This is the video produced by Iona Fisher to accompany her release of ‘Ava Maria’, raising money to help Care of Police Survivors – @uk_cops on Twitter
You can download the 4 track EP from the following digital music stores:
This is the video produced by Iona Fisher to accompany her release of ‘Ava Maria’, raising money to help Care of Police Survivors – @uk_cops on Twitter
You can download the 4 track EP from the following digital music stores:
I read a very interesting piece on The Independent Newspaper’s website a few days ago which covered a topic close to the heart of every police officer …..
The article was entitled The missing: Each year, 275,000 Britons disappear, and relates to an investigation by the newspaper that reveals the equivalent of one person being reported missing in the UK every two minutes !!!!
And that got me thinking …… how many ‘missing’ people do we all deal with every single day. And of those reported to police, how many are actually ‘missing’ in a sense of the word that the great British public would accept as actually ‘missing’.
I suppose the first place we should start with regards to what is a ‘missing person’ is the formal ‘ACPO Definition’:
Anyone whose whereabouts is unknown, whatever the circumstances of disappearance. They will be considered missing until located and their well-being or otherwise established.
However, if we followed that rule of thumb to the enth degree, then we could easily argue that each and every one of us could at some point during each day be technically ‘missing’. Does your partner, your children, your parents, your friends, your work colleagues know exactly where you are every second of the day ? …. no …. well by ACPO standards then , you could be classed as missing so we need to be more realistic.
The general public would, I believe, consider a ‘missing person’ as someone who has
(obviously the above is not an exhaustive list but you get the idea)
Joe Public would not, I feel, consider ‘missing’ an errant teenager who refuses to return home at 10pm because they are out with their mates, or, and sorry but much as it pangs me, I have to broach the subject …… kids from a care home who swan off every single day to meet up with their cohorts from another nearby care home just to wander around and generally cause as much disruption to their own care staff and the local constabulary who are then forced to waste many, many, person hours (can’t say man hours any more sorry), rounding them back up and taking them back to the said care homes, just so they can get washed, fed, pampered and then bugger off all over again the very next day !
But, for the moment, back to the article in The Independent which says that the number of people reported missing each year is ‘the equivalent of the entire population of Plymouth being spirited away’. The vast majority are of course found in a very short space of time, or return of their own volition (care home kids again !), but many don’t.
A much smaller, but not insignificant number disappear for decades, the estimated figures for the number of people in Britain who have been missing from family, friends and colleagues for over a year is at least 16,000 and could be as many as 20,000. So, in a world of CCTV on virtually every street corner, banks, mobile phone companies and shops tracking our every move (don’t for one minute think the sole purpose of that Tesco Clubcard is to save you money !!), where do all these people go ???
Thankfully, the number of long-term missing people who have come to harm is very low (which is good because when I quickly nipped onto the ACPO website to make sure I’d got the definition of a missing person correct, underneath in bold is the one line ‘if in doubt, think murder’. Which means out there, living below the radar, is a significant number of people, all of whom have friends and loved ones still worrying about them, in some case have been for many years. That’s where the charity Missing People tries to help, rebridging the gaps and trying to work as a link between both sides, re-establishing contact and bringing those people back together.
Back here at ground level I’ve done my own bit of research into missing people reports we’ve dealt with at Bigtown over the last twelve months. I found that thankfully we’ve have no ‘long term’ missing people on our division and that there is only one with a currently active report on our force area. Things are looking positive with that case however, as there has been active use of the persons bank card in another part of the country and subsequent CCTV checks have ID’d the person using the card themselves. So we know they are alive and well, it’s just a matter of catching up with them to formalise the matter. I do of course accept though that some police forces will have dozens of long term missing reports on their books.
We have a small number of missing reports of young children, all of whom have thankfully been scooped up in an amazingly short space of time, mainly due to a significant police response with Police Officers and Community Support Officers being drafted in from far and wide supported by dog units and helicopters and, as is normally the case, a large proportion of the concerned neighbourhood also coming out to help.
We then have an even smaller number (in single figures) of people who have gone missing then sadly taken their own lives which is distressing for all involved.
But by far the biggest proportion of missing person reports to police fall into one of two catergories:
The much smaller of the two boxes is filled with people who have gone walkabouts from the A&E Department of our local hospital. Generally they will have been taken their in the first place by police due to drink or drug overdose, self harm or mental ill health issues, or some other medical matter which is not in the slightest way in the remit of the police. They will have then been sat, unattended by hospital staff, who are, i will acknowledge, as strained and rushed off their feet as we are, for many, many hours, waiting to see a doctor, and will have either sobered up, come down off whatever they were on, or just got completely bored, got up, walked out and gone home. After another significant amount of time someone in A&E will realise they have lost a patient and then calls us resulting in a panic that a ‘high risk self harming suicidal person’ will do something silly if not found in five seconds flat. Reading the ‘finalise’ reports on this category of misper almost always resulted in the update ‘located at home’.
And then we get to the big box, the one full of multiple missing reports, the one that I’ve no doubt every front line police officer has wasted much of their working time (and let’s not forget because everyone else likes to remind us daily, taxpayers money) dealing with – yes, you got it, care home kids ! …. In the last twelve months, in the area covered by Bigtown Police Station, eleven children aged between 13 and 17 have between them generated over a thousand, yes OVER A THOUSAND missing person reports.
That’s over a thousand times in one year where that police officer that you needed to help you with the burglary at your house, the random assault you were subjected to whilst out with your friends last night or the theft of your gran’s purse just after she drew her pension this morning, will all have to wait, because your local authority, and the private companies they now contract to (for that read shrug their slopey shoulders and offload responsibility to), who are responsible for children in their care, have little or no ability to control their charges.
It’s worthy of note that local authorities spend a heck of a lot of your money (we’re back to taxpayers again) on housing these children, spending thousands of pounds a week with private (profit making) care companies to house and look after these kids. But when they go wandering, which is most days, after a quick drive round the block, the care staff commonly return to their house ‘just in case the little tearaways come back they have to be there’ and ring the good old police to go and find them. And we happily do this …. over and over …. every single day.
I have questioned with our senior officers why the police don’t charge the local authority or care company for doing their job for them, or even prosecute them for child neglect – after all, if you or I let our kids go awol for days on end, skip school and doing next to nothing to try and sort them out, I’d put money on the police and Social Services knocking on your door pretty quickly. Apparently though, i don’t ‘understand the bigger picture’ and ‘major progress is being made, I’ll see’.
In the meantime, I’ll have to shoot off. Two of our darling miscreants the early turn have spent half the day tracking down have just jumped out of the care staff’s car when it stopped at a red traffic light whilst they were being taken home from the nick, and they’ve done a runner again. Having questioned before why they don’t put the child locks on to stop the kids escaping, we were told by the staff they were ‘not allowed to lock them in, it’s against their rights and what if there was an accident, we couldn’t get them out’. My dears, if they are trapped in a car, the Fire Service won’t give two hoots about a car door, the roof will be coming off pronto, don’t worry about that !!
