, can’t say anything in case that might accidentally suggest we favour one person over another, or we’ll get disciplined … even possibly sacked” I got looked at like I’d suddenly grown three heads !!
Of course, and bearing in mind I was currently sat with nice, normal sane, intelligent people, I got asked questions like “Well how will you know who you have to vote for yourself then ?”. Cue the raised hands and shrugged shoulders moment.
And therein lies the point. There is a week to go and not a single knock on my door or leaflet through the letterbox to tell me what’s going on …… and I don’t expect for one moment that I’m the only one in that position so to speak.
Not that I would be able to speak to anyone if they did knock my door anyway. If by chance you are a PCC candidate or representative and you knock a door in the next few days, and the person who answers appears unable to speak, looks panic-stricken and slams the door in your face, that may be me, and I apologise profusely, but I might lose my job you see
And I somehow think that this is exactly the position someone up top wants us to be in, as explained very nicely by the reply when I merely pointed out to my victims that there will be some candidates from the Conservatives, some from Labour, might be some LibDem’s and the odd Independent candidate to two thrown in here and there.
The reply ?? “Well I’ll vote for ***** then because that’s what I did at the election”
And that is exactly what this is going to boil down to for a good many people – in the absence of any rational information or debate to lay down all the information, policies and practicalities, the few that do bother to vote will, for the majority, err along established party political lines, because that’s how they’ve always voted. Is that the best (or proper) way ?? …. and where does it leave all the Independent candidates, who seemingly have been disadvantaged in the poor publicity process ??
The Electoral Reform Society has said the Government has some serious questions to answer, regarding the predicted lowest turnout of any nationwide election in British history. They will have cost a massive £75m, but evidence suggests that we can only hope for a turnout of around 18.5% – the lowest ever. Whilst the government argue that the first election is ‘always difficult’. The Electoral Reform Society has said evidence from previous ‘first time’ elections clearly demonstrate this argument isn’t a ‘get out of jail free card’.
In addition we’ve seen £350,000 worth of English-only ballot papers shredded in Wales due to an administrative error in not making them bilingual.
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said:
“To make one mistake in this election could have been regarded as misfortune. To make the dozen or so blunders the Home Office have made to date just looks careless. There have been epic mistakes in every last detail of this election – from timing that will keep most voters at home, to huge deposits that have kept serious candidates away, and now ballot papers which will be shortly heading into landfill.
The UK Government has turned a flagship policy into farce. We have a role charged with serious powers that is now at risk of becoming a joke. The Home Office have obliged with a few videos and a website, but this has all come too late in the day. Few people know this election is happening, and even fewer really understand the nature of the role. There are plenty of big questions that the Government will have to answer post-election.”
The Society has examined turnout in first-time elections for English mayors and it is clear that the relatively low figures achieved in first time elections for English mayors are a million miles away from November’s expected numbers. Here is some useful data on ‘first-time elections’ – the turnout for mayoral elections in England:
- Watford 2002 – 37%
- Doncaster 2002 – 27%
- Hartlepool 2002 – 29%
- Lewisham 2002 – 25%
- Middlesbrough 2002 – 42%
- North Tyneside 2002 – 42%
- Newham 2002 – 26%
- Bedford 2002 – 25%
- Hackney 2002 – 26%
- Mansfield 2002 – 19%
- Stoke on Trent 2002 – 27%
- Torbay 2005 – 24%
- Tower Hamlets 2010 – 26%
- Salford 2012 – 26%
- Liverpool 2012 – 31%
The projected 18.5% for the PCCs is a failing of the election rather than individual candidates who are working hard and face a real challenge. Each candidate has to pay a £5,000 deposit, which they only receive back if they gain a set % of the vote – this has not encouraged many candidates to step up to the mark, and has meant many have far less budget available for publicity and leaflets which are the main way many make an informed decision when voting in an election. In addition the timing is poor – being on a dark winter’s night will not encourage as many voters as the traditional May election time.
But beyond that, I also fear that for some the incoming PCC’s, they will find themselves ending up the sacrificial lamb for matters not of their doing – I find it hard to comprehend how one person can be held responsible for strategic planning errors made without the advice of senior police officers who cannot divulge the pertinent information because PCC’s will not be subject to the high levels of Security vetting required for this sensitive information to be shared – but blamed they will be, by an awfully large number of people and press, who themselves will not be in possession of all the facts, or rather the facts that the PCC’s were not in possession of all the facts …. if you get my meaning.
I personally don’t get the idea of PCC’s and would still question whether now, will all the other problems we all face, is the right time to be making such a major systematic change, or maybe it’s being carried out now so that if it does all go wrong, it can quickly be brushed off as the ‘right idea at the wrong time’ to save face.
But that’s by the by. We are where we are and maybe, just maybe, the PCC’s when in post will see that it’s in their interests to engage, listen and take on board the thoughts and concerns of Ye Olde frontline officer – the guys and girls actually doing the job every day, rather than their political spin-masters sat in a comfy chair in a nice warm office somewhere far, far away.
No one doubts that change is needed in the way the British police works. Every single police officer will be more than happy to tell anyone how the job can be done better, more efficiently, and to the benefit of all our communities. It’s not rocket science, but some people with a vested interest in self-preservation have made a whole industry (or at least a limited company or two) out of making things so difficult that only they have the answers to the problems they themselves have created.
