But I’ve never seen an elephant fly …. (oops sorry, wrong film !!)
I’ve selflessly stolen the title of this article from a tweet by @SuptTozer, the senior police officer in charge of policing the town of Shrewsbury and County of Shropshire; a place I bet most people have never probably heard of, so just for your info, it’s above and to the left of Birmingham …. near Wales …. but not quite !!
Superintendent Tozer, along with several of his senior officer colleagues had taken to the streets on New Years Eve to join their response team officers in dealing with the madness and mayhem brought about but the complete inability of a significant number of people to enjoy themselves without resorting to gobsmackingly large amounts of alcohol, which for a large part had no other effect than to make them smack someone else in the gob !!
** humble side thought – I know @SuptTozer is a Twitter follower of mine; i wonder if he saw my tweets over Christmas about when I arrived at Bigtown and the then Super used to insist Command Team staff worked the Friday & Saturday night shift public order vans so they ‘never lost sight of what it’s like on the ground’ ?? Maybe that’s where he got the idea from for this ?? Ok maybe not **
What I’m sure the good Superintendent intended to serve as a running commentary for his followers and the local community of frontline life in one town in one county on New Years Eve has unexpectedly been picked up and run a as news article by both the local and national press. The full list of tweets from @SuptTozer is here:
I was going to write my own blog about the events of New Years Eve, but in fairness all I would be doing was replicating more or less was was written above, just in a different place !!
Needless to say however, some people have already started to criticise the Superintendent for ‘wasting time on Twitter’ but surely what he’s actually done is ‘tell em exactly how it is’.
There are actually 21 tweets between 21.00 and 07.00 the next morning – 2.1 tweets per hours – hardly scandalous but certainly engaging, communicating and informing – all the sort of things police officers of any rank are supposed to do aren’t they ???
But what do the tweets tell us about one small market town in a relatively quiet county in the English heartlands ???
Well by just after 9pm they already had someone locked up for an offensive weapon, had several missing people to try and find, and another who’d taken an overdose. Out of all those jobs, only the one is a ‘crime’ matter which is what the Home Secretary says is all that police officers should be dealing with …. but who is going to sort the rest out …. outside of office hours …. during the New Year holiday break ???
Less than half an hour later a violent crime takes place right in front of them – it doesn’t say if this was alcohol related by my money goes that way !!
By midnight however, the good Super gets a feel of what nightshift bobbies have been saying for a long time – “I have a fleece, a stabproof + florie (fluorescent) jacket and I am cold”. Sir I get the humour in which the comment was intended (towards people dressed in very ‘flimsy’ clothing) but please let uniform buyers countrywide know how you felt – the kit is just not up to scratch !!
And so the night went on …. We learn that by 3am the local Custody Block was full – and that’s BEFORE many of the pubs and clubs closed !!! Drugs and drink-drivers feature also in what essentially would have been the recipe of makings for most town and city centres country wide on the same night.
But whichever way we look at it, the common theme throughout the night has been the general misuse of alcohol. As @SuptTozer tweeted at 4.30am “It’s been a night of alcohol related … now what’s the word? well actually it’s stupidity”. In fairness, as I worked New Years Eve night, I couldn’t have put it better myself !!
For me though, the most important ‘tweet of the street’ was at 4.50am when the Super typed “I have seen my officers stand being shouted, taunted and ranted at, and calmly go about their duty making arrests and keeping the peace” and again at 7am when he said “As I come to the end of my night shift, I give thanks for the many that do this time and time again, without fail: Thank you”.
Hopefully he had chance to tell his troops this in person as well, but it does make a great change as a frontline bobby from anywhere to see a senior officer recognising the work we do publicly, not just on New Years night, but every other day and night of the year. Morale amongst the troops is, as we all know, at an all time low. Sometimes it’s just a simple thanks like this that makes all the difference !
Happy New Year everyone …. no doubt we’ll see you again same time next year
What’s in a number you say ???? well quite a lot when the ‘scores on the doors’ shouldn’t be getting above 35 !!!