Ten to Eight on a Thursday evening and a call comes through the radio: “Constable Chaos, can you attend the Bigtown Leisure Centre please, call from the manager, they’re trying to lock up for the night and there’s a group of youths there causing problems and refusing to leave …”
Being only a couple of minutes away I was more than happy to ‘pop along’. Anti Social Behaviour of course, is the big buzz word at the moment. There have been a small number of very high profile incidents where things have gone badly wrong and clearly police response to such matters has rightly been questioned. But, keeping things in perspective, 99.999% of reported ‘Anti Social Matters’ is of a much, much lower level and is dealt with promptly, correctly and to the satisfaction of those involved.
Arriving at the Leisure Centre, I wasn’t faced with a baying crowd of hooligans, causing mayhem and terror; in fact I wasn’t faced with anyone at all. I wandered into the reception and spoke with the girl at the desk, busy sat there filing her nails, chatting to someone who was evidently from the nature of the conversation not work related (unless the local council now runs courses on doing something with later in the evening your Labrador – maybe she meant to style ‘doggy paddle’ as in swimming, rather than ‘doggy style’ I don’t know ????
Having managed to attract the attention of said individual and asked the simple question “Manager about ?”, my new friend gave a ‘tut’, put down her nail file had said to her charmed and canine activity loving phone buddy “uh, ‘ang on, coppers here for summin’ now”. Charming, love you too ! And with that she pointed in the general direction of two doors on the opposite side of the reception area. “Don’t get up love” I said “I can see you’re busy, I’ll find him myself”.
Well he wasn’t in his office, or rather the toilet cubicle sized room with an old imitation wood filing cabinet and a desk and chair that came straight out of an old Dickens novel. I wandered down the corridor towards the swimming pool and found him and another member of staff staring aimlessly out of a window. “Ahh thanks for coming officer” he said as I approached – well at least someone’s glad to see me today. “What seems to be the problem” I asked as I walked up to the pair “didn’t see anyone out front causing a problem”.
“No” said the manager “they’re over there look, we’re wanting to lock up and they’re still playing football on the pitch – we’ve asked them to go but they won’t, they haven’t even paid you know, foul mouthed lot” For a moment I was slightly speechless. Let me explain why …..
Bigtown Leisure Centre has a swimming pool, two squash courts, a small gym, sauna and a room indie the building you can hire for kids parties and the like. Outside are two full size football pitches, a couple of five a side pitches and tennis courts. There are no walls or fences around the place and indeed there is a public footpath running right through the middle of the site.
The Leisure Centre is right next to North Park which is, as the name suggests, a public park, with large grassed areas, pond full of ducks, swans and other water life, flower beds, the obligatory fountain, kids paddling pool and a few kiddie playground ride items; seesaw, swings, climbing frame etc. Thing is, North Park does have a big wall and fence around it and, considering it is a public leisure place, the council insist in locking the gates at 7.00pm at night for half the year (and at 8.00pm in the height of summer). So the kids can’t go and play football in the park out of harms way – unless they scale an eight foot wall or spiky fence. And anyway, the Council have stuck signs up every ten feet saying ‘No Ball Games’, ‘Don’t Feed The Ducks’, ‘Be Happy and we’ll shoot you’ and stuff like that.
“Okay” I said to the manager “But they can’t pay can they”. The manager looked at me somewhat puzzled. “Well you’re closing up in ten minutes – if they pay that means you have to provide a service so you’ll all have to stay here until their time is up surely ?”. Ha – confused look back at me !
“Let me put it this way” I continued, “In ten minutes time you and all you staff will have gone home, correct ?”. “Yes”. “And” I went on, “there’s no way of closing off the pitches to stop anyone actually using them when you’re not here is there ?” “No, but that’s not the point ….” the manager protested. “And” I persevered “the Council haven’t actually put up any Keep Off or Don’t Use the Pitches when the Centre is closed signs have they ?” “No but they can’t use them if they haven’t paid, you need to do your job and get rid of them” the new strained manager virtually screamed at me. For some unknown reason I was becoming less and less enamoured with this person – he had clearly got anti-social skills of his own.
“I’ll go and have a word with them” I said “but to be fair there’s not a lot we can do, they’re not actually doing anything wrong in the big scheme of things”. So off I plodded, back past little Miss Nail File (who was still on the phone, the leisure centre’s phone by the way, not her own !!!) put of the building and around the side towards the football pitch where my latest quarry of evil bad-doers were milling around. As I walked past the side of the building I could see the manager and his colleague watching intently what I was going to do, from behind the safety of reinforced double glazing.
I walked over to the group of half a dozen lads, none of whom were abusive or particularly off with me, but then that can often be the case – give grief to the staff but when we turn up, butter wouldn’t melt. “You okay lads” I said to them generally “Yes sir” one of them piped up straight away, “hat’s wrong, have we got to go ?” he asked. Something didn’t seem 100% right to me straight away, the old ‘copper’s nose’ had clicked into gear. “Manager at the Leisure Centre says he’s trying to lock up and you guys won’t leave. Says you’ve been giving them some grief”.
“No one’s spoke to us” they all cried out in unison “no one’s been over here” said the lad who spoke to me first “we play footie on here most nights, it’s out of the way and there’s never been a problem. But if you want us to go we will”. Straight away, I knew THEY were telling the truth and maybe the staff at the Leisure Centre were perhaps not being entirely honest with me. I looked around to see that Mr Manager and his cohort were still there, staring across the grounds, obviously waiting for me to throw the bunch of miscreants, one by one, into the air with a soopa-doopa police ninja flying swat attack, tie them all together with their own shoelaces and cart them off to the dungeons, never to be seen again.
“Tell you what we’ll do” I said to the group. “You guys go and take five having a chat by the benches” pointing at two wooden benches along the public footpath that runs through the grounds. “They can’t moan about you being there. In ten minutes they’ll all be gone then carry on as you were, who’s going to know ?”
“You serious” the leader of the quizzed me. “Why not” I replied, “look, you’re not lurking round town drinking cheap lager and causing merry hell – for goodness sake the strongest thing any of you has got with you is a bottle of Dr Pepper !” That did in fairness raise a small laugh and mickey take of the said beverage holding youth. “You aren’t out mugging grannies or nicking cars, you are, wait for it, what’s the phrase …. playing football on a football pitch. Not exactly Ronnie Biggs are you, any of you ?”. “Who ?” was the reply.
“Don’t worry about it” I said as I left them be, and then one of the guys made possibly the most important comment I’ve heard from a member of the Bigtown youth in a long time “You’re alright you are officer”. Best compliment I’ve had in ages, I just smiled, said “Thanks” and walked off back towards the main building, noticing the manger was no longer stood at his observation post, neck strained like an on-guard meerkat just in case he had missed something.
In fact he was waiting for me as I rounded the corner back towards the front door of the complex building and where I’d parked the trusty panda. “They haven’t gone” he said. “No” I replied “they’re sat on the benches on the public footpath, nothing I can do about that, anyway, good evening”. With that the manager walked off muttering something to himself and I left to find ‘some proper police work to be getting on with’ as they say – there must be a mugger or burglar round the corner I can go and harass.
I wasn’t overly surprised when I got back into the nick to hand the car over to the night shift to find out from the Sarge that the delightful Leisure Centre had already rung up to complain about the way I’d dealt with his complaint. And I was even less surprised to be told that the skipper had quickly put him in his place.
Reposted below is a poem created by PolicemanMusing and sent to me in repsonse to my blog post The Longest Walk
You groan as you see me clock your seatbelt as you pass,
You may hear that groan again as your head smacks off the glass.
