Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Another Quiet Night

Not much happened last night.

Just the stabbing of a newspaper delivery man, the drug assisted rape of a woman who'd been out with her friends and an aggravated burglary where somebody got pepper sprayed and beaten with a metal bar in their own home.

All of these were pretty big jobs, but the one I wanted to post about was the first job of the night. Nothing special, just a routine anti-social behaviour job. Kiddies messing about, making noise and setting fire to trees. Fortunately, unsuccessfully.

I caught up to a group of four of them and, though they were initially pretty gobby, three of them took on board the threat of being dragged home to mum for a proper telling off.

One of them though, a fifteen year old who'd been on the cheap lager, refused to listen to what he was being told. He was argumentative, loud, obnoxious and very nearly ended up being tied to one of the trees they'd tried to set alight whilst I showed him how to do the job properly.

I took him home and his mum, an enormous, scary looking woman with prerequisite stained dressing gown, blaring TV and hoard of screaming children answered the door. It was, by now, midnight.

She started screaming at the little oik before I'd even got into the lounge (I use the word "lounge" only because the TV in here was louder than the others. To be honest I'm guessing. It could've been the kitchen for all I know. Everything was buried under dirty washing).

I tried explaining why I was here and she'd interrupt me to point out that her son was a "little shit". Now, it's rude to disagree with a lady, so I nodded and said, "well yes, I suppose he is. But we should probably try and calm down a bit." Little Oik's reaction was to tell his mum to "f*ck off, you pr*ck!"

It was about this time that I lost patience, and anyway I was starting to get dizzy with the smell. So I locked him up for being Drunk & Disorderly (using those Section 69 powers again) and took him down to custody.

I've done some extensive research into the subject of the people who inhabit our sink estates and I've found that Underclass + Alcohol - Intelligence = Arguements, Fighting and Grief for me. I know they can't help it though. Trying to drag themselves up into some sort of decency would require an awful lot of effort and would eat right into their TV and Pub time. So I don't blame them for their failings.

On a side issue, this lad re-defined the word "thick". His grasp of the English language spoke volumes of his parents interest in his schooling and underlined why I could never be a teacher.

Whilst I was booking him in, he kept jibbering on about how he hadn't started any fires, oblivious to the fact that that's not why he was there. "I didn't burn nuffin!" he'd cry indignantly.

I tried to do my bit to introduce him to the Queen's English by pointing out that this was, in fact, a double negative which meant that he'd just admitted to burning something.

He looked at me with a glazed expression. "Yer what? I didn't burn nuffin!"

The Inspector was there doing custody reviews. He valiantly tried too. "What you should say is "I didn't burn anything" It's correct English"

"Yer what? This is my English! And I didn't burn nuffin!"

I gave up and went for a coffee. Apparently he's told his mum he's going to be an engineer and build things when he leave school. Out of lego probably.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

No One Likes Us, We Don't Care

Nights last night, and it was fairly quiet. Only one job really stands out.

Just before 3am a bloke phones the Police reporting a concern for the welfare of a friend of his. Apparently, she had taken an overdose and threatened to throw herself off her balcony. Our control room ran her through PNC on our way there and updated us that she makes allegations against Police officers. Including allegations of sexual offences. Splendid!

We got there within a few minutes and spoke to the informant, who was very drunk. He told us that his friend, a woman, and he had been drinking and that she had become depressed. He said she'd taken up to 30 tablets and threatened to take more, plus she had made the threat to launch herself off her balcony.

We spoke to "Lorretta" via her flat intercome and were told to f**k off. She explained that we were on private property and had no right to be there. Not strictly true, but I didn't feel that it was the right time for a legal debate. We got a neighbour (who, given the time, was surprisingly pleasant) to let us into the communal entrance and we walked up to her flat.

I knocked on the door and spoke to her through the letterbox. And the language she came out with made me blush. A laydee screaming things like, "f**k off you f**king pr*ck rapist c**t! I hate the f**king Police! You're all wa*kers!" And so it went on. Already this woman was starting to try my patience. Inbetween insults, she'd say things like, "Yeah, so what? I'm gonna top myself. Why don't you just f**k off and let me get on with it?" And, much as at this point I'd love to let her crack on, I've now got a duty of care towards her. There was a point where I could have passed a couple of razor blades and some more pills through the letterbox to her though.

But, I'm a professional, so I can't let that show. However, I eventually had to point out that, if we had to, we would force an entry to her flat. Which would cause a lot of damage. Wouldn't it be easier just to open the door so that the paramedics could speak to her? Apparently not. It was actually easier to prop herself up against the other side of the door to stop us being able to use the Big Red Door Key.

To stop myself from swearing at her, a mate and I left one of the paramedics and another bobby to stare at her backside through the letterbox and went off to check whether we could get in anywhere else.

We popped round to the other side of the building and her balcony was possibly reachable, with a bit of lateral thinking. Three of us made this sort of wobbly human pyramid thing, and I was just able to reach the bottom of the balcony and drag myself up, my feet slapping another of my mates round the chops. If this sounds impressive, then it definately wasn't. Think "pissed Chinese acrobat with inner ear problem".

Poking my head over the top I could see that she'd moved to the lounge and was on the phone. She still hadn't noticed me, so I helped one of the other officers climb up, just as she looked up and noticed us. It was quite strange, we both just sort of looked at each other before both thinking, at the same time, "patio door!"

We made a dash for it and I got there about half a second before she did, letting myself in followed by my colleague.

Now, if she was unpleasant before, she was really quite nasty now! Screaming in our faces, swearing, calling us every name under the Sun. With her following me down the hallway I went and let the other officers and paramedics in through the front door.

It was now about 3.15am. We tried to talk to her, and make her understand that she needed medical attention. But she was now saying tha she hadn't taken any pills. But that she did feel like killing herself. And then she'd scream a bit more, telling us to f**k off out of her flat!

For some reason, she took a particular dislike to me. I think it's because I chose to deal with her abuse by looking confused and saying things like, "Loretta, I think we've got off on the wrong foot her. I think there's issues we need to iron out before we can move on?" If I'm honest, I could see that this really wasn't calming her down, but there's only so many times you can be called a "f**king pr*ck c*nt rapist w*nker!" before the novelty starts to wear off.

I also had to think about how we could resolve this issue. We couldn't invoke a Section 136 Mental Health Act detention because she was in her home. We could potentially get a doctor and Approved Social Worker to assess her mental health, but it was now getting on for 4am on a bank holiday Monday. And because she had been drinking I knew they'd say she was unassessable.

I left her phoning various news desks of various national papers to go and make a phone call to the Out Of Hours Social Services. I spoke to a chap who was actually quite helpful. He agreed to get the doctor to phone back and speak to Loretta. Maybe he could persuade her? To be honest, we'd stopped thinking she was that serious about killing herself now, but you have to consider what it'd look like if we left her and she did go and kill herself. Out of spite if nothing else. So we were going to have to stick it out.

I let Loretta know what was happening and was only interrupted a couple of times as she screamed all sorts of rubbish at me. Then the phone rang and she put on this amazing telephone voice, like a receptionist at a top bank's head office. She sounded like the bloody Queen, "Hello doctor, yes doctor, no doctor, please tell them to go away doctor".

She handed the phone over to me and went off to scream at someone else. The doctor said he'd pop round to see if he could persuade her to go to hospital voluntarily and rang off.

And we stood around. And waited. And waited. We had nothing to do other than get abused by this drunken, unstable, slightly odd-smelling banshee! Every now and again she'd smash something or shout at us to leave, but by 5am the shine had definately gone off this job.

Both our control room and the paramedics control room were chasing up the doctor, who still hadn't arrived, and I spent most of the time on the balcony talking to a lovely paramedic about our jobs and different incidents we'd been to. Smashing people, paramedics. We both agreed that if the doctor wasn't there soon then we'd throw ourselves off the balcony, just so we didn't have to listen to this bloody woman.

The doctor eventually turned up at about twenty past five. I quickly briefed him in and then he popped into Loretta's bedroom to speak to her. I'd warned him that she made allegations but he didn't seem to care. He was in there for less than five minutes before coming out and saying he wasn't concerned and we could go.

He hadn't even finished the sentence before he was nearly stampeeded by a load of coppers and a couple of paramedics. Poor chap. For all I know he's still lying there with boot prints on his forehead.

This isn't the first job like this I've had to deal with, and I'm sure it won't be the last. Loretta did have one bit of originality about her. I've posted before about how people name drop with the Police, "I know Such and Such. He's my mate and he'll have your job." That sort of thing.
Well, whilst we were there Loretta screamed at me, "I know your Chief Constable Xxxx Xxxx (she even got his name right!).
I replied, "Really, tell him I said "hi"."
Loretta: "Yeah, he's a w*nker too!"

Excellent, not just me then!

Monday, 28 May 2007

Health And Safety

I went on a Health And Safety course the other week, specifically tailored for Policing.

Now, I didn't have particularly high hopes to start with, but when the person giving the training kicks off with the question, "What risk assessments did you carry out on your way in to work today?", you know you're in for a long day. (Apparently, the chap "continually risk assesses his environment, starting with making sure the dog isn't asleep next to the bed so he doesn't trip over it. This bloke IS his job.)

Still, I persevered and managed to pay attention to most of it. And I'm happy to report it's too dangerous for me to leave the station. And to stay in the station. I suggested staying in bed, but that's too dangerous as well.

This country has gone crazy for Health and Safety, and the man from the H&SE with his clipboard now holds more sway than any Chief Constable. It's one thing keeping a weather eye out for trailing electrical wires and signs that say "Danger, Asbestos! If you come in here you will die soon!"