Sorry though if you were just about to get excited, this has absolutely nothing to do with darts ! –
I am of course talking about that favourite old cherry of ours, the drink driver. I reckon I must have bored everyone to death pre-Christmas with my incessant re-tweeting and re-posting of a series of anti drink drive messages, mainly based around the excellent Australian TAC videos which put the message out in a far more direct way than any UK Government agency or mainstream broadcaster would dare to. You can by the way, view them here > https://constablechaos.wordpress.com/category/drink-drive/
It would appear however, that over the Christmas period, not enough people viewed my blog pages or took heed of my advice as yet again, the jolly boys and girls in blue of Bigtown had no problem playing our annual festive fun-filled game of ‘Who Can Get The Highest’.
It didn’t even make the challenge any more difficult when I read on some local papers website or another that their local police force was proudly announcing they had ‘breath tested and arrested fewer drink drivers this year than last’ in such excited terms that you would think the war had been won and Billy Ten Beers had hung up his Allegro keys for good. It’s an example of how a bad message can easily be spun to make it sound like the bees knees !!!
Of course the reality of what they were saying is exactly what they had said – they had breath tested fewer drivers, not that there were less drink drivers out there – but the message wasn’t intended to be sold that way. The whole press release had been written to make it sound like there were less law breakers on the roads rather than admit there were less law enforcers on the roads to catch the law breakers in the first place – but why ruin a good story with a few facts ???
I can still remember the days, not that long ago to be fair, when our Inspector had sufficient staff available to actually allocate a car at night solely to the purpose of hunting drink-drivers. We used to take it in turns to crew the car and of course, if any emergency came in that extra hands were needed for we would attend, but other than that we were a ‘non-deployable’ resource, dedicated to eradicating the scum of the road.
Sadly, those days are no longer with us, and less drink drivers are being caught. Not, to my mind, because there are less of them … but because there are less of us to look for them or lie in wait like some wild tiger, hidden in the undergrowth, waiting for a nice juicy antelope to wander past.
Anyway, we like to buck the trend at Bigtown nick, and carry on regardless. call us old-fashioned but despite all the hype, hypocrisy, think tanks and task meetings, in all the interactions myself and my colleagues have with the Greater Good of the British public, they say they would rather we were out there catching thieves than sat at a desk catching writers cramp …. so as much as we can, we do like to keep them happy where possible. And everybody hates a drink-driver, so they’re fair game for all …..
And so the gauntlet was set for this years round of ‘Who Can Get The Highest’. There’s no need to go far into the very simplistic rule of the game suffice to say that over the Christmas to New Year period, the officer who arrested the drink driver who blew the highest reading on the in-station breathalyser wins. There’s no prize , other than the kudos – we wouldn’t like to be seen to be trivialising the whole sorry episode; rather it works as an incentive for us to focus what little ‘downtime’ we get in a positive manner.
There are of course some who don’t see it in the same way as us. They tend to openly, loudly, and generally incoherently shout that we should be ‘out there catching proper criminals; granny muggers and rapists, rather than hounding innocent motorists’ …… except that these people aren’t ‘innocent motorists’, they are the very ones who will (and indeed do) run over Granny Miggins at the bus stop, or plough their two-tonne missile into the back of your perfectly legitimately, safely parked pride and joy and then scarper into the night without a care in the world for the destruction and devastation left behind. Generally of course, they are the people subsequently sat in the back of the police car with the grand prize of a visit to our cell block awaiting.
But back to our competition. What i can say without a doubt this year is that I didn’t win. I didn’t even come close. During our little campaign the highest reading obtained was 148. I only managed a 103 – still three times the drink drive limit but it just didn’t cut the mustard. Even on the day where I caught three drink drivers during the same shift they wouldn’t let me add the totals together which I thought was slightly unfair. I didn’t see the problem in my logic but it did get pointed out I wasn’t playing by the rule so hey ho !
Of course on a more serious note, what we found to be most worrying is not the numbers of drink-drivers we do continue to catch, but the increase in the levels of their intoxication. It’s not that long ago that the majority of people blew in the 50’s or low 60’s – it wasn’t very often than you got people much over 70 (twice the limit). Now a great deal of those caught are close to or over the 100 mark, many are a lot, lot higher !! – a very sad state of affairs if I may say so.