You look at me and ask ‘Have you nothing else to do?’
Well yes but I’m now dealing with another prick like you.
It’s my job to interfere when I think that you might die,
If I didn’t stop and tell you, could I look me in the eye?
If you’d seen what I have seen then you’d belt up every time,
I’ve scrubbed and scrubbed can’t seem to shift the blood from every crime.
I’ve seen your future in the bloody mess of those who’ve gone before.
I’ve picked up severed limbs, hosed bits of brain from off the floor.
I’ve held a hand and reassured while crying eyes closed their last time,
I’ve sat and stared as zips closed over young men in their prime.
It is me who’ll have to listen as your widow cries and screams,
It is me who’ll tell your kids they’ll see you only in their dreams.
Who’ll be the one to hold them tight when they wake up in the night?
It won’t be you, you won’t be there, because you clearly didn’t care
Enough to strap yourself in tight.
This entry’s not a blog post, tale of action or bravery on the front line, more of an urgent Public Service Announcement to make all my blog followers aware of a new type of high-tech crime which has recently landed on our shores ….
Have you got one of those nice new ‘Contactless’ credit or debit cards; you know, the ones with the ‘radio wave’ symbol on which means in lots of shops, there is no need to stick your card in the machine and enter your PIN number; If what you’re buying is less than £15, you can just wave your card in front of the terminal and bingo, an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip built into your card is read automatically and the payment is instantly taken from your bank account.
A similar thing is happening with the latest mobile phones – it’s called NFC (Near Field Communication) and allows you to hold your mobile near a payment terminal and have the cost either debited from your linked bank account or added to your mobile bill.
There are over 19 million ‘contactless cards’ already issued in the UK by all the major banks, with more to come online as existing cards are renewed. It’s all designed to make your ‘shopping experience’ all that much easier. But what if that experience was all about to turn very, very nasty ?
‘RFID Skimming’ is already a major problem Stateside, and it’s starting to happen over here. All that’s needed to obtain all your important (and you thought secure) credit card data, is a little gizmo costing less than £70 off the internet and a laptop or netbook computer – stick them in a laptop bag, manbag or handbag, walk down any street and let the tech do the stealing for you. The equipment constantly ‘scans’ for RFID chips nearby, and when it finds one, it downloads the data straight onto it’s database – your name, credit card number, expiry date, and all the other important information bar the three digit CSS code on the back of your card.
Instantly, someone else can create a clone ‘contactless card’ with your data on it and go on a shopping spree at your expense. OK, so they can only spend a maximum of £15 a time in store, but armed with all that data, there’s many a website or telephone order that can be made without needing or being asked for your CSS code – Amazon is the biggy that comes to mind !!!
Of course, the banks insist the system is safe and that ‘customers will be reimbursed for any fraudulent activity on their account’ but you still have to prove it to them first and we all know how hard that can that be ???!!!
The same equipment can be used to ‘lift’ data from a new style ‘Biometric’ Passport – simply and easily giving Mr Crook a lot more personal info about yourself, including your name, date of birth and even an embedded electronic version of your passport photo !!! Combine that with your card data and you can see how easy the bad guys have it.
In a crowded area; a store; a lift, railway station or even the queue at McDonalds, a ‘skimmer’ could easily obtain card details from literally dozens of victims in a few seconds and some of the readily available equipment happily works up to 20ft or more away from the intended victim/s.
Watch the news Story from one of the American TV Networks below, then ask yourself if you still want that type of plastic in your pocket ???
This is a re-publishing of the second blog from the partner of a serving police officer; reproduced with their permission. The author, Cheryl Burgess again raises a number of valid points about the need for everyone,where possible to support the March in London on May 10th and the seeming lack of support/interest in the various petitions currently organised to try and force a debate in Parliament.
Well it’s a week on from my first blog when I came out as the ‘wife of a Police Officer’ and supporter of #antwinsornetwork, channelling my frustration about Winsor Police Reform into a blog. So What happened Next?
Well, the earth did not stop spinning, life and it’s day to day demands continued as usual BUT something unexpected did happen. I started to receive tweets of support from complete strangers; partners of Police Officers, Police Officers, Retired Police Officers and ordinary people concerned about the consequences of the changes.
As I said in my 1st blog, I’m just an ordinary person and I have no allegiance to any political party. I’ve never publicly voiced my concerns about any issue, but it seems the ‘Genie’ is now out of her ‘bottle’.
Getting More Involved
I fully intend to support my husband and other Police Officers by attending the Police Event on 10th May in London. My husband luckily is on Rest Day and will be going, if he couldn’t I would be attending in place of him.
The public see the uniform of Police Officers or the warrant card, and huge numbers do value the help they’ve received from Officers in times of need, BUT what they don’t see is that Police Officers are real people with families and friends doing an essential job in society in very difficult circumstances.
Many Officers will not be able to attend if they are on duty, if their leave has not been granted, if they are needed in court, if for family reasons they cannot travel to London. Ironically, some originally intending to come along may now have to work as a Public Services ‘strike’ has been called for the same date.
I will join the Event and show my support in a visible way, and I will not be alone, there are a growing number of partners of Officers who will be attending, many in place of their partner who is unable to get time off.
The logistics of this are quite difficult, cancelling work, arranging childcare and travel. At the back of my mind I’m also worried that the Event will attract people who want to attack the Police and seek confrontation. But I will trust the Police Officers who are ‘working’ and policing the event on the day to keep me safe, and I will take this unprecedented opportunity to show my support in a visible way.
Police Officers are public servants who have a special role in Society, it’s not an ordinary job and any reforms need to take this into consideration.
The wider public deserves to know about the plans for Policing, and the proposed ‘reform’ of this essential public service. There seems to be no interest from the media in reporting this news. The 10th May Police Officers Event is an opportunity to show the public that planned ‘reforms’ of the Police Service will have consequences across society.
If you are a serving Officer and are undecided about attending the Event, PLEASE we need you to attend. If you are a partner or family member of an Officer and want to attend then find out from them how you too can get involved.
If you are a Police Officer or related to a Police Officer you will know the reality of the job and understand the impact of the changes. Stand up and show your support to Police Officers in their fight against Winsor Reforms.
If you can’t attend the Event there are still things you can do:-
The final point I’d like to raise relates to the E-Petitions:
In an article in March about the proposed Police Event, The Guardian reported that there were 135,000 police federation members in England and Wales http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/mar/30/police-officers-protest-pay-conditions I asked myself, if this is true how come the E-Petitions have received such poor support to date?
When looking around the Government petition site I found out a pretty unbelievable fact:-
An e-petition to ‘stop the beer duty escalator’ has received more support than those petitions relating to Police Reform & the Winsor Report. The beer duty petition states “If we don’t show our support for the great British pub, we risk losing more pubs and more jobs within our local communities”. Its been signed by 29,322 as I write this Blog.
Doesn’t this make you think? – What are the consequences of not showing our support to the E-petitions against Winsor Reforms?
E-Petition: Reject Winsor Part 2 Completely
Currently 3,779 signatures – does that mean that more than 130,000 officers support it? http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/32177 -
E-Petition: Right to Strike
Currently 12,622 signatures – if the Government wants to take away the special status of Police as part of the reforms and treat as ‘ordinary’ employees then should the ‘Right to Strike’ be a consequence? http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31250
E-Petition: Protect Police Pensions
Currently 23,773 signatures – it seems that only a minority think that the current police pension scheme needs to be protected?
