It was one of those rare occasions yesterday morning when normal service had been resumed at Bigtown nick; we had a full shift compliment of four officers; yes FOUR !!
It often amuses me (mainly because I’m easily pleased) to enter into conversation with many of our regular customers who like to complain that ‘you fedz neva do nuffin’ and ‘we neva see ya walkin’ yooz always in yer beema’s’ with questions like “Well how many of us do you think are out there .. out of interest ?” Usually the answer varies between ‘fifty’ to ‘too f*@kin many’ which always makes my day. Especially when I tell them ‘five would be bloody great, never mind fifty !!’.
I could go in to long mathematical debate about the statistical probability of each individual in Bigtown actually being able to visually witness one of their law enforcement specialists on the street – I imagine it would go something like this: A population of 83,400 divided by the said 4 bobbies equals one officer on shift per 20,850 residents in an area of approximately 36 square miles, minus any courses, abstractions, court appearances, illnesses, scene guards, prisoners needing dealing with etc, but I then imagine that after the first four syllable word, I’d have lost the interest of most of our ‘customer base’, so I don’t bother. I just give myself another little chuckle at the idea that there may be fifty police officers hiding in a magic box, raring to pounce the moment you dial 999.
Anyway, back to this morning. There were indeed four of us, fit, well and ready for action. Only problem was, between four of us there was ONE working panda. The other two were both in workshops …. broken …. seriously broken.
It is a simple fact of life, mechanics or physics that you cannot take an everyday bottom of the range domestic car, cut half the wiring to bits then install twice as much again, weigh it down with tons of equipment, having it running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to over 120,000 miles in two years, generally driven to within a cats whiskers of its very existence, and then not expect it to have bits falling off it every five minutes.
Except you can, if you happen to be a senior officer with their own personally chauffeured, less than a year old, Land Rover or Jaguar. Apparently, they have it on good authority that the problem with our vehicles continually going wrong is that we don’t care for them properly; we should notice serious mechanical defects and wear and tear as part of our daily vehicle checks – now I’m no mechanic but I reckon the chances of me noticing a track rod end has worn or that a diesel injector has failed whilst checking the washer fluid bottle level is okay are pretty slim !!
Despite our lack of available transport to convey us around our somewhat extended patrol area, I hit upon a novel idea. Two of the outstanding incidents related to shoplifting on the Bigtown High Street, about a 10 minute walk from the station. I would deal with these …. on foot ! Yes, I called up on my radio, asked the Control Room to book me onto both jobs, then told my dear colleagues I was going to walk into town; do a bit of foot patrol; engage with the general public on the way.
By the looks I was getting I reckon my team thought Chaos really had finally lost the plot. I’m sure I heard mutterings of ‘wait till he’s outside then it’s a 136’ but I simply brushed aside the immature chuckling’s of my lesser colleagues and proceeded on my way … on foot … towards the Bigtown High Street. It was a pleasant stroll, filled with the joys of some of our more ‘mature’ residents cheerily wishing me a good morning and commenting on how pleasing it was to see a local bobby out and about. I had not the heart to say this was a one-off fluke of mechanical necessity and so acknowledged their courtesy and carried on my merry way.
As I entered the Market Square in the middle of town I came across my old friend and adversary Druggie Dan sat on a metal bench seemingly watching the world go by. More likely however to have been watching for dear old grannie’s to go by so he can swipe their handbags and nick their pensions, but in the politically correct universe in which your modern police service operates, such cynical and stereotypical attitudes are much frowned upon. So, in a concerted effort of community engagement I stopped to chat. “How’s it going with you these days then Dan, not seen you about for a bit” “Aw , you’re not going to nick me now are you Mr Chaos” was his reply, which to my warped and twisted mind almost amounted to an admission of guilt …. for something or other.
“I don’t know Dan” I said “what have you done now that’s worth nicking you for ?” I joked, not entirely expecting Dan to come back with “Boots innit, I had all the womens smellys from there yesterday, you know I did Mr Chaos don’t ya” Now, Dan’s not the shiniest apple on the tree, but even he doesn’t normally make my life this easy. It did however, just so happen that one of the two jobs I was strolling towards involved the theft of several hundreds of pounds worth of ladies perfumes and fragrances from Boots the Chemist yesterday morning.
“Well Dan, no I didn’t” I informed the young miscreant, and watched the look of despair appear across his drug ravaged face as it dawned on him that he’d dropped himself right in it. “But as you’re being honest and upright with me Dan” I continued, “I’m going to have to nick you on suspicion of the thefts now anyway”. “Can I have a fag first” was Dan’s only comeback; “Fill your boots” I replied “we’re going to have to wait for someone to come and pick you up – just make sure it’s a normal fag not one of your funny ones” I said trying to create a bit of light hearted humour.