My saving grace though is that if we look at last year overall, I was by and far the winner of the annual ‘Scores on the Doors Trophy’, stemming from an incident a few months back where I carried out a breath test on a guy at an RTC who was fairly coherent, standing, talking and although appearing slightly tipsy, gave no indication of the level of his intoxication … until the numbers came up on the roadside breath test machine as 177 !!! – I have to admit at first to thinking that the device had gone wrong. There was no way in the world the guy appeared to me to be FIVE TIMES the drink drive limit.
His luck didn’t fair much better back at the station when at his first attempt on the in-station machine he only managed to provide one of the two legally required breath specimens, but that reading was 193 – yes you read that right, one hundred and ninety three !! And bear in mind this was a guy who was still walking, talking and carrying on regardless. Me, at half that level of drunkenness, I’d have been flat on my back and comatose …. or dead !
Not being one to give up easy, and determined this guy was not going to get off with a technical ‘fail to provide’, we sat him down for fifteen minutes and then gave him the option of trying to blow again – the result then being a slightly more sedate 188 and 184 !! (for anyone not aware, it is always the lower of the two readings that is used evidentially to charge a person – see we are kind still)
So that’s that then. And my New years Resolution for 2013 – ‘Must Try Harder !!’ Look out drink-drivers of Bigtown, not only will you have me trying to regain the crown, you’ll also have my colleagues trying to outdo me and get even higher !!! – maybe your Resolution should be to throw the drink-drive towel in now !!
Ohh, and whether it be Christmas, New Year, or all year round, before you go out on the ‘razz’ again, here’s a question for you :
T’was The Night Before Christmas,
And all through the town,
With fools misbehaving
And acting the clown …….
The police were being pulled
From pillar to post
To drink drives and damages
But Drunks it was most ……
Well, it wasn’t much to ask was it ?? For the local ne’er-do’-wells to give it a rest for one night … I mean what difference does one night out of a whole year (no purpose just pointing out to them how many other periods of darkness they get to carry on their buffoonery every year, the concept of cyclic movements would be well lost on them anyway and no doubt the only time the number 364 appears in their mindset is when counting the number of bottles of Frosty Jacks they’ve forgotten to pay for this month !!)
And so out Christmas Eve nightshift had begun. In a completely RIPA free and clandestine movement, I’d diverted from my normal route to the nick to carry out some undercover surveillance of the High Street on the way in – trying to gauge to mood (and more importantly the numbers) on the streets of Chaos Town to mentally prepare myself for the night ahead.
And yup, there it was; quarter to ten and the late shift (all two of them) were already breaking up fights and trying to coerce the more violent of the two into the relative controlled area, comfort and safety of the back of the ‘standard issue and completely impractical for any use other than the school run’ Vauxhall Corsa – the only working vehicle back at the nick and for which the keys had had to be forcibly removed from the sweaty and reluctant palms of a Community Support Officer who’d failed to grasp the concept that the need to preserve the peace and prevent persons coming to further harm was slightly more up the scale of important things than him tootling round trying to stop the kids playing football on the communal grass outside Primrose Gardens flats (the job he had been tasked with).
I had no choice but to stop the car and given them a hand in controlling and containing their new best friend who promptly repaid the favour by seizing an available opportunity to sink his dirty, smelly teeth into the forearms of one of my colleagues. Ohh joy, I haven’t even started work officially yet and there’s going to be paperwork !
With the arrival of a police van and backup from another nick, we were able not only to transfer ‘Teeth man’ into the back, but also provide transport to the chap he was scrapping with who,instead of taking the opportunity to disappear from the location during the kafuffle and confusion, decided not only to hang around but to continue his attempts at world annihilation with every and any passing member of the public he could. Round One to us !
Walking into the briefing room a fair few minutes late due to assisting my colleagues on the way in did not even excuse me from the immediate torrent of abuse from my colleagues about my time-keeping, and even my pleas to the sergeant, who had already been made aware of my situation, had fallen on deaf ears. Nothing, bar nothing, it seems, stepped in the way of the ‘Late Buys Cakes Act’ and so I had no option but to accept the guilty verdict passed against me.