We can be ‘stronger together’ but to achieve something both Officers and their families need to do something – perhaps signing the E-Petitions is an easy first step?
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.
It’s only been a few weeks since I posted on here about the number of RTC’s we attend where a major contributory factor to the injuries received is the lack of wearing seat belts – see http://constablechaos.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/clunk-click-every-trip-please/
Yet this in the early hours of this morning, the Chaos shift had to turn out to yet another scene of mangled debris and destruction. This time we were met by the sight that we see far too often, and is so easily avoided.
The driver of the only vehicle involved in this collision was out of his car by the time we arrived. By out, I mean ejected ….. through the windscreen and onto the not so soft, fluffy and forgiving tarmacadam surface of the carriageway.
Sadly, there was nothing that could be done for this guy – he was dead by the time we arrived; probably (and hopefully) he’d died instantly and without too much suffering. But there would be suffering; the dead person was only in his thirties – somewhere this guy would most likely still have a mom and dad around, possibly a partner, maybe even kids. Whatever the make-up of this man’s personal circumstance, someone will suffer the consequences of his actions for a very, very long time.
I mean YES the guy was travelling far too quickly (witnesses told us that straight away), YES he was on an unlit country road (but you should still drive to the conditions, speed limits are exactly that, a limit not a target), YES he probably was late home and YES the whole sequence of events was most likely his own fault – but that is no comfort to those left behind; and even less comfort will be the fact, and it will come out at the inquest if not before, that if he’d spent two or three seconds fastening his seat belt, the whole outcome would 99% guaranteed have been a different matter.
With the scene contained, and the Road Collision Team in place to begin the investigation proper, it was down to myself and our Sarge to break the news to the family. Thankfully, the chap had ID on him and it matched the keeper details of the car, which came back to an address less than a mile from where we were.
We arrived at the address within a couple of minutes. Lights were still on downstairs. You need to have been in the position we now found ourselves in to understand the thoughts and feelings that were going through our minds. There was no need for the Sarge or I to converse on the matter any more; as experienced coppers we both knew what lay ahead.
I suddenly remembered watching one of those TV Cops on Camera type shows – it may have been Traffic Cops or Road Wars, I can’t recall, but I clearly recalled at this point a scene where a traffic officer had to go and tell a family their daughter had been killed outright; crushed by a lorry driver who it later turned out had been on his mobile phone. He referred to this point as ‘The Longest Walk’ and he was right – there were two of us there but it was one of the loneliest places you would ever want to be.
The knotted sick feeling in our stomachs was only compounded walking down the short garden path as we realised, around us were the signs of children; a skateboard; a bike just left propped against the wall; a toy JCB on the grass – these were things that despite the hours of darkness, just shone straight at us as if illuminated by an arc lamp. It really doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the job, this is one task that will never get easier.
Standing at the front door, we could see the TV on in the front room, but on knocking it seemed to take forever to get a response. After what seemed like eternity, but was probably only a few seconds, the door was answered by a pretty young lady, tucked up in her pyjama’s, of somewhere around the same age as our victim. “May we come in a moment” Sarge asked in somewhat of a low voice (which in itself was unheard of for him). “Of course” was the reply “is it my husband you’re here to see, he’s not home yet, due any minute if you don’t mind waiting”. Deep breath time.
“Shall we sit down” I said, trying to be as calm and reassuring as possible, but that was it – instantly, call it woman’s intuition if you like, but instantly she knew something was wrong, and it was bad. “What’s happened, where’s MIke, is he okay, has he been arrested” all blurted out in about half a second. “I’m afraid there’s been an acci…” what about as far as the Sergeant got before the poor lady in front of us realised where this was going and simply collapsed into a screaming heap on the floor in front of us.
Almost immediately, the children appeared in he doorway behind us and came running over to mummy; crying and screaming although at this point they knew not why – just that mummy was very upset herself. It was horrendous. I’ve been around the block and back a few times, seen and dealt with almost everything the great British public could throw at me, but right then I’d rather be anywhere else in the world. But I couldn’t be; that’s the job we do, and just another of those things that gets forgotten about when the number crunchers are dreaming up ways to further reduce our numbers and capabilities.
“Is there anyone else, family, we can call to come round and be with you ?” I asked. Through the sobs we established the nearest relatives were Mike’s parents, 30 plus miles away. We needed them here … and now. Sarge left the room quickly to radio the control room and get them on the case – we needed officers at their door pronto; and them transporting over here even quicker. The traffic department were great – there was no way we would let the parents drive themselves after receiving news like that and given the circumstances it was decided they would be ‘blue-lighted’ here to support the family. Even then, time stood still whilst we waited their arrival. There is simply no level of training (especially these days) that can prepare any officer for a scenario like this; only time and experience. And sadly this was by no means the first, nor will it be the last time yours truly was in this position.
Once mum and dad had arrived, we gave them all the information we had, excluding the seat belt knowledge; that could wait for another time. We explained what would happen next and that a Family Liaison Officer was already allocated and on the way. Once the FLO arrived, we said our goodbyes, offered our sympathies and left the family to grieve in piece. We had been there a little over an hour, but it felt like all night. I don’t think a word was said on the whole drive back to the station nor for the rest of the shift, which thankfully was very quiet.
It’s very rare that I take my work home with me, but this was one of those times when it was unavoidable. My house was all quiet when I got home. Mrs Chaos and the Chaos kids were all still fast asleep in bed. I sat in silence on our sofa, and am not ashamed to say the tears rolled down my cheeks. Not for the dead guy, not really; but for the wife and children, and his parents, left behind to deal with the aftermath, all because he couldn’t be bothered to put a seat belt on.
I also knew, that within a couple of days, I would be stopping another motorist for a seat belt offence, and I knew that without a doubt I would be on he receiving end of a tirade of abuse, demanding to know why I “haven’t got anything better to do’” and why I’m always “persecuting the innocent motorist”. Personally I would like to look at it as saving your life, but there’s no need to thank me.
And one random image keeps coming back into my mind – nothing to do with the mangled car, or the shattered windscreen, or the casualty lying in a mangled heap in the carriageway – no; it’s the sight of a small yellow plastic toy JCB lying on the grass by the victims front door.
This is not a very recent incident, in fact it occurred quite a while ago before I started this blog, but it does highlight very graphically what I believe is wrong with those who frequent the Top Floor at Bigtown Police Station, and on reflection, probably what is wrong nationally with many of the people trusted with operationally managing our fine police forces …… sorry, services throughout the country.
At approximately 20.40 hours on the night in question your Worships, I was proceeding in a North, North-Easterly direction along Graydon Avenue, patrolling my sector, on the lookout for miscreants and vagabonds, whence the crackle in my left ear from the incoming transmission on my personal wireless set caught my attention.
The dispatcher was updating our inspector that a call was coming in from a ‘distressed female’ saying she had been ‘robbed at gunpoint at the petrol station where she worked’ which, as luck (if that’s the right word) would have it, was literally two streets away from my location. The caller said the man had run off along Western Road– which meant the suspect was heading either directly towards or away from me.
