Wednesday, 26 November 2014
The New year is a strange time, for some people it is a celebration of hope while for others it can be a time of hope for better times to come. For a few though, the New year is a reminder of how bad things can be and a time of loneliness and misery. Through all this there are a very small number of people who can be found working the night away, doing everything they can to keep the rest of us safe; these are the police patrols, ambulance crews, hospital staff and firefighters.
One New Year's night will stay in George's memory for all the worst reasons. He was posted with an old team-mate called Jack, a deeply caring individual who wore his heart on his sleeve and George loved working with him for just that reason. Jack would literally do anything for anyone, whether that was an old and trusted friend or a stranger who was in need.
George and Jack responded to countless calls to alcohol related disturbances, fights, injuries and disputes, as did the rest of their team, over the next four hours. By three in the morning they were exhausted, they hadn't had a break and the emergency calls were still rolling in.
"Will this ever slow down?" asked George, not expecting an answer, as yet another call came through. They were tasked to check the welfare of a man who had apparently threatened to kill himself. The man lived locally but had called his family who still lived in the north of England, he was very depressed and he told them he was going to hang himself. His family were obviously distraught and rang their local police who passed the details of the call to George's area, all of which took time.
By the time Jack and George reached the address, it was more than half an hour after the original call was made. The two officers hammered on the door and shouted through the letterbox but there was no answer from within. The lights were on inside but no sign of life. Then Jack noticed a stool lying on its side at the bottom of the stairs and told George. George didn't say a word as he kicked the door in, the lock shot off down the passageway. Sure enough looking up to the top of the stairs, just as they had expected, they saw a pair of feet hanging about twelve inches above the top step.
Staring slack jawed in disappointment for a moment, George began to go through the list of what the detectives in CID would want done, the first would be for the ligature knot to be preserved. Then in unison he and Jack shouted "The hell with it" and ran up the stairs. George lifted the man's weight while Jack slashed at the chord with a pocket knife before easing the man's body to the floor. They could see now that he had lashed a rope to a rafter above the open loft hatch, tied a noose around his neck while standing on the stool then kicked the stool down the stairs.
George tore at the chord around the man's neck where it had sunk into his flesh, while Jack was giving him chest compressions. Suddenly the noose came free and George was able to get a breath into the man before calling for help on his radio. There were no ambulances anywhere, they were on their own.
Now an ambulance in the UK has an extremely distinctive engine sound and at that moment they heard that sound going past outside. Jack looked up at George, then took off down the stairs and out the front door without uttering a word. George went back to artificially resuscitating the body in the house on his own. It felt like he had been alone for hours when suddenly he was joined by an ambulance crew and Jack. The paramedics took over and found the man had a very weak pulse, he was alive and they quickly had him loaded into the ambulance on his way to hospital.
Once they left Jack apologised for leaving George but explained that he had heard the ambulance and decided he was going to stop it, he hadn't had time to explain what he was going to do. He had to chase the ambulance up the road on foot for a good quarter of a mile before they realised he was behind them and stopped. They had then had to wait another minute before he could speak after his mad sprint.
The hospital casualty staff worked hard on the man before transferring him to the Intensive Care Ward, after a couple of weeks the man was physically recovered and released from hospital.
Wednesday, 19 November 2014
A hunch is all it takes, there's no logical reason why a one particular vehicle attracts the attention of an alert copper while another doesn't. It may be something obvious like a minor moving traffic offence or just their manner of driving. Sometimes though you just 'know' something isn't right and pulling over a vehicle for a driving documents check can reap rewards and make for a good collar.
Last week George was on mobile patrol with another probationer. Not much was going on, so he decided that it was a good opportunity for Jeremy, the probationer, to practice a much needed bit of traffic process for his development. A short while later his attention was drawn to a black Ford Fiesta a couple cars ahead of them. There was nothing particularly interesting about it, if anything it looked in good order. George relayed the index plate to Jeremy and he ran it through PNC, the Police National Computer. The MOT had expired so it was worthy of a stop. Just before he did though, George asked Jeremy to check Intel to see if there was anything interesting about the vehicle. You never know, it may have been used by a known drug dealer.