Obviously I cannot show favour for any individual candidate (because hellfire and damnation will befall me) so I will simply wish each and every candidate an equal amount of luck in the forthcoming election. I just wish each of you had an equal opportunity to lay out your case in front of the electorate so that a proper informed choice could be made – for without that, how can the whole system claim any credibility ??
And if you do win, please remember us on the frontline will always be happy to share our wisdom with you
N.B. The section of this article regarding the Electoral Reform Society and election percentages is based on information from chriskidd.co.uk – reproduced with thanks.
I picked up on this video link in a tweet by @TrueCrimeUK and then also noted it again on a blog post by @SConTutor –> (http://scontutor.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/drink-drive-what-is-the-point/)
It’s from Australia, it doesn’t make pleasant viewing but raises the question ‘Why are we afraid to broadcast commercials like this in the UK ?’
The background to the video is described in this editorial from the Transport Accident Commission Victoria, Australia :
On December 10th 1989 the first TAC commercial went to air. In that year the road toll was 776; by 2008 it had fallen to 303.
A five minute retrospective of the road safety campaigns produced by the TAC over the last 20 years has been compiled. The montage features iconic scenes and images from commercials that have helped change they way we drive, all edited to the moving song Everybody Hurts by REM.
This campaign is a chance to revisit some of the images that have been engraved on our memories, remember the many thousands of people who have been affected by road trauma and remind us all that for everyone’s sake; please, drive safely.
Drink (and drug) driving repulses me. After many years we have got to the stage where it is considered socially unacceptable here in the UK …. yet many, many people still cannot grasp the concept that drinking and driving wrecks lives.
And the worst thing that police officers across the country are noting is that the levels of intoxication are increasing. Whereas a few years ago, twice the limit (figures around 70µg alcohol per100ml breath) were considered shocking, a great number of readings are now over the 100 mark ! – It’s not that long ago that a detainee of mine attained the second highest reading recorded at our station – 184µg – and that was over an hour and a half after arrest !!
Christmas is coming, and although there’s always a big drink-drive push around the festive season, people need to remember that drink drivers get arrested every single day of the year. It’s not big and it’s not clever – and if you know someone that does drink and drive, do what you can to stop them – before we do or worse, they hurt someone !
The Police Federation nationally has surely stoked the fire of controversy today by lumbering into bed with the strangest set of bedfellows to launch a book about policing in the UK.
Entitled ‘Upholding The Queen’s Peace’, the publication was launched in London at an event this evening (6th November 2012) hosted by Keith Vaz, Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, with guest speakers Theresa May, Paul McKeever and Sir Hugh Orde.
The publication features articles by the following contributors:
- Paul McKeever (Chairman, Police Federation of England & Wales)
- Theresa May MP (Conservative, Home Secretary)
- Yvette Cooper MP (Labour, Shadow Home Secretary)
- Sir Hugh Orde (President, Association of Chief Police Officers)
- Ian Rennie (General Secretary, Police Federation of England & Wales)
- Sir Denis O’Connor (Formerly Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary)
- Sean O’Neill (The Times)
- Tom Brake MP (Lib Dem, Deputy Leader of the House of Commons)
- Shami Chakrabati (Director of Liberty)
- Dr Michael Chatterton (who has studied policing throughout his academic career)
- Peter Hitchens (former deputy political editor of the Daily Express and Mail on Sunday columnist)
- Kamaljeet Jandu (National Officer with GMB trade union)
- Javed Khan (Chief Executive, Victim Support)
- Jayne Monkhouse OBE (Equality Consultant)
- Roger Seifert (Advisor to trade unions, large corporations and government departments).
I won’t make comment on the context of the book itself, but will leave that to you ….. as nowhere does the publication include any sort of copyright or ‘Restriction’ marking, feel free to read ‘Upholding The Queen’s Peace’ by clicking here or on the image above….. ohh and feel even freer to leave your comments below
No sooner had we sat down to enjoy our freshly purchased doughnuts and cream cakes at the start of the shift (thanks Dave for your kind donation aka ‘oops I accidentally drove straight past the offender yesterday and it was damn lucky Chaos and Katie were right behind to scoop him up ‘) than the first call of the late shift came in.
“Chaos, can you make down to the Sports Supa-Mega Warehouse on the retail park, they’ve got two detained shoplifters and can you take Katie with you as they are both female ….”
So with a fast slurp of tea and half a nibble of my favourite apple turnover on the basis that no one would knick while we were gone if I contaminated it, we were off down the Bigtown’s finest retail emporium to see what charms of the community we would have to deal with this afternoon.
Well it didn’t take much working out what lay ahead of us as we reached the store – you could hear the raised voices and choice language being thrown about before we even got through the doors.
Having been led through to the managers office at the rear of the store (although I reckon even a couple of street-plods like us could have found our way by simply following the increasing volume) we soon ventured upon two of Bigtown Custody Suite’s more regular non-paying guests, Courtney and Phoebe, twin sisters who, if you couldn’t work it out, were born to a mother with a more than unhealthy obsession with Friends …
“So” I said the the now ‘bored-with-being-shouted-at-at-full-volume-for-ten-minutes’ manager, “what brings us and the two delightfully charming young ladies into your office today ?”. I find that humour very loosely disguised as sarcasm breaks down the initial barriers quite well – it makes the store staff laugh and goes completely over the head of our current quarry all at the same time
And so the said Store manager produced a couple of Asda ‘Bags For Life’ which were literally stuffed to the hilt with the latest fashion in high branded tracksuits ….. all is size XXXL …
Did I mention that Courtney and Phoebe’s names are the only link or resemblance to the characters/actors in that well-known American sitcom. Unfortunately, the concept didn’t transpose itself that well onto the mean streets of Bigtown, and it’s fairly apparent our two namesakes got mixed up between Central Perk deli salads and Double Big Mac’s and Fries – ‘Make it large’ … well I suppose it is an alternative style of American cuisine !
