Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Oink Oink

Sorry for the lack of posts, I have managed to get single figures worth of sleep in about ten days, so things have been a bit blurred for me.

Regarding this post, it appears that on reading the news maybe my senior officer was not being pig headed.
Maybe he was being prescient AND pig headed.

Personally if I'm ever in the position where a Nurse calls me love or dearie then I'll smile and make the most of it - they're usually so stretched and overworked that the sight of another weary uniformed copper turning up (and usually trying to cadge some gloves or tea) illicits nothing more than a barely supressed sigh.

I also got called in for a bollocking the other day, which was not so nice. Interestingly though, the Supernintendo had to tell me that at the same time as bollocking me, I was also getting a QSR (Quality of Service Report) placed on my personel file, signed by him. For the exact same incident...

He realised the ridiculousness of it as well, but had to play his part.

In recognition of this, as I took the QSR and shook his hand, I kept a serious frown on my face.

As Inspector Gadget is fond of saying, you couldn't make it up.

Also, I have received recently a slightly strange text from PC Pinkstone. I think that alcohol may have been involved in the creation of it. Please to suggest any completely unrelated and off the wall ideas for texts I can send in return.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Steve's Room

Our Division, like all in the Met, used to have a custody area with cells in every nick.

Now, like most Boroughs, we have one full time custody area, one that is used for very occasional operations/building work/overflow for other Boroughs/Safeguard Operations, and then a couple that are locked up and the cells used for nothing more than storing old bicycles, confidential waste, pigeon nests and shady cigarette breaks.

"Steve" knew this.

Steve had spent some of his youth fighting, and had been in the cells back in the day. He liked to tell us he'd been in the cells in every nick in the local Borough, at some point in his past.
He'd then joined the army and 'made good.' Unfortunately, on demob things went wrong for Steve, and although he never went his old path of fighting in the street, Steve became a sad, sad sight. Bedraggled, homeless, and often drunk - he's been on the streets longer than some coppers have been alive.

In fact, some coppers have joined the job, worked their thirty, and retired, and Steve has still been there. I've no doubt that a few coppers on their retirement bunged him a few quid.

No trouble, and no convictions since before joining the army. A perfect Gent, albeit a smelly drunken one.

As I said, Steve knew about our spare custody.
Station Officers throughout the years have been woken up on a winter's night, from an 0100 hours day dream to find the spectacle of Steve in the front office, usually clutching a gift of some sort. Yesterday's paper was a favourite.
Experienced officers knew him, knew to simply open the door and usher him into the spare custody area, where he'd crawl up in a ball after thanking the officer profusely, and settle down to a long and well deserved sleep in the warm.

The early turn officer would be briefed and would shake him awake with a cuppa soup, and offer him a shower. Steve would repay the kindness by cleaning up anything he could, and cleaning the tea club mugs.
An impressive and well received gesture, especially well received by the probationer currently running the tea club.

As far as I can tell, Steve never mentioned his hidey hole to his fellow homeless people, most of whom he seemed to treat with a dismissive attitude. For him, they were there because they'd failed. He'd made a lifestyle choice.

Of course, as CCTV throughout the cells became more prevalant, eventually even the spare custody area got some. As did the station office area. Steve got older, and suddenly the idea of taking an alcoholic elderly man into the cell area unsupervised on a semi regular basis became unattractive.

The relief Inspectors made the difficult decision, and two or three years ago Steve was thenceforth barred from the nick.

I am glad to this day I was not the station officer on duty who had to tell him; I think it would have been heartbreaking to see his hopeful face clutching an out of date newspaper, changing to confusion as the news sunk in.

This time last year, Steve was found lying in a doorway by the Ambulance Service, on a bitter November night. The ambos were on the way back from a job, and recognised the huddled shape so stopped to say 'Hello.'
Of course, as I'm sure you've guessed, on their approach they realised that there was no point in saying hello.

Later, I turned up to say Goodbye, as did most of the patrols on duty. For many of us, Steve was the first experience we'd had as probationers of the local drunks, always willing, and regularly used as an experience of searching people you may not want to search.

Steve outlived a homeless person's life expectancy, and no one would have betted on him getting a telegram from the Queen, but that didn't stop a few of us on our relief (and I'm guessing in all the other teams) sitting round and wondering if he'd have been alive if he hadn't been barred from our nick.

Who exactly was helped by our Risk Averse policy?

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Rememberance Day

I was going to post this the day before Rememberance Sunday, however events have forced my hand a little.

