Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Page Five - Care in the Community (Copcast #120)

For some years in the UK there has been a policy to introduce people suffering mental health issues back into the community and remove them from institutions, so that they can lead more normal lives than they would if they were shut away in a hospital. The system relies on selecting the patients who will benefit from living in the community and providing them with appropriate support in the form of accomodation, visiting healthcare workers and properly prescribed treatment. Unfortunately, there are times when insufficient resources are available or patients refuse to be treated and it is then that the police that are called upon to deal with them.

Anyone who questions whether this system of 'care in the community' works need only spend a Night Duty with the officers on a response relief. They don't blame anyone, they often just feel they're the wrong tool to use.

George comes into contact with those suffering from mental health problems on a fairly frequent basis. Take last night, he attended a call from someone stating that they are receiving 'disgusting' text messages. The controller stated that the caller was 'rambling' and 'not making much sense'. George told his probationer that he knew the address was an apartment complex where the Social Services placed patients who were being treated 'in the community' and told her to be alert.

Upon arrival they were let in to the address by Steven. Steven was in his mid forties, heavily built, about 6 foot tall and a skin head covered in tattoos. George made a quick scan of the room and his eyes were immediately drawn to a set of kitchen knives on the floor next to the TV. He made eye contact with his probationer, trying to draw her attention to the same. She got the message.

The conversation went something like:

"What's going on Steven?"
"It's them dirty bastards, sending me text messages about me mum"
"Have you still got them on your phone Steven?"
"Deleted them. Didn't want to look at them. They get me angry"
"Okay … what do you want us to do?"
"Stop them sending me them texts"
"Who is it? Do you know who's sending them?"
"No ... I just told you …. I deleted them. Take my phone and catch them"
"Okay Steven but if we take your phone, there's no evidence on it"
"Catch them or I'll use my knives. I'll stab anyone coming through my door"

At this point, the mood changed from 'slightly concerned' to 'absolutely bricking' it. George looked at the probationer and using a Jedi mind trick urged her to get closer to the door. This didn't work. Steven then stood up and walked towards the TV (and the knives). George grabbed the probationer by the arm and pulled her towards the door. Steven stopped and looked at them.

"What are you doing?" he asked. "Leaving" replied George.

Steven began to throw things around his room as they dived out the door. "Leaving?" he shouted. "What are you going to do about my texts?". George muttered something about calling police again when he got another one, or calling into the police station then scuttled down the stairs followed by a torrent of abuse, not all of it directed at him or anyone in particular.

They got outside and made rapid updates to Control and had warning markers placed on the address. Then they hightailed it out of there and began the long process of liaising with Social Services and the Mental Health Practitioners to ensure a long term solution to Steven's problems

It is force policy to now wear ballistic vests at all times outside the police station. For once George was glad he adhered to force orders.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Page Four - Hot Fuzz Re-Enacted (Copcast #119)

A town on the outskirts of George's division had been hit by burglaries all with a similar M.O. - access through the rear; a tidy search; games consoles and small electrical equipment being taken; and all at a similar time of day.

He was given an unmarked car, a spreadsheet detailing the crime hot-spots and a partner from the burglary squad, Tony who had about 22 years of service and would find it hard running to the toilet let alone after a rather limber 15 year old youth who can shimmy over fences like a cat. Their brief was to drive around the hot-spots and 'stop check' anyone who looked like they are up to no good. They were also informed by the Duty Officer that if they actually arrested someone on suspicion of burglary then the Command Team would love them.

About halfway through the shift, Tone was spotting from the passenger side of the vehicle and the only stops they'd had were a paperboy and a couple of youths on their way into school. It was turning into a long day.

As the car turned into an estate, George spotted two youths wearing dark hoodies walk down an alley that cut through a row of terraced houses. Now in George's book if they were wearing hoodies, particularly dark ones, the only thing that was missing was a confession. He shouted at Tone “There!” at the same time pointing towards the direction of the alleyway. Both youths were now out of sight.

“Whah?” replied Tone, his conversation with himself about detections suddenly cut short.

“Two white lads wearing hoodies, down that alley" barked George. Tone said they were probably just more kids on there way to school but George told him that something didn’t feel right. Tone groaned as George then came up with a cunning plan. “You go down the alley, I'll drive to the other side and make my way round to you”. Surprisingly Tone got out of the vehicle, brushed off the sandwich crumbs and made his way to the alleyway while George scooted off to the far end of the block of terraced houses.

At this point George was thinking of bringing in more units, perhaps a dog van to secure the area and even maybe the force helicopter, he wanted to shout into the radio "Suspects on" or "Suspects making off" but remembered that these kids hadn’t actually done anything yet and he really didn’t want to get too much of a ribbing if it was all for nothing.

George got out of the car and made his way to the right hand side of the block trying to raise Tone on the radio but there was no answer. He had no idea if he had the youths, or if he was lying in a crumpled heap having been happy slapped. George climbed a 6 foot garden fence and peered over the top, “Tone” he hissed. Nothing.