Intel suggested that the occupants of the vehicle had been seen recently by a member of the public showing off a black handgun. Interesting, to say the least, the Intel had come anonymously from a concerned member of the public via Crimestoppers. George called up the Control Room and asked for some backup as he wanted to stop the vehicle safely. An ARV (Armed Response Vehicle) offered up and advised they were going to put the stop in due to the Intel. As frustrating as this felt, George knew it was the correct procedure and he really didn't want a gun pointing in his face, real or not.
The ARV quickly caught up and tailed the suspect vehicle while George had to drop back. His role was to stop traffic behind him at a safe distance in order that the ARV could put in a safe, hard stop. A few moments later the Fiesta stopped at traffic lights, the ARV boys jumped out, guns drawn and barked out orders at the occupants of the Fiesta to "get the EFF out of the car". Two bemused eighteen year olds were unceremoniously forced to the floor with their hands spread as far as they could, under the muzzles of a pair of MP5s. George watched as the ARV crew searched the men, then the car. An officer indicated that he found something in the driver's seat back and held it up so that George could see that it was indeed a black handgun. A few tense moments passed, then the ARV officer proudly announced he had secured a water pistol. It was unloaded into the gutter, proved and 'made safe'.
With no identifiable witness or victim of an incident involving the gun, there were no offences so the pistol was 'seized' for destruction and the driver and his mate were given some very stern words of advice, oh and of course a ticket for the expired MOT. If nothing else it is very unlikely that either of them will ever think that waving a replica gun around in public, even a water pistol, is an entertaining past time after finding themselves on the business end of the real thing and the ARV got a workout after a mundane day patrolling in Sleepy Hollow. George had to admit his adrenaline had been pumping too ... and Jeremy the probationer was positively speechless.
Wednesday, 12 November 2014
At ninja skills training, sorry Defensive Skills or Officer Safety Training, they bang on about using tactical communications, officer approach and stance, the conflict resolution model, how your behaviour affects others, the reactionary gap, etc. All very valid and if you want to avoid getting the odd punch on the nose then it's worthwhile paying attention. The biggest problem George often encounters however is being crewed up with a probie who's been watching too many episodes of Street Wars or Police Interceptors and is a little 'punchy'. It's quite often these younger ones who prefer wearing the uniform to actually getting stuck into the paperwork. On a Friday Night Duty you can almost feel the testosterone brewing in the office prior to jumping on a carrier.
Recently they were on the Public Order Carrier on a Friday night and were called to reports of a female making off from a criminal damage at a pub. Clearly she didn't like the cocktails and had demonstrated her frustration by throwing a bar stool at a window. The fact it was a female made George sit up and listen. Fighting girls is not one of his favourite past-times; they kick, scratch, spit, bite and have a natural ability to target the soft, fleshy, sensitive parts that men need to procreate. They also have their own soft fleshy parts that men can get themselves into trouble for touching, even inadvertently.
A further description came in of a white female, chubby build, shoulder length curly hair wearing a short white miniskirt. "Sounds like Wanda" he muttered to the five probies on the bus, who were oblivious to the information and were hypnotised by the two tones with mad grins on their faces. Wanda is a known troublemaker in the town, she has numerous public order offences to her name and will generally fight most coppers if they get hands on with her. George relayed this information to the probies and they all nodded in unison. They soon found Wanda kicking a telephone box, the probies jumped out and approached her while George secured the carrier.
Five probies now surrounded Wanda who was beginning to show signs akin to that of a cornered rat. "This is going to go very wrong" George sighed as he approached. At that point Wanda tried to push herself away and one of the probies grabbed her by the wrists. He was now less than one foot away from her face and shouted "Get ba-" as Wanda head-butted him to the ground. To their credit the probies jumped on Wanda and wrestled her to the floor, various probies spilled out from the mêlée only to jump back in. George jumped in, holding Wanda's head to ground with his left knee whilst his right knee sat on her rib cage, pinning her to the floor, right hand trying to hold onto her flaying right arm.