But practically everything I do involves some sort of risk.

I put this to him: "What about the incredibly violent chap who'd really rather not be arrested?"
His answer? "Well, under those circumstances you should have enough officers present to minimise the risk before you arrest him. About five or six."
Me (chuckling): "What if there's only three officers on duty?"
Him (annoyed): "Well you have to risk assess!"
Me (starting to enjoy myself): "OK, I've assessed it. We haven't enough officers. Now what?"
Him (smiling now): "Ah, well then you withdraw."
Me (admittedly a bit smug): "But then wouldn't I be neglecting my duty? What if it was you he'd just assaulted? You'd want him arresting wouldn't you?"
Him (looking for something to throw at me before realising that'd be "dangerous") "Right, moving on....."

You see, Health and Safety is difficult to implement if your job is, by definition, not very healthy. Or safe.

Broken sleeping patterns due to shift work. DANGEROUS!
Running through gardens chasing thieves. DANGEROUS! (but really good fun!)
Going into a put to arrest somebody for a serious assault. DANGEROUS!
Driving quickly to a burglar on premises. DANGEROUS!
Entering a house during a domestic incident. DANGEROUS!
Having somebody wave a knife at you because "They're coming!" DANGEROUS.

If you ask The Man With The Clipboard everything is dangerous. Their lives must be bloody dull! But anyway, in the spirit of reconcilliation, I've decided to do my bit to meet them halfway and I've designed a new Police uniform.

I don't know if it'll catch on. And one or two of my colleagues might not be pleased. But the chap from the HSE is going to love it.

The Attitude Test

Does not exist. There is no such thing. Official!

Right, hopefully Professional Standards have got bored and stopped reading now.

Of course there's such a thing as an attitude test. It might not be something that we do consciously, but we're only humans after all. So it follows that everybody, regardless of their job, is also susceptible to it.

If you work in a bank and a customer comes in shouting the odds at you, being aggressive and abusive, then let's face it you're not going to bend over backwards for him. It's human nature that you're going to get defensive and get him chucked out.

We're the same. If we stop a car because the driver isn't wearing a seat belt, then the quickest way for them to guarantee getting a ticket is to get all unpleasant with us. And, conversly, the best way to try and get away with just a ticking off is to be a bit nice. That's not to say I expect people to kiss my ass and treat me like God. Just an acknowledgement that they're in the wrong and a civil, polite, "I won't do it again officer, sorry" is probably going to save you £60 if it's me who stops you.

The reason I mention this is my best mate got a complaint the other day. He'd stopped somebody driving down a service road. Very minor offence. Now my mate (and you'll have to take my word here) is the sort who prefers catching proper villains to dishing out tickets for minor traffic offences. He walked up to the driver's window and gave a cheery "hello". The driver's response was, "What!? I'm off to pick up my daughter. I haven't got time for this rubbish! You lot are just tax collectors. This is highway robbery and you haven't got any right to stop me!" Etc etc, and so it went on. And the guy got a ticket.

When he made the complaint, he admitted the offence but said that my mate was out of order for asking him to get out of his car and for then refusing to get in the guy's car with him.

For some reason, and I genuinely struggle to understand why, there's a lot of people who think it's perfectly OK to speak to us like we're dirt. In a way that they'd never stand to be spoken to by anyone else. You'd have thought that the fact they were speaking to a Police officer might engender a little bit of respect. But no: "I pay your wages". "You're a public servant". I've heard them all before.

A report was published recently stating that in our Force the number of official complaints against Police regarding "attitude" and "civility" has rocketed. It's funny really, because I've had a few of these myself. And on every single occasion the person making the complaint has been really abusive towards me during the incident.

Well, I've decided enough is enough. I deal with enough nasty jobs and people to help keep the public safe. I don't get paid to be spoken to the way my chum was. So I reckon the way forward is to spread a bit of love. Try and cheer the angry people up a bit. From now on, whenever anybody tells me "I pay your wages!" they're gonna get a huge hug and I'll start delivering thank you cards to their house every day. Maybe flowers on Sunday?

And if they tell me "You're a public servant!" I'll turn up at their house at 3am on a Sunday morning and ask if there's any light dusting they need doing. I might even wear a little apron.

And if they tell me I'm just a tax collector, they can expect a visit every other day reminding them that "self assessment needn't hurt, get your tax returns in on time".

Sunday, 27 May 2007

You Might Need An Adult To Help You With This Bit...

I've just been reading a post on a blog called Purple Plus that reminded me of a job I went to a couple of years ago.

The radio message from control room was "Male assaulted by group of youths. They've attacked him with a knife and cut his finger off!"

So, fairly nasty job. We all (four of us) went shooting round there. I asked the area car to go and see him whilst one officer did house to house enquiries in the block of flats. Meanwhile, I took one for the team and did an area search for this guy's finger. He'd said that it happened near some shops close to his flat. It was cold and windy and I was crawling through hedges and all sorts with my torch looking for the missing digit.

Finding nothing, I started following the route back to his place, still looking for the finger. Still no sign and, strangely, no trail of blood.

The officers with the male were updating me that they weren't sure about his story. He was also giving the paramedics a bit of a hard time. He just wasn't acting very "victim". The Police officers thought that, perhaps, he wasn't being entirely straightforward with the truth.

By the time I got to his flat, the ambulance had taken him off to hospital followed by one of the Police officers. I walked in and immediately was hit by the stench of rotten food. His kitchen was piled up with half eaten meals and piles of cat poo.

His pet cat, a scraggly looking thing, was limping around the flat bumping into things. Poor thing looked like it was on it's last legs.

I went into the lounge and there was even more mess. The guy was clearly not great at looking after himself. Worryingly, there was also a lot of military stuff lying around, including knives. Lots of knives.

There was some blood on the sofa and coffee table, but not huge amounts. However, there was also a copy of Jamie Oliver's cook book there too. And that had bloody hand prints on it. As well as marks that looked an awful lot like they'd been made by knives cutting something.

On a hunch, and holding my nose to help with the smell, we started searching through the flat. There was no blood near the front door, but there was a trail of blood leading from the bedroom to the lounge.

Now, if the kitchen was a bit unpleasant the bedroom was even worse. I won't go into too much detail, as I write this I've just had my breakfast, but let's just say there were a few times that he clearly couldn't be bothered walking to the toilet when he'd been caught short in the night.

There was more blood in the bedroom, particularly on and around the bed. Oh, and more knives. But still no finger! Though I've got to admit that when I was poking around the poo stained clothes that perhaps I might have looked a bit closer.

I followed the trail of blood back to the sofa in the lounge. Next to the cookery book there was another, really evil looking knife, and a pair of small gardening sheers. Both had what looked to my non-CSI eye like blood on them.

I was with one of the bobbies on my team, Justin, and we looked at each other still a bit confused. We looked under the cushions on the sofa and, though there was some more blood, his sodding digit still hadn't turned up.

I checked in with the officer at the hospital. I asked him to make sure this guy's finger wasn't hiding in one of his pockets. But no, still no trace. He did update me, though, that the exact details the victim was giving kept changing. He couldn't remember anything about the people who did this, or where it happened. He was also still very agressive in the way that he was speaking to people. I told him I'd come down as soon as I could.

I looked down at the floor next to the table and there seemed to be more blood pooled there than anywhere else. Justin and I got down on our hands and knees and lifted up the sofa. I got my torch and stuck my head under and there was the guy's finger, now about three inches from the end of my nose!

After I'd run around screaming and swearing for a few seconds, we wrapped the finger in the cleanest thing we could find (which, to be honest, wasn't that clean) and then popped it in a bag of frozen chips.) Justin took it down to the hospital for me whilst I went outside for a calming cigarette.

So, no signs of a struggle outside. Nothing heard by the neighbours. No blood anywhere outside the flat or near the front door (including around the handle). No sign of forced entry and the finger was under the guy's sofa. And he lives alone. He'll have done it himself then. He cut his own finger off with one of his knvies using the cookery book as a chopping block. Then he snipped off any straggly ends with the gardening sheers.

I updated the officer at the hospital about what we'd found and the fact that we were bringing his finger down to the guy so they could be reunited.

When we pointed out to the bloke that he'd clearly done this himself he said, "well, yeah. But I didn't want to get into trouble so I thought I'd better say somebody else did it to me".

I asked him why he did it in the first place. His reply: "I didn't like it any more".

Riigghhht. I disappeared and went off to arrange a visit from the hospital psychiatrist.

Oh, and the surgeons couldn't reattach the finger. Too badly damaged. So, if you're at the shops in Mytown and the bloke stood just behind you smells a bit pooey, has a strange look in his eyes and has difficulty picking his nose, my advice is to take three big steps backwards. And don't give him anything sharp.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Tough On Crime

I've just been reading the Labour Party manifesto from 1997 as part of a thread I was writing on Police Oracle

It surprisingly makes quite interesting reading. I'm not saying that the people who wrote and publicised it were lying. But perhaps they are a little bit...forgetful. Take a cheeky look if you fancy it:

The thing is, before you decide how to cut crime, you have to understand why people commit crime. Basically, it's easier than having a job. If you have a job then you have to turn up on time, be nice to your boss, work reasonably hard, pay tax, sit next to the guy with B.O. during lunch. The list in endless. You can understand why they want to avoid the stress of it all.

Whereas, if you choose to lead a life of crime then you can pretty much work your own hours, you don't have to be nice to people if you don't want, tax is out of the question and if you have to sit next to somebody with B.O. you can get your own back by nicking his wallet.

