Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Page Fifty One - Burglar at the Door (Copcast #166)

Back when George was a probationer himself, a lot of things were different. They had personal radios back then but there was only one channel to communicate on and the radios were pretty basic. There were three volume settings, louder, louder and deafening; and the only way th turn the thing off was to drop the battery out of the bottom. If you were with another officer when you stopped someone in the street and you called the Control Room for a name check, it meant that the reply "Are you free to speak?" was an instruction for every one else to remove their batteries and allow you to receive the information in confidence.

In addition to his radio, George used to have a truncheon and a pair of handcuffs on his belt, the truncheon sat in a purpose built pocket down the outer thigh of his uniform trousers. You don't want to upset the public do you? All of his report books along with his pocketbook, were distributed among the pockets of his jacket. These days, when George steps out on foot patrol he looks more like an armoured gadget bag on legs. His body armour has pockets stuffed with books and his belt carries a radio, rigid handcuffs, extendible baton, and pouches filled with first aid kit and search gloves along with yet more report books and pens.

Some things haven't changed over the years, one of those things is the people George deals with. He recently stepped into the Custody Office and came face to face with a local character called Burglar Bill. George found himself going back to the first time he'd met William, getting on for fifteen years earlier.

Probationer George was the radio operator on a response car on a weekday Late Turn when his driver accepted a call to a suspicious male in a back garden. When they arrived there was no sign of anything amiss so the driver posted George at the front door while he trotted round the back to check things out there. George was disappointed because it meant his driver would nab any wrong-doer at the back of the house, no burglar ever used the front door, everyone knew that.

While he stood sulking and idly kicking stones along the path, the front door to the house opened and a middle-aged man in a shirt and tie stood there, clutching a bag in his hand and staring at George.

"Good evening officer, is everything okay?" he asked.

"Yes sir, we're just checking out a call, do you live here?" George replied. He noticed the bag in the mans hand was in fact a pillowcase that seemed to contain a few bulky items. Somewhat suspicious now he planted himself in front of the man and asked "What do you have in the bag sir?"

The man's shoulders slumped and he sighed as he said "Okay, you got me, I was screwing the place, okay?"

George almost stammered as he said "You're under arrest for burglary, you don't have to say anything but anything you do say will be taken down and used in court."

The man smiled slightly and said "It's a fair cop guv', you've got me bang to rights". George gawped in horror at the man, knowing that no one would believe his prisoner had used the legendary words. When he asked the man if he was sure he wanted to say that, the man just smiled and nodded.

Coming back to the present day George smiled and said "Hello Bill, what are you up to now, I haven't seen you in ages?"

William turned and grinned at George, accepting George's outstretched hand and shaking it, "Oh I'm working with youth offenders these days, keeping them honest and on the straight and narrow you know. Someone has to keep them bang to rights don't they?"

Maybe everything does change after all.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Page Fifty - Away on His Toes (Copcast #165)

There are so many reasons why people become police officers, probably as many reasons as there are officers. Beyond the reasons for joining though, there are the unexpected reasons for staying. For instance there is the heart-stopping moment of excitement when a call comes over the radio for units to assist with a call to 'suspects on premises'. Those calls often seem to come in when everyone is in for refs and the canteen is packed. After the briefest of pauses during which you could hear a pin drop, there is usually absolute pandemonium.

Resembling a scene from a World War Two film, set in a fighter squadron ready room, everyone suddenly scrambles for the doors, grabbing their kit on the run. Once outside, bodies will hurl themselves into every available vehicle and no one cares who is supposed to drive; if you end up in the driver's seat, then you drive.

One late Turn, George and his team were in for dinner when just such a call came through followed by the mad dash outside. George found himself squeezed into the back seat of a Panda with three other lads. Now a Panda is a small patrol car, what would be called a sub-compact in the US and squeezing four fully grown adult males and their kit inside is something close to impossible. Still, they made it and with Mack behind the wheel, the little car even managed to start moving, under protest. Mack was originally from Glasgow in Scotland and his thick Glaswegian accent was perfectly suited to the tirade of threats and curses that he hurled against the Panda as he urged it to accelerate out of the rear yard and through the back gates. Once outside he threw the steering wheel hard to the left ... and slammed the car head on into the front of the armoured police public order carrier that was now parked on the roadside. It hadn't been there earlier and Mack hadn't expected to find it just outside the gates to the yard.

There was dazed silence for a moment and then Mack's door suddenly burst open and he was out of the car, running as fast as he could along the street. The handful of passers-by stopped and stared at the uniformed police officer, the front of his white shirt stained red from blood that flowed from a cut to his forehead, running away from a marked police car. The three officers left in the car could only watch in dumb amazement.

