Monday, 28 April 2008

The Office

An officer I used to work with a couple of years ago was working station officer a few months ago. A very boring post, with little in the way of positive distraction, apart from occasional stray dogs that are brought in and the usual drunks that sometimes come in to the office for a sing, shout, fight, or all three.

This officer was doing the usual thing of desperately trying to find anything on the intranet of any interest to while away the shift, when a woman came in holding the hand of a ten year old boy.

The woman, one of our past 'customers,' marched straight up to the desk and asked the officer if she could use the metal detector. This was when the officer realised that the woman had obviously had previous contact with the police - we keep hand held metal detectors in the custody area which we use for searching our wonderful prisoners. The officer, expecting something to break the monotony of his shift, popped through to custody and brought the 'wand' back.

Before doing anything with the wand, he asked the lady why she wanted it. The woman explained that she had seen her son swallow an AA battery.
She had taken her son to A&E, who had checked him and told her not to worry; so she had come to the Police station to ask the officer to use the wand to find out where the battery was now...

Suffice to say, we did not succeed where the medical professionals had failed.

Monday, 21 April 2008


Yes, as the title suggests, this is probably just going to be one long rant, as most Police Bloggers do on occasion.

There is a myth in the counties (which I subscribed to before I moved to London) that as the Met has so many officers, there is always back up and always officers aroud to deal and help.

Unfortunately, although we do have a record amount of officers, the amount who actually work as operational officers is relatively miniscule - the actual amount on the street at any one time is worryingly small sometimes.

I work in a Borough of well over a quarter of a million legal residents - the amount of illegal immigrants/non-registered/non-council tax registered people is estimated at between twenty five and seventy thousand on top.
In this scenario, we like to try and parade a tiny amount of officers to try and keep a lid on things.

There is something in the Met (and most other forces that I know of) that is called "Optimum Strength." This is the amount of officers that it is considered appropriate to actually have parade for duty on a normal shift; the optimum strength now in my division is what the minimum strength was a decade ago.
"Minimum strength" is the equivalent of absolute zero - the figure that the senior management believe is the least required to do the job. Any less and it becomes an officer safety issue.

Of course, street coppers, the federation, and middle management think that anything below the optimum strength is an officer safety issue, but what would we know.

You've no doubt guessed what I'm about to say - we regularly parade for duty with below minimum strength.

If for example 30 is the optimum strength, and 22 is the minimum strength, we regularly will parade with 19 or so officers.
Incidentally, I have seen Optimum strength at parade twice - both times when football aid was cancelled and the officers assigned to help out response instead.

County officers may be shrugging and saying "so what?" At these numbers. But the met is clever. Our minimum strength includes inside postings. So take away two officers for Gaoler Duty, and four or five for station officer duty, and you start looking at twelve officers actually out and about, covering a population of about three hundred thousand.

That's before a single officer gets an arrest or a set of paperwork.

Last night duty my team had DEALT with just over a hundred and twenty five calls, at the halfway point of the shift.
I have come on duty on early turn at 0600hours and been sent to emergency calls (I-Immediate calls in metspeak) that came out between 0100 and 0200hours, still outstanding.

And we're not the only ones - specialist units are overstretched and undermanned. We call up for dog units regularly on night duties, and again it's not unusual for them to have one dog unit for all of London South, and one for London North - that means each officer is supposed to be covering a population of over four million.

With all this in mind, and the endless paperwork and beaurocracy, it sometimes amazes me when we actually turn up to anything in time. So, along with the initiatives that Inspector Gadget constantly and eloquently posts about, this is the reason we don't get to the calls we should. Why we don't get to YOUR call.


Sunday, 20 April 2008


A quick post to point out either new Police bloggers, or ones that I have been reading but kept forgetting to put on my blog list.

Noddy has been posting for a long time, and I've been reading and giggling for a long time. Visit if you like reading about Policing, Scotland, or cats.

Nightjack started up earlier this year and has quickly become one of the most prolific and best written Police blogs about, it took me a while to find it.

Metcountymounty has finally started a blog of his own, which is long overdue. Please visit to say hello.

If you have a blog and I don't link to you at the moment and you think I should, please email me - there's a good chance if you've ever commented on here I do read you, but just because it's on my internet explorer favourites doesn't mean I have managed to get round to putting it on this site.

Normal service will now resume.

**EDIT - Louise AKA Ambulance Nut is also worth a read and added to my sidebar. Although not part of the LAS so I'm unlikely to bump into her, she's still a Green Angel and therefore I am still by default in love with her. Please look.**

**Another Police Blog worth a look - 'PC Michael Pinkstone' is the pen name for a serving constable working for a large UK police force. His first name really is 'Michael'.
And believe it or not, his employers know exactly who he is. We are living in interesting times ... ***

Friday, 18 April 2008


True Story: I helped deliver a baby once.
Well, kind of.

I was on patrol with an older and much wiser colleague, John, and we were well into the night duty. It was the time of night when the pubs and clubs had shut, and on the roads were mainly night duty workers and naughty people.

Sensible people sleep at that time of night.

We were travelling along a dual carriageway on the edge of our district, when a car went past us travelling at speed. We did a quick turn at a gap in the central reservation and went after it, but it had long gone and after we'd passed a junction we knew we weren't going to find it, so my colleague killed the blue lights and settled down to a steady fifty miles per hour.