So, if I'm right and career criminals choose to be such because it's easier, then it follows that we have to make their choice harder.

So this is my manifesto. I'm not actually standing for office, but perhaps this week's Home Secretary might want to cut and paste it and pass it off as his own?

1. Give discretion back to Police officers. If they're not chasing petty rubbish simply to meet Government targets then they can concentrate of giving proper criminals a quality service.

2. Allow the Police Federation, in consultation with ACPO and the Home Office, to decide what level of beaurocracy is actually necessary. You see, we know that some is unavoidable. But, trust me, we can trim it right down for you and so make ourselves more efficient.

3. Build prisons. Lots of them. I reckon about eight to ten should do it. At the moment prison population is around the 80,000 mark. Liberals will try and tell you that this means you have failed. They're wrong! It means you've successfully locked up 80,000 criminals. Imagine how much more successful that makes you if you filled all your new prisons with other criminals.

4. Remember, the first priority for prisons is to make it that bit safer for decent people to walk the streets. Yes, it's nice if they rehabilitate offenders. If possible, we should aim for that. But recognise that some people are inherently dishonest or violent. Not your fault! Just keep them locked up.

5. A 5 year sentence should mean "5 years". Prisoners shouldn't get time off for good behaviour. They should get time added on for bad behaviour. Give this power back to prison governors.

6. Labour tried to show how tough on crime they were by introducing mandatory prison sentences for people who commit their third dwelling burglary. Wrong! I would introduce mandatory prison sentences for people who commit their first dwelling burglary. And, after release, if they commit another one we'll send them back again. For twice as long. And so on. Pretty soon burglars will be receiving 8 year sentences for their crimes. Word will get around: "it's not worth it".

7. A huge proportion of crime is committed by people addicted to Class A drugs. And they are then allowed to use this as mitigation for their crimes. Wrong! Again! They're admitting to further offences. This is an aggravating factor and should whack another few months on top of their sentence.

8. Following on, they know that if they get caught with a "personal" amount on them, they'll get a little slap on the wrist and not much else. Send them to prison for what we'll call "Narcotic Custodial Sentences" - basically you're sentenced to, for example, 6 to 12 months. And whilst they're there offer them drugs counselling. If, and only if, they successfully complete their treatment, they get to leave after 6 months. If not, it's not a problem. They get to stay for the full 12 months.

9. Allow Chief Constables, reporting to an elected Police Authority, to run their own Forces. You see, Home Secretary, you don't live where I do. I've got a better idea of what the problems are outside my front door than you do.

10. Crime is intrinsically anti-social. A crime is committed against society as a whole, as well as the individual victim. So on conviction, a criminal should repay that debt, whether they have received a custodial or a community based punishment. Picking up litter, painting over graffiti, whatever is decided by the Court. And they should be nice and visible while they're doing it.

11. Speaking of anti-social behaviour, if a person is evicted due to their behaviour then they should be blacklisted throughout the country from social housing. Evictions should also be simplified and easier for the Police and Local Authorities to get. I know, they'll say that they've got kids so they can't be made homeless. That's OK. We'll put the children into care. Let's face it, they'll probably be better off than with their parents.

Anyway, just a few ideas. I won't hold my breath for the Liberal Democrats asking me to stand in the next election. But, honestly, the vast majority of people out there just want to be safe and don't want to have to worry about whether their DVD player will be there when they get back from the shops.

A Disclaimer

I was chatting to somebody the other day and they mentioned that I should have some sort of disclaimer on the blog. "This Does Not Reflect Official Policy" or something. Apparently it's so that

a) if I say something naughty it might help me with the "bringing the Force into disrepute" charge and;
b) so that people don't think it's an official Police Force site.

Now, I'm in with the first. Anything to help me see my pension.

But seriously, how many Chief Constables dance round PSU vans waving their arms around and singing songs? I'd have thought it was fairly obvious that this isn't the official blog of, well, anyone. For one thing, if it was there'd be less spelling mistakes.

But, just so that there's no mistakes, here's a video of me during my training. Aye!

There. The Chief's not got one of them.

Friday, 25 May 2007

No Care In The Community

I was on earlies today and spent a couple of hours writing a letter of complaint to a mental health trust elsewhere in the country.

Yesterday, a group of their staff had brought some of their residents to our patch on a day trip. At about half eleven in the morning one of them (a schizophrenic male in his 30's) did a runner. The staff called us at half three to report him missing. During the call, they classified him as "vulnerable".

The staff remained until just after 5pm but then left to return to their residential unit. By coincidence, within a couple of minutes of them phoning us to say they were off, we received a call from a local school reporting a strange male wandering round the school grounds talking to the children there.

Officers popped up and it was the same male.

We called back the staff, who by this time were still only about twelve miles away, and gave them the happy news. Their response? Put him in a taxi.

We pointed out that, as he was vulnerable (their words) that we had a duty of care to him and couldn't just chuck him in a taxi and wash our hands of him. We asked them to meet officers at a Little Chef nearby. At this point, because the Little Chef was quite a way off our patch, they were only about a ten minute drive from the restaurant.

Bearing in mind we weren't even asking them to come all the way back, we didn't feel that this was too unreasonable. But apparantly it was. The staff on their minibus at first refused to turn round, then turned their mobiles off. We spoke to their managers who also refused to make the staff come and collect the male and suggested we either detain him (under the Mental Health Act) or just leave him to get a train or taxi home.

To cut a long story short, two Police officers ended up driving the best part of 200 miles in order to get this guy back to his residential centre. All because the staff who had brought him out for the day wouldn't accept any responsibility for him.

This got me speaking with another Sergeant and an Inspector. The Police Service is the only public body who don't have the luxury of being able to say, "nope, not our job". All others, mental hospitals, social services etc, regularly turn their backs on people who need their help and refuse to accept the moral, if not legal, obligations their jobs bring.

I'm not talking about all people in these jobs, obviously. One of the Senior Nurses on duty at the residential centre when officers got there was amazingly helpful. But if you go into something like Social Work, you would hope that you'd expect to have to put yourself out every now and again to help somebody in need. And it must be a complete pain sometimes with under funding and heavy workloads. But it's part of the job.

Because the residential staff had apparantly sought advice from a psychiatrist who stated we could just put the male in a taxi, we'd have been covered by doing so. If something had gone wrong and somebody had been hurt, our arses would have been covered. But the Police officers dealing thought that the chap needed more than that.

And this sort of thinking brings consequences. If you lived on our patch last night and called for help, it might have taken longer than normal for us to reach you. Part of the reason is that half the squad on duty were miles away doing somebody elses job for them.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

The Horse Whisperer

I got the chance to look a bit daft earlier for a couple of hours. As a few colleagues and I tried to catch a horse that was loose and had been playing chicken with the cars on a dual carriageway.

We managed to corral it into a field and keep it there by sort of waving our arms about and shouting things like "whoa, horse, er....whoa". Robert Redford I'm not.

We waited for the "experts" to come. I've used speach marks because this chap from the Council who looked a bit like Grizzly Adams turned up in a big, red land rover. He rubbed his over hairy face and said something like, "it's a stallion".

Now, I'm no animal expert, but I could have told him that. It was obvious from the fact that the horse had five legs. One of which kept twitching every time it looked at me.

Apparently there was a "mare" "in season" in a nearby field and this had given the "stallion" the horn.

I couldn't be doing with all these technical terms. I mean, "in season???" I don't care if it's fashionable. I just want it caught!

But he couldn't catch it. Because he hadn't brought any rope or other, specialised horse catching equipment. Apparently he thought he'd better just come and take a look. OK. Cheers. Would you mind looking a bit more closely. Whilst grabbing the bugger! Before it decides that in the absence of a lady horse I'll do.

Er no. Apparently not. He needed to call the expert. (Yep, I know he was supposed to be the expert. I suppose this was an "expert, expert"?)

In the end we enticed it over to a corner of the field with some carrots (kindly donated by a local shop) and about half a dozen people from the Council we managed to get it caught and walked it back to it's field, fifth leg quickly disappearing in disappointment.

Still, a couple of hours in the Sun watching Grizzly and his mates run around in circles. There's worse ways to earn a living.

Airwaves - The Wave Of The Future

This is exactly how Airwaves - the new Police radio system - was sold to us when it was introduced a couple of years or so ago.

Apparantly it's digitally encrypted with crystal clear digitally enhanced sound quality. It gives the Police the ability to communicate securely with colleagues all around the country and has advanced features like two-way point to point where officers can call each other privately.

Well, I don't know about that. I'm really not that bright. I just know they're crap. And that they've been crap since we first got them.

When there's no signal a little red light flashes at the top of the radio to let you know that nobody can hear you. Now, I'm not one to whinge, but just the fact that the red light is needed at all isn't great. Not to mention the fact that it gets so much use I'm starting to question whether the green "everything's working" light actually exists.

We report the radio fault to the Control Room. Who report it to O2 Airwave (the company who run them). And it is then the duty of O2 Airwave to come up with some excuse as to why it's our fault. Hopefully, somebody from their company will read this and I can save them the bother of using the following thin excuses. We've already heard them. Come up with some new ones:

1. It's because of the nice weather.
2. It's because of the bed weather. (This is logic you can't hope to beat. So, the radios are fine as long as there's no weather? What, like on the Moon?)
3. It's because you're in a building. (Very occasionally, we have to enter buildings. Like when we're at domestics, shoplifters, burglaries, missing fact all the time. It's a bit unavoidable.)
4. It's because you're in a car. (We'll walk to that 999 emergency then. The caller won't mind).
5. It's because the van you're in has a metal cage at the front and back. (Right, well in that case we'll lose the cage. The big, angry man won't mind sitting still in our car I'm sure.)
6. Too many people are using the same radio channel. (On a side issue, who are all these people using the radios? They're not coppers!)
7. The mast is down. (so, er, put it back up?)
8. The radios are over charged.
9. The radios are under charged. (There's that logic again.)
10. It's a "software problem" that isn't their responsability.