Just over a year ago I was on patrol in a relatively low crime area in my divison - low crime in comparison to the rest of the borough anyway. Those living in the Ivory Towers would still be shocked by the sheer brazenness of the criminality that goes on in the area.

Whilst driving around late at night, I turned the lights out as I went down a side street which bordered a local park. The park was part of a church; although there had been no reported crimes there (so hence completely unworthy of our attention), I had talked to the Priest and discovered he was getting more and more trouble from drinkers and drug takers hanging around there.

He had also been suffering minor criminal damage to the church, and had drinks thrown at him when he had asked them to leave. Of course, none of this had been reported. When I asked why, he shrugged and held out his hands: "My daughter is in the Police and my son in the Army - I know how short you are, I wouldn't like the idea that I would be taking Police Officers away from tackling REAL crimes and more deserving victims."

This is the kind of attitude often displayed by those who both need and deserve our help most, and it is tragic that whilst the Priest (and many elderly people especially) suffer in silence so as not to bother us, the local oiks get yet another Police car, yet another CID officer, yet another pointless arrest, yet another intervention from outside agencies... for a threats by text from an ex. Again.

Anyway. Deep breath. Back to the story.

On this occasion, as I went lights out on the car, I saw the sillouhettes of two figures, crawling over the side gate that led into the churchyard park.

I was still some distance away, so coasted down towards them, slowing down and coming to a stop using my handbrake in order to keep the brake lights off.
As I stepped out of the car, they were well inside the park, so my operator trotted around to the main gate to prevent their escape.

Which left me with the mission of climnbing over the gate, wearing twelve pounds of body armour and a utility belt - whilst also trying to remain silent.
It's as surprising to me as to you that I managed it relatively well.

I spotted the two figures straight away, hunched over a wall. They were so busy talking that they didn't even notice me until I had a hand gripped into their hoods on their tops, and had started to twist hard to keep hold.

What I had seen had convinced me that they would not be leaving the park without a new pair of shiny bracelets.

In the darkeness, lit by distant street lights, the moon and a Nokia mobile phone, it was immediately clear what they had been doing. Crouched in front of a war memorial, a can of spray paint at their feet - and a giant swastika still dripping wet over the headstone.

I've arrested a huge amount of nasty people, but rarely has the temptation been so great to show them the error of their ways myself. I managed to resist though, and instead opted for icy calm.
One of them tried to pull away, and his look of sullen insolence changed to something like panic as I held on - I think he realised he was going nowhere.

I was joined by my partner, who quickly realised the situation and assisted by taking one of the two fifteen year olds.

I then made a quick decision - the paint was still wet, and if wiped at now might well be removeable. However, that would remove all evidence of the offence, and there was no way these two were not being arrested.

After a quick conflab with my oppo, the two suspects were cuffed hand to hand, round a tree so they couldn't leave. A quick dash to the car, and luckily there was a camera in the boot. After a very quick bout of photography, I explained to the lads what happened next: "Right, just so we're clear here. You ARE getting arrested. Right now I am going to attempt to clean this paint off. I've got absolutely no power to make you clean it, but if you do it will go in my notes and be read WHEN you go to court. If not, I will describe exactly how you refused to help and instead watched as we cleaned it."

Funnly enough, both offered to help.
One asked about cleaning cloths; by this point my oppo had found a bucket of water from somewhere in the church yard. I looked at the youths in their Kappa hoodies. "It's a warm night, isn't it boys...?"

Later, in custody, a senior officer questioned my decision to arrest two juveniles for minor criminal damage that they had attempted to clean up. I was about to blow a fuse, when my oppo tactfully asked the Supernintendo if he knew the circumstances; once explained, to be fair the Super was on our side.
"These two are getting charged. Understand? They ARE getting charged."

Coppers don't look lightly on situations like this.
You'll be pleased to know, neither did the Judiciary.

The church has now paid a huge amount (destined for the upkeep there) to help secure the graveyard. The Priest still doesn't report incidents when he kicks people out, but most importantly the families of the men named in the memorial never found out about the damage caused.

This post was posted earlier than expected, due to THIS news story.
I wasn't aware of it, until someone emailed me to tell me about it - no idea if he wants to have his name plastered about, so I'll just say thanks to TF for it.

I can only hope that when the buggers are caught for it, the same attitude displayed by the Police, CPS and Judicary in my case is shown in theirs as well.

To the copper/s that hopefully arrest these lowlifes, a genuine offer from me - a bottle of bubbly if I ever find out who you are.