And so the manager explained to myself and Katie, in the ‘full presence and hearing of the persons detained of course’ that they had been observed both on CCTV and by staff within the store, to peruse the clothing display racks, and select a number of expensively branded items, which they had obviously decided that they wouldn’t bother trying on for size in store but would take home with them to examine at their leisure.
The only problem being that they had not actually remembered to tell anyone in the store about this highly practical (in their eyes) method of ‘try before you buy’ and so as not to cause concern or undue favouritism against other, possibly more law-abiding customers in the store, they had covered up their ‘samples’ with their existing filthy, grotty tops, and wandered out of the store to avoid a fuss …. or avoid passing through any of the available payment points, or offering payment of any kind – you decide.
My mind began to wander off on a tangent at this moment; one that has puzzled me on several occasions before – namely why do manufacturers construct tracksuits, which are after all keep fit attire, in sizes for which it is plainly obvious that the nature of the beast will never be realised.
Well of course they could argue that these are the perfect sizes to be producing tracksuits, as they provide sportswear for the market of people who are overweight and wish to do something about it. That is good. So then I rearrange my thoughts to ‘why do people who clearly have no intention of ‘doing something about it’ buy tracksuits ???
Perhaps I shouldn’t eat strong cheese at lunchtime ???
“Right” I said to Phoebe and Courtney (whilst trying not to sing Smelly Cat out loud) “You’ve heard what the store manager has to say, we both know you cant be dealt with any other was so you’re both under arrest etc …”
Whilst one of the other staff was totting up the value of the goods the two girls had lifted, the Store Manager was busy telling them how they were both now banned from every branch of his mega-plex superstores and associated companies and gymnasiums for life (like they would ever set foot in the latter anyway) and then he asked them if they had anything they wanted to say.
I guess he was hoping for an ‘I’m sorry’ or similar, but what he got made my head spin and then chuckle out loud …“Needed ‘em didn’t we cos we’re goin’ on Jezza next week” said Courtney.
I had to stop them there and remind them they were under caution even if they weren’t talking to me or Katie and told them we’d go through it all in interview back at the station.
The short journey back to the nick was filled with more of the lingual delights of our new friends limited but profane understanding of the Queen’s English, but as the ideal captive audience, there really was no escape for Katie and I.
After explaining our reasons for being there to the less than awfully impressed with their attitude Custody Sergeant it was straight to interview as neither of the fine young ladies wished to partake of their ingrained right to ‘free and independent legal advice’ .. well free to them anyway, someone still has to pay for it which undoubtedly will be you and I through our taxes as there was no hope of a contribution from our our Friends debutantes.
Once in interview (separately of course) neither Phoebe or Courtney could curtail their excited wish to tell all, and inform us that the whole purpose of their ‘shopping trip’ (their words not mine) was to obtain some shiny bright new sports kit for their upcoming appearance on the Jeremy Kyle show !
Much as I couldn’t have suddenly become less interested if I had tried, Katie obviously had a momentary lapse of all things common sense related, and had to ask the question of Phoebe “What are you going on there for then ?” ….
And that put her into full swing …… “Cos it’s Antony innit” she began “reckons he’s the father of Courtney’s kid she’s up the duff with”.
“And you think he isn’t ?” asked Katie before I could get the chance to interrupt and use several of the spare sticky labels for sealing the interview discs and adhere them all over Katie’s face to prevent further speech ….
“Well he’s the dad of one of her kids Louis but not Nathan the oldest” ….” My brain was begin to bubble … “but he ain’t the new kids dad cos he’s wiv me now and I’m having his kid ….”
Aaarrggghh !!! brain frazzle imminent !!!
Conversely, the subsequent interview with Courtney has suggested the opposite – Antony had told her he ‘was leaving Phoebe cos she’d bin behind his back an’ got herself pregnant wiv his mate Calvin (who I can only presume had one parent or another with a particular taste in underwear) and wanted to get back togevva wiv Courtney for their kids sake’.
Ohhh and to celebrate this turn of honesty and revelation from Antony wanting to be the best dad in the world, he and Courtney had gone out of their way to get her pregnant – a feat they had managed in less than two weeks of trying !!!
Despite this amazingly inter-tangled web of absolute tosh, Phoebe and Courtney had remained not just sisters but ‘bezza matez’ and between them had hatched an amazingly simple plot to uncover the truth about Antony – one which hadn’t quite dawned on them that one or the other was about to be extremely disappointed …. the plan ? – which as it turned out was in fact their mothers idea !!! goddamit the moms involved as well !!! – they had phoned up the Jeremy Kyle show to tell their tale and ask for live-on-TV DNA testing …
I can’t imagine the notepad belonging to the researcher who took that call – and all the little arrows and looping lines they would be drawing in order to try and connect this mess together into some manageable format.
