Thursday 30 August 2007

School Playtime

There was I, navigating the small rat-runs of an estate on our patch and trying not to crash the police car. My Sergeant had given me strict instructions: “try not to crash the police car.” I was doing my best, as I hate it when I get the disappointed look from him.

I heaved the car around a corner and saw a male that I recognised. My colleague also recognised him, that much was obvious, as he said “it’s that bugger again!” and immediately leapt out of the car.

It’s not uncommon for people to get out of the car when I’m driving, but I felt it safe to assume that there was actually a reason for my colleague’s hasty departure rather than sheer blind terror.

There was. The radio crackled into life: “BX, chasing suspects on foot, he’s wanted for a GBH that occurred last week…” I floored the accelerator and counted to five as the knackered out turbo vainly fought against the forces of gravity to try and haul the car forward (note to self, when accelerating from 5MPH in a hurry, change down from third gear).

I passed the miscreant and my colleague, pulled up and jumped out to join the chase. The suspect ran down an alley and we followed, my colleague keeping up a commentary. “Control, he’s going down Pickney Avenue, towards… oh no, it’s Sampson Community School.” Having learnt my lesson in the last foot chase about trying to sigh and run at the same time, I controlled my urge, but in my head I let out a long exasperated sigh.

Most coppers identify with teachers, as the poor buggers deal with our “clients” all day every day, whereas we get days seeing new suspects, hence why Mr Chalk is on my sidebar. However, every patch has an “anti” school – anti police, anti cars, anti parents, anti social services, anti rules… Not usually down to the teachers, but there is often an angry headteacher tucked away somewhere living her life vicariously through her young charges. As in this case. We had recently been told to ask permission from the head before going into the school, as our senior officers had received an ear bashing from her when police officers had taken a few moments of rest by chatting to the kids in the playground (and no doubt causing chaos whilst doing it).

I knew we were going to go into the school. And I was pretty sure the suspect wouldn’t stop so we could ask the headteacher’s permission. The suspect leapt the gates at the side of the school and my colleague balked at the challenge and ran to the front of the school. I like to destroy my uniform trousers every now and then as it means I can actually get a new pair, so I jumped/clambered after him. The suspect ran into the school grounds, and I took over the breathless commentary: “jumped the wall…running towards Tweedy Street Entrance…Male IC1…” I could hear two tones on the radio, mirrored in sound by two tones on the nearby streets, of units getting closer. My colleague headed off the suspect and the suspect turned directly into the school entrance.

Uh oh.

I squeezed what little stamina I had left and put everything into getting hold of him. Whilst chasing outside I had felt fairly confident, I knew the estate very well and there were units closing on us who would be there in minutes. Inside the school, with a violent suspect, and children… not a situation I wanted to be in.

The suspect turned into what turned out to be a classroom, followed closely by two slightly desperate coppers. He stopped, nowhere to go, my colleague had his asp out, “Stay there, don’t move, DON’T MOVE!” someone shouted. I realised it was me and I was holding down my transmit button on the radio still, my hand shaking.

That was because my hand had assessed the situation quicker than my brain could – I suddenly noticed a queue of young primary school children to my left lined up against the wall, either ending or starting a lesson. The suspect started to move, I was between him and the children, I didn’t know which one of us he was going for but wasn’t going to wait to find out. I pushed him back, radio still in my hand. He grabbed my wrist, tried to hit me and I fell on top of him.

What happened next is still slightly hazy. I continued barking (ignored) commands at the suspect, combined with shouting at the teacher to “get everyone out of here NOW!” My colleague was joining in, the suspect wasn’t in the mood to stop fighting.

You know the metal framed plastic chairs we all dread sitting on? You know the little dinky ones in primary schools? One of my lasting memories of that incident was seeing these chairs fly about the room as we scrabbled to keep the guy still and get him cuffed.

My other lasting memory? Thinking “this is a career killer” whilst still fighting.

Two other officers ran in, God alone knows how they found us, we cuffed the suspect and held him on the floor and tried to get our breath back. As we lay there, gasping for breath, in the middle of the chaos we had created in the classroom, the heroic head teacher entered. “I have an agreement with your borough commander you know, you are supposed to ask my permission before entering school grounds. I will be mentioning this.”

I know it was wrong. I really tried not to. But, lying on the floor, in the midst of upturned mini tables and chairs, with a line of engrossed children watching open mouthed, a suspect cuffed and wriggling and a colleague wiping blood from his nose, I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing directly at the head teacher - I actually had tears streaming down my face.

I was still giggling as the van pulled up and we loaded the suspect in. And when the lovely young teacher apologised for the head’s behaviour: “She’s been going through menopause for the last decade I think.”

And I even started again when the Inspector pulled me in to say that the head had complained about our conduct. My poor guvnor. I was trying to hold it in and snorting then bursting out laughing every few seconds. “Have you finished yet Area?”
“Yes sir.” (no)
“Are you sure?”
“Yes sir” (no)
“Ok then… she says here that you made a complete mess of the seating arrangement… Oh, pull yourself together for God’s sake Area…”
“Sorry sir” (I’m not)
“At least pretend to care about this”
Snort, snort, giggle, sorry guv, giggle giggle
“Oh bugger off Area, I don’t want to see an overtime state from this one." Long pause, whilst I try to keep a straight face and fail. “Thanks sir…snort…”

In fact, and I know this is sad, but I keep giggling as I'm writing this now.


(I'm not.)