I could go on. But I haven't done the special "poxy excuse course" that O2 Airwaves send it's engineers on, so I probably wouldn't do it justice.

Today a female officer was attempting the arrest of a male who had stolen some beers from a shop and made off. She found him on a nearby estate and they had a tussle. He became violent, she called for assistance and for over a minute we did nothing. Because her radio didn't work properly.

Six weeks or so ago something similar happened and I wrote a comment on the incident to the effect "I've done a risk assessment and the radios are making it too dangerous for officers to attend incidents on their own" (I thought it might be nice to chuck the health and safety thing back at them!) And so I refused to send any of my officers to any jobs unless there was a clear risk to life and somebody really needed our help. And within a couple of minutes of writing this on there I had bosses coming at me left, right and centre to give me bollockings and remind me about my duty.

I couldn't help wondering why they weren't busy bollocking O2 Airwave for providing us equipment that doesn't work.

The only reason I'm bothered about things like this and low staffing levels (apart from the increased chances of me getting a kicking) is because I really want to do a good job whilst I'm at work. And it frustrates me when I can't because of something not working properly.

Monday, 21 May 2007

This won't make much sense until you've read the post below.

Please bear with it!

Things That Made Me Smile This Weekend

1. Gross misuse of the van P.A. system (see "Bad Boy" post)
2. The drunk fella who, for some reason, decided to run away from our van. Whilst looking at us rather than where he was going. And ran into a garden wall.
3. Catching 2 burglars in the act at a caravan park. Then finding out that they were there to get their legs over with the woman who lives there.
4. Watching middle aged "larger" ladies trying to negotiate a road barrier rather than use the subway outside a night club. "Look, they bounce!"
5. The whole van crew doing the dance to "Tales Of The Unexpected" whilst singing the theme tune. "La, la, la, lalala, la la la".
6. Helping the "vulnerable misper" (who turned out to be a really funny and nice alcoholic) find their way back home.
7. Going to a fight outside another kebab shop, very quickly getting bored of listening to two sets of abusive, drunken, aggressive idiots and just arresting everybody.
8. Watching a 15 year old drunken halfwit tell a Police Officer "You can't nick me. You haven't got the right!" And then being proved wrong in the best possible way.
9. Having a conversation with a paramedic crew that got interrupted. But bumping into them later to carry it on. This happened about four times and by the end we had more or less finished what we had to say. (All our local paramedics are fantastic company, very pleasant and funny people. But tend to be covered in blood a bit too much for my liking).
10. Overhearing the following conversation with a particularly annoying (and definately uninjured) buffoon:
Buffoon: "I've been assaulted"
PC: "Oh"
Buffoon: "I said, I've been assaulted"
PC: "Yes, I heard. Thanks for telling me"
Buffoon: "Well what are you going to do about it?"
PC: "Nothing"
Buffoon (indignant): "Why?"
PC: "Because I don't care"
Buffoon (now deflated): "............."
Buffoon walks away...

Things That Irritated Me This Weekend

1. All the cells being full and having to wait hours to book people into custody after driving them halfway across the county.
2. Pissed up teenagers. We took a 13 year old girl and 2 15 year old boys home on Friday alone because they were busy puking in the street.
3. Crap pub licencees. Actually, just one. Who called for our help then gave us a load of abuse. It's been noted Mrs X!
4. Phone calls reporting harassment ongoing for a year. Right, and you chose to call us now? That'll be cos you're pissed then?
5. Not having enough Police officers to properly Police our area. Me and 3 PC's between 5pm and 10pm. At which point another Sergeant and 2 PC's came on duty. Strangely enough, the Chief Constable lives in another part of the County. As does the local MP. Coincidence?
6. My burger going cold because of a "flash" job coming in. A particularly crap "flash" job that involved two sisters arguing over something or other. (I'd have more details but I was thinking about my burger).
7. The step-father of said 13 year old girl who just said, "she's not my daughter, can't you do anything?" when we took her home.
8. The woman reporting theft of money from her house by one of her friends:
Her - "I'm not threatening her, but I'm going to kill her".
Me - "That's kind of a threat though, isn't it?"
Her - "You know I don't mean it. I'm just going to beat her up".
Me - "Riiiggghhht."
9. The bloke we nicked for fighting with a group of males outside a kebab shop. His friend had started the fight and come off worse.
Him - "He's my mate he is"
Me - "So what actually happened?"
Him - "See him? He's my mate."
Me - "Yep, I can see him. He's your mate. How did he get his injuries?"
Him - "I'm his mate and he's my mate. We're mates."
Me - "Yes, you said. But I need to find out what's happened".
Him - "We've been mates for years. He's my mate."
Me - "Really? You should've said".
10. The bloke who jumped out infront of our van whilst we were on a blue light run shouting "Taxi" at the top of his voice. Van full of coppers in unison "Idiot!" (or words to that effect)

I Am A Bad Boy

We were on a lates weekend just gone, and it was another unbelievably busy one. On both Friday and Saturday night every single cell in the entire county was taken.

As a contingency, we normally take prisoners to the next county across when this happens. On Saturday their cells were all full up as well.

The team were absolutely knackered to the point that people were starting to snap at each other. We normally get on so well that this was a bit of a shock. I decided that something needed doing to relieve the tension and bring everybody back round with a few laughs.

So I grabbed the microphone for the Van P.A. system and played the Benny Hill theme tune over it from my mobile phone. It got a good reception from the punters and the team relaxed and started laughing together again.

And then I had that thought that happens far too much to be good for my career: "what if one of the people in this van is an undercover journalist".

So I should apologise now for any offence this one minor lapse may have caused.

And also for when I did the same thing playing the theme tunes to "The A-Team", "Airwolf", "Jim'll Fix It" and "Baywatch".

And also for doing that blue light run with the "Bad Boys" theme tune playing (we're not allowed to use sirens after 11pm).

And for when we coasted up behind the drunk bloke who looked like he was trying to mate with a tree and shouting "boo!"

For all these things I am very sorry.

Police: The Paperwork

As the blog's got the word "paperwork" in the title, I suppose I'd better actually write something about the reams of the stuff we have to get through.

Firstly, it's worth mentioning that absolutely everything in the Police has a piece of paper attached in some way. I don't know why, but somebody, somewhere, decided that without getting through half a rainforest a day the whole system would simply crash and die. So, because of this, everything gets written down. And repeated. And photocopied. And carbonated.

The most paperwork you'll do will be connected to an arrest. Imagine you've stopped a known drug dealer in the street and decided to search him:

  • First, a search form. In our Force that'll up to 10 minutes to complete. When they were designed, they expected them to take about half that time. They were probably filling them in in a warm, dry office and didn't have some junkie to keep an eye on at the time.

You've found some "white powder". Fantastic! Drug user is arrested. Tidy little arrest that makes you feel like you've achieved something. Off to custody...

  • At custody, you'll fill in a form with the prisoner's details,
  • Then one regarding him being searched (in custody, not the initial search) and how in-depth the search was,
  • And then a form cataloguing his property.
  • There'll be a form detailing the reasons for arrest and why it was necessary to make the arrest (n.b. don't write in here "because he's broken the law". I did that once in a fit of pique and got told off.)
  • You'll explain the reasons for arrest to the Custody Sergeant in front of the prisoner (I think we call them "guests" now?). As a reward for being so eloquent, the Custody Sergeant will hand you a number of forms.

The prisoner/guest/person with too many rights will then be popped into his ensuite room. You go to do some paperwork.

  • You'll complete an "investigation plan" for your supervisor so that he/she can check you haven't forgotten how to suck eggs.

You'll probably want to search their home address also for further drugs. Of course, you can't just do this. You need to...

  • Fill out a form requesting permission to search the house and get it signed by an Inspector.

Right, you didn't find anything so, back to the station.

  • You'll write up a crime report as you have discovered the crime of possession of said white substance.
  • You'll have to write up your pocket book detailing what happened, what action you took and why. This is seperate from the arrest statement you'll write later. Some forces now use Incident Report Books which have a notes section and a statement section to cut down on replication. However, you'll note that there's still 2 sections that need completing.
  • You'll do your interview plan, which is a plan of how you anticpate conducting the interview with your suspect. (We're still allowed to call them suspects).

Prior to the interview, if they want a solicitor then you'll have to meet them to give "disclosure". This is your opportunity to give the suspect a winning hand by letting them know what you know so that they can concoct a decent story. Not all solicitors do this (and I don't bear solicitors any particular ill-will. They're doing a job) but I'm sure that once or twice they've "suggested" possible defences to their clients.

  • You're now in the interview room. You need to fill out the form for the interview tapes
  • Oh, and fill out the interview seal to go round the master copy when you've finished.

Interview over. The suspect has coughed the lot and admitted what a bad lad he's been. The Police can't be trusted to make decisions any more so, even though he's fully admitted the offence, we have to ask CPS permission to charge him and put him before a Court. Of course, when I say "ask" I mean...

  • Fill out form MG3 telling the CPS what's happened to this point, what was said in interview, what the strengths and weaknesses of evidence are.

The CPS decide he should be charged. Marvellous!