A couple of minutes of searching passed and then he heard an almighty racket accompanied by the top of Tone’s head appearing over the fence about 100 yards away. A triumphant Tone got to the top of the fence and gave a big grin and a thumbs up looking pretty pleased with himself, he obviously hadn’t done anything quite so physical for a while.

There was a loud crack, a yelp and a howl and lots of wood being thrown up in the air. Thinking Tone had been assaulted George ran to his location and found him nursing the back of his leg and a split in his trousers. The fence was wrecked, it obviously couldn't take much weight, particularly Tone’s. After checking out the properties, establishing that all was in order he helped a limping and cursing Tone get to their unmarked Vauxhall Vectra.

During the drive back Tony was very quiet and almost grumpy, George felt awkward and a little guilty. Tony now had to face the embarrassment of walking into the police station with a split pair of trousers and George didn't relish the thought of writing a duty report justifying the fence damage to the Inspector who would no doubt want an inquisition into how the damage occurred.

On the way back to the police station they spotted the two lads again, this time in company with their mums and en-route to the local junior school. Oh the excitement and glamour of plain clothes work.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Page Three - Ejected from School (Copcast #118)

George prepared himself for another tour of duty, he just needed a quick roll call before he hit the mean streets of suburbia:

Handcuffs - check
Body Armour - check
Personal Radio - check
C.S. Spray - check
Four pens that work - check
A ream of blank witness statements (MG11's) - check
A bag of Maynards wine gums - check

He was posted to a remote outpost at the far flung edge of the county (known as the 'Outer Rim'). So fully armed with his appointments, he headed off to the 'shires' with his probationer to show them country folk how the urban coppers play.

Everything was 'Q' until two hours before they were due to knock off (the word Quiet is never to be used while on duty). Then they got a call to attend a high school to help eject a student who had been refusing to leave. Now in his day it was fairly difficult to get kids to stay in school and a student refusing to leave was a new one on George, so with a degree of curiosity he attended the scene.

Upon arrival in the class, after having to sign in (their uniforms and body armour obviously not totally convincing) they saw the lad sitting in the corner, doodling on a PC. Everything looked calm, but appearances can be deceiving and Kenny was 16, well built, about 6' tall and had a mean scowl. The teacher in charge (using the term loosely) explained that young Kenny had told her to EFF off, called her colleague a fat SEE and had tried to start a fight with one of the other kids. She asked them to eject him as he had also threatened to kick her face in if she went near him.

George politely asked the lad to leave, stating that if he didn't he would leave them no choice and they would have to arrest him to prevent a breach of the peace. His reply was eloquent. 'EFF off Copper'. Quickly establishing that he hadn't built up a rapport he let his much younger, bigger and fitter probationer reason with him. Not fazed by this change of tact, the lad looked up and said 'Right, your turn is it? EFF off copper'.

See where this was going? Kenny eventually explained he was annoyed because the 'Fat Cow' refused to give him access to Google. George noticed the lad had been doodling with a photo of 'Fat Cow' on his PC and using MS Paint, was making reference to her sexual preferences.

In the end after a few more pleas and warnings not to swear, the probationer nicked him to prevent a breach of the peace, this turned into a brief scuffle on the classroom floor in front of six other cop hating students chanting 'fight fight fight'.

Kenny was quickly tied up in a neat bow by the probationer and they escorted him outside. After 5 minutes and with the lack of an audience, a tearful Kenny calmed down and was de-arrested and the handcuffs were taken off. He grabbed his bike and was allowed to go on his way, however he misjudged the gap between two parked cars resulting in Kenny going over the top of his handlebars, with the rest of his bike landing on top of him and the cars.

Kenny was unhurt, but his pride was dented and his wheel bent. His legal guardian turned up and threw the bike in the back of the car and took Kenny away amid much swearing and gnashing of teeth.

George was left wondering if the world had really changed so much since he was at school

'Right Click' and 'Save as' to download the audio version

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Page Two - Sudden Death (Copcast #117)

Okay, picture the scene, it was New Years Eve and police had received a call to a 'concern for welfare'. A known drug user hadn't been seen by his family for three weeks and despite living in the same town, they had not bothered to call at the address over Christmas. George was asked to check it out accompanied by a 19-year-old probationer with less than five weeks street experience.

Upon arrival they could see that the window to the front of the kitchen was slightly open and walking up to it got a waft of that smell that no one forgets. Not looking good for the missing drug user so far.

They knocked on the door and called out "Anybody in? It's the police". No answer. They could hear the TV, so someone had been or was still in there and they knocked again, louder. "Come on mate, open the door, we just want to check you are ok". They knew by then that he must be dead and probably had been for some time. His body would be behind the front door somewhere and the heating was probably on as it was below freezing outside. Preparing himself for the worst, George then called up the station on his radio "Um, Control, we’re on scene, TV and lights are on, there is a suspicious smell coming from the window, it doesn't look good. I'm going to force entry".

They had to inform the Control Room that they were going to force entry in case the missing drug user was just a really heavy sleeper and having put the door in, causing damage to it in the process, he was then able to sue the police. That probably wasn't going to be a problem here though.

George called up for a 'Rammit' or 'Enforcer' otherwise known as a 'big red key' that needs to be held in two hands.