In reality, i really didn’t have enough time to present my defence before briefing was rudely interrupted by the first ‘Grade One’ call of the shift …. “Any late or night turn available for a disorder outside the George and Dragon on Crown Street, reports of twenty plus fighting, chairs being used as weapons, any unit can respond ? …”
And so the night began. What troops we had available, from both lates and nights, set off into the night to encounter yet another drink fuelled frenzy of less than civilised buffoons who clearly need to lay off the wine gums if they can’t handle them. Myself and big Pete, who had jumped in with me, never got to that job to join in the fun (although we were told later there really were twenty plus fighting for a change and it had taken quite an effort between the six officers that attended to restore calm and order even for a short while), as less than two minutes into our blue-light journey we were diverted to a Grade One domestic assault taking place on the other side of town.
With a quick squeal of the wheels and a glance at the map book I always carry, we were about turned and on our way to one of the nicer parts of town where we very rarely get any calls. The Meadow Grange estate this wasn’t …. although the smartly lawned detached properties with flowerbeds and cars outside with all the windows and wheels still attached certainly drums up more feelings of streets that should be named after pleasant flowers than those in the reality of Meadow Grange.
“Not been up here before” piped up Pete as we scooted along the road, trying to spot the property we were looking for. In most parts of town, it’s fairly obvious where you’re going …. the massively increased noise; hoodie wearing crowds outside in the street hanging onto their trophy Staffie Bull Terrier on a bit of rope with one hand, whilst on the other arm is the ‘Trophy Tracey’, ill-fitting tracksuit wearing; nose, ear and probably many other appendage pierced; can of cheap lager in hand, heavily pregnant girlfriend. The house of choice itself, will of course have the bins chucked over in the front garden, sorry patch of mud where no grass has grown for a very long time, and a minimum of half a tonne of compressed aluminium which were, until the previous two dozen domestics, clearly identifiable as Frosty Jacks or Stella cans.
Not this time though …. the driveways here were lined with BMW’s and Mercedes, sprinkled with the odd Jaguar for good measure. Don’t get me wrong, domestic related incidents and violence occur in all walks of life, it’s not just something which afflicts the impoverished, but for good or bad, its fair to say we very rarely get calls to this part of town. As we pulled up outside the relevant address, I must admit to a double-take … there were no outward signs of disorder, no inkling of disarray, no hordes of nosy, interfering neighbours waiting our arrival, no camera phones on ‘pause’, holders hoping their wibbly-wobbly footage would earn them fifty quid from the local news channel. No, it was the epitome of calm and tranquillity … and there was a Bentley on the drive.
Pete called up on the radio, much I guess to ensure we were in the right place (this may come as a shock but it’s not in the slightest unusual for police officers to be sent to completely the wrong address after a calltaker, many, many miles from where you are and without any local knowledge just types in the nearest sounding street name to what they thought they’d heard and hopes for the best) only to have it confirmed that on this occasion, yes the details were 100% accurate. The Control Room despatcher also told us they had played back the recording of the initial call and thought possibly it was a child calling so most likely an argument between the parents.
As mum answered the door, I’m not sure who was the more surprised – her seeing two Ninja Turtle clad blokes in black on her front doorstep, or us seeing a rather glamorous lady dressed up to the nines, looking as if they were on the way to some posh doo at a top London hotel. Certainly not looking like a person who until several minutes ago had been in the throws of a nasty domestic. On explaining why we were there, m’lady called her husband “Dominic …. there’s two police officers at the ‘front’ door” (with quite and emphasis on the word ‘front’). “Blimey” I muttered to Pete “maybe we were supposed to go round the back”. Pete sniggered back “I’ll get a CAD warning done when we get back to the nick”.
Dominic then appeared. A gentleman some considerable age older than the lady of the house, but equally well dressed in Dinner Suit and bow tie. ”I’m terribly sorry officers” he said “I think our daughter may have telephoned you, she does have a habit of getting rather excited if she doesn’t get her own way”. I spoke with daddykins whilst mummy took Big Pete to have a word with their darling daughter Natasha but it wasn’t very long before I heard Pete’s raised voice followed very shortly afterwards by him stomping down the stairs pursued by a very apologetic mother.
