There is an unwritten rule in the Policing world …. well there is in ours, I don’t know about your part of the Empire … it is a simple rule; one that has served police officers up and down the land very well for many, many moons, and it is this: …. never, ever, under any circumstances, under any amount of pressure or boredom, should any part of your shift be referred to by use of the ‘Q’ word.
For it shall be written in the sands of time, that whomever shall utter the phrase “it’s q…. tonight” shall have befallen on them, a fate worse than the great locust plague of 1327, a fate far worse than the great snowballing of 1981 and a horror of proportions not seen since the appearance of Teresa May at the 2010 Police Federation Conference. “I will always support you …..” aaarrggghh the nightmares are starting again !!!
No, dear colleague, should you ever mutter the aforementioned phrase, then it is decreed that the peace and tranquillity of which you comment and enjoy, will be shattered almost immediately by the sounds of ringing bells and the sights of flashing lights and the calls begin to deluge into the police control room. If you’re really unlucky, and it’s a full moon as well, prepare to be taken into a dark alley by the rest of your shift, never to emerge again.
And this is how it was, last Tuesday night. A Tuesday. Generally considered the least busy night shift of them all; nothing ever happens on a Tuesday. Not sure if they do omnibus re-runs of Jeremy Kyle on a Tuesday night but if feels like they do – Bigtown currently resembled a town where everybody stays indoors, glued to ITV2 or whichever channel is playing the repeats.
It was about half past midnight; myself and Big Pete were two and a half hours into our nightshift – we hadn’t even been sent to a single domestic, that’s how peaceful the evening was. I was driving, Big Pete was doing his best to stay awake in the passenger seat – I’m not sure which was the worst; listening to him ramble about the ongoing saga of his broken boiler and the unsuccessful attempts of some cowboy plumber he’d found in the small ads to fix it, or the intermittent snoring when his brain went into intermittent shutdown.
During one of Pete’s momentary lapses of sleeplessness he quipped up “God Chaos, it’s bloody quiet out there tonight, it’s really gonna drag”.
I glared at him. He’d said it. The ‘Q’ word. He knew he’d said it; I knew he’d said it. Pete just shrugged his shoulders “What’s into you ?” he muttered, obviously pretending he had no idea what he’d done. And, as if on queue, through the stillness of the night we both heard the sound of squealing tyres in the not too distance. “Bloody boy racers” commented Pete “one of these days, someone’s going to kill themselves or more likely on of the birds they’re trying to impress”.
“Yeah, you’re right” I replied “probably down the Radley Road, might as well go and have a word there’s nothing else happening”. Radley Road is a small industrial estate, not far from the town centre where we currently were, and a regular meeting place for the local boy racers in the evenings. In fairness, down there they aren’t in anyone’s way, they don’t cause any bother, and apart form the odd bit of foolish larking about in their cars we don’t have any problem with them. Besides, most of them have spent a fair few quid ‘modding’ their Fiesta’s and Saxo’s up and they last thing they want to do is prang them.
I pulled out from our hidey hole half way along the High Street and started to head towards Radley Road; only a minute or so away. Then the screeching came again, this time from just in front of us, and as if on cue, an old silver Vectra came tanking round the corner from Crown Street almost on two wheels and took off ahead of us – I don’t even think they had time to register a car was behind them, never mind it was the police. This was either going to be a drink driver or some kids had nicked the car. i put my foot down to try and catch up while Pete called up on the radio in the hope there might be a likewise bored and nearby fast response car to give us a hand.
The reply from the Control Room wasn’t exactly as we’d expected “Roger that, we were just going to call you up, we’re getting a Grade One intruder alarm at the Co-op on Crown Street, multiple activations from the premises, unknown if offenders still on scene”. We knew – they weren’t. Our money was on them being in an old silver Vectra now hurtling along the High Street away from us.