  • Complete the charging forms (which are computerised normally) and which state what the person's done wrong and where.
  • Before they're released on bail, complete a PNC Intelligence Document detailing what's happened (you'll notice, this isn't for the first time) and where etc. Also anything about the person's behaviour, appearance or places they frequent etc.
  • Complete the form for taking their fingerprints.
  • If you don't want them to get bail you'll have to fill out form MG7 stating why. Remember, unless the person is charged with stealing the Judge's favourite garden gnome, they're very unlikely to be remanded in custody.

The prisoner's gone. Now you have to do the file for Court:

  • Write an MG6. This is a sort of confidential memo between you and the CPS telling them stuff like "the defendant has been convicted of 6 drugs offences previously and has failed to comply with Community Based Punishments" etc. It normally runs to two sides.
  • The MG5 - The Case Summary. A summary of the offence. For this job it should be faily straight forward.
  • The MG16 - Bad Character. There's been a change in the law which means that a persons previous thievery or violence etc might be introduced in Court before sentence is passed. Obviously, if your prisoner's a "bad 'un" then this may take some time....
  • Previous convictions record - though mercifully this doesn't need to be hand-written any more. We can just print out the PNC record.
  • Your arrest statement, which again should be fairly short for this job. For different offences, you will also have to take statements from witnesses and get other officers to write statements too.
  • The file cover, basically just setting out who the defendant is and what they've done wrong.

You'll also have to place the drugs onto the property system and get them locked away securely:

  • Complete the paperwork for the property store.
  • Then, finally, finish off the crime report to show that you've detected the crime and the public are that much safer thanks to your efforts.

So, for a really simple arrest, that's at least 26 seperate forms that need completing. I've used as simple an arrest as I can think of to stop this long, dull and boring post dragging on even longer. That said, there is a certain realism to it. Things are this bad for two reasons (in my opinion).

Firstly, we have to duplicate everything. An arresting officer will go to sleep being able to recite the facts of the case because he'll have written about them in his pocket book, statement, crime report, MG5 and PNC Intel' Document etc. These could be combined using the computer technology we've already got.

Secondly, every time the Government or Bosses get rid of a form as being "obsolete" (I think the last time they did this was something to do with "Form For Telling People To Turn Out Their Lights During Blitz Blackout") it gets replaced with four other forms. Each of them specifically designed to get the person whose idea they were promoted.

It's probably worth noting that a similar arrest in the USA would go slightly differently:

  • officer conducts search and finds drugs.
  • officer seizes drugs and arrests suspect.
  • he then completes a quick report for his supervisor.
  • no interview required: if the junkie's got an excuse he can tell the Court.
  • officer goes back out to arrest somebody else.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Possible Murder

Is how the job sounded at first...

The local ambulance service received a call from a member of public last night. This member of public reported having seen a male lying at the side of the road. When he went over to the male he saw that he was totally unresponsive. Eventually, after shouting at him a bit, the male came round and stood up, mumbling something like "no police" before staggering off up an alleyway.

The male collapsed another couple of times before coming to the side entrance to a shop. He opened this door and let himself in, locking the door behind him. The member of public reported to the ambulance that this male looked like he'd been badly beaten and possibly stabbed. So whilst attending the paramedics, quite rightly, called us.

I got there first and was met by the paramedics who'd been there for a minute or so. They filled me in on what they knew, and it sounded an awful lot like "bloke leaves shop, gets mugged and stabbed then crawls back into shop and dies in a pool of his own blood". It's amazing what your imagination does when you find yourself first at the scene of a job like this.

By now, other officers were begining to arrive. Whilst a couple of them cordoned off the carpark outside the shop I busied myself banging really loudly on the door. No response. Bugger! Because the door was predominantly glass, we couldn't use the Big Red Door Key to open it, so I called for the armed response car to attend with their door opening gadgets. (In truth, these are just another door enforcer and a "hoolie bar" which is a long, scarey looking piece of metal. But they have protective stuff to wear that stops them being shredded by the glass).

The next officer to arrive was the local beat bobby who knew this property quite well. He told me that it was well known for drugs. So now I was imagining "bloke leaves drugs hideout with £5000 in cash. Other drug dealer decides to "borrow" this money from him, stabbing him in the process. Bloke then crawls back into the flat to die in a pool of his own blood".

The beat bobby went off to another shop round the corner because he knew that there was a keyholder there as the two shops were related in some way. By now, there's about 8 or 9 coppers there, a major scene log running and house to house enquiries going on.

The key holder turned up with the keys to the outer door, but stated that there was a self-contained flat above the shop. He also gave us a probable name for the unconscious male - "John". "John" lives in the flat above the shop. We ran him through our computer and he's well known for getting into fights. Which he invariably loses. Splendid. The latest possible scenario is "idiot leaves his flat, starts fight with first person he sees and promptly gets the poo kicked out of him. He then crawls back into the flat to die in a pool of his own blood".

We let ourselves into the shop and searched the ground floor. No trace of the male. We went upstairs and the flat door was locked. Lots of banging. Still no reply.

The armed response fellas came upstairs and "opened" the door for us. By smashing it's lock and causing lots of damage. Not a problem because we have the power to do this in order to save life and limb.

So in we went and "John" was lying there. Fortunately, not in a pool of his own blood. He was unconscious again and the paramedics brought him round. At which point "John" showed himself to be a complete halfwit. He became really abusive to the paramedics (which is one thing I won't stand. I mean, you kind of expect it when you're a copper but the paramedics are there to help save his life!) and to us. He was aggressive and disorientated. He also hadn't been cut, stabbed or otherwise beaten.

The paramedics could tell that he'd taken a bucket full of amphetamine and that this is what had caused him to collapse outside. I asked if he'd been assaulted. I didn't get a straight answer but, as he told me to "fuck off" I took this to be a no. His family turned up and called him all sorts of things that I wish I could get away with and we left them to it. And to be fair, they accepted he was their responsability and were happy to look after him.

In total, given the number of officers at the incident for over an hour in total, this job probably took about 10 to 12 hours of Police time. Which wouldn't been half as irritating if the time had been spent on somebody at least vaguely pleasant and appreciative of the efforts made to make sure he wasn't lying in a pool of his own blood.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Conflict Of Interest...

That normally means you're the president of the World Bank and you give your girlfriend a huge payrise. Or perhaps you're a Cabinet Minister who rushes through the passport application for your Brazilian lover.

But I've just found myself on Mrs Paperwork's bad side. A mate's just phoned me and asked me a favour. He needs me to work on Monday to help cover something that's cropped up at the last minute. And I said yes, because he's a good friend who needs my help. But also, if I'm honest, because I love doing my job and I'm passionate about doing it well.

This means that there's sometimes a conflict between home life and work life.

Being a copper's quite an odd job in some (actually, flippin' hundreds) ways. I used to work in an office and, if I was doing an 8am til 4pm shift, I knew that I'd be finishing work at, well, 4pm. Come what may I'd be walking to my car by five past. And if I was in the middle of something then I'd finish it the next day I was at work, regardless of whether that was after the weekend.

This job's different though, and I know from my own and from friend's experiences, that it can cause all sorts of dramas at home.

I've got an ex- who could never understand why, if I was due to finish at 5pm I'd sometimes have to arrest someone at 4.30. And then, obviously, be off late. Or why, because there's a big incident running, the Inspector can quite lawfully turn round and order you to stay on duty. Because she wasn't in the Police she couldn't get her head round why I didn't just turn round and tell them to stick it and go home.

The Police is more than a job. It's a way of life that gets under your skin and into your blood. And the nature of the job is that, sometimes, the unexpected happens and we don't get to go home on time. Sometimes we get phone calls at home telling us that we have to work tomorrow, when we'd arranged to go out for the day with the Other Half.

And I do, genuinely, understand what a pain in the arse it is for them. And I also understand why this is one of the biggest causes for Police officer's relationships to break down. The ex- I mentioned still now says that it's the Police that split us up. (I maintain it's the fact that she slept with someone else, but I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree).

But, I have to be honest here, I don't help matters because I admit I am really into my job. Even now, several years after I joined, it still sometimes hits me: "Wow, I'm a copper. Fantastic!" And because of this, still being honest, I know I say "yes" to maybe more than I should.

But I can't help it. I joined up to arrest villains and put them away. I mean, obviously I very rarely have the time to do that. There's paperwork needs doing first. But I've seen people get arrested on TV so I know it does happen.

If any of you reading this are thinking of starting a business can I make a suggestion? Open up a shop next to the local Police station and sell nothing except flowers, chocolates and "I'm sorry" cards. You'll make a fortune.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Police Blogs

I've just been skimming through some news stories on the internet about Police officers (amongst other emergency service staff) getting squarely in the poo for writing blogs.

Apparently, the bosses are worried that we might create an unfavourable impression upon the public. This is a quote from a press release from the Met' stating that we should "consider the impact of expressing views and opinions that...bring the organisation into disrepute".

Ah, right. I wouldn't want to bring the Police into disrepute. I'm actually under qualified to do so. So I'll be leaving that to the Home Office and Senior Management who keep coming up with hair brained ideas specifically designed to annoy and alienate most decent, hard working and law abiding people.

Here's a deal, and anybody from ACPO or the Home Office can leave a comment on the blog which I'm happy to reply to:

I promise to stop blogging when you promise to stop buggering up the Police Service that I'm proud to be a member of. I stop writing on here when you stop imposing some (let's face it) really stupid regulations and legislation on my and the people I serve.

I'll not hold my breath though, eh?

What do we do then?