But …. for reasons unbeknown to me, but clearly quite obvious (and no doubt ratings enhancing) to the researcher, they had decided to take this tale on, and so it was set that Phoebe, Courtney and Antony were all due to be appearing on the JK show within the week. And, having spent all their dole money on fags and cheap cider, they reckoned to only way to get some non-stained clothing to appear on the telly in was to nick it.
I felt I needed to make some sort of contribution to this debate, and so, in both interviews, having heard more or less the same tale, I managed to pipe in “Well I’m sure last time I dealt with someone who was on Jeremy Kyle, they told me they got put up in a hotel overnight, and were took shopping to buy clothes to wear on the show …”
That didn’t go down as well as expected … or maybe it went down exactly as expected … or rather intended … The dawning look of realisation on both their faces as it became apparent their whole venture had been in vain was, as they say in that credit card advert …. priceless !!!
After both young ladies were later charged with theft from the store and bailed to court I did have the opportunity to wish them well on their new broadcasting careers, but I never had the desire to actually watch the programme to find out what went on !!!
It’s the kids I feel sorry for though – with all this going on, what chance to they have ??
It’s taken me a few days now to get to a point where I could write this blog .. or more accurately write a collection of words that tried to explain how I’ve got to this point and how I feel about the selfless actions of somewhere over 1,000 people who gave their own time and effort, to answer a simple question, and to stand, for many, in a strange street, in a strange town, at the same time; to think about and honour two girls they had never met, never would, and had no idea of the slightest thing about them, but knew that at this time and in this place, they simply had to be there for them.
Not wanted to be there, but HAD to be there.
In my whole life, I’ve probably visited the centre of Manchester about half a dozen times. And if I’m honest, I’d have to say my impressions had never been that good.
Many moons ago I was a ‘white van man’, and often ventured into industrial areas and ‘back street’ offices as well as parts of the city centre making deliveries. My lasting memories were of grime, of deprivation and in some cases, the sort of place I certainly wouldn’t want to walk in broad daylight, never mind after dark.
Other than that, my visits to the city centre have been no more than the quick in and out whilst going to a concert at the MEN Arena. And again, my thoughts rarely got out of the negative as wherever I seemed to go; whichever corner I seemed to turn, I was met with visions of a place that was litter strewn; unclean; grubby; past its sell by date
Perhaps I just never had the opportunity to visit the ‘good side’ of town – or maybe I just let my stereotypes win over me. All of that however, changed this week …..
I had, on the 19th September, sent out a tweet, the content of which said “Calling all cars … would you work a day in GMP so their officers can attend funerals for Fiona & Nicola #CoverForGMP”, a simple request which it’s fair to say has changed the perception of the relationship between the Police and Social Media for ever.
The origin of the #CoverForGMP hashtag was, as I have said on numerous times before, not mine. It arrived with me via a tweet from @ResponseSgt, like me, shocked and astounded at what had happened on the streets of Manchester on the 18th September and wondering what we, as fellow police officers could do at this awful time.
And this is what we could do. Get as many police officers into Manchester as was possible. To cover the cars so GMP officers could pay their respects to their fallen officers, and the line the route of the funeral procession, showing the world aloud that British Police Officer’s cared for each other …. completely. The rest really is, as they say, history …
I arrived in the city sometime before 8.00am on Wednesday 3rd October. The funeral of PC Nicola Hughes was not for a good five hours but I wanted to be there as early as possible; to slowly wander around with my own thoughts; to see where everywhere was; to know where everything was going to happen.
To be honest, I was also in panic mode. “What if no-one came”, “What if no-one turned up”, “What if everything had just been that typical online ‘Yes I’ll do it’ when whoever has no intention of keeping their promise”. After all, people retweet all sorts of stuff on Twitter every singe day. Was my ‘Calling all cars …’ message really going to be any different to all the rest ?
I had however convinced myself over the previous two weeks that people would come; that police officers, police staff, members of the other emergency services and member of the general public would want to be there – that they would feel compelled to be drawn to this place, at these times, to stand with hundreds, maybe thousands of complete strangers, possibly in the cold and rain, just to say goodbye to a couple of coppers.
The last few nights had been sleepless. The guys and girls on my shift were starting to say ‘you’re looking tired and stressed’ and were rallying round to do whatever they could (which mainly involved lots of cups of tea), but this was crunch time. What also niggled me was the knowledge that people I had been in contact with here in Greater Manchester Police had also been told by ‘those that know these things’ that it wasn’t going to happen, a couple of hundred local police might turn up, but this Twitter thing was just a myth, Luckily, my contacts also had faith.
I walked up from the old Boddington’s car park, past the MEN, one of the few places in this city I had ever seen before – there’s a bloomin’ great railway station next door you know, but I’ve never even noticed that until this day !!
Something WAS different this morning. The sun was shining down upon us in the chill of the morning air as I walked along, towards the front of Manchester Cathedral, and then onwards towards Deansgate and the hotel where I was due to meet the people from GMP Federation in a couple of hours time.
The place looked cleaner, brighter, more vibrant. Could me previous impressions of this city really have been so wrong. Was it right that I was thinking of this place in such a positive light, bearing in might what was to come over the next two days ?
TV outside broadcast vans were everywhere. I saw the familiar faces of more than one national TV reporter milling around; talking to their crews; working out where their best location would be.
I caught sight of Ian Hanson, the GMP Federation Chairman, being interviewed by the BBC in front of a satellite truck, doing a piece on the days forthcoming events for the breakfast news. I didn’t want to wander over and introduce myself there and then – he was busy.