“Of all the things …..” Pete was saying is one of his ‘not very happy’ tone of voices. Without saying a word to me, Pete turned to the father of the house and said “It’s half past ten on Christmas Eve, there are few enough of us on the streets as it is. I’m afraid Sir that we really don’t have time to deal with children ringing us up on the nines saying she’s being abused just because you won’t buy her ANOTHER pony for a present. We’ll wish you a Merry Christmas and leave you to speak to her Sir, madam. have a good evening.” And with that Pete was out the door before I could say anything more.
The rest of the night shift was one complete blur of pub fight, club fight and domestic fight; the two interlinking factors in both being the words ‘fight’ and ‘copious’ as in the vast amounts of alcohol ingested by every single person we had the great displeasure of dealing with. Add to that more drink drivers than you could shake a stick at and the odd ruffian for one or another piece of criminal damage and you get the general picture.
By not much after midnight, the cells at Bigtown were full, and we were having to take prisoners to Medbury, some 30miles away. it sort of focussed your mind a bit, worrying that if we had to make that journey, followed by a long wait to book your prisoner in, followed by the drive back, it would keep us off the streets longer than we liked and more importantly, leave your colleagues short staffed back at base. For that reason above any other we probably let go a lot more people than we would have done under normal circumstances, but it really was a case of flying by the seat of our pants ……. again !
Things hadn’t really calmed down by 4.30am on Christmas day morning, when we were mostly all back at the nick doing paperwork and handovers to explain why we’d spread half of the towns night-time revellers across four different cellblocks in a fifty mile radius when the next big job came in. A farmer out in the rural section was on the way to check his cattle when he’d come across an old van, well planted into an old wooden electricity pole, which was now dangerously swinging across a country lane.
The power cables, once so neatly and professionally fixed to the upper arms of the pole were now dangling only a few feet above the road surface itself, and were putting on quite a spectacular light show all of their own; indeed when we arrived, we were most impressed and I must say, it was a far better show than last years bonfire night effort by the Bigtown Rugby Club – sparks and arcs of shorting light flew in every direction – mainly ours – and gave Pete and I the distinct impression that they really didn’t want us getting any closer to them ….. which was fine by us !!
Having called the control via our radios, and asked them to get the electrical emergency people out on the hurry-up (at 4.30 on Christmas Day morning yeah right !!), we then decided it was (relatively) safe enough to check the crashed vehicle for anyone still in it. Thankfully there was not, but things never being that simple, especially when we had every intention of not being late off from work that morning, there was a bit of blood around inside the van and even more empty beer bottles.
So now we had a missing potential casualty, with injuries, and probably drunk, somewhere in the pitch black, at silly o’clock in the morning, with no idea how long they’d been out there, and no idea which way they’d gone. And on top of that, we had our own version of the Northern Lights right in front of us, and a farmer who cared for none of this as he had a couple of hundred cattle that not only needed checking on but would very soon need bringing back this way to the farmyard for milking. “Not this time they won’t be” Big Pete said to the farmer in a very lame attempt at bringing some humour to the situation “not unless you want to start producing flame grilled steak a-la-carte”. I don’t think the farmer saw the funny side in fairness.
“How we going to find this muppet quick then ?” I asked Pete hoping for once he had some intelligent brainwave of an idea just bursting to get out.
“Scratch me” he said “dogs went off at 4, helicopters not been running all night so I hope you got a good torch”.
“Only one thing for it then” I replied as I called the Inspector up on his radio and broke the news to him that we would need every available man, woman and Senior rank (aka him) on duty to come and help find this guy before things got worse than they already were. While the Inspector did his best to rally us some extra troops and come up with the most plausible reason why he himself should not have to leave the relative warmth and safety of his office Pete and I, aptly assisted by the farmer and his son who had by now appeared on the scene set off to start a first cursory search of the surrounding lanes and fields.
After fifteen minutes of getting very cold, wet and muddy, and finding absolutely nothing we reconvened at the scene of the crash to await for our reinforcements to arrive. And then our Christmas miracle happened. In the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, seemingly out of nowhere appeared Santa Claus ……. albeit not very podgy, and without the long curly white hair and beard …. and without the ho ho ho, but still, dressed in a santa suit came, or rather staggered, a very inebriated young man, sporting a very nice bump to the head and the odd scratch or two in other places.
“You alright Santa” Big Pete called over, now having regained his sense of occasion, “what’s the matter, you look like you’ve crashed your sleigh !”