I heard a chap on the radio earlier today lamenting on how it took the Police days to attend his home after his car was stolen. Where were the Police then? Busy investigating murders and GBH's?

Er, unlikely. You see it's also the annual Police Federation Conference this week and the major debating point has been how much of out time is wasted on absolute rubbish.

Man arrested for possession of an egg with intent to throw. Schoolboy arrested for assault with piece of cucumber. It went on. The list was long and embarrassing.

The main reason given for us wasting out time like this is the fact that we have to spend our days chasing Government targets. Basically, if somebody reports a "crime" (I'll use inverted commas because a lot of the crimes that get reported are not, actually crimes) then we believe them and issue them with their "crime number". However, this means that we have an undetected crime on our hands. We can't have that, because it makes the figures look bad. So we have to then detect that crime by either charging the person involved or issuing them with a caution (or reprimand/final warning for the youngsters).

So it's true to say that the reason the man with the undeveloped chicken foetus was arrested because we needed to tick the "detected" box. Makes the Chief Constable look good you see.

But there's also another reason we waste so much time on tat like this: because people report it to us!

I mean, seriously. Imagine Little Johnny, your son, comes home from school:
You: Little Johnny, you look upset. What's wrong?
L.J: Little Sammy threw a piece of soggy cucumber at me. It hit me on the arm.
You: By God, that's terrible! Call the Constable! I want Little Sammy dragged through the highest Court in the land! (there follows a 999 call then as much as 20 hours of a Police officer's time as he video interviews half the school and organises the slap on the wrist for Little Sammy).

Imagine how different, how much nicer it would be and how many more bobbies on the street if the conversation went like this:
You: Little Johnny, you look upset. What's wrong?
L.J: Little Sammy threw a piece of soggy cucumber at me. It hit me on the arm.
You: Oh. Never mind. Tell the teacher if he does it again. (there follows a nice family meal and Little Johnny goes to bed having forgotten why he was upset in the first place. The next day Little Johnny and Little Sammy sit next to each other in Maths and spend the whole lesson talking about Power Rangers).

People don't sort things out for themselves any more. They don't talk to their neighbours. They don't talk to their kid's school. If they've got a problem their first thought isn't, "how can I sort this out". Instead it's, "who can sort this out for me?". And the answer, invariably, is the Police.

We're supposed to be an Emergency Service. For helping people out. In emergencies. Instead we've become a one-stop shop for people who should be speaking to the Council, Samaritans, the Ambulance Service, their neighbours or God.

To be fair, I suppose I'm getting paid whether I'm catching burglars or arresting somebody for throwing a cup of water over their boyfriend. Maybe I shouldn't be moaning and just crack on with whatever comes my way. But, if that is the case, then the public can't have a go at us if we're not there when we really need them. We're probably still investigating the "my ex- stared at my house" complaint you made last week.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Role Models

A lot gets said in the papers about rold models; how footballers and movie stars should be more positive role models because youngsters look up to them.

I mentioned in another post about how my mate got assaulted at a job the other day. I thought I'd go into a bit more detail about the job. I have to be careful because the case is "sub judice" which means it's not gone to Court yet. So I won't be mentioning their true names.

At about 5am a security guard from the train station phoned Police on 999 reporting a male trying to break into a car in their car park. He was apparently banging the windows of the car with a brick. A number of officers responded to the shout. The station where I work doesn't cover this train station, but I initially called up for the job because everyone was so busy. However, within seconds, about five or six other officers responded, all of whom were much closer. So I cancelled and went back to writing up the previous incidents.

My mate (we'll call him "Harry") was the first officer at scene. As he pulled into the car park the thief (we'll call him Scumbag) saw the Police vehicle and ran off, vaulting a fence and entering some wasteland that is still owned by the rail companies but doesn't get used for anything. Harry updated that he had a "runner" and gave chase, himself vaulting over the fence.

At this point I changed my mind and started to make to the job. We were hearing updates from Harry but, because he was running, his transmission was broken and it was hard to tell exactly what he was saying. When I was still nearly a mile away Harry pressed his emergency button on his radio, calling for assistance.

Again, he tried to explain where he was but was unable to make it clear. I now know that the reason for this was because he had caught Scumbag, but that the thief wasn't complying. Whilst trying to keep us updated, Harry was also having to deal with a male, much larger than him, who was trying to do him some serious damage.

Within minutes there were about a dozen or so bobbies within a couple of hundred metres of Harry, but none of us could see him. We could occasionally hear his voice but he was in really deep undergrowth. He managed a quick update saying he was near a car park. During the update, in the background, we could hear Scumbag thrashing and screaming. Then Harry gave another update: "I need a first aid kit. My head's bleeding quite badly." Scumbag was still screaming insults in the background. We were calling to each other frantically, desperate to help our colleage and friend.

Eventually, we found Harry. He was being lead away from his prisoner, his face, head and body covered in his own blood. During the scuffle his glasses had been knocked from his face and this, with the blood, meant he could hardly see.

He later told us what had happened. On the far side of the wasteground, he had cornered Scumbag who couldn't climb over the barbed wire fence. Scumbag turned on Harry who drew his Asp, the Police issue baton. Scumbag made a lunge for Harry, who struck him twice on the arm. This caused Scumbag to fall to the ground and become temporarily subdued. Because of this, Harry attempted to handcuff him. However, with one hand cuffed, Scumbag got his second wind and again lunged for Harry. This caused them both to fall over and for Harry to drop his baton. With them rolling around on the floor, Scumbag grabbed the asp and struck Harry twice on the head with it.

But Harry, though dazed and seriously injured, refused to let go of his prisoner. Even though he was starting to get weak, couldn't see and felt dizzy and groggy, he would not let him escape again. I've just got off the phone to Harry and asked him why he did this. And Harry replied "He'd committed a crime. He'd have had to kill me for me to let go of him."

So what's this got to do with Role Models? Well, I just think that we could do a lot worse than Harry. He typifies the Police officer who's willing to risk themself in order to keep other people and their property safe. He's paid to do a job and he does it to the best of his ability. And, if we believe all the press about Police sickness records, I suppose he'll take the opportunity to have a month or two off in front of the telly?

Actually, no. He's back to work on Thursday. His GP's warned him not to leave the station to deal with any incidents. The GP obviously doesn't know Harry too well.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Bonkers Shift

I was on a night shift last night, supposed to last from 10pm through to 7am this morning, but things didn't quite go to plan. It's possibly my last night shift for quite some time because I'm changing jobs (just waiting for the start date from the bosses) so it might as well have been a memorable one.

It was absolutely bonkers! From leaving the nick at about half ten (cup of tea and slice of cake happily digesting) we didn't stop. Which was a shame because it's my birthday tomorrow and we were going to have a get together in the early hours. I'd even brought in sausage rolls (which the early turn shift will have finished by now).

Amongst other things we went to an old lady who'd fallen and couldn't get up. On our way there our CCTV operators told us that there was a key safe outside the door and they gave us the combination, so we wouldn't have to get the Big Red Door Key out. The paramedics turned up just after us which was good, because my mate and I weren't going to have to blunder through our really basic First Aid:
Me: "So what do we do?"
Mate: "Er, well she's complaining of pain in her hip and she's not sure if she lost consciousness."
Me: "Right then, er, recovery position?"

(on a side issue, the recovery position was specifically designed for people who are supposed to know what they're doing, and don't have a clue, but have to make it look like they do. I use it all the time, pretty much regardless of what the injuries are. Broken arm? Recovery position. Stabbed in the chest? Recovery position. Piece of lego stuck up nose? Recover position... and souvenir photo).

Anyway, old lady. The paramedics had been there before. Lots of times. Apparently the last time it was a poltergeist who pushed her over. I nodded sagely. Yep, they'll do that every time. She needs to get the Council out.

So, we left the paramedics to it. Then we went to a "Concern For Welfare" of a woman whose husband was reporting her missing. They'd had their troubles over the last few months and the wife had admitted that she'd started thinking about going off with someone else, and that she'd started flirting with a bloke at work. As the guy was telling us this (he was huge, 21st and covered in prison tatts) he was really calm about it. Really calm. To the point that it was quite unnerving.

My chum and I were a bit freaked out by the whole thing and started to imagine her lying in the bath, chopped up and wrapped in cling film. After using the guys loo (and checking behind the shower curtain) we went looking for her around the local car parks and actually ended up bumping into her a bit later. She was fine, just wanted "space". Which is understandable. They lived in quite a small flat. With the size of her hubby she's probably not been able to exhale properly for days.

We had two or three house parties go wrong when the kiddies had drunk too much alcopops and decided to take on the world. "No, really. You are doing something wrong. You're in the middle of the street shouting at everyone who comes close. Including me. I promise you, on my honour, you are breaking the law and unless you tell me your mum's mobile number now so she can come get you, I'll prove it by locking you up." Anyway, parents turn up, kids tell them how horrible I am, parents look suitably embarassed and off we go.

We went to a fight between brother and sister at an address I know really well. The family's been disfunctional for as long as I've known them (think The Simpsons without any of the redeeming bits) but things have gone downhill since the dad walked out. Well, I say "walked out". He's halfway through a six year sentence for selling heroin. But, you know, it must be hard for the family.

The mum's in the middle of a break down that's well into it's third year. The eldest son "Daniel" received one of the town's first ever ASBO's. He's very proud of this. And he should be. It'll probably be the only qualification he ever receives. The daughter "Michelle" is at fifteen already an alcoholic and has been the victim of sexual assault whilst drunk three times. And there's a youngest son "Robert" who has the pre-requisite ADHD and spent my visit jumping from one surface to another like a pyjama clad baboon.