Above this I knew that the BBC and others knew I was there, and I knew they were very keen to find out who I was, and try and get some sort of comment or interview about the whole #CoverForGMP effort. Much as I would probably have loved to shout from the rooftops about how amazingly great the whole British police service and others had been about supporting #CoverForGMP, that needed to be left to somebody else.
I’d been pre-warned about being careful who I spoke to or who I knew that was there who might accidentally slip out the wrong thing for fear of being ‘outed’. It really was a bizarre scenario during an awful set of circumstances – almost having to sneak around like a naughty child for fear of being caught.
As I walked on, there seemed to be hardly anyone else around. And then, an elderly lady walked towards me. Directly over to me. And spoke. “It’s a horrible thing you having to come here today, not everyone in Manchester is like that you know” she said. At this time I was dressed, not in tunic and helmet, but in an open necked white shirt with an old nondescript green fleece over the top and yes, my uniform trousers and boots. But she knew I was a copper, and just wanted to welcome a stranger into her town.
And so it carried on as I walked past the Cathedral and wandered slowly along Deansgate, catching glimpses of the Arndale Centre, passing Harvey Nics, working out where that horrible previous atrocity, the IRA bombing had happened. As I stopped to take in the sights around me, and even when I hadn’t stopped, people spoke, they thanked me for coming, as I’m sure they thanked every single other police officer they saw that morning.
I still had much time to spend before my arranged meeting with the GMP Fed people so wandered further down Deansgate, idly nosing in shop windows as I passed. There were a few bobbies about, but not many. The ones I saw were all kitted in ‘normal’ street uniform so I rationed that they were the normal shift strength. Again the panic started to happen. “No one’s going to come” I thought.
But I had little time to think anything else as I glanced and saw a chap approaching me through the corner of my eye. The guy was different to those who had stopped and spoken to me in the previous minutes – this was a guy with a purpose, and a guy with the tattoos to match …
And so that was how I came to be stood with one of Manchester’s most illustrious characters. Was he a wanted man ? – very probably, but I had no way of checking. Was he, for want of a better phrase, a ‘career criminal’ ? – most definitely. he was certainly the sort of chap I wouldn’t want to come across working the Public Order shift on a Friday night.
He came towards me with the obligatory ‘swagger’ – arms braced to the sides in the standard cavemen style; no doubt the effect of many too many steroids on the human body.
“Mate” he said. ‘I doubt it’ I thought. “Listen, I got no time for your lot; wouldn’t bother to take a few of you out but what he did was wrong, proper wrong. It won’t happen again trust me”.
That was the obligatory toned down with all the expletives removed version of what he said, but the sentiment is there. Quite plainly, he was making sure we knew that those that ‘professionally’ spend much of their life on the wrong side of the law, were equally as shocked at what has happened as we were.
And the “It won’t happen again” ?? – there was something in the way he said it that made me believe him. Or at least want to believe him.
And so it continued. People stopped to ask questions “Where are you from ?”, “How long did it take to get here”, “Did you know the officers that were killed ?”, and so on … Almost without exception, people thanked us all for taking the time and effort to come to their city on this very sad occasion.
There still didn’t seem to be too many obvious officers in uniform about as I made my way to the hotel where the Federation had based themselves, but after a short discussion with the Fed Reps and fellow Twitterer @NathanConstable, I stepped back outside to a sight that I simply could not believe. In less than 30 minutes, Deansgate had gone from a bustling city centre thoroughfare, to the beginnings of a long, almost silent line of black uniforms on both sides of the road; already reaching from the entrance to the Cathedral for several hundred metres.
Along the length of Deansgate, police officers in bright yellow fluorescent jackets stood at regular intervals; the ‘#CoverForGMP officers, who had been nominated, two from each police force around the country, to represent their forces at these solemn occasions, and offer the ‘symbolic’ aid to Greater Manchester Police that the original tweets had requested.
I had arranged to meet some friends travelling in by train at Victoria Station, so quickly I made my way back through the increasing numbers of smartly dressed; for those that had managed to beg, borrow or otherwise acquire, tunics were the order of the day, boots were polished and trousers pressed; coppers were walking from all directions towards the Cathedral area.
At the railway station a train had just arrived. Almost without exception, every person that got off that train was in uniform; I saw police, ambulance, prison service and probably a few others I didn’t recognise, but they were all here for one thing – to #CoverForGMP.
I met my friends, and we walked back, amongst the growing numbers towards the Cathedral and Deansgate. And with every passing minute, the numbers grew. From every possible direction, not one, not two, but groups of uniformed people walked sombrely along the line until they reached the end where, without direction or consultation from above, they simply took their place.
And of course, it wasn’t just the uniformed services. Hundreds of members of the public had also joined the lines; united in grief and wanting to pay their respects to the memories of two young ladies who had given their lives trying to make those of the people of Manchester just that little bit easier.
And then the silence fell.
A normally busy, bustling metropolitan centre of commerce fell quiet. And I don’t mean a reduction in the everyday noise around you; the roar of engines, the music blaring from the shops; the people engrossed in conversation as they hurried along, too busy to notice what was going on three feet away.
This was different. Everyone had stopped. The traffic had stopped. The shops had stopped. The offices had stopped. There was no noise.
Until, from a distance, a strange ‘tapping sound’ could be heard. It was out of sight for those of us near to the Cathedral, and so not immediately identifiable as to what the source of the noise was. But no one moved. No one left their place.
