Over the past few days I've not been sleeping, and trying to work out why. As an actual, real life diagnosed insomniac with the meds to prove it, this isn't in itself unusual. It's something that happens regularly. However I've found that trying to work out what might be bothering me or keeping me awake can help.
Like exploring a cavity in a painful tooth, this isn't always pleasant and can throw up surprises you didn't want and weren't expecting.
One of the things I ended up thinking about was a call I took a few years ago.
It had been a long summer and even fans of the heat like me were looking forward to shorter days, cooler temperatures, and longer tempers. At forty minutes to going home time, a call came out for a child being assaulted by their parent.
This by itself is not an unusual call - most of them turn out to be not an assault at all, but in fact a parent (rightfully) chastising a misbehaving child.
Not this one though.
As we made our way towards the call, sighing inwardly at how we thought it would turn out, the control room called up with more info. A second call had come in from a member of public that the child was bleeding and being thrown about. Our controller paused, then said "Area, this looks like a bad one."
A detailed description of the adult was given, and sure enough as we TOA'd (Time Of Arrival) at the scene, a male grabbed a young toddler some distance away and started waddling away. Me and my partner, Dan, stepped out and broke out into a jog to catch up. As we did, the male started running - with a two year old in his hands, he wasn't going anywhere.
Other units were already running at this point, but I called up and updated on the male making off. As we ran across the car park, sweating already in the humid heat, two more marked Police vehicles arrived on blues and stopped, doors slamming as the officers moved to head off the male.
All this whilst being watched with blank expressions by groups of people - at least, the ones that weren't out and out eye fucking us.
The male ran into a block of flats, one of many on our sink estates with no security or key fob to get into the communal areas. As he ran in, he dumped the toddler on the ground - why not, he was only being slowed down carrying the child.
We didn't see this, not until we ran into the building. We were still some distance off, but not far enough to not notice the reaction of the local residents.
Seeing us running, and seeing now where we were going, groups of our local gang members and druggies were drifting into the building and melting away at speed.
As me and Dan hit the door and went into the building, we were in time to see the last four or five melt away into the shadows of the stairwell. I'd estimate perhaps twenty five people had headed away from us. They'd seen the Old Bill were here, and decided that perhaps their outstanding warrants/pocket full of drugs/illegal weapons/house full of counterfeit goods should remain theirs for the day and so had made their exit sharpish.
Every one of them, without hesitation - and every one of them passing the crumpled form of a beaten, bleeding, bloodied body of a two year old boy dumped unceremoniously on the stained concrete floor. Lit by the yellowed but still working strip lights, it was impossible to miss the child lying there. Left in the middle of the corridor, the residents had obviously stepped over him in their rush to keep their gear secure.
I knelt by the child, and sent Dan forwards: "Go. Go, get the fucker!" As more coppers filtered past, I checked for signs of life. Breathing, movement, and open eyes filled with tears and terror. And blood everywhere.
Yes, we caught the suspect. He tried to hide and on being approached by Police Officers used street furniture as missiles before being very definitely arrested.
I wasn't involved in any of that; instead I had abandoned any pretence of professionalism or duty and had insisted on riding in the ambulance, had insisted on cradling the child all the way there and holding on until the nurses at the A&E managed to convince me to let go.
The only thing that really stayed with me from this call was the response of the people on the estate. Not one of them stopped to check the child, and instead chose to cut and run. After suffering an assault from his stepfather, the child had had to endure a lesson in London Estate politics, and lay broken and bloodied on the floor, watching as adult after adult abandoned him and left him to his private pain.
I only post this now, as two of the other officers involved have left the job for good, and the other main participant doesn't even own an internets, let alone use one.
Incidentally, I worked out what was keeping me awake. I reckon it could well have been the beer I'd been drinking during the day after all...