“This is better” Pete exclaimed, “let’s wake the rest of the shift up then”. The problems with his boiler (and his snoring) faded quickly as Pete called up on the radio “Yes Control, behind a vehicle now, an old silver Vauxhall Vectra, believe its the offenders from the Co-op break in, several occupants,vehicle is FAILING TO STOP, need response cars and a helicopter please”. Within micro-seconds, the radio was full of transmissions as everybody wanted in on the action. The nearest response car was a good ten miles off at the moment so until they played catch-up, it was down to us, in a three year old 1.7 diesel Astra with just short of 100k on the clock. “Don’t you dare lose ‘em Chaos”, Pete shouted, he was getting quite excited now “cakes if you do !”
Thankfully both Pete and I had done the Pursuit Management Course, so the Duty Officer at HQ was happy to let us run with the job until the big boys arrived. Let’s face it though, this is what most of us joined the job to do – drive round fast, chasing cars and catching the bad guys. All we needed now was the Starsky & Hutch music and we’d be ecstatic. Both of us being pursuit trained allowed Pete to give the required commentary, updating the control room as to location, speed, road conditions and risks, so that the response units coming knew exactly where we were going at all times, and the Duty Officer could ‘manage’ the incident (tick the boxes on his little book so he had plausible deniability when it all went wrong) while I concentrated on the driving.
We fully expected our quarry to head of into one of our housing estates; a myriad of houses, flats, narrow streets and tight corners, criss-crossed with paths and alleyways where they could easily abandon the car, hop a few fences and be out of sight in seconds – but these guys didn’t; they carried on towards the bypass and open roads. Good for us but bad for them. Away form town they had far less places to hide, it would give us more time to get extra patrols into the area and tighten the noose. “They ain’t local” Pete quipped up “they haven’t got a clue where they’re going” as the cars driver got to the first roundabout and took a sharp left, heading back along a parallel road to the one we were on. This played even further into our hands as they were now heading back towards several fast response units and a stinger car.
And, as if our luck couldn’t get any better, overhead appeared the police helicopter. Whatever they did now, the chances of getting away had dropped dramatically; the eye in the sky above does 170mph and goes anywhere in a straight line – it doesn’t have to worry about junctions and corners. If they abandoned the car now, the high power cameras and lights on the helicopter would be tracking their every move
Having the helicopter there meant we could pull back, let them and the response cars take control and listen in as the perfectly executed ‘sting’ took place along the bypass ahead of us. For anyone not in the know, a ‘Stinger’ or ‘Hollow Spike Tyre Deflation System’ to give it it’s proper name is an extendable plastic bed filled with (very, very sharp) hollow metal spikes sticking up that fill pierce the tyres of any car unfortunate to drive over it (including the odd pursuing police vehicle it must be said). Once you’ve driven over a stinger, the air starts coming out of your tyres in a relatively controlled fashion but still very quickly, and within a few hundred metres the tyre will be flat. Keep driving then and the tyre will shred and disintegrate and you’re running on the metal rims of your wheels. Neither an easy or a clever thing to do.
Although we were no longer ‘part of the action’ we remained nearby waiting for the shout that the vehicles occupants had ‘decamped’ or run off from the car and sure enough that happened quite quickly. The car crashed through a farm gate; three people starburst from the it and ran towards the nearby barn buildings. The crew in the helicopter were by now in their element – this is what they do and keeping tabs on our errant quarry was not going to be a difficulty for them.
By the time we arrived in the farm yard, the guys in the fast response cars had rounded up two of the runaways and were fairly confident they knew where the third was hiding. A dog unit was nearly upon us so there was no point heading into the pitch black barn, not knowing exactly which corner the toe-rag was hiding behind (and what he may have been holding onto – there’s some pretty nasty spiky things kept in farm barns and I for one didn’t fancy coming face to face with a hoe wielding maniac). We set about securing the exits to the barn so there was no means of escape … and waited the arrival of Rage; land shark extraordinaire.