“F*** of you fat b*****d or I’ll f*****g do you right” came the short but to the point reply.
“Ten quid that’s our man” then” Pete quickly said to myself, the farmer and his son. Before we’d even taken a couple of steps towards the lad he piped up “I didn’t f*****g crash it on purpose anyway, I wasn’t f*****g drivin’ ….. “
“Bets are off” Pete shouted “can’t take your money on this one, too easy” and promptly informed our newest friend that he would be spending the majority of Christmas day as our guest at Bigtown Police Station.
Now you’d have thought he would have been pleased about that; a nice clean, warm bed to sleep and sober up in; free food you didn’t have to cook yourself or wash up afterwards, and pleasant company, but no, ohh no, Muppet Chops had to want to fight the world didn’t he. So ….. at 5 o’clock on Christmas Day morning there we were, rolling round in mud, wet and god knows what else, on a farmers country lane with still the electrical equivalent of the Millennium Fireworks going off all around us.
By the time another crew arrived to assist, and with the help of farmer & son, we had our man trussed up better than a turkey waiting for the oven. The other crew were happy to take our prisoner off our hands and into the back of our van, but weren’t so polite about telling Pete and myself that neither of us smelly, cowpat covered degenerates was getting anywhere near their nice clean police vehicle and that we should both go and find the nearest pond and jump in it to clean ourselves up before even thinking about returning to Bigtown nick.
As they started to drive away, one of the guys stuck his head out of the van’s side window and shouted “Merry Christmas Chaos” and off they went into the night.
“Yeah, and a stinking Merry Christmas to you too” I shouted after them, then turned to look at Big Pete who was in just as bad and filthy a state as I. What else could we do, but just stand there and laugh at each other.
“Happy Christmas Pete” I said. “And the same to you with Jingle Bells on” was the reply.
And we both jumped back into our panda, wound down the windows, and took a leisurely drive back to the police station to start another round of paperwork …..
Got kids ??? Then think, before YOU drink, before YOU drive !!!
I’ve created this one using clips from the hard-hitting Australian TAC video’s set to a very familiar soundtrack to try and get the message across in a different way – STAY ALIVE – DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE !!
With the Christmas Party season in full swing, it’s worth remembering you could still be over the drink-drive limit well into the following day !!
This was one of the most emotionally charged of all the Victoria, Australia, Transport Accident Commission (TAC) campaigns.
It was created in three parts that went to air sequentially in the days leading up to Christmas.
A Christmas Anti Drink-Drive advert by the Australian government
I picked up on this video link in a tweet by @TrueCrimeUK and then also noted it again on a blog post by @SConTutor –> (http://scontutor.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/drink-drive-what-is-the-point/)
It’s from Australia, it doesn’t make pleasant viewing but raises the question ‘Why are we afraid to broadcast commercials like this in the UK ?’
The background to the video is described in this editorial from the Transport Accident Commission Victoria, Australia :
On December 10th 1989 the first TAC commercial went to air. In that year the road toll was 776; by 2008 it had fallen to 303.
A five minute retrospective of the road safety campaigns produced by the TAC over the last 20 years has been compiled. The montage features iconic scenes and images from commercials that have helped change they way we drive, all edited to the moving song Everybody Hurts by REM.
This campaign is a chance to revisit some of the images that have been engraved on our memories, remember the many thousands of people who have been affected by road trauma and remind us all that for everyone’s sake; please, drive safely.
Drink (and drug) driving repulses me. After many years we have got to the stage where it is considered socially unacceptable here in the UK …. yet many, many people still cannot grasp the concept that drinking and driving wrecks lives.
And the worst thing that police officers across the country are noting is that the levels of intoxication are increasing. Whereas a few years ago, twice the limit (figures around 70µg alcohol per100ml breath) were considered shocking, a great number of readings are now over the 100 mark ! – It’s not that long ago that a detainee of mine attained the second highest reading recorded at our station – 184µg – and that was over an hour and a half after arrest !!
Christmas is coming, and although there’s always a big drink-drive push around the festive season, people need to remember that drink drivers get arrested every single day of the year. It’s not big and it’s not clever – and if you know someone that does drink and drive, do what you can to stop them – before we do or worse, they hurt someone !