Now I’m long enough in the tooth to know that the magic word in the callers sentence (no not petrol) would mean that bums would already be squeaking on seats at our Headquarters, and there would be an almighty panic whilst someone found the ‘BIg Dummies Guide and Instruction Manual for Control Room People when Things Go Badly Wrong’. The Duty Officer would frantically be trying to telephone the On Call Silver Commander in order that he/she could pass the buck as quickly as possible; someone else would be trying to find the number for a Tactical Advisor (one that’s not currently on holiday in the Maldives, washing his hair or down the pub having consumed 32 pints of strong ale and so could not possibly come back in) and several other people would be huddled round the screen of the relevant call taker like little kids round a sweetie box, eager to find out the up-to-the-second gossip on what’s actually going on.
No one, of course, will be considering at this point, doing anything clever like sending a police patrol to the location to help.
Our inspector, bless him, could only ask “What’s the update from HQ ?” As weak as that may sound, he knows that it’s more than his jobs worth to even think about making a decision to send the police round now the Duty Officer is on the case …. he foolishly asked the Control Room to “get an ARV rolling towards the location in any case” and was quickly snapped down over the air by the Duty Officer telling him to “stand by while I liaise with Tac Ad”.
To my, somewhat simple, and still down there on the ground floor mind, the most important part of the update given so far was that ‘the man had run off along Western Road’. Now I don’t know, dear reader, if that means the same to you as it did to me, but to my way of thinking, that meant the one place the offender wasn’t at this time, was at the petrol station, the scene of the crime and location at whence there was now a very, very distressed victim – radical thinking I know, but that’s just me for you !
With faith in my conviction, I stuck the pedal to the metal in my trusty bag of nails, 100,000 mile plus, ‘fast response’ diesel panda, and was on the forecourt of the petrol station in well under two minutes. Within a few seconds more, I was inside the garage shop; faced with a hysterically screaming 19 year old girl, who had only taken the part time job on for spending money while at college and had now been confronted by a masked man pointing a very real looking gun in her face. She, in my eyes, had every reason not to be very happy.
In fact, so fast was the initial police response to this incident, that the Control Room was still on the telephone to the girl as I arrived, asking 101 stupid and completely irrelevant questions but nothing that we actually needed to know at this point. I mean, yes, they had asked the girls age ??, colour of skin, why she thought this was happening to her and whether she plucked or shaved her nasal hair, but they hadn’t asked any of the three rather important questions any sane and sensible bobby responding to the incident might have liked to know the answers to straight away;
Apparently these questions aren’t on their list so they don’t get asked – talk about using common sense once in a while !!!
So fast was I there that the Control Room operator on the end of the phone line refused to accept the cashier’s account that the police were on scene. “We haven’t sent anybody yet” is what they told her !!!! What !!!! I mean, not despatching patrols is bad enough, but telling the victim that is unbelievable !!!!
In any case, within a couple of minutes, I had secured the building and forecourt, locking it down thereby preserving any forensic opportunities; stopped and seized the CCTV hard disk to review back at the station, had the witness safely in my police vehicle ready to be taken back to the relative safety of the nick to be debriefed and statemented. I had obtained what most police officers would consider the vital bits of information in this investigation – the description of the attacker and his last direction of travel and passed this information via my radio so that everybody knew what was going on. I even remembered to ask for and broadcast a description of the weapon which, in fairness, the girl was able to describe pretty well – but then you would when you’d just been staring down the barrel of it I guess.
I had also called her boyfriend to meet us there to offer some moral support. All in all, a fairly prompt and effective initial response … or so you would think.
Even more luckily for the poor girl involved, and for me come to think of it, the on duty ARV (Armed Response Vehicle for the uninformed) had adopted the same approach I had; the guys on board had thought to themselves ‘bugger this for a game of soldiers, waiting for some desk bod to make a decision, we’re on the way’ and had managed to cover an awful lot of ground from where they were pretty damn quickly !! Based on the description we now had of the offender, within a couple of minutes the ARV guys had located him – at a bus stop – waiting for the number 43.
I’m not sure what scared the willies out of everyone else at the bus stop more; Ninja Tom diving out of the quickly screeched to a halt BMW with everything flashing and throwing matey boy to the ground or the sight of what was clearly a black automatic type pistol being removed from his jacket pocket and passed to Tom’s cohort who by now had managed to get out of the drivers seat and do a Starsky & Hutch special manoeuvre over the police cars bonnet. Well that’s how they told the story anyway – who am I to argue.
So, to recount, within ten minutes of the call being received, the victim was safe, the scene was secure, the offender had been located and the weapon and several hundred pounds cash recovered. Job done ! By this time, the Duty Officer, Silver and Tac Ad would probably have just got to page four of the Janet and John Guide to Difficult Situations and it was all over.
The following day, the ARV crew and I were invited to the ‘Incident Debrief’ – we have these for all major incidents we attend, murders, fatal RTC’s, serious sexual offences and of course, firearms incidents. We all sat in the Super’s office at Bigtown with nice cups and saucers and even free biscuits – some of them even had chocolate on !!!
The Chief Inspector conducting the debrief firstly congratulated the Duty DS from CID for so quickly getting the offender charged and remanded (bless) and then he turned his attention to my good self. “PC Chaos” he began “do you think it was safe to attend the scene of a firearms incident before the Duty had agreed his tactical plan ?”. “Yup” I replied. I could see where this was going and wasn’t about to make it easy for them.
“What would you have done if you’d been shot then PC Chaos ?” the CI asked next. “Well I wouldn’t have been, would I Sir” The CI looked blankly at me. Here’s someone who obviously hadn’t researched the incident very well but knew exactly what us naughty front line troops had done wrong, because the Duty Officer had complained to him. I thought I’d best put him out of his misery “The first thing the caller said Sir, which I’m sure you will have noted from the CAD log, is that the offender had left the scene, so the one place we knew he wasn’t was at the petrol station”.
I could see by the look on his face that the cogs were beginning to turn, albeit very slowly. “And what if he’d returned to the scene whilst you were on the way, you would easily have been a target”. Now we were scraping the barrel a bit, clearly trying to justify someone’s inaction from the previous day. “Well Sir” I started “I would suggest that’s statistically unlikely, but in any case, should the guy have been walking back towards the garage I wouldn’t have known because the control room never asked for a description”.
“But what if he had PC Chaos, and still had the gun in his hand” I was beginning to get bored now. “There’s probably a higher chance I might have got crushed by an escaped herd of stampeding wildebeest from the local Safari Park but, if if he had been coming back down the road towards me or the petrol station, and I could see he still had a gun in his hand, I’d have stuck my foot down and run him over”.
Well, you could have heard a pin drop from several miles away. The only sound was the giggles from the ARV lads sat next to me. You could plainly see the colour draining from the CI’s face amongst visions of the newspaper headlines.
I broke the silence “You are talking here about a guy who has already pointed a gun in the face of a nineteen year old girl, threatened to shoot her and frightened her half to death – he’s now walking along a street in a busy town centre, heading back towards the scene of his crime, possibly to finish off the witness, and he sees a police car coming towards him. He’s going to see me as a threat and I more than believe he poses a threat to the life of me, the petrol station girl and the public around us. I’d have no problem justifying taking him out”.
