“Chaos” the Inspector called from his office as I was about to leave, late again, after another manic early shift, “Just had the DI on the phone, can you and Pete get in early in the morning, they need a door man for some job or other they’ve got on”.
“No probs Boss” I called back, already eagerly making my way from the Report Room next door into his office to find out what was happening “If that lot are offering overtime out, who are us wooden topped minions to refuse ??”
“Not a chance of them offering that I’m afraid” the Boss quickly replied, “but in an hour early, finish and hour early is best I can give you. If you want it, ring the DI back and he’ll fill you in”.
Oh well, I thought to myself, we don’t get that much chance to play Neanderthal man-beast these days, so any opportunity to take our little red friend ‘Nigel the Knocker’ out for a spin is always worth a shot. i quickly called Pete on his mobile as he’d already left the nick, to make sure he was up for it, before calling the DI back to find out where we needed to be and what the score was.
In typical CID fashion of course, it was all a big secret. They’d had some good intel yada, yada; new location, never come to our attention before; they’d managed to cop hold of the services of an actual, real life, airborne police helicopter, returning from one of it’s long-range bacon butty buying (sorry training) missions, to do a fly over and confirm lots of heat coming from an outbuilding at the property, and based on all this, they’d been able to convince the local Magistrates to issue a search warrant.
Anything actually useful to our role of course, they weren’t willing to divulge for ‘operational security’ reasons.
Now dear reader, you may mistakenly think that bashing a door in is a simple task … but you would be very wrong ! In an emergency yes, if we arrive at an address and there’s a dear old granny collapsed on the floor needing urgent medical attention, one way or another we are going in as quickly as possible, irrespective of whether we are taking the door and half it’s surround off its hinges or not. Much as most of us who are ‘Entry Trained’, actually in this day and age I should say the very few of us, would argue it’s far easier and less damaging to put a decent sized window in, this is much frowned upon by the Armchair Cavalry as being too risky, and anyway, you need ‘Higher Level’ training to do that.
That said, If we turn up and are presented with the above scenario, and a window is the best option, it’s going in. Getting medical help to a potentially critically ill casualty is more important in my book than ticking the right box for HQ.
However, with pre-planned operations, it’s a different matter. You have chance to think. You have chance to decide the best way to go forward. There’s bits and pieces of info which are vital to make sure everything goes smoothly; stuff that you need to know if you’re going to be at the front of the Team – most of it plainly obvious, like can you get to the place without being seen and even more simple – what’s the door made of ?? But, in the interests of CID importantness, that was all top secret.
One bit of info that the DI did concede to me after I’d agreed that Pete and I would give up an extra hour of our middle of the night beauty sleep was that the job was happening, as was the briefing, at Medbury, the county town and almost 30 miles away from our nick. That meant we’d have to be in even earlier, to collect all the kit we needed, purloin a van and get over to the appropriate police station for 6.30am – good game, good game !
We did of course, get to where we needed to be in good time, and it surprised us not at all that we were the only people who had managed that feat ! The local CID bods rolled in 20 – 30 minutes later, most of them looking like rejects from Miami Vice, mainly clothed by Man at Primani rather than a big city boutique. One of them even managed to walk in wearing the obligatory Ray-Ban shades (or more likely a cheap copy of). “Bet he’s the undercover guy” Pete giggled to me not so quietly that everyone else couldn’t hear too. “Alright Mate” he continued “too sunny out there for you is it at half six in the morning ?”. Oddly he didn’t get a reply.
Pete and I of course, had dressed for the occasion as well. We were both set up in full Public Order kit with NATO helmets and arm guards at the ready as per force policy. Actually, it makes you look the business and don’t half stop you getting covered in broken glass and splintered wood when the inevitable happens and Nigel wins the war with the door. We’d even brought along Bigtown finest (for that read least rusty) Public Order Van to make sure our presence was known. Okay, okay, it was the only vehicle left in the yard that wasn’t broken or have bits hanging off !!