The fight was about who owned some cannabis and we eventually got them to agree to discuss the matter in the morning, after I'd gone home. They all went to bed and we went to the next fight, outside a nightclub just around the corner. Other officers were already there by then and we weren't really needed. So we took the opportunity to stretch our legs and have a wander up the High Street.

Then, a bit later, a job came in from the train station car park. Some bloke breaking into a car. Everyone (who wasn't tucked up at a job) rushed down there and the guy ran off when the first Police officer arrived. There was a foot chase over some waste ground. We were trying to find the officer but it was really hard for him to describe exactly where he was. Then he pressed his emergency button. We couldn't make out what he was saying exactly, other than he wanted a first aid kit because he was bleeding quite badly.

We got really frustrated. We knew roughly where he was, and could hear him struggling, but the undergrowth was quite dense. Eventually someone got to him and I caught up about a minute later. As I did the officer was being walked away by colleagues, his head, face and body covered in blood from two huge gashes to his head.

Apparently the officer drew his baton when the thief was cornered. The thief lunged for the officer who struck him on the arm with the baton twice. This caused the thief to fall and the officer got one cuff on a wrist, but then the thief began to struggle again, causing the officer to drop his baton. As they rolled around on the floor, the thief grabbed the baton and hit the officer around the head with it. Twice. But complete respect to the bobby who refused to let go of the scumbag and even managed to get the other cuff on.

(In fact, on a side issue, I know there's loads of stories about Police brutality and how we like to dish out beatings when there's no cameras. This guy was arrested right out of the way of any cameras and there were over ten Police officers present who'd just seen their colleague covered in claret. And still he got to the cell block with nothing apart from slightly sore wrists where he'd been struggling with the handcuffs. Regardless of what any of us might have wanted to do, we're really not like that. It's not worth the pension.)

Anyway, he was locked up and because we seized his clothing and all sorts of other things (including the van he stole from) practically the whole shift were tucked up with paperwork of one description or another.

However, there was just time for one last job. A chap rang us to say he was following two lads down the High Street and that they were carrying a vacuum cleaner. Which belonged to him. I found two bobbies from somewhere and they popped down. It turns out the two guys had burgled a flat that our informant was managing and getting ready for new tennants (hence his hoover being in there). As they made good their escape, they'd offered to sell the hoover to the first person they met. Which happened to be the owner!

They were locked up but it didn't end there. They'd taken their girlfriend to the burglary but forgotten to bring her back again. She was found sound asleep on one of the beds in there. Like Goldilocks but with a raging drug habit.

So once they were dealt with and everything else was done it was 9am and we all crawled off to bed. Not the same bed. That would be taking team building too far. But, you know...

And the injuries to the bobby weren't as bad as we initially thought. He's going to have two really big scars on his bonce but his skull wasn't cracked and by the time he was taken home after doing his statement he'd started to joke about it. Top man.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Section 69 of the "Ways And Means Act"

I wanted to introduce you to a less well known but really useful piece of legislation. It's the Ways And Means Act and, unlike most legislation which goes on and on, it only has one section: Section 69.

Section 69 states: "If you can't screw 'em one way, screw 'em another".

This law has loads or practical applications and here's a few examples:

1) You stop somebody driving a car which isn't theirs. But they state that they have the owner's permission. You speak to the owner who initially says, "yes, you're right officer. My car has been stolen. Thank you for finding it. Who was driving?" And you tell them it was their mate when they suddenly "remember" giving them permission after all. What can you do? You've caught sombody who's committed TWOC (taken without owners consent) which is a good collar. But now they're going to get away with it. But think! Section 69! You tell the owner that as the driver of the car wasn't insured, but that they had the owner's permission, then the owner has committed the offence of allowing an uninsured driver to use a vehicle on the road. The owner thinks about this then starts telling the truth and gives you a statement.
2) You're called to a house because the family are concerned about the woman who lives there. She's clearly barking with persecution issues and paranoia. She's made threats to harm herself because she's sure that "they" are after her. Now, because she's in her house, you've got no power to detain her and make sure that she receives the medical care she needs. So what do you do? You use Section 69 by engaging her in conversation from the end of her garden. Because she can't hear you she comes closer, into public, until she's also at the end of her garden. And then you detain her and take her to hospital. And she gets help instead of killing herself.
3) A group of youths run into an off licence and steal a crate of beers. The Police come running but the owner of the shop can't remember who, exactly, did the actual stealing and who was just there as part of the group. Around the corner you see somebody kind of matching the description holding a can of lager. He is arrested on suspicion of theft. The owner of the shop can't say for sure that he did steal the beer. In interview he denies stealing the lager, stating that he was only there looking on. He refuses to give any names and says "I was only drinking the lager, I didn't nick it!" As he says this, he has a smug look on his face. Damn him and his equally smug-looking solicitor. Another thief evades justice! But no! Section 69 comes into play. You have your own equally smug look and point out that he's going to be charged with handling stolen goods (the individual can of lager) which is actually more serious than the theft.

N.B. This used to be called "lateral thinking" until the government made it illegal for Police officers to think laterally by taking away all their discretion and making all decisions centrally.


We've all seen over the last few years how political correctness has crept (or should that be swept, tsunami-like) into society. I often find myself in situations where I'm not sure what to say, but luckily I know there's a whole list of things I definately can't say.

So even if I'm being really ineffective I know that I'm definately not going to upset any visible minority ethnic, same sex partnership, non-indigenous, trans-gender, travelling fraternity different faith people. And I know this because I keep being sent on Diversity courses and learning how to get in touch with the fact that I'm a Nazi, facist, sexist......and so on.

You see, the (one of many) problem with political correctness is that it's had so many negative knock-on effects that I'm sure the well-meaning, middle class, hand-wringing Guardian readers didn't foresee. Or at least they were too busy drafting the Human Rights Act to notice.

The government brought in a piece of legislation fairly recently, an ammendment to the Road Traffic Act. This ammendment, to Section 165, meant that if Police found a car being used on a road and the driver was either uninsured or didn't have a driving licence we could seize the vehicle and get it off the road. Great idea, safer for everyone else and makes us feel a little bit better about paying our insurance. The seizure needs the authority of an Inspector, but this is fairly straight forward. They just want to make sure that the bobby who's stopped the car has asked a few simple questions of the driver.

However, the other day an officer had stopped a car and the driver of it admitted that he wasn't insured. The officer asked the duty Inspector for authorisation and then started filling out the paperwork safe in the knowledge that the authorisation wouldn't be far behind.

And then the Inspector denied the authority. Because he felt that it would be against the drivers human rights to have his vehicle seized. The officer, in carrying out his lawful duties, was infringing this blokes right not to have the State interfere with his day to day business. Now, the fact is the Inspector was wrong (which happens a lot more than would be helpful). The bobby just asked another Inspector whose head was slightly less up his own arse and got the authorisation.

But it's just an example of how the Human Rights and Politically Correct brigade have caused a culture where too many of us are concentrating on covering our arses rather than getting the job done. Instead of thinking "how do I best lock up this scumbag?" (ah, there's another word I'm not allowed to use) Police officers are thinking "how do I best avoid being complained about and potentially losing my job?"

And who knows? Maybe they're right and I'm wrong. It wouldn't be the first time. But what I do know is that, when I'm tucked up in bed I want a Police Force out there protecting me who aren't constantly worrying about losing their pensions and who are thinking "I want to send thieving scumbags to prison".

Thursday, 10 May 2007

You Know You've Joined The Police When...

1) Somebody at a party asks you what you do and you look at your feet and mumble something about "civil servant". (Doesn't work if you actually are a civil servant. In fact civil servants mumble something about "Police". But you get the gist...)
2) You're running late for work and you pop into Tesco's on the way to buy cakes. Saves time later and keeps your Sergeant happy.
3) A good night out on the town means "I did 4 hours foot patrol outside a nightclub and it didn't rain, nobody started fighting with me and the nice man at KFC gave me something to eat.
4) You can deal with death, serious crime, tragedy and heartache without batting an eyelid. But as soon as somebody uses the word "gossip" everything stops until you find out who's now sleeping with whom.
5) Your other half asks where you left the keys and you point using your whole hand instead of just your finger.
6) Everybody stares at you and it's not because you've left your flies open. But you still can't help checking sneakily just in case.
7) You wave at ambulances and fire engines. Even when you're not at work.
8) There's a story on the news about a huge demonstration in your area that's turned violent. The news reader says she's worried about impending death and destruction. Hundreds might lose their lives; thousands might lose their homes. You wonder if there's any overtime going.
9) You check your emails and eight different people from eight different departments are all telling you to complete a particular piece of paperwork. And they're all saying that theirs is the most important thing in the world. And they all wanted it done by yesterday.
10) After a few years of taking statements you could go on Mastermind with a specialist subject of "old lady's biscuits".

Helpful Hints

Some people have very little contact with the Police, and it can be quite daunting when they do. So I thought I'd jot down some little hints to help things go as smoothly as possible.