With nowhere else to go on that one, and with the fear of an impending heart attack looming, the Chief Inspector turned his attention to the ARV lads. “And why did you not wait for authority to deploy form the Duty Officer ?” he questioned. Tom answered “Because we’re police officers, it’s what we do and as firearms officers it what we’re trained to deal with”. The CI was about to speak again when Tom interjected “In any case, we don’t actually need the Duty Officers permission, if we arrive, and believe the threat level to be high enough, we’ll self-arm anyway”.
Jeez, I’m going to have to call the paramedics in a minute. The Superintendent, who up until now had remained silent, and just listened to the proceedings pointed out that we have to follow the guidelines and protocols that the Senior Officers have agreed. “These” he said “are such serious incidents we can’t just go rushing in without planning”. Tom was having none of that; he was getting into his flow now “with all due respect Sir” he started “policing on the streets does not do what the book says, the people out there haven’t read your book, I bet most of them don’t reading anything except the Sunday Sport. There do have to be guidelines but when peoples lives are at risk we have to take risks ourselves”.
“And what would you have done” the Superintendent asked “if you’d come along the street and the offender was walking towards you, gun in hand. Would you have run him over as well ?” I ducked for cover at this point. I’ve known Tom long enough to know what he was going to say next.
“If the gun was down and there was time I’d have given him a hard challenge, if the risk was too high or he pointed the gun at us I’d have shot him. What would you have done boss, if us or Chaos hadn’t bothered going and he’d gone back to the garage and shot the girl dead ?” Good come back Tom I thought to myself, possibly not very silently.
The Super began to fluster a tad. The Chief Inspector stepped in “Well he didn’t did he”. Tom wasn’t letting go now “But what if he did; The Duty and Silver were still reading the manual, and the bloke walked straight into the garage and popped one into her head while she’s still on the phone to the police and it comes out there was a police car round the corner and they couldn’t go because all the boxes hadn’t been ticked ?”.
I’m sure it wasn’t a deliberate choice of words that came out of the Chief Inspector’s mouth, but all he could sum up was “Well, that would be very unfortunate”. “Unfortunate” bounced back Tom “Well it wouldn’t be me knocking on the girl’s mothers door saying I’m sorry your daughters dead, she got shot while the police read a book. It’s very unfortunate. I think we need to stop reading books and remember what we’re here to do”.
Around this point, the DS who had been so positively commended for …. erm …. getting someone to interview and then formally charge the suspect …. chirped in “Well of course the gun wasn’t real, you do know that”. I’m sure he was trying to help; or more likely trying to curry favour with the bigwigs present but I did have to point out it was unlikely at the time in question that either the girl in the petrol station, myself or the ARV lads would have had the opportunity to discuss the finer points of imitation firearms with the offender as he stuck it under someone’s nose. If it looks like a gun, feels like a gun, and you want someone to think it is a gun, then it is a gun.
By now I think the need for CPR to be carried out on several high ranking officers present in the room was getting nearer. The Chief Inspector clearly thought the same and saw sense enough to bring the ‘debrief’ to an end. “The are many issues raised here today” he said “that will need to be fed back into the Chief Officers planning meetings. Please rest assured that I will update you all on the findings once they are made”. And with that the CI told us to all clear off and don’t come anywhere near the top floor again …. or else ! Actually he thanked us for our time and bid us farewell, but we knew what he really meant.
Having de-stressed myself from the perils of Rest Day 3 (the construction of my youngest’s new bedroom furniture from the cheerily delivered fourteen boxes, all complete with instructions in German, Portuguese, Swahili, Inuit and any other language but English) it struck me that the plan to improve policing in the UK is in fact a simple one …..
Whether you read the various blogs (of which I hope you find this one worthwhile; to pinch a phrase from someone else, I’m not Inspector Gadget lol), follow Twitterings, go through the moans on Facebook, or simply adopted that old fashioned and some would say out-dated approach of actually talking to your colleagues, it quickly becomes apparent that there are a good 140,000 or so people in this country who know exactly how to make the police work for the people.
These are of course, the police officers we already have (yours truly included). You won’t have to get very far into conversation with any officer; Response Bobby, Neighbourhood Policing, CID Officer (if you can wake them up – sorry only joking !!), or other department, before they will tell you …. with 100% accuracy …. exactly what is wrong with the way in which the various police forces are run and focussed in the UK today.
So then, why is it, if so many people know what is wrong, and where the problems lay, that we are still in this state. How can the move to the third floor so efficiently remove all traces of your ability to police effectively and replace that with a lobotomised excuse for a leader of men (and women). Maybe they become hypnotised by the swinging pendulum that is the distant but regularly achievable OBE dangling on that shiny silk ribbon ……. as long as they toe the line.
Remember some guy called Robert Peel once came up with a list of priorities, or rather principles, for policing which thanks to the efforts of successive Governments’ meddling and politicisation of the Police Service, we seem to have strayed away from. To remind you, those principles were:
It matters not how times have changed since 1829 when Peel established the Metropolitan Police in London, the worlds first ‘modern’ police force. It’s well documented that the Police, even then, were not popular with certain sections of the community who became very vocal and active on the matter, leading to concerns the police were ‘a bad idea’. Thing was though, it was the miscreants, law breakers and ne’er-do-wells that were doing the complaining – the very people these early officers were targeting; dealing with; bringing to justice.
This is not dissimilar to today – the people who complain most about the police now are the very, very small minority that we have to deal with on a daily basis; those that cause pain, discomfort and difficulty for the rest of society and don’t like to be told to stop ‘cos I know my rights innit’. The difference today is that we pander to them, continually giving them ground rather than pushing them back into a corner, much to the detriment of the hard working, law abiding majority of good people within our societies.
Put it this way – other than as a victim of burglary, theft or car crime, how many ‘decent’ members of your local community have you had to deal with this month ?
Back in 1829, the much larger, but silent majority were apparently very, very pleased with what the police achieved; and what they did manage within a few years was a massive reduction in crime. They were so successful that by 1857, all cities in the UK were obliged to form their own police forces based on the ‘Peel Principles’.
We live in a different world today, but each and every one of Peel’s Principles does still apply. By scrapping all the shiny buzzwords, lead weight enwrapped paperwork, Brussels dictat and OBE grabbing headlines away, and returning to these basic ideals, we could turn the face of British policing round in an instant.
Maybe, rather than the Head of a major PLC or and ex-underwear model running for one of these new-fangled Police Commissioner Posts, they should be restricted to applications only from frontline police officers – who actually know how to do the job and make it better.
Me and Big Pete were in charge of Littleville last night, a smaller market town about 6 miles from Bigtown itself. It’s a bit more of a quaint place where very little really happens. Well not in the big scheme of things anyway. Littleville has a far more affluent population that Bigtown – a sort of arrangement that is repeated up and down the country – where the people who can, like to live just that bit out of the way, but close enough to all the amenities of a large town.
A major thing about small market towns like Littleville is that everybody knows everybody’s business, and nobody minds this. On most of the estates in Bigtown, if you glance through your next door neighbours windows as you walk past, they will be out waving an iron bar at you, threatening to tear you apart limb from limb, within micro-seconds. This of course assumes you walk form your house to the off licence at the end of the road, and don’t order a taxi there and back like most of the non-employed can afford to do.
In Littleville, they wave, and invite you in for tea and cake.