And then, moments later, the first sight of what was to follow became apparent. Two riders from the Greater Manchester Mounted Division rode their horses, slowly but purposefully, along the length of the street. The strange noise we had all heard being the echoing sound of horseshoes on tarmac. But that really was the only sound that could be heard !
The whole scenario was surreal. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck, as I’m sure they did for every single other person present. The tolling of a single Cathedral bell followed. Slowly. Rhythmically. In sorrow.
And then the sounds again of horseshoes on tarmac. Only this time, behind the mounted officers followed a hearse. The carriage carrying PC Nicola Hughes on her final journey.
Along the line, which now stretched further, much further than I could see, heads bowed in respect. As the funeral cortege passed, flowers were thrown; flowers handed out on the spur of the moment by a local store. And the public clapped. The public showed their appreciation by sending our fallen colleague off with a round of applause for a beat well walked.
And so, as the coffin carrying PC Nicola Hughes was carried, by her colleagues, into the Cathedral, the line of people outside, made their way, still almost silently, to the Cathedral Gardens, where the service was relayed via a large screen, allowing many more people to take an active part in the service being carried on inside.
And shortly before the service drew to an end, whispers began to ripple through the amassed crowds. Tunics were tugged and beckoning fingers called. Again, there had been no formal or official call, but everyone present knew what needed to be done.
As the committal took place within the Cathedral, those of us outside again filed into line, this time to provide a guard of honour as for the final time, Nicola left the city centre to be carried away to places new.
The rest of the afternoon became a bit of a blur. A reception was held at GMP Headquarters for all the officers that had travelled from around the country to assist on the day. I was also, honoured to be invited back, and introduced to many of the senior personnel present. It was a chance for me to thank the Senior ranks for the support they had given to the idea of #CoverForGMP and progressing our ideas into a workable, manageable format with the necessary dignity of the occasion, and also for the same senior officers to offer their gratitude for the support they had received from around the UK.
The next morning, Thursday 4th October, I returned again to the streets of Manchester City Centre. I had arranged to meet up with a fellow blogger @TheCustodySgt. We met on a strange street corner, in a town where neither of us lived or worked, but with a common purpose – to stand together and support the people of Manchester through the second of two of their darkest days.
But this morning, we managed to find humour together in all the sadness. This in no way detracted from the respect due, but n the way that police officers throughout the land learn to cope with the worst that life can throw at us, we know either to laugh or we will cry.
As the crowds gathered once again, and the not-so-thin-for-a-change blue line began once more to snake its way along both sides of Deansgate, we did our best to find and thank as many of our online followers as we could. To thank people for their support, and for making, in some cases, a considerable journey (my phone had started beeping at 4.30am with messages from people saying ‘We’re on the way, just leaving Swindon’ and the like !).
What people must have thought of these two, uniform clad bobbies, frantically tapping away at mobile phone screens, darting up and down the line, and waving mysteriously in the air I’ll never know.
Twitter conversations like “Where Are You”, “I’m by the Orange Sign”, “Can’t see you do a jig or something” and “Go stand by that big round pink thing” only served to break the ice and bring an already close police family that little bit even closer together.
But then the single bell began to toll again and everything came to a standstill once more. For the second day, Manchester became like a scene from one of those ‘Day After’ movies where nothing had survived; where nothing dared move; there was nothing but the silence itself.
And then …. again …. the tapping noise from afar. Even though this time I knew what it meant, it made it none the less a haunting sound.
And again, for the second day in a row, the only movement on Deansgate was that of a serial of mounted police officers, slowly but gracefully making their way along the street, again leading the unmistakeable sight of a black hearse carrying a fallen police officer, PC Fiona Bone, one one last patrol through the city centre of Manchester as she made her way to the Cathedral for a service to remember her life, cut short so violently.
And again, the heads of those lining the street; police and public alike, bowed in unison as the funeral procession made its way slowly past. And as again, Fiona was carried, by her colleagues, into the Cathedral, the sombre line of mourners from within the city and beyond, made their way once more to the Cathedral Gardens where they could take their part in the service being conducted within.
The sight of many hundreds of people from all walks of life, young and old, stood together in quiet reflection was a humbling one, which will stay with me for a very long time. And when Iona Fisher started to sing Ave Maria, I was not the only person there to shed more than a few tears. There was no embarrassment, as many wept together and stood together, proud. Proud to be there to support friends, family, colleagues and the good people of Manchester in their time of need.
As for the last time, the combined ranks of people lined the route to say their final farewell to Fiona as she left the Cathedral ready for a more private, secluded family service, I looked around me, and saw that amongst hundreds of complete strangers, I had suddenly gained the same number of new friends.
As people began to disperse, and go their separate ways, @TheCustodySgt and myself still had more to do, more people to say thank you to. Most notably, PC Amie Holland, who’s heartfelt poem had become a centrepiece of #CoverForGMP and who it was our honour and privilege to shake the hand of.
And then, joined by yet another fellow Tweeter, @SirIanBlair, we met up with one of Fiona’s colleagues and sat and talked in a local coffee shop. It was then I think we realised that things weren’t over and there was more we had to do.
Making the walk back to the car park with @SirIanBlair after this meeting seemed like the longest journey I’ve ever made. The thoughts going through my mind just would not stop. The culmination of two weeks preparations to support our GMP colleagues and the families of Nicola and Fiona had worked – against the odds, they had worked.