The probationer, clearly being driven on adrenaline and keen to see her first corpse, pushed the door and it swung open. Not locked, perhaps he should have checked before calling for the big red lump of metal. Hmmm, the smell was particularly potent, a quick search found the missing individual on his back in the bedroom, completely naked. He had been gone a while, it really wasn't very pretty and he was a funny shade of green, the probationer's enthusiasm started to ebb, but she was not perturbed. George told her to look around to see if there was anything suspicious. "What about him" she replied. He told her that the man was dead and he wasn't going anywhere just yet and anyway, the back windows were also open and the rear patio was unlocked. The place was on the top floor of an apartment block with no access to the rear but they called up the inspector anyway, just to cover their … prospects. The guv’nor turned up, walked about with his clipboard and declared that there were no suspicious circumstances. The deceased was insulin dependant and had no food or meds in the apartment, chances are he had a fix and returned to his apartment and then had a 'hypo', putting him in a coma never to wake up.

The ambulance crew turned up and attached sensors to the body to look for signs of life. A ridiculous spectacle, given his condition, but they had to do it 'by the book' too in order to declare death 'properly'. George felt like shouting "He's dead, dead I tell you" but didn't, they all knew the score.

The inspector then told them to check the back of the body 'just in case'. Yeah okay, they now knew he was playing games with them. If they rolled the body over, given his condition some of him was not going to move with the rest of him. There was no sign of blood anywhere, no weapon and no sign of a struggle. If there was anything suspicious about this death, then only the coroner was going to find it. Then the probationer said, in front of the inspector "shall we get on and search him then?" Great, everyone else left, knowing what is coming next. They took a lungful of clean air then helped each other with a quick roll of the late drug user. The probationer started to gag as she took a too-close-a-look at what was left of the corpse's back (she obviously breathed in). The body was placed back on the floor and George exited very quickly so he could start to breath again.

A very good learning point for the probationer, one she will never forget that's for sure! The undertakers eventually arrived wearing full oversuits and carrying a triple body bag. One of them shook the probationer’s hand on the way out, telling her she was very brave and she’d done remarkably well for her first dead body. George has to agree; at only 19 she is made of stern stuff and he suspects she will go on to great things.

All in all a very sad affair, no-one to check on him and left to die alone in squalor around the Christmas period. Makes you pretty thankful for what you've got. George was certainly more thankful when celebrating the New Year later that day.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Page One - Another Burglary (Copcast #116)

This is an account from a typical day of a typical police officer serving in the UK. For the sake of his blushes we’ll call him George, he may not be a saint but it’s as good a name as any to use as get closer to St George’s day when we’ll be soberly celebrating the patron saint of England.

It's fair to say that George has been to a few burglaries. They range from 'tidy - you - would - never -know - anyone - had - been – in - the - house' affairs, to complete devastation where you have to console the home owner after they have discovered a leaving present from the burglar in their bed. How the minds of the common criminal / scumbag works never ceases to amaze ...

Anyway, George was called to report a burglary where the guy had returned from working abroad to find his house had been broken into via the back window. The window had been jemmied open and there were a number of footprints on the windowsill etc. 'Lovely', he thought. ‘Some evidence’ and called in scenes of crimes (SOCO) whilst he 'preserved' the scene (it's what we do in the UK, SOCO's are the experts – the equivalent of Gil Grissom and co, while the wooden tops or bobbies, do the scene preservation and initial investigation).

The SOCO turned up and George gave him a guided tour of what had been a relatively tidy search, a few books opened, tables moved. A computer, jewellry and other stuff had been taken, as well as a substantial amount of cash. The SOCO managed to lift some fingerprints and footprint impressions so not a complete waste of time for him. Hey, you never know right? Anyway George then got back to taking details from the victim.

"So just to confirm sir, you had £20,000 in a plastic bag tucked away behind the kitchen cupboard?"

"Yes officer"
"Do you have any other money in the house"
"Yes officer"
"Have you checked it?"
"Yes officer, its still there"
"When was the last time you saw the money?"
"Before I went away, in January"
"January? Does anyone else know you have this kind of money stashed away?"
"No officer, nobody"
"Who else lives here?"
"Nobody, oh only my son every now and then. He's in the army but stays here when he’s on leave"
"Does he know about your money?"
"No officer, but he wouldn't take it, he's my son"
"Right. But you've already told me he has sold your motorcycle without your permission whilst you have been working in South America. Does your son have money problems?"
"Officer he’s my son, he wouldn’t do such a thing. I help him pay his debts, he only has to ask"
"Right …"

He’s waiting for SOCO results and George is willing to bet that all of the fingerprints on the jars etc that had to be moved to get to the money belong to the son. You can imagine it now - son comes home, gets hungry, starts looking around for food, finds a mysterious plastic bag at the back of the cupboard. Ho, ho, ho … is it Christmas?

For the record the son went back to his unit early before Dad arrived home and Dad is finding it hard to contact him on his mobile phone. CSI he isn’t, but George reckons he might just've cracked this case for detectives in CID. It’s surprising how people generally still find it almost impossible to believe the worst of their closest relatives, especially parents of their children, despite the most overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

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