Within minutes he was here; we all dropped back a step or four. Rage has a heck of a reputation in our force; he’s not overly fussy who he takes a chunk out of; cops, robbers, passing nuns on their was to morning mass – they’re all the same to Rage. He operates on a simple system; if it moves, it’s a target; and Rage rarely misses his target.
Released from the confines of his mobile kennel by Steve the handler, Rage was very soon nose to the ground and on the trail of miscreant number three – literally dragging Steve across the farmyard and in the direction of a large rusty old barn in the corner. Despite Steve the Handlers warnings, the remaining rascal clearly believed he was in a position to outwit both us and many kilograms of slobbering fur covered muscle and teeth, big teeth, big sharp, pointy teeth
It would be wrong of me to say I was more than slightly amused at Rage’s response to the challenge our law-breaking friend had set him. In fact, we were all very amused, it’s fair to say. The barn was full of stacked bales of hay, which our quarry seemingly thought would provide adequate protection against the sniffiest nose in the west. To Rage, however, the bales were just one big staircase, made for leaping up, and behind one of them lay dinner …. sorry the person he was trying to locate …. no, I was right first time, dinner. I’m sure the scream came before the snarl. Steve had shouted again to the hider that Rage was seeking to show themselves and stand very still. It hadn’t worked. As Rage had got within licking distance of our guy, he broke cover, trying to bound and jump along the top of the bales, stacked like loose Lego bricks.
Rage was on him, in a flash. There was no small, hops and jumps from the dog. Just one or two Olympic style launches well worthy of a Gold medal, but to Rage, at the end of the flight lay moving flesh, and in what seemed very slow motion Rage locked on, teeth embedded into the runaway’s right arm in a text-book capture and with all his weight fully at work, Rage swiftly brought his prize catch tumbling to the ground in a fit of screams and shouts of agony befitting of someone who’s just felt the full weight of the law literally clamping down on them.
Even at this point, their was no way I, or any of the other officers who had stood and watched the aerobatic performance of a lifetime, were going any closer. Rage was still in full work mode, and wouldn’t be to concerned about taking dessert out of one of us. Steve quickly went over, gave the release command and Rage snapped instantly from the spawn of several devils into slobbering, licking, ‘rolling over so you can tickle my tummy’, puppy dog mode. “He’ll be fine now” Steve called over. In unison, the rest of us called back “Don’t worry we’ll just wait here”. Steve soon came over, handcuffed prize on his arm, muttering “wusses” to us, and followed behind by his ever-obedient, tongue hanging out, drooling, tail wagging companion. But I swear as Rage passed the rest of us, he glanced over with that ‘I’m watching you’ look, weighing up which one of us he’d have a chomp at if only he got the chance.
With all the excitement over, and all the suspects rounded up, we got chance to go and examine the car to find out just why they were so keen not to stop and talk to us. The reason soon became perfectly clear, as the car was crammed full of bottles of alcohol; whisky, Jack Daniels, vodka, gin and other drink, plus pack upon pack of cigarettes, several thousand packs in total. We had had an excellent result. The guys we had captured were wanted across several force area for a multitude of shop and garage burglaries, targeting alcohol and cigarettes, and hopefully would now be spending a lot of time at Her Majesties Pleasure.
We got back to the station, the adrenaline still running, but quite looking forward to the forthcoming mountain of paperwork that undoubtedly lay ahead of us. A few of the others who hadn’t been on this job were at the nick when we got back. “Great job” they said “but it’s all right for you glory chasers – while you were out there having fun, we’ve been run ragged here”. “How come” I asked, “It’s been dead as dead can be all night”. “It was” the Sergeant shouted over “until that job of yours, then it all kicked off and we’ve not stopped since”.
“Pete” I said to my colleague, who was happily ignoring the rest of the team and already had his head buried in the mountain of forms we’d need to complete “Pete, this is all your bloody fault, saying is was you know what out there; you can go and grab us some cakes for that”.”Make ‘em cream ones” shouted one of the others as he sulked out of the door a few minutes later muttering away to himself.