And when I finally sat down in my car and relaxed for a moment, the enormity of everything seemed to crash down on me like a flood. I’m not ashamed to say that I sat for twenty minute or more with tears streaming down my face. The sorrow I’d built up over the previous days had finally allowed itself to be released.
And so I made the journey home, alone, with only my thoughts for company; my thoughts that I hoped the families of the two murdered officers wouldn’t think that we had gone ‘overboard’; that we had only done all this for our own personal benefit, whatever that may be. But I don’t think they did. At least I hope they didn’t.
#CoverForGMP came to fruition as a unique idea brought about by a unique set of circumstances at a particular moment in time.
Could it be repeated ? Who knows. It is of course our lasting wish that no family ever again has to go through the pain and torment that now faces the relatives of Fiona and Nicola, but history suggests that someone, somewhere, sometime, will have to do just that.
And if again, the wider police family can help and support those in their time of grief, then yes we should, or rather, yes we must, for that is our duty.
The following train companies have now confirmed that they will offer FREE TRAVEL to and from Manchester (Piccadilly or Victoria depending on service) on Wednesday 3rd and Thursday 4th October for police officers attending the funerals of PC’s Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes.
YOU MUST SHOW YOUR WARRANT CARD TO GET FREE PASSAGE !
Virgin Trains – On all routes across their network into stations in Manchester (Press release expected soon) .
East Midland Trains – On the Liverpool to Norwich route going via stations in Manchester
Trans-Pennine – On all services into Manchester
Cross Country Trains – Services to and from Manchester across their network
South West Trains – All routes to Manchester
Arriva Trains Wales – all routes to Manchester across their network
National Express coaches – all routes to Manchester across their network
Please click on any of the train company’s names or logo’s to be taken to their website for timetable information or alternatively go to www.thetrainline.com
If you know of any other transport services (coach or train) who are supporting #CoverForGMP and #OperationDeansgate please let me know urgently.
This map is not to be taken as the final official route, (hopefully GMP will be releasing an official and more accurate route on Monday) but this diagram serves to show the approximate procession route from Quay Street to the Cathedral at the ‘city centre’ end of Deansgate.
The road area shaded in purple is likely to be where officers, staff and public are asked to line the route although again, this is not a confirmed final but purely based on information passed so far.
It also shows the location of car parking and Manchester Victoria railway station for information and your planning.
On both Facebook and Twitter, many kind people have made offers to provide accommodation and other facilities for people travelling to Manchester from all over the UK for the funerals of PC’s Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes.
In the absence of any better system of collating and communicating this information, can I ask simply that anyone who is able to provide assistance to police officers or other people who wish to attend the funerals, leaves some form of contact details as a ‘Comment’ on this page.
If you don’t see a ‘Comments Box’ at the bottom of this article, click on ‘Leave A Comment’ or ‘XX Comments’ at the top of the page, just under the title and at the end of all the ‘tags’
Please bear in mind though that this is a publically accessible webpage, so don’t go leaving any information you would not want the world to see !! – consider using a separate ‘Gmail’ or ‘Hotmail’ email address, or you can get a free vanity ‘07XXX’ phone number which you can redirect to your mobile from companies such as Open Telecom, UK Number, DataCalls and many more – just do a Google Search for ‘Free UK Personal Number’ or ‘Free UK 070 Number’.
Thank you for your help and support
Following the announcement yesterday by GMP DCC Ian Hopkins regarding ongoing planning for the funerals of PC’s Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes at Manchester Cathedral next week, and the subsequent announcement that GMP will only be requesting a two nominated officers from each police force to #CoverForGMP, I am moving to ‘Plan B’, otherwise known as OPERATION DEANSGATE.
There are sound operational reasons why GMP have been unable to take up our kind offers to cover the streets of Manchester whilst their own officers paid their respects and these, we cannot argue with I’m afraid.
However, we can, and must, still ‘do our bit’. – Over 5,000 police officers, staff and members of the public pledged their support for #CoverForGMP on Facebook and Twitter in the days following the horrific cold-blooded murders of our two colleagues Fiona and Nicola.
These are everyday people, so shocked, alarmed and distressed about what happened on the streets of Manchester on September the 18th that they, like myself, feel the need to pay our respects and to honour the memory of PC’s Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes.
We ALL need to show Fiona and Nicola’s families, their friends and colleagues at GMP, and the wider community of Manchester and indeed the whole country, that we all stand together, united in our grief and bewilderment at last weeks awful events.
To that end, this is the plan, and it’s very simple :
The funeral of PC Nicola Hughes will take place at 13.00 hours (1.00pm) on Wednesday 3rd October
The funeral of PC Fiona Bone will take place at 10.00 hours (10.00am) on Thursday 4th October
Both funerals will take place at Manchester Cathedral, Victoria Street, Manchester M3 1SX
I want as many people as possible to make their way to Manchester on either or both of the days. Over 5,000 people initially said YES to #CoverForGMP. I appreciate a number of these volunteers will be unable to attend due to work commitments, but if you are available, please make every possible effort to be there. We need to show Fiona and Nicola’s families very strongly what the loss of two police officers means to us all and that we are there to support them in any way we can.
Please make your way to DEANSGATE, MANCHESTER, between the areas of Quay Sreet, near the Great Northern Amphitheatre – postcode M3 4EN, and the MEN Arena and Victoria Railway Station – postcode M3 1AR, as early in the day as possible. From there people will be directed and assisted by GMP staff.