I cautioned Dan while I watched him make himself to most skinny roll-up I’ve ever seen in my life. “You won’t get much out of that one Dan” I commented.. “Got no more baccy have I, gonna have to make this last now cos I’ll be going down won’t I”. Wouldn’t bet on it I thought to myself, knowing the state of our justice system at the moment, but refrained from saying that out loud. Instead I called up on my radio and requested someone from the nick came down in the station ride and took Dan back in for me whilst I tried to find some evidence to back up his admissions.
“Howdy Sheriff” quipped Pete and Katie in unison as they pulled up in the street alongside us. “Yow rootin’ tootin’ to clean up this one-horse town all on yer own are ya Sheriff” Pete carried on. I could tell he was miffed I’d only been out the door 10 minutes and I’d already got the first collar of the day but played along with his little game “Sure am there Deputeeeee” I replied back to him “now take this here varmint straight down to the jailhouse and make sure them gallows are greased n ready. We gonna be hanging at dawn …”
“You lot have got too much time on your hands” Dan said to both of us. Pete quipped straight back “No we haven’t cos we spend far too much of it looking for you !!”
“Before you get carted off” I said to Dan “remember you’re under caution, have you had anything else away form the High Street yesterday, I’m gonna find out anyway ?”. Dan sighed, and reeled of a forthright shopping list of his light-fingered activities from the previous day – more in fact than had actually been reported to us, but still it helped me out as I now knew exactly which shops to go and visit.
And so, that was to be the rest of my morning done and dusted. I ended up with statements from six, yes SIX, different shops, and CCTV downloads to boot; all of which would undoubtedly be required to ensure the local CPS prosecutor didn’t actually have to do any work himself – I mean we can’t have an underworked, overpaid solicitor going round asking questions of people in a courtroom now can we ?? In theory, under this new Simple, Speedy, Justice systemy thing we’re all supposed to work to nowadays, I don’t actually need statements from store staff any more … as long as they keep their own records … and I don’t have to do one myself, just a PNB entry – but what’s the first thing your File Process Dept and the prosecuting solicitor always ask for ??? statements – so you may as well get them done in the first place.
Pete and Katie whisked Druggie Dan off to the County Pen in there horseless covered wagon (okay it was Bigtown nick in a Vauxhall Vivaro van but stick with it) where they told Judge Custody what henious act had desecrated the peace of Tumbleweed town. Judge Custody got out his black handkerchief, placed it on his head and said “Druggie Dan, you shall be taken from this place to that of another, where, at the rise of the morning sun, you shall be taken forth to the place of your final resting on this Earth, where you shall be hung by the neck until the life and soul is drawn from your body”. In fairness it’s more likely the Custody Skipper said “Dan you spend too much time here, go and get your head down – tea or coffee, how many sugars today” but I can dream can’t I ?
It’s fair to say that I lost count of the number of calls I received from the Custody Block whilst I was still taking details and viewing CCTV, as Druggie Dan’s solicitor was there, waiting and getting impatient, something about needing to get away for their kids school play later. Ohh if only we manipulate work our working day around those pleasurable family-orientated ‘only happen once’ activities that we always end up missing out on because of one degenerate miscreant or another !!!
Eventually, and with armfuls of paperwork, CCTV disks and the like, I stumbled back into Bigtown nick, only to be met by Little Miss ‘I’ve Got So Many More Important Things To Do’ solicitor, who pounced the minute I walked through the door. “PC Chaos” she blurted “my client has been sat in one of your cells for a number of hours waiting for you to grace us with your presence, do you really think that is acceptable ?”. “Well Miss IGSMMITTO” I replied (I didn’t say the last bit) “Do YOU think it’s really acceptable that your client spends his days helping himself to the products off the shelves of many of our high streets stores that others happily pay for ?” …. “allegedly of course” I added with a sly wink.
Blown back hard, the solicitor could only come back with “Shall we get on with this, I’ve got another appointment waiting”. “So I heard …. has your little one got a leading role ?” I enquired, followed by “I’ll try and be as quick as I can, six shops worth of CCTV to go through and convert, and lots of crimes to record you know – can’t beat the system”, and off I trotted into the back office with the sort of smile on my face that was going to make up for endless hours more worth of paperwork.
I think I was on about the third lot of CCTV when one of the Custody Assistants wandered through to tell me the solicitor had been ‘called away’ and had left instruction for us to call their office ‘only when were ready to proceed’. “Kind of them” I said, as both me and the CA shared a wry smile.
Several hours later; in fact not far off the end of the shift that had started so well … apart from the lack of staff, vehicle and anything else remotely useful to the modern police service, I was ready to go. Being the forward-planning sort of guy I was, I had already phoned the Solicitors back whilst still recording the crime information onto our system (multi-tasking hey ) and so I only had a further 30 minute wait in the block for a completely different lawyer to arrive. “Ohh where’s Little Miss LGSMMITTO gone then” ?” I enquired “I thought she was looking after Dan today”. “Not sure, called in sick at lunchtime I believe” was the reply. “Ohh dear, nothing too serious I hope” I commented, trying not to sound too sarcastic and all-knowing.
