Monday 31 August 2009

Notting Hill - Day 1

It's not all fighting in the streets and eating jerk chicken you know.

Neither is it all getting deafened by the floats and sound systems, being crushed by the crowd, or being asked for directions to the tube station for the three thousand, four hundred and sixty second time.

No, in between patrolling and dealing with incidents, we have to keep up with a gruelling and punishing fitness regime:

It's not easy being a Policemanofficer you know. Level II public order suits do not lend themselves naturally to any kind of physical activity.

There will be more photos tomorrow from Monday's fun. In the meantime, if you're not sure what I'm talking about check out the Police Slang post. Then look under "Not Carnival Related."

Tuesday 11 August 2009


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...

Monday 10 August 2009

PR Procedure

Here in, we used to have a control room per division.
It was only two years ago that the Met "upgraded" and got rid of all the local control rooms. Now we have a set of call centres where people, often with no local knowledge and no background to the area they are working on, try and despatch calls and keep a lid on the officers on the ground.
Most importantly, they're the ones that get help to me when I call for it.

As you can imagine, most of us hate the new system and long for the days of the CAD (Computer Aided Despatch) room back, so you could pop in at 0300hours and share a doughnut and a chat.
The advantages were huge - the local CAD room knew each officer, knew who was hard working and who needed a prod, who needed to be referred to the Sergeants and who could deal with what call well. They knew when someone was taking the mick, and also knew when to give an officer space - eg not sending an officer with a recent bereavement to report a sudden death.

They also had local knowledge, and so when a call came out even before any intel checks were done, often the controller would pipe up "Units running to this call, that's Danny Banksies address, be aware that last time we had to get the short shields out as he had a knife." Things that are done through intel checks now, but often too late. And intel checks can never replace the indepth personal knowledge most of our control room staff had.

However, what I miss most is something else completely. Before our transition away from local CAD rooms to our centralised 'Metcall,' our radio channels were not routinely recorded.
Add this to the many varied relationships that sprung up in the team, often between coppers and civvy staff in the control room.

That would mean you could sigh with joy at exchanges like the following near the end of a shift:
BX: "Any unit free to deal with an I grade call, a type 29 at Johnson Square House, male assaulting female now with sounds of disturbance?"
BX21: "Bravo X-ray, show Bravo X-ray two one to your last call."
BX: "Received."
BX: "Bravo X-ray two one receiving Bravo X-ray?"
BX21: "Go ahead."
BX: "Steve, if you're home late then you can drive yourself to the bloody pub tonight. Bravo X-ray out."

Domestic harmony on the way to a domestic. Bliss.
Sorely missed in my opinion.

Sunday 2 August 2009

Foot Chase

One of the laws of Policing is that whenever you get a group of coppers with any experience together, especially if there is alchohol present, the war stories will start coming out.

Some of them are even true and not embellished with layer upon layer of fabrication.

A tendency at times like this, is to approach these stories slightly cautiously, especially if you don't know the group as well as you could.
A lot of the stories start with "This copper I once knew..."

This reminded me of a similar one - about a copper I used to work with, a grizzled old sweat who had been there, seen that, and done it all. With an almost superhuman ability to drink tea and coffee.

Although I have talked about my experiences with both vehicle pursuits and foot chases here and here, I also had one of my first ever foot chases with this guy.

Mark had been tasked to sit in a road that had newly been made a one way street, and stop and "advise" people that were ignoring this and roaring through anyway. It had previously been used as a cut through and after a few near misses the residents had understandably complained.
Filled with the kind of glee that only a thirty year copper can feel when tasked with a job like this, he collared me and brought me along to join in the excitement.

It was actually a great job - a lovely sunny day, no paperwork as we were 'advising,' not sticking people on. Sitting there in shirt sleeves, no vests, and being brought cold drinks by the residents - grateful that for once the Police had listened to their requests.

After about two hours, a little Peugeot turned into the road ignoring the no entry sign and barrelled towards us. I shuffled out from the cul-de-sac where we were parked up, and raised my hand. No response. And I was even wearing my hat. The cheek.

The car continued on its merry way, leaving nothing but a trail of exhaust smoke and the smell of a car that hadn't had its oil checked for some time.
I of course used my literally weeks of experience to leap into action, and so stood there, arm still outraised with my mouth doing a very good impression of a goldfish.

The area car thrummed alongside me, and Mark said "are we going after it, or are you hoping he's going to change his mind and come back?"
I snapped out of my little moment, and clambered in to the passengers seat. Mark hit the blues and I felt the surge as the kick down pushed us back in our seats.
"Shall I call it in?"
Mark had a grim look on his face: "Nope, he'll stop. He's not going to get away from us in that."
Sure enough, the car turned a quick right out of the road, and as we caught up and did the same it came to a sudden stop.
The driver, obviously a local with knowledge of the area, leapt out at a run and headed down an alleyway that ran along the back gardens of the houses.
I jumped out as well, as did Mark. I was positively shaking with the adrenalin and excitement, and held the radio in my hand like a sword of justice and truth.

Running up the path, I shouted some unintelligable nonsense into the radio about the foot chase. Mark later told me that he kindly translated for the control room so that they could understand what I was trying to say.
Whatever, I could hear units answer up and start to make their way, and even heard two tones in the distance. Other than that, all I was interested in was the suspect ahead.
This was before my night duty diet consisted purely of kebabs, so I felt pretty good about catching the suspect. Now it will depend purely on whether it is before or after I've eaten - I keep myself relatively fit and can still do the shield run in sub two minutes, but after a kebab I need time to adjust...

On this occasion, I hadn't eaten and was desperate to get this fella.
As we ran along the alleyway, a man came wondering out of a side turning further along, with a dog on a lead. Bald, with the traditional string vest tucked in beneath an impressive stomach. He didn't even factor into my thinking.
Not so for Mark. He took this opportunity to utilise a skill he picked up as a Sergeant in the army: a bellow so loud and deep that even in my blue funk, I heard it clearly. "Stop him! He's a rapist!"

String Vest didn't hesitate for second. With surprising agility, he swung and kicked the suspect in the shins, knocking him straight to the ground. Me and Mark ran up, and leapt on him to apply the cuffs.
"Thanks" I managed to pant out. String Vest didn't even break his stride and stepped over us struggling to get the cuffs on, quietly saying as he did so "You're doing a splendid job lads."