Police Officers can wear uniform even if off duty (confirmed by GMP). If you have a tunic, or can beg, borrow or otherwise acquire one please do so – this is the preferred dress. If not, police fleeces are the secondary option (should be zipped up to the chequered line).
Please wear white shirt and tie if possible as opposed to black operational shirts. Also if off duty, DO NOT wear utility belts or PPE, and especially do not carry batons, handcuffs or CS, Pepper, Pava or similar spray with you.
Police staff should have no problem either wearing uniform on the day/s but please check with your own force if unsure.
Members of the general public are asked to dressed according to the occasion.
I am fully aware of the general mood and low levels of morale in the police service at the moment, and I am no different to anyone else in that respect, but this is not an opportunity for political point scoring or ‘having a go’ at senior police officers or politicians. Please do not wear clothing with controversial or offensive comments on. There will be plenty of time for action on other matters at a more relevant time.
We are there to honour two murdered police officers and that can be our only focus.
There will be an overwhelming amount of media coverage on the day and many, many journalists will be eager to speak with mourners and gain their opinions and views. If you feel uneasy talking to the press, please direct them to either the official Greater Manchester Police or GMP Federation Media Officers, the details of which they WILL have. Any none immediate press enquiries can be fielded off to myself and I will put them in contact with the most appropriate person.
To echo the words of Ian Hanson, Chairman of the Greater Manchester Police Federation:
We want to make these two funerals events that Manchester will never forget, and which will show the families that every police officer in the country is there with them
To do that we would encourage any colleague who is available to come to Manchester and line the route of each funeral procession next Wednesday and Thursday.
There will be ample room for all. It does not matter what uniform you wear, it’s about being there.
GMP Federation also wish to point out that this is not a formal event being organised by Greater Manchester Police or the Federation. They are making colleagues from around the country aware of what GMP officers are doing with regard to the funerals with an open invitation for others to join them on the day to pay their respects and remember the lives of PC’s Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes.
Trains & Buses:
I know early on there was suggestion that Virgin Trains & National Express were going to provide transport for police officers wishing to attend the funerals. I understand both companies were in contact with GMP direct but have not yet had any update from either side as to whether any such arrangements have been finalised.
The nearest railway station to the Cathedral and Deansgate is Manchester Victoria – literally a few minutes walk away. There is also a tram service from Manchester Piccadilly to Victoria Station.
There are many car parks in and around Manchester City Centre but they can fill up quickly and can be very pricey so I am informed.
The best car park to use is the huge 24 hour one on the site of the old Boddingtons Brewery where you can park for £3.00 all day !
This car park is at the very end of Victoria Street (continuation of Deansgate) and at its junction with Trinity Way, opposite the M.E.N. Arena and again, only a few minutes walk from the Cathedral.
The address for this car park is 32 Great Ducie Street, M60 3WB
GMP should hopefully have location maps available on Monday which will also be available on this site.
More information to follow ….
PC Nicola Hughes and PC Fiona Bone – Funeral arrangements
Today we have seen an enormous show of support from colleagues and the community who took part in the vigil to remember Fiona and Nicola.
It was a very poignant morning when we reflected on the past week. We are continuing to support their families at what is obviously an extremely difficult time.
Following conversations with both families and respecting their wishes, we now know that the funeral arrangements will be:
PC Nicola Hughes: Wednesday 3 October at 1pm, Manchester Cathedral
PC Fiona Bone: Thursday 4 October at 10am, Manchester Cathedral
I understand that many of you may wish to attend. The Force Events Section will make contact with Divisions and Branches to coordinate arrangements. We will be taking up offers of assistance from other forces.
We will provide further information over the next few days.
Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy
This video has been sent to me today by PC James Griffiths of West Mercia Police
It also incudes the words from PC Amie Holland’s much publicised poem
Try and watch it without the tears streaming down your face ….
From Deputy Chief Constable Ian Hopkins
We have been extremely touched by the messages of support and offers of help from police officers and staff around the country.
There have been thousands of people and organisations wanting to assist and give up their time including using the #coverforgmp hashtag on Twitter and Facebook.
Our priority continues to be to support the families of Fiona and Nicola and we are speaking to them as they consider what arrangements they want.
We have spoken to the Association of Chief Police Officers and have asked them to co-ordinate the offers of support from forces so that we can take up some of the kind offers but ensure that we can still do the best for the families.
We intend to have representation from every UK force either in supporting the force providing cover for GMP or attending the funerals.
We will provide some more information about the plans once we have details from the families of Fiona and Nicola.
24th September 2012
For all those who have offered their time and support to GMP: Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan, said:
“First of all I want to say a heartfelt thank you for everyone’s kind offer of support to GMP.
“People and organisations from every walk of life have contacted us to pledge their support and to give up their time.
“Today, ACPO will be releasing a note to all Forces to explain that we will be grateful to take up all genuine offers of assistance, but they will of course need some time to organise the logistics of this.
“However these kind offers haven’t just come from within the police family.
We have had volunteers from numerous different organisations offering to help out. We will find a way to work with any members of the public and any organisations who want to show their solidarity.
“We will work with other forces to arrange the support from within the police service, but, just as importantly we promise to come back to everybody, no matter where they are, as soon as we can. We will do our utmost to ensure that everyone who has offered their help will be able to do so.
“Once again, thank you for your support – it really makes a difference.”