As we were wondering along listening to the radio chatter and talking shop gossip, we noticed a car parked on the side of the road with it's hazards going. John slowed the car down and we noticed the interior light was on, and two people in the back seat.

Spotting the chance to shout at a couple who had obviously let their romantic intentions overcome them, we parked in front of the car and walked back to it, giggling like schoolboys.

We have an area used for "dogging" in our division, and I've stumbled upon sex in strange places before, but I'd never seen it at the side of a dual carriageway.

As we arrived at the car we realised that all was not as it had seemed. The noises we had heard coming from the car were not in fact cries of passion, but the shouts of a woman in labour.

Having learnt from past situations involving stressful medical situations, I got straight on the radio asking for an ambo to attend, leaving my oppo to "assess" the situation.
There was a young woman on the back seat, a panic striken husband, and lots of messyness. I grabbed the Police car keys from my colleagues belt and ran back to the car, activated the strobes and rear reds, and reversed back to behind the couple's car, parking in a fend off position.

As I ran less enthusiastically back to John, my eyes took in the scene with increasing horror. I have no children, but I was sure that this was not someone who had plenty of time. The baby was obviously coming soon, but I had no idea what to do. John was muttering calming words at the woman, and I remembered he had two children. This was encouraging. They obviously taught methods for assisting labour to Dads.

I leant in to gain from his expertise, and whispered under the woman's shouts: "What do you want me to do John? LAS is on the way."
John: "Christ knows, I've got no idea. I was in Northern Ireland when my first was born, and on duty when the second one was."
Me: "Oh dear. Is it supposed to look like that?"
John: "I told you. I. Don't. Know."
Me: "Jesus John, that's disgusting. That can't be natural."
John: "Shut UP, Area."

I retired with my pride intact, and asked a few questions of the Dad, how far along the mum was, expected date, any allergies or complications - anything that might assist the ambo crew when they turned up.

As I did, John called up again: "I think it's coming now!"
I looked for the ambulance and realised that he was probably not referring to that, and crouched next to him. The Dad had clambered into the front seat and was having his hand crushed by his wife, and John was doing his best to monitor the situation, but aside from the joking we were both savagely aware that our medical knowledge in this area was sorely lacking.

I was unbelievably relieved to see an ambulance turn up, and John and myself stepped back sharpish as the crew set up and started treating the mother. Lots of painkillers I hoped.

The baby was born some minutes later, at the side of the road, after the arrival of an LAS Fast responder unit as well, lit by the flicker of blue and red strobe lights and the occasional headlights of passing cars. The baby screamed immediately, and as the ambulance pulled away the fast response lass explained they were taking them back on blues more for the mother than the baby, as she had lost some blood.

We locked up the car, and cleared the scene. We were both laughing and joking, a good result and an example of feeling like a real Policemanofficer, although no detection was forthcoming for it.

If this was a film, we'd have been instrumental in helping the child grow up, had the baby named after us, and made friends with the couple.
In reality, we left the keys in hospital, were told the baby and mum were fine, and went to the next call. I never even found out the sex of the baby. The next night the car was gone from the road, and so was the evidence of the medical gear and mess that was made.

It did acheive one thing though - it completely put me off the idea of childbirth, and all that miracle of life rubbish. It was bloody horrible.

I was right when I was speaking to John at the side of the road.

It's just not natural.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Off The Wall

My last post was basically about "challenging stereotypes." Yes, I've had the diversity training as well.

This is something I like to do, or more accurately, I like to make people re-think what they think about me, especially the non-job people I meet as I go about my day to day tasks at work.

Hence why I like to have a laugh; I like people to see the human side of Policing, it's great to see people's reaction when they see a Policeman behaving in a way that they wouldn't necessarily expect.

On the flip side, it also means people underestimate me. And this is very useful, as when I change from big, friendly and slightly dopy copper and snarl into actual action, it takes people by surprise.

I was surprised recently, taken aback by someone else at work. I was in our custody area, waiting for a colleague who had asked me to wait with her prisoner. I was chatting to a defence solicitor. This is frowned on in some police circles, as they are THE ENEMY. Personally I think anyone who is cynical enough to be a copper should at least appreciate the level of cynicism required to be a defence brief.

One thing had led to another, resulting in the Defence Solicitor giving me an impromptu lesson in how to Moonwalk, as per Michael Jackson in his hey day.
I have to admit that perhaps I wasn't completely successful, but I tried.

Unfortunately, my practise was interrupted by a Custody Sergeant, a notoriously grumpy bugger who works as a permanent nights Custody Officer, and actually seems to enjoy it.

He called me over to the Custody desk, and tilted his head to the side. "Area, what in the name of God do you think you are doing? We have to at least pretend to have a semblance of respect in our own Police Stations."
"Sorry Sarge." (Defence Solicitors are THE ENEMY).

The Sergeant hitched his belt over his ample waistline, and leant over the desk towards me. "Besides," he continued in a quieter voice, "You'll never do it properly in boots. You need shoes cut below the ankle; not trainers, something with a hard sole is best."
"Er, thanks Sarge."

That showed me - it was the Sergeant's way of reminding me he hadn't been born a seventeen stone Custody Sergeant.