The other thing about places like Littleville is that anything out of the ordinary stands out a mile …. instantly. And that’s how it was, less than an hour into our night shift, as we drive around one of the quiet, manicured lawn infested side roads. Specifically it was a shabby old blue Vauxhall Corsa with two baseball cap and hoodie wearing youths in it. There couldn’t have been a car that was more out of place amongst the BMW’s, Audi’s and 4×4’s of Posh House Lane if it tried.
I remember when I first joined the police. It was drummed into us about the evils of stereotyping; how we mustn’t jump to conclusions based on our own negative imagery or perceptions. How if we did, we’d be in front of the Superintendent and out of a job with a boot in the backside in five seconds flat. And then we were taken on a day visit to Bigtown Police Station where, in a few weeks time, we would have been based and our new lives would begin.
We were taken into the CID office, and gazed in awe at all these real bigger than life detectives, the sort of copper we should inspire to be. They weren’t running round like headless chickens, constantly answering radio and committing the ultimate sin of having to wear a uniform. Ohh no, they wore suits; well some of them did – mainly they wore jeans and T-Shirts, and looked a right scruffy bunch, and sat around playing some sort of Football Manager game on the internet on their computers.
The DI invited us into his office, and explained how CID did the ‘real police work’. It was all about intelligence you see, and always being aware and keeping a watchful eye.Uniform was okay, but we wouldn’t want to stay there long; we’d get bored apparently. Then he said something which stuck in my mind to this day. “If you’re out at night, or even in the day, and you see a scruffy old Corsa with a couple of lads in hoodies or caps where they don’t belong, they’re up to no good – turn them over”. The archetypal stereotype if ever I heard it – but there they were, right in front of us, right smack bang down to the scruffy old Corsa.
Big Pete was out of the panda before I’d even stopped, and went straight over to introduce himself to our new found acquaintances. The two lads had clearly been so engrossed in something or other they hadn’t even noticed our arrival, which took them pleasantly by surprise. The first excuse that they had “got lost on their way home” didn’t really cut it with us. I’m not sure what the real giveaway was, but the FOUR sat-navs currently sitting in the rear footwell suggested to me they probably had a good means of working out the way to go. Maybe they needed four in case one broke, then they had a spare in case the spare broke ????
It was even less of a surprise to us in our stereotypically deranged minds, to find out that the car these two oiks were sat in was registered to neither of them. In fact it was registered to nobody. And there was no insurance …. or MOT …. or tax.
And we were even less surprised to find the gloves, and screwdrivers, and designer sunglasses, and wallets full of money and credit cards in decent, respectable peoples names, scattered all around the car and their persons.
But they were surprised, much, much more than us, when we invited them to try on our special, heavyweight steel bracelets and gave them a free ride in our shiny police car, all the way to the cell-block at Bigtown nick.
Relaying the circs to the Custody Desk Sergeant, he simply smiled, turned to our prize catches and said “two lads in hoodies, this time of night, in a dodgy old Corsa, in Littleville, you were asking to get caught”. “Sarge” I said “that’s stereotyping”. “No Chaos” he replied “that’s proper coppering”.
Arrived at work this morning, 6.45am, ready for the start of a new set of 7 shifts; two early turn, two late turn and three night shifts. Just had a spectacular set of three days off (or rest days as they are formally known); however you don’t really get three days off do you ?? the first one is mainly sleep – getting over the previous three non-stop nights of chaos and calamity across whatever city, town or village you police.
Anyway, we woke the station hamster from his deep slumber, fed him some crunchy nibbles, put him on his wheel and waited for him to generate enough power to fire up the computer. Note how I say ‘computer’ in the singular – we actually have three in our office …. between a shift of six …. and our sergeant …. but two of them haven’t been working for weeks – the chap from the IT unit at headquarters is very helpful, and doesn’t at all mind the 30 mile trip each way to try and solve our daily technology crises (actually I rather think he welcomes the chance to escape), but the problem is he’s had to order parts.
As luck would have it, within one mile of Bigtown nick is the Spend-A-Fortune Retail Park. It’s not called that really, but it should be. Every time Mrs Chaos arrives home from there laden down with bags of new clothes and shoes, I always comment “You’ve been out to spend a fortune” …. On this fine retail park, as I’m sure is mirrored across this merry land is a PC World and a Maplin – both fine purveyors of all parts and pieces, computer orientated. We also have a selection of small independent computer shops dotted around town, so you would have thought getting the bits we needed would be a two second job. Well it is ……. in the real world !
Over here in police la-la-land however, a spare part involves paperwork ….. and more paperwork ….. and a requisition …. signed by the head of the IT department … back at headquarters …. who must then send it to the local Finance office to authorise …. who must then get a signature from the Superintendent …. who doesn’t work weekends …. who then sends it back to Finance …. who send it back to IT at headquarters ….. who then sit on it for a month and then order the part from our ‘approved’ supplier who won’t have it in stock .…. but have to order it (at three times the price Maplin charge) ….. who then have to wait for it to arrive, before sending to our IT department ….. who then send it to our station ….. who then have to ring IT to say it’s here so they can send someone out to fit it.
Thankfully, before Sweeney (the hamster) had completely worn himself out, the computer sprang (well fizzled) into life. This allowed each of us, in turn, to log onto our email accounts to see what delightful notices and commands had been cascaded down to us street level minions in the whole three days since we were last here. Or that was the plan.
Despite repeated attempts at starting the programme; much throwing of the communal mouse (the plastic thingy with a wire on connected to the computer don’t panic); several hot beverages and numerous attempts to bribe Sweeney into running just that little bit faster, we gave up. No chance; it just was not happening. The soggy bit of string connecting our lone working terminal to the behemoth of Headquarters network central was not playing the game.
It was time to do the only thing you can in such circumstances. Put Sweeney back in his cage, and drink more tea. It’s now 7.00am. There’s not a chance of anyone in the IT office being at their desk before the crack of approximately, round about, somewhere near 9.15am … ish
No technology means we can’t spend our valuable time inside the police station, reading emails, filling forms and doing the latest ‘Training by Powerpoint’ learning package. God help the great British public now, as there’s only one thing for it …….. we’re going to go outside the station and do some police work !!!!! I called up the Control Room on my radio to let them know we were off out to patrol the streets of Bigtown, do a bit of traffic enforcement, show that ‘visible presence’ our lords and masters keep telling us the public want and ensure our fine residents could get to work and school safely this morning.
And so we did ……
And the public were very friendly ……
Except those that we pulled over for driving round on their mobile phones; not wearing their seat belts; with no insurance or breaking the speed limits – in some cases by more than double, and in many cases doing more than one of the previous at the same time.
Come 9.15ish, feeling for all those poor, defenceless motorists we had been forced to terrorise, I rang the IT office from the radio set in the panda in the hope they would tell us all was okay and we could return to the safety of our warm, tea-urn equipped station. Someone answered straight away ….. which threw me a bit. After explaining our quandary the answer was concise “Sorry, the system will be down all morning, upgrading the servers, didn’t you read the email ?”
It’s not in the slightest bit unusual these days for myself and other police officers to get called to incidents on school property. At night and in the school holidays, they are a massive target for the more light-fingered members of our community; those who completely fail to grasp the concept of ‘get your thieving bloody hands off you low life moronic waste of a good skin’.