Mack was almost out of sight when he eventually slowed, then stopped before turning reluctantly back to the crashed car and his colleagues. Once he got back to the others, George grabbed him by the collar and hissed in his ear "What the bloody hell were you thinking mate?"

Mack looked embarrassed as he quietly explained, "Mate, you know I grew up on a council estate outside of Glasgow don't you? Well it was a bit of a rough old spot and we couldn't afford a car, so I didn't exactly have driving lessons until I joined the Army. You see, if you ever managed to get hold of a car to drive it wasn't likely to be yours so if you ever crashed it was best to run away from it as fast as you could before the police arrived."

"Okay," said George, "but that still doesn't explain why you just made off on your toes, away from a pranged police car."

"Ah well," replied Mack touching his still bleeding forehead. "When I banged my nut just now on the wheel, I was confused for a moment and I kind of panicked I simply reverted to old instincts. You know, crashed car, run like hell."

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Page Forty Nine - The Rain in Spain (Copcast #164)

George was sitting alone at the team table in the canteen, catching up with two weeks worth of paperwork, when half of the Relief piled in for refs. They greeted him in the usual boisterous round of "welcome back" and "how was the holiday?" A couple of his colleagues noted that he hadn't been his usual chirpy self since he'd got back and wondered if everything was all right.

George put down his pen and pushed his papers and files aside as he looked around the familiar faces of his Relief, mostly tucking into their breakfasts but almost all had their eyes on him. As he paused a moment before continuing, a hush actually fell over the gathering, then he said "Spain was okay, apart from getting nicked that is."

Suddenly there was uproar. His team threw a torrent of questions at him about what had happened while a couple of  others howled with laughter, one poor soul slipped sideways and fell off his chair, taking a bowl of cornflakes with him that ended up over his uniform. Gradually order returned and the flood of questions subsided enough for George to be heard and, as one cornflake and milk covered officer reclaimed his seat while brushing his uniform futilely, he began to tell them the events of his holiday.

George and his family had gone to Spain for two weeks of sun, sand and sangria, the flight was fine, the hotel was comfortable and the unwinding had been going well. A week into the holiday and everyone was in high spirits and enjoying themselves relaxing doing pretty much nothing more strenuous than moving from the poolside to the bar and back again. George suggested they hire a car for a couple of days and explore some of the local area and perhaps visit a few of the tourist attractions.

The family agreed it was a good idea and the next day they collected an unremarkable saloon car from the local car hire office. Carefully at first but with growing confidence, George became accustomed with driving on the wrong side of the road, in other words on the right hand side. One car in particular caught his attention, an open top Jeep behind them, occupied by four or five excited youths that seemed more interested in standing on their seats dancing than the road and other cars.

Sure enough, despite giving it extra room and time for braking, the Jeep tail-ended the Saint family car to the accompaniment of squealing and smoking tyres, as George came to a stop at a set of red lights. George checked his family were safe and unhurt before he got out and walked slowly back to the Jeep that was now embedded in the back of his rental car. Actually the damage wasn't so bad and it didn't take long for George, using a mixture of broken English and Spanish, to do the necessary exchange of details with the other driver. Both vehicles then continued their journeys in different directions and George's family enjoyed a day among vineyards and small market towns before returning to the hotel in the evening.

When George told the man in the car rental office what had happened he didn't seem unduly concerned, especially since no one had been hurt. He only asked that George fill out an accident form with a sketch of the accident scene. George decided he would include photographs of the accident site as well, so the next morning he drove back to the junction alone with a camera. He had managed to take shots of the approach to the junction, the junction itself and the skid-marks on the road surface left by the Jeep, when he was suddenly joined by a marked car complete with flashing lights and sirens. George had time to notice the words 'Guarda Civil' painted on the side of the car as four burly, uniformed and armed officers burst out of the car. He didn't even have time to think to himself "that's odd" before he found himself face down on the road surface with an MP5 muzzle at the back of his neck.

Very slowly George reached for his warrant card and pulled it from his back right pocket, a booted foot pinned his wrist to the tarmac as the warrant card was snatched from his grip. Almost immediately he was hauled to his feet and dusted down by his captors, one of whom handed him back his warrant card with a smile and an apology in perfect English. The Spanish officer continued to explain that they had been called because a suspicious man had been seen taking photographs there. George looked confused until the officer pointed out that the building they were stood beside was a bank, the bank staff were sure that George was doing the preparation work for an armed robbery there.