After a little while longer, certainly longer than if we’d turned up at 7am for our normal shift start time, then got ready, found a van and driven over to Medbury, the DI rolled in, all smart and sophisticated in his compulsory ‘wanna be one of the lads’ Diesel T-shirt and a pair of jeans, clearly purchased especially for the occasion as both garments still had telltale creases in them.
He went through the usual Op Order waffle; proportionate, necessary etc, etc, told us all about the high grade anonymous intel from the neighbours (not very anonymous then !!), about the info provided that probably a dozen or more plants had been seen growing in an outbuilding, the helicopter photo’s showing the heat source where the factory was going to be and then up in front of us came the dreaded Death by Powerpoint Presentation, all complete with nice photographic images of the approach to and of the target premises. Not working Medbury it didn’t mean a great deal to us – all we wanted was a postcode for the sat-nav Pete had brought with him so we knew where to go – but we were both sure the local guys and girls present welcomed this egg-sucking insight into their patch.
Clearly a lot of research into this job had been carried out as all the pictures were lifted straight from Google Maps which, as I’m sure you’re aware is pretty good, but the maps and StreetView aren’t constantly updated and when, like this instance, you are looking at images dated from 3 years ago, it makes you giggle a little when one of the local CSO’s (also press-ganged into making a special appearance to offer ‘community reassurance’) politely pointed out that the school shown on the screen on the street corner was knocked down 2 years ago and is now a block of flats; that the nice little cul-de-sac was now a through route with traffic calming measures and that, having worked that area for several years, they certainly weren’t aware of anyone new moving into the street. God how I wished at this point the CSO had done the briefing !!
Anyway, mine and Pete’s simple questions about which door we were going in through and what it was made of drew a few blanks, then the DI piped up “Doesn’t matter to us, that’s up to you, that’s why you’re here. All we need to do is get in as quick as possible before they dump the gear”.
“Correct me if I’m wrong Sir” I said, “but I thought we were dealing with a cannabis production set up in an outbuilding – so why are we looking at forcing the front door in the first place ? They’re hardly likely to be ripping the plants up and stuffing them down the toilet” A simple question so I thought.
“Because Constable” came the patronising ‘I’m an important DI who knows these things and you are definitely not‘ answer “dealers, as you should know, do not just deal in one thing, they will most likely have other stuff, Class A for instance, bagged up in the house”. I couldn’t be bothered to argue the point that if anyone these had the slightest inkling of that being the case, I’m sure it would have been mentioned well before now.
With briefing over, and the DI telling everyone to RV with their vehicles in the back yard “in 20 minutes”, Pete and I wandered off on our own, muttering many things I won’t mention on here about our thoughts on this operation and they way it had been planned. My personal radio started beeping and it was our own Sergeant back at Bigtown checking on how things were going “You lads on the way back yet ?” he asked, working from the very logical assumption that as we’d been on since six and it was by now nearly 3 hours later, we would be done and dusted and on our way back to double the number of officers he had available to police our own town.
He wasn’t mightily impressed I must say when I informed him “We haven’t even left their nick yet Sarge”.
Eventually we got underway, and left in convoy with us in a Riot van, three CID cars, a dog unit and two CSO’s in their car to do the ‘pacify the community bit’. We must have looked a good sight driving through the town of Medbury. In fact the CSO’s did tell us later we’d been led halfway round the town and back just so their DCI could show his little parade off to all who could be bothered to take notice.
I don’t think either Pete or I had clocked the oddity of the location that we arrived at when we stared vacantly at Slide 14 of the Powerpoint Presentation but as we pulled into the street, the homes there didn’t half resemble a load of Old Persons bungalows to us. Clearly we’d been too busy musing at how the CSO had unwittingly destroyed days if not weeks of ‘effort’ by some DC’s into putting this job together to work out it looked like we were about to turn over Grandpa Joe’s house.