During the school term though, we seem to be attending more and more incidents in the classroom. Assaults are of course the biggy; it used to be the case that schools would deal ‘internally’ with minor skirmishes and breaches of discipline – there are many good reasons for this, not least that at the end of the day, kids will be kids; they will never always see eye to eye, and the odd playground punch-up will happen. It happened when yours truly was as school, and it will happen in the Chaos kids schools – the trick here is to differentiate between playground foolery and anything more sinister.
Things have changed over the last few years though; every day we get calls saying “My lad Beckham’s been attacked, the school have done ‘nuffin’, I want him ‘dun’” when in reality the charming ‘Beckham’ has been terrorising the playground, bullying other kids for weeks and one of them has had enough, clouted him back and like any other little bully, Beckham’s gone running home to mummy.
We get a surprising number of parents fighting at the school gates as well; taking out their over the garden fence disputes in the street, all for the enjoyment of 500 young and impressionable kids who we spend much time educating on how to be model citizens. These generally revolve around something said to Tracey by Carly’s new fella Wayne who used to be Tracey’s fella but got kicked out when Tracey found he was sleeping with Sophie who is Carly’s sister who herself then got dumped by Wayne cos Sophie was sleeping with both Wayne’s brothers Nigel and David, and his best mate Richard …. and Richard’s sister Rachel … probably all at the same time !!! So Wayne is now sleeping with Sophie’s sister Carly, who lives next door to Tracey. Confused ???? I was but I will write that job up on here soon ….
The cynic in me says that all this didn’t happen a few years ago, mainly because the parents were out doing that now remotely ancient activity called ……. wait for it ….. working …… rather than being slouched around in front of the TV all day, wearing a size 24 tracksuit (what’s the point of keep fit clothes that big anyway ???) and keeping the blood alcohol count at a steady level of ‘super high’ by constantly consuming the contents of every Frosty Jacks bottle within a three mile radius, but what do I know ???
Anyway …. the thing I love most about my job is that every day is different; you never know what your next job will be and that makes it all the more interesting. This call, however, certainly was one of those ‘first for everything’ ones.
“Chaos from Control” came the call, “Can you start making Bigtown Enterprise College, reports of persons on the premises, barricading themselves in one or more of the classrooms, got this one on as a Grade One emergency, staff confirm the children are still in the building”. Right. Firstly, it’s not a college really, that’s the fancy new buzzword name for a comprehensive school (or secondary modern if you’re really old), and secondly, I should hope the kids are in the classrooms; it’s half past nine on a Wednesday morning in term time – where else should they be ?? All that cleared up, what on earth is going on ? what are people doing entering a school and barricading themselves in ??
A Grade One is our highest priority call – one of those that requires a blue light response; the sort of job where life or property is in danger and we need to get there ….. quick … quicker than that …..
It’s also the sort of job where a Grade One call on school premises when the school is open and full of kids is not only going to set our local Inspector’s bottom twitching, but also those attached to the senior officers many miles away, in their comfy leather arm chairs and coffee tables looking out over rolling fields at headquarters. I can see right now their fourth meeting about what meeting they need to organise that week being interrupted with the news and a number of people who, lets face it, have not set foot on the mean streets of anywhere for a very long time, looking at each other and wondering what they are supposed to do next. Organise a meeting to plan a meeting to discuss it I guess.
I have to admit, visions of some horrific North American school shooting disaster crossed my mind en-route but within a couple of minutes I was at the school and everything appeared very calm. Big Pete arrived seconds after me and we both entered the main building, tentatively. We were met by the Head Teacher who quickly explained a group of parents had been protesting outside the school since 8.00am but as soon as the gates opened to let the pupils in the parents had rushed past , taken up residence in two of the classrooms and were refusing to leave.
“All in order at the moment” I called up on my radio and gave a very brief resume of what we knew so far “no need for anyone else” I said. “Chaos from Inspector Babble” I heard come straight back at me “the Superintendent at HQ is taking control of this incident, I’m on my down to the scene, Wait for me before engaging the suspects”. Pete and I looked at each other. Without saying a word, we both knew this was soon to be going rapidly downhill.
It was an awful shame that our personal radio’s appeared to be in a reception blackspot at that moment, so we wandered along the corridors to find the protest and try and calmly sort the matter out before the cavalry arrived. When we did locate them, which wasn’t difficult, they weren’t the bunch of baying, screaming banshees we were expecting; they were a bunch of quiet pleasant thirty-somethings who were sat at the class desks, reading the paper or fiddling on their iPhones.
It very quickly became apparent that there reason for being there was that the local Education Authority had very recently sent out letters informing the parents that they’d changed the goalposts, and as of the new school year, none of their kids would be able to attend this school; the one a few hundred yards from most of their homes; as the kids would be outside of the new catchment area. Instead they would all have to go to St Peters in the Fields Comprehensive across town – about three miles across town to be precise – but as luck (for the council) would have it, a few hundred yards within the boundary of when the council would have to provide free buses to get the kids there and back.
Ohh, and as a final kick in the parents teeth, it would matter not if they already had a child at the school; the Council were not applying a ‘siblings are ok’ policy, meaning that some parents would have to get kids to and from two schools, three miles apart, at the same time – I’m sure that’s a clever trick if you can make it work.
I must confess on hearing this to have had more than a little sympathy for the parents cause. It seemed they’d been trying to contest this ridiculous decision for several months, and the Council had turned down repeated requests for a public meeting or any sort of review of the situation. It was clear the parents had tried diplomacy many times over and it had failed, leaving them, they thought, with no option rather than direct action.
About this time, the Inspector arrived to ‘take charge’ of the situation. I don’t think he was best pleased to find me and Big Pete sat in the classroom with the offending nasty subversives, drinking tea from one of their flasks. We appraised him if the situation, to which his many years of management prowess and training, numerous diplomacy and negotiators courses led him to the comment “Well you lot can’t stay here, time to move out or you’ll all be arrested for disorderly conduct on school premises”. Nice one boss !
At this point I may have accidentally mentioned to one of the parent protestors that the Inspector “is right at the end of the day, but if I was sat here now, I might have just called the local newspaper – I reckon they’d be well interested in a couple of pictures of concerned parents being led from the school by police officers – might embarrass the council into doing something”.
Pete and I then proceeded to very slowly take down the details of everyone there, noting their concerns and reasons and you know what, I’m sure I saw the parent I mumbled to shortly before on her mobile phone and smiling at me, mouthing the words ‘thank you’. It seemed to take Pete and I quite a while to get everyone’s particulars; all the while the Inspector updating the Superintendent amidst telling us to ‘hurry up’.
Do you know, a funny thing happened as we all walked out of the school. There was a reporter and a photographer there from the local rag ….. and that night we found ourselves on the front page of the Bigtown Gossip or whatever it’s called. The headline read ‘Police evict parent protestors trying to save school’.
The following day, our Inspector was still reeling as his face was right smack bang in the middle of the paper’s front page piccy ….. and as is the way in the police force, many, many childish officers had taken the opportunity to stick photocopies of the article on every available wallspace around the nick. Big Pete and I took the majority of his wrath for a) not getting it sorted before he got there and b) not warning him about the waiting photographer. How were we supposed to know – we were inside with him all the time
Did Pete and I deal with this incident the right way ? I think actually, we did. Sometimes you have to do things differently when it’s for the greater good.