1) Don't say "haven't you got anything better to do?" As soon as you say this you've answered your own question. Because whatever the officer was doing is now less important than writing you out a ticket.
2) Don't say "shouldn't you be out catching burglars?" You're overlooking the fact that we keep having to stop catching burglars to deal with people not wearing their seatbelts.
3) Don't say, "you can't do this". Because the chances are we can. And now we're probably going to prove it by doing it.
4) Don't ask me if I was bullied at school. Because I might have been for all you know. And now I'm going to deal with the resurfaced feelings of sadness and low self-worth by giving you a ticket instead of a ticking off.
5) Don't call me a "fu**ing little pr*ck" and then act all surprised when I arrest you.
6) Unless you're a High Court Judge don't try giving the officer instruction on what the law does or doesn't say. We have to go to training school and learn all sorts of definitions before we're let loose on the public.
7) Don't tell me "I know the Chief Constable". Because we both know you're telling porkies. (This doesn't work if the person you've stopped is the husband/wife of the Chief Constable).
8) Do try smiling. We're not used to this and it might throw us enough to let you off.
9) Do be nice. This is called "passing the attitude test". Which, officially, doesn't exist. However, we're only human so if someone's pleasant to us we're much more likely to keep our pen in our pocket.
10) Try to avoid leaving the house with any of the following objects in your car or about your person: drugs, knives, guns, stolen property, items for breaking into people's houses or cars, my DVD player (as you'll have read on previous posts, I'm quite attached to it).
11) And if you absolutely can't avoid having any of the above items with you, it's probably worth not attacking me with any of them. This will almost certain affect the way I am with you.
12) Don't give me a false name. Particularly one that's either not very imaginative or a bit too imaginative. Expecting to get away with calling yourself "Al Kaseltzer" means you think I'm incredibly thick.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Reality TV

If "real" Police dramas really were real:

1. At no time shall there be more than 4 Police officers on screen at any one time. Because there aren't more than 4 Police officers on duty.
2. Sometimes the Police work at night. To keep things simple, we call this "nights". So we'll have a couple of scenes in the dark.
3. Detective Inspectors don't charge about nicking villains. They sit in offices telling me what to do.
4. Of those 4 officers on duty, at least 2 will be doing paperwork at any one time.
5. The Police canteen has been closed and turned into offices for Civillian support staff whose job is to send me emails.
6. The Police cars aren't shiney and new. They are, in fact, decrepit and old.
7. When CID interview someone, there isn't a uniformed copper standing at the back of the room saying nothing. (see point 1.)
8. Solicitors don't just sit there saying nothing. They're too busy making sure their client remembers the story they've concoted together.
9. The Police officers wouldn't wear their hats every time they got out of a car. In fact, they lost their hats about six months ago and haven't seen them since.
10. Their radios only work about half the time. The other half it sounds like you're talking to metal mickey's less eloquent step-brother.
11. The Police would warn the hooded youth that they might end up being arrested. The youth would reply "fu*k off!"
12. Officers would attend a concern for welfare where the occupant of a house hadn't been seen for 2 weeks. Instead of swinging into action they'd stand on the door step poking each other saying "You go in" "No, you go in".
13. An officer would try to break up a fight outside a pub. However, instead of helping out, the public would start recording things on their mobiles hoping that they'd get something worth selling to the news.
14. And finally, the Sergeant would want to get a PC in for a bollocking but within a few seconds the PC would put in a grievance for bullying. The Sergeant would be sent off to the naughty boy corner on "administrative duties" and the PC would get the posting of their choice.

Shift Lag

I'm writing this roughly six hours before I'm due to start an early turn shift because I'm wide awake with no prospect of seeing the inside of my eyelids for hours yet. That's why I've been messing about with the layout and colours of the blog. Oh, and I've put my mum's favourite piccy of my on there. (I'll leave it to you to decide if I'm joking or not.)

Anyway, got me thinking about "shift lag". It's kind of like jet lag, but you don't get a sun tan and a man with latex gloves doesn't rummage through your luggage.

Seriously, working shifts totally changes the meaning of words like "weekend". This week, my "weekend" is Thursday and most of Friday at which point I'm back on nights.

I made the schoolboy error of having a kip this afternoon because I was feeling a bit tired. And the bit of a kip stretched out for four hours. So now I'm wide awake and thinking about going for a bit of a stroll. At bloody half past midnight!

I'll finish nights on Monday morning and have to force myself out of bed at about lunch time, otherwise I won't sleep Monday night. Which means for most of Monday I'll either be asleep or annoying my chums by being irratable to the point that they wish I was asleep.

And that's another thing: "lunch time". Because we find ourselves working at "Oh My God" o'clock we eat totally inappropriate meals at totally inappropriate times. Microwaved lasagne at 4am. Coco Pops at 7pm. That sort of thing.

Actually, I remember I used to have microwaved porridge on nights. One particular shift I was absolutely starving come about 3am because we'd been so busy. The microwave had just gone "ping" and I'd had my first mouthful when a shout came in. Two males assaulting a third who was lying on the floor.

Now, this member of public needed our help, so there was no chance of me not going. But my stomach thought my throat had been cut! Nothing else for it but to jump in with someone else and try to find my mouth with my spoon whilst sat on the back seat of the area car as it's doing 60mph. In fact, I must've been hungry because I didn't spill any.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, shift lag. Because I'm awake now, and I'm probably only going to get a few hours kip, I know that at about 10 or 11am later on it's going to hit me like a cricket bat in the chops. And that's probably about the time the member of public comes into the station wanting to make a complaint about how another copper was rude to them. After five minutes with a sleep deprived me they're either going to think that rudeness is endemic in the Police or that I'm being somehow ironic by trying to out-rude the other officer.

Monday, 7 May 2007

"Don't You Throw Bloody Spears At Me"

I was watching Zulu the other day and Michael Caine's famous mis-quote reminded me of a job I went to as a Probationer.

I was single-crewed and on one of our more visited housing estates taking a statement. Just as I was finishing off a call came in reporting a domestic disturbance just around the corner. The report was that the man who lived there had gone bananas and taken his family hostage. I quickly called up for the job, thanked the chap who'd given me the statement and ran off to my car. I could hear that other officers were also calling up for the job too, so I knew I wouldn't be on my own for long.

Within a minute I'd pulled up outside the address and was met by an older woman who came running out of the house to me. She screamed, "he's going mental in there! It's going to take more than one of you!" So I pulled on my body armour and calmly updated the control room saying, "apparantly this chap's quite violent so I'll probably need somebody else to assist."

Unfortunately I was a little too calm. The other officers attending told me later that they thought everything was OK so slowed down. But I didn't know that at this time.

I walked into the house, drawing myself up to my full height of 5' 7" and making my shoulders look as broad and meaty as possible. Not easy. I weigh 9st. But still, it must have looked fairly impressive because the bloke saw me and ran off through the house and into the back garden. I ran after him shouting to his family to run to a neighbour's house.

I got into the back garden just in time to see him dive into the shed. I called out, "'scuse me mate, I think we need to have a chat." He replied by chucking a spade at my head. I tried to remember the input we'd been given at training school on negotiating with people who are trying to decapitate you. As a garden rake narrowly missed my swede I realised that perhaps I should've paid a bit more attention in class. The lawn mower came next, but didn't get anywhere near me. Maybe he was tiring?

"Look, mate. There's no need for all this. Let's just chat."

"Fuck off and leave me alone!" And then he smashed the window of the shed so he'd be able to throw things at me without having to duck in and out through the door. Clearly a man capable of thinking on his feet under pressure.

I heard a noise behind me and gratefully turned round to give my colleagues an update. I was met by two paramedics who'd been called by our control room. I suggested they might want to wait inside. They asked me why just as part of a Black and Decker workbench landed just behind me. "Ah, right. We'll be inside."

I got on the radio to give an update. "The male has run into the back garden, has locked himself in the shed and is now chucking the contents at me." Again, perhaps I should have put a bit more urgency in my voice as the area car responded blithely "yep, noted. Not far away now". Fortunately, the Sergeant was listening in and started organising a shield team to do a forced entry to the shed.

A tray of seedlings richocheed off the wall behind me. I was clearly well out of my depth. And I wasn't thinking straight. Why wasn't I thinking straight? It's because I needed a cigarette. Checking to make sure my Sergeant hadn't arrived, I lit up and took a deep drag, considering what to do next. The bloke wasn't going anywhere, but any minute now he might realise I was only about half his size, do the maths and decide to take his chances with me.

He popped his head up to chuck one of those small trowel/spade things at me and stopped mid-throw, like Fatima Whitbread with a javelin. We stared at each other, like gun slingers at high noon across the battle scarred garden.

"Er, can I have a fag?"

I looked down at the smouldering tobacco in my hand and a little smile sneaked across my face.

"No, you keep chucking things at me."

He dropped the trowel. "Sorry."

"I'm going to have to handcuff you first, before I give you one of these. You know that don't you?"

"Yeah, no worries. I didn't really want to hit you."

I slowly inched towards the shed. Maybe this was a trick? Any minute now he was going to surprise me by launching a tomato plant at my nose. But no, instead he popped his hands out of the shed window in a "it's a fair cop" kind of way and let me cuff him up. I lit up another ciggie and placed it in his hand.

About 30 seconds later the cavalry arrived. They were met by the same screaming reception committee as I had been, this time saying how their colleague was in the garden being bombarded by all sorts of things. They grabbed a couple of shields from the car and ran through the house into the garden. To see me and my new mate stood chatting over a cigarette. The next officer to arrive was the Sergeant, so I quickly lost my ciggie as the bloke was lead away by the area car officers. I asked him why it had taken so long for everyone to turn up. "Well, you sounded like you were OK. So everyone turned their blues off." Right, mental note, next time give updates in a slightly more high pitched voice.

Anyway, the point is, all the way through Zulu, Michael Caine is very composed and the very epitome of stiff upper lip Britishness. But as the Zulu nation descent upon Rourkes Drift at no point does he reach into his pocket and pull out a packet of Bensons. If he had, his story might have had a totally different ending.