When we got to the target premises, the ramp and railings up to the front door didn’t really do much more to instil confidence in Pete or I that all was going to go well here, as nor did the Common Room and Wardens Bungalow opposite. “Well” said Pete “Maybe the grandson’s visiting and doing a bit more gardening than the old guy realises”.
“I reckon you’re probably right” I replied “something just doesn’t feel right here”.
Before we could say any more, the front door of the bungalow we were about to take off its hinges opened, and a little old man, probably in his seventies came out, with his little Scottie dog on a lead, complete with tartan coat on, to go for their morning constitutional walk.
“Problem One solved” I said to Pete as we both whipped off the helmets and arm guards and were about to hop out of the van. We already looked enough like a pair of Ninja Turtles as it was – there was no point in further scaring half the neighbourhood to death. As we did get out of the van however, a swarm of CID heroes jumped from their cars and surrounded the poor old bloke, virtually I would think, giving him a heart attack. Certainly they scared the living hell out of the poor Scottie as it tried to wreak its revenge by snapping at any available leg in range.
The DI, who must clearly having been thinking of the glorious headline he was about to make in the local evening paper said “Mr MacDonald, I have a warrant to search your house under the Misuse of Drugs Act ….”
“What” said the poor chap “I may be getting on a bit but I’m not saft, you’re at the wrong house sonny” Undeterred, the DI carried on, informing the old guy that he was being detained whilst this search was carried out and that he might be arrested. Me and Pete stood back at this point, not really wanting to get in the firing line for the complaints that were surely going to come from this impending disaster.
As two of the DC’s led Mr McDonald back into his house the DI called back to Pete and myself. “You two want to go and check the outbuildings out back and take your gear in case you have to break the door”. That suited us fine; we were more than happy to let the shining stars of the Medbury Detectives Department do what they wanted inside the house. We were also both in agreement of Pete’s theory that there must be a younger, maybe son or grandson, that was doing the production in the old chaps back garden, very probably without him having the slightest clue about it.
Our next problem arose when we got into the back garden. We couldn’t see an outbuilding. There was a greenhouse halfway down the garden, but nothing made of anything more substantial than some cheap glass and an aluminium frame. And then Pete started to laugh. I looked over and then I started to laugh as well. “Go on, toss you for it” said Pete. “For what ?” I asked. “For which one of us gets the privilege of breaking the good news to fly boy in there”.
I won the toss, so into the bungalow we went, Pete almost launching me through the back door such was his excitement at wanting to see the look on the DI’s face. All their preparation and planning, all their hours of convincing themselves what a great job they had done putting this together, and I was about to bring it all crashing down even quicker than the local CSO has destroyed their briefing package.
“Sir” I said “You’d better come and look at this”, trying to look serious and professional, all the while with Pete humming the Looney Tunes theme just loud enough for me to hear.
“You found it, well done” the DI quipped “Right, he said to one of his DC’s we’ll have him in for production then” “WAIT A MINUTE” I interjected quickly before things got really out of hand, “follow us into the garden boss”.
Pete had nipped on ahead by this point, and as we stepped out of the back door, he was proudly stood there, in a silly ‘typical Pete’ pose, framing with his extended arms, Medbury OAP Bungalows biggest ever cannabis production facility …… or to you and me, a small greenhouse, with a couple of greenhouse heaters and a single light blub in it …. ohh and a dozen or more prize tomato plants happily growing to themselves !!!
“Right Boss” I said “We’ll, errr, be off back to our nick then, you won’t be needing us any more then”, and rapidly headed towards then back gate and the safety of our waiting van.
As we passed Mr McDonald, who in all fairness, looked completely bewildered by the whole situation, Pete said to him “Sir, we’re really sorry about all this, but I’m sure the chap over there (pointing straight at the DI) will be able to explain everything to you.
“Don’t worry lads” he said back to us “I’ll be the talk of the club here for weeks now”. “Maybe do me a bit of luck with the ladies” he added with a smile and a wink.
And with that we left.
And couldn’t stop laughing at the buffoonery of our CID colleagues the whole journey back to Bigtown.