Seeing as all we ever hear these days is ‘the police do nufin’ and ‘you never see a copper when you want one’ (and that’s just the politicians) I wondered for a moment, what these people think we actually do all day. What is quite clear is that by far, the vast majority of the great British public have absolutely no concept of what the modern day police force (sorry, service) has been reduced to as a result of year upon year of political meddling by Governments of all persuasion.
It’s not just us that are facing cutback after cutback, but whereas many of the other ‘frontline’ services, and by this I refer to Local Authorities, Social Services, Mental Health and other Community Services, have the gracious ability to go home at 5.00pm each night, and not even bother for the most part turning up at all on weekends, we are that 24 hour a day, seven day a week, free service, that the world and his dog knows how to find.
I have lost count of the number of jobs rung through at 4.45pm on a Friday afternoon by one Social Worker or another who’s ‘just remembered’ that urgent concern for welfare / child at risk / or whatever file it was that’s been on their desk since Monday morning and they have just found it stuck to the bottom of their coffee cup as they tidy up to go home. Of course there’s nothing they can do now ….. but we can; and undoubtedly we will, because we no longer possess the ability to turn round and say to the said Social Worker ‘tough on you, get out there and sort it’. We are managed by too many senior people too afraid to say ‘NO’ for fear of their hearts desired MBE waving them goodbye if something goes smelly.
It made me think though, about what percentage of enquiries and incidents I deal with on a daily basis that would fall into the realm of the ‘average person in the streets’ definition of what the police should be doing. So this is what I did on a late shift a couple of days ago :
1) Shoplifter at the local Hyper-Super-Market-Store-Otropolis.
Definitely a police job. Except it wasn’t. Said ‘offender’ had tried to use the Self Service till which decided it didn’t like her £20 note. So, complete with her bagged shopping, she’d walked away from the till to go to the Customer Services desk halfway along the store when she was apprehended by Robo-Store-Detective, an over-zealous, uncannily skinny and spotty 19 year old dressed in the sort of sunglasses that made Will Smith ‘look good’ in Men In Black, and more PPE than we wear for an EDL demo. If that wasn’t bad enough, the ‘offender’ was 72 years old, with a blue rinse and had a walking stick. I bet their Head Office will be doing some major PR rescue after the old dears family have ‘gone to the papers’ !! – but not a police matter.
2) An escapee from the A&E Dept at the local hospital.
All hands to the deck this one – apparently took themselves in after ‘taking an overdose’ and now at high risk of dying on us if we didn’t find her in 27 seconds flat. And of course, now the hospital had reported the matter to us, it would be the police’s fault when it all went wrong – so even the Duty Inspector was dragged out of his comfy office to take control of the matter. Experience tells us on the ground floor that the majority of people who go AWOL from Hospital A&E do so because they are bored – generally bored of waiting for a very long time to be seen. That’s no sly dig at the Doctors and Nurses in A&E, they are in as bad a staffing way as we are. As expected, our quarry was soon located back at her home address, where she’d been for the past hour and a quarter, having got a bus home, having been waiting to be seen by a doctor for a further four hours. I’m no expert, but that’s somewhere around six hours (including bus journey) since she presented herself with an ‘overdose’ and it took over an hour and a half to notice she was missing – plus she still hadn’t even had a basic blood sample taken ??? All in all though, not essentially a police matter.
3) Played ‘Hunt the Care Home Kids’.
Don’t even get me started here !!! Two 14 year old delinquents walk out of an unlocked door. ‘Care’ (in the biggest inverted commas you can think of) Staff are not allowed to follow them beyond the front gate of their property (Company Rules). Once the little darlings are out of sight, said Company Policy is to report them ‘missing’ to the police. And of course, our lords and masters are foolish enough to play along with this game and immediately set half the shift out looking for them. Subtle questioning by phone of the Care Staff includes such pearls as “Aren’t you going to look for them then ?” … “Not allowed, have to stay here in case they come back” and “Why don’t you lock the fornt door ?” … “Not allowed in case of a fire” just added to the frustration. We roll up in the street to find our/their elusive quarry, sat on the low front wall of a house on the corner of the street, smoking away, about 25 metres from the home. Reason – not allowed to smoke in the home or on its grounds (Company rules apparently). Not, in my mind, a valid use of scant police resources, and certainly not a police matter.
Yay, a real crime !!! Tried not to show too much excitement to the now depressed and downtrodden local independent corner shop manager who’s fed up of Freddy Lightfingers and his mates helping themselves to the poor guys potential earnings. Still, at last, five hours in and the first proper policing job of the shift. One in custody; luckily for me well in drink so can’t be dealt with – quick booking in and handover job then back out to help maintain law and order in the crime ridden streets of Bigtown.
5) Kids playing football … on a field
Don’t get me wrong here; some peoples lives are blighted by anti-social behaviour, and people are terrorised by rampaging groups of yobs banging and crashing their way nightly through housing estates. These are matters which the police should deal with (although what lawful powers we have in most circumstances is well open to debate – normally with the oiks who understand fully how little we can really do) … but kids happily playing football on a field, not up against Granny Miggins’ front window and not using your prized classic 1954 VW Beetle as a goalpost doesn’t really count in that respect. Here’s a shocker – kids play – outside sometimes. Therefore, in this case, not a police matter.
6) Escaped horse
What in the world are we supposed to do with that ? It’s not on or near a highway. Definitely it had escaped from (or of course been let out of) it’s field/paddock, but was quite happy munching the fresh grass on the other side of the fence (after all, it is always greener isn’t it). We keep being told that dealing with dogs is not our problem and it’s up to the council, but who deals with illusive equines ?? Our long-established tried and tested trick of putting a few available stones and bits of gravel into a helmet (see we do keep them in the car and they do have a use), and shaking it is enough to convince Mr Ed that there is food in there and he happily follows us into the nearby fenced off section of greenery which may or may not have been his home. Still, once secured off we trot. Not a police matter.
7) Another hospital escaper
How do they manage to lose two people in one afternoon ??? Yet again, unnoticed that said patient had vanished into thin air for over an hour, but likely they might die, or worse, if the police don’t find them in less than a minute (cue the Countdown music). Thirty minutes later patient found – thankfully still conscious and breathing where do you think ? Yes, at their home address. Bored of waiting to be seen for hours so decided to go home and pester their own GP the following morning. Not a police matter.
And there we are – 10.00pm and the night shift is in to take the helm. Out of seven incidents attended this afternoon, only one is what the majority of the general public would consider a ‘police matter’. Of course we do all the other things as well, all day, every day, with less and less officers and more and more paperwork. There will still be forms to fill in or reports to submit for the majority of what we have attended. This is why you might not see an officer as quick as you like when you actually need one.
Because everyone else has gone home, or it’s not their problem or it’s Company Policy. And we are a free service – all day every day. And we don’t know how to say ‘NO’. But don’t call for help, get mugged or be burgled just yet as the little darlings have just walked out of the care home again, and the night shift (all two of them) has been sent to look for the charming delinquents. Sorry.