"Cuffs!" he shouted. One went on but the other wouldn't go near the other hand. Wanda was snarling by now and trying to bite and one of the probies used another set of handcuffs and joined them in front of Wanda. "Brilliant, now she's got a weapon" thought George. He ordered the probationers to cuff her to the rear before Wanda was eventually placed in limb restraints and carried into the back of a caged van, still swearing, still fighting. George looked at the battered probationers who were now all very dishevelled, the one who had been head-butted was nursing his forehead. It wasn't a major injury, and it surprised him more than anything else, still he needed checking out by paramedics.
It turns out that Wanda had sworn at one of the probies, who had then sworn back at her. Wanda in her drunken state didn't like being cornered or being sworn at and had tried to get away. This resulted in said probationer getting head-butted and Wanda being taken to the floor by six police officers in full view of the general public and CCTV. Public perception? Use of force? Approach & stance? Tac comms? All of their very recent defensive skills training was put to the test and no one had passed. A lot of valuable lessons were learned by the probationers at that job, one of them had a painful reminder for a week afterwards.
George too learned a valuable lesson get out of the bloody carrier first.
Wednesday, 5 November 2014
George hates foot chases. Aside from the obvious that it knackers you out if it goes on for more than five minutes, you also have to contend with street furniture, mums with buggies, jeering youths and cars that absolutely and categorically will not stop to let you pass. The bad guys are normally half George's age, light on their feet and wearing Nike air trainers whereas he's wearing a stab vest, belt kit and running in size 10 steel toecap army boots.
He only has a dozen years left in the job, so tripping over a bollard and smashing his pelvis on a kerbstone is not high on his agenda. He's seen it happen and you can take his word it isn't pretty or funny, especially if it's one of your colleagues. For this reason one of the first things he asks any new probationer is "what are you like at running?" Most eager ones tell him they are trained to an Olympian standard. That's that sorted then, they chase on foot and George'll back them up in the car. Well that's the plan at least but it never quite works out that way.
The other day George and a probationer were taking a statement from a shop owner when the CCTV Control Room called up to say they had a wanted person on camera, not far from otheir location. Various units called up, two PCSO's had eyeball on him but were holding off and an unmarked unit were coming in from the top end of town. George looked at his probationer who was in the middle of his statement and told him it was okay, other units were nearby they'd get him. Best finish the statement.
A few minutes later CCTV called up again, the suspect was moving off on his bicycle. The PCSO's were told to hang back for health and safety reasons and the unmarked unit still some minutes away. There was no one else nearer so George told his probationer that they would try to sneak up on the suspect as this lad had warning markers for escaping. As soon as they got to the door of the shop they spotted him - and he spotted them. In fact he was staring right at them. A second's pause and George shouted "Right, get 'im!" The probationer launched himself out of the shop, the bad guy started to make off on his bike, the lad made it to the road and was gaining momentum fast.
The probbie stepped up a gear and chased the suspect on his bike up a busy main road, car drivers stopped in awe and passers-by just stared. Why does that never happen for George? He was like a gazelle and was catching up with the cyclist fast; George on the other hand was way behind calling for back up in between gasping for breath. The lad seemed to be getting away when all of a sudden two plain clothes officers jumped on him, or rather he cycled into their arms. The probationer was on him in seconds, slapping handcuffs onto the protesting teenager before George caught up, clearly worse for wear and puffing like a steam engine. After a few minutes recovery he asked his probationer what he had arrested him for, other than making a police officer run.
"What me? I haven't arrested him for anything yet" was the answer.
"Best nick him for something then" was George's reply and eventually the words were said once they'd remembered what offence the lad was wanted for.
After the foot pursuit up a busy main road, members of the public took their time to take the mickey out of George once the bad guy was driven away by another unit. He thanked everyone for their kind comments, given that he hadn't even warmed up he thought he had done rather well and besides he was extremely proud of his probationer at that point. That was his third arrest in the one day. His probationer later received an email from the controller stating she was impressed; George on the other hand, got a message of commiserations.