And so began another 30 minutes debate with the solicitor, about the ‘false and obviously made in jest’ admissions of the poor unfortunate soul I had so clearly unlawfully detained .. sorry, disclosure. Having given up on rational debate quite quickly, and simply resorted to playing the DVD’s of Dan’s Escapades the previous day, even I might add, wearing exactly the same clothing and staring directly at the cameras on many occasions, the intrepid defender of the free and innocent was still not having any of it, still maintaining their was no case to answer and my evidence had been obtained in direct violation of some imaginary legislation I couldn’t be bothered to look up.
“Well have a chat with Dan anyway, see what he says” I said, not able to get out of a closed room with this smarmy individual quick enough. He didn’t say a further word to me but as we approached the Custody Desk the words just wouldn’t stop falling out of his mouth …. “Sergeant, I really must protest in the strongest terms about the way my client has been treated here, unlawfully arrested by this officer without a shred of admissible evidence, and not to mention the unlawful detention here in YOUR cellblock. Why my client has been in that cell for hours”.
The Custody Skipper, obviously as bored with the lawyer in 30 seconds as I had become in 30 minutes, looked at him, then me, and then back at the lawyer “Well, we’ll get your client up here and ask him, on camera, what he thinks then shall we ?” and without hesitation one of the Assistants appeared with Dan, still munching a on his third microwave lasagne since he got here. “You been looked after ok Dan, any complaints ?” asked the Sarge in his normal witty tone. “Hell yeah Sarge, you guys are ace … and you Mr Chaos, you look after me better than me mam used to” said Dan, amongst the chomps and wipes of drooling Bolognese sauce splashing from his mouth.
“Your client I believe” the Sarge simply said to the solicitor.
And so I waited … another hour … whilst solicitor and client talked. Or rather the solicitor talked and Dan got very bored. Obviously we don’t have any means of knowing what is being said between solicitor and client, confidentiality and all that, but the funny faces Dan was pulling at us through the window of he solicitors room kinda gave us the idea he was heading from happy and full of food to suicidal in one short step.
Eventually they emerged, and we got as far as an interview room. My will to live was slowly diminishing as we all sat there, I was just about to start the tapes, and the solicitor decided he wanted to check the Custody Record ….. for the second time. Another ten minutes delay. It was now well past end of shift, and I knew that if Dan coughed the lot I still had an hour or more’s work that needed doing before I could book off – the rest could wait till tomorrow. If, for some bizarre and unexplainable reason, Dan took any notice of his legal representative, I might as well crack out a camp bed as I’d be there most of the night what with CPS direct etc …
Luckily, the solicitor was happy that the Sergeant had in fact noted on the Custody Record that the detainee had had consultation with him, and was now correctly booked into the interview process – well I was glad about that.
Once the legal jargon was out of the way, the Solicitor thrust upon me the obligatory ‘Prepared Statement’. Thanks I said, then handed it to Dan and said “Fire away chap, this is what you’ve said happened so read it out for us, tape can’t see writing”. “Not what I wrote” Dan replied “It’s what he wrote not me” pointing at the lawyer “He asked me what happened and I said I had the stuff from Boots yesterday then I sin you in town and thought you had come for me so I told you what I dun”. “Cheers Dan” I replied and went through each of the CCTV discs with Dan coughing the lot, much to the clear disapproval of his legal representative.
Coming out of the interview I updated the Sarge whilst lawyer and client had a further little chat. I even remembered to suggest the Sarge got the Custody Inspector to listen to the interview tape and Dan’s interesting comments about his brief. Northing like getting one back once in a while.
It didn’t take much consideration on the Custody Sergeants behalf to decide to charge with all the offences and turning to Dan he said “You know I’m going to have to remand you don’t you, you’ve only been out a week or so ?”. Lawyer man was just about to launch into his free-flow of protestations and objections to this when Dan piped up “Cheers Sarge, that’ll be great, got nowhere to stay anyway. Any chance of a sarnie ?”.
I finally got away about 7pm – three hours after I should have finished. Dan got remanded to court next day and got sent down for another eight weeks which he was mildly happy with (I think he hoped he’d have got longer !) and the solicitor … well I’m told the Custody Inspector has really got his teeth into that one and is going back over the last six months worth of this guys work in our nick to see what else crops up.
p.s the image at the top of the page isn’t the one I originally chose for this post, but given the sad loss of actor Ernest Borgnine very recently, it seemed an apt tribute – RIP Sherriff Lyle ‘Cottonmouth’ Wallace