Tuesday 14 August 2007

Norn Iron

Inspector Gadget is a blog that I've been reading for a long time, it's a blog that keeps on giving.
The blogs on my sidebar I read on a regular basis, one of which is Belfast Peeler. It's a gripping read, not least as I have toyed with the idea of joining the RUC/PSNI in the past.

One of the best posts I've read by Belfast Peeler has just been posted - it struck me straight away, made me think of all the urgent assistances I've been to, HERE

It's a brilliantly written piece, but it's not quite there... not because of Belfast Peeler's inability to write, on the contrary; he gets closer than I can - but because it's next to impossible to really express in words the emotions and experiences that come with this job, especially in times like large urgent assistances. Read Belfast Peeler's blog, and in fact the other blogs on my sidebar. But the only way to really know is to experience it, for better or worse.

Official Secrets Act

There are so many incidents that I deal with that I want to blog about. The problem is keeping them as accurate as possible whilst not revealing real details and "showing out."

Obviously I change names, and in fact make a point of using names of people that are not on my team, and I'm quite ambiguous about my location. But I want to show the real incidents I deal with, or else I might as well just write a fiction book about policing. I also feel that I owe it to anyone who takes the time and effort to read this not to lie to them about things I've done.

The thing that I am finding difficult is finding incidents old enough to use. For instance, I dealt with a very blog worthy incident yesterday... but as it is so recent and unique if I blog it now and someone involved reads it, they will be pretty easily able to work out who I am and what the incident was. I don't want that as I want to a) protect my anonymity, and b) protect those involved. This is a problem, as although I have quite a few things to write about, the things that I really have in my head are the recent memories.

So my gap between posts is not through lack of inspiration - it's through trying to work out what I can safely write about.

Ideas and advice are welcome as always - the comments are the reason I keep blogging and keep checking this page.

Friday 10 August 2007

Skippers and Magic

I feel it’s important to start this post by stating that I have huge respect for Sergeants in the Police Force. As someone who has created work for them on many, many occasions, I genuinely think it may well be the most difficult job in the Police. This post is not knocking Sergeants as a whole.


There is a Sergeant I meet regularly who just doesn’t “get” me. We’re both adults, we don’t hate each other, but he definitely doesn’t understand my attempts at a sense of humour and I don’t always agree with his decisions or supervising style. For “Job” readers – think “Towbar” and “evidence gathering” and “High Potential Development Scheme.”

For non-job readers; in a few very short years Chief Inspectors will be calling him “Sir,” and he will need to collect scalps to get there at that speed.

Unfortunately he seems to have me in his sights at the moment. A while back I was trundling back into the nick near the end of night duty and he saw me climb out of the van in the yard. He noticed I wasn’t wearing my protective vest, and decided to mention it to me, whilst shouting, in the middle of our divisional HQ. I did the “yes Sarge, sorry Sarge” bit, knowing that if I explained why I wasn’t wearing it, he would have continued unabated. For anyone interested, I had spent three hours sitting in a primary school waiting for Scenes of Crimes Officers and various interested parties to attend, and then taken a statement from a very elderly and tired old lady related to the incident – neither of the incidents needing a vest in my opinion, but technically I had no leg to stand on. He is correct, I should wear a vest at all times.

Fast forward two weeks, and I took a call to some naughty boys being naughty in a public place. Very warm, mid summer, and I ran round the back to cut off the naughty boys as I arrived on scene as I knew the area, leaving my crew mates in the nice air conditioned Police Vehicle. Of course, on seeing the aforementioned Police Vehicle the naughty boys made off, and we had a little chase.

Suffice to say it was more successful than my last but one post, with less mud etc. The incident was dealt with, and we headed back to the Police Vehicle. We were twenty minutes past our shift handover time, I’d ran twice and it was muggy, our batteries were dying, there was no way we were dealing with any more calls, so I took my vest off as we drove back to the nick to try and cool down and deal with the sweating..


I’m no good at punchlines, so I’m sure you can guess who was standing in the yard as we drove in.

I got out warily. I knew that this was not going to be a chat about my welfare.
Pissed Sergeant: “Area, a word, right now.”
Area: “Sarge?”
PS: “You’re not wearing your vest.”
Area: “No.”
PS: “You weren’t wearing it out on the street, I saw you driving in.”
Area: “No Sarge."
PS: “What do you think you’re playing at? I’ve told you before.”
Area: “ I have to warn you Sarge, I am the Wizard Hazakaboo from the Planet Printocknablatee, and if you continue to threaten me I will perform a spell that will make you into the size of a dormouse.”
PS: “…”

I swear to you, he actually stood with his mouth open like they do in the movies, and then walked away without saying anything.

The next day, one of my regular Sergeants approached me. He kicked the tyres of the station van and stared up at the sky nonchalantly.
Regular Sergeant: “Apparently Pissed Sergeant had a word with you yesterday…”
Area: “Yes Sarge.”
RS: “He said you weren’t wearing your vest.”
Area: “No Sarge.”
RS: “Apparently you said you were a wizard?”
Area: “Yes Sarge.”
RS: “And threatened to turn him into a weasel or something?”
Area: “A dormouse Sarge.”
RS: “Ah ha, a dormouse, very good.”
Pause, whilst the kicking sped up. The Sergeant started to fiddle with the windscreen wipers.
RS: “You do realise you were probably the only officer on the relief not wearing a vest at that moment, don’t you?”
Area: “I’m also the only Wizard on the relief Sarge.”
Longer pause…
RS: “Do you know, I thought you’d say that. Please leave Pissed Sergeant alone, he always complains of headaches after talking to you.”