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Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Wobble.

Some may think that posting a blog entry like this is done by blokes who “over share”, are “emotionally incontinent”, “LMF (Lack Moral Fibre)”, “can’t hack it”, “lost their big boy trousers” or “have jumped on the mental health bandwagon”.  They may be right.  I wrote it anyway.


It will be two years ago come January since the wheel fell off.  This blog tells the story of what I remember about the time it all went a bit wrong for me, and I had to admit to myself and others that everything was not “OK thanks”.


It was a life changing event which unfolded over a couple of days.


The previous year had been tough.  It had begun to feel as if the difficulties would never end.  I felt exhausted, isolated, stressed and unappreciated.  A normal day at the office right?  It’s just a police officer’s lot isn’t it?


I don’t want to sound like I believe my life is harder than yours.  We all have a story to tell.  My black cat is not two shades darker than your black cat. I think a lot of people experience financial uncertainties, difficult relationships, unmanageable workloads, failures and guilt.  And I know there are plenty of other coppers and members of the police family who have also taken the odd knock, been unable to stop bad things happening to good people and seen stuff best left unseen.


Anyway, it was about two forty in the afternoon when I put the phone down.  I had spent an hour trying unsuccessfully to resolve a complaint that could have come straight out of the worst daytime telly.  As I stood up I felt what I later described as a “fizz” in the right side of my head and became dizzy.  I had two quick thoughts. First was that I was having a stroke. The second that my wife would be so pissed; I’d ignored her advice about black pudding and bacon for ages.  I looked at my reflection in the window, smiled, raised my arms, recited Peter Piper to myself and decided it probably wasn’t a stroke and if I didn’t tell anyone I’d have got away with it.


I hung on till the end of the shift, went home, thought better of not telling anyone and made a Dr’s appointment for the next day, lay on the settee and went out like a light.


Here it might be useful to explain some of the other more “normal” symptoms I’d also been happily “minimising” over the last couple of months.


There was the teeth grinding and thrashing about whilst sleeping; the waking up tired; feeling grumpy; drinking perhaps a little too much; losing interest in hobbies and exercise and getting fatter.  I said to myself things like “it is simply part of being in The Job”, “It is what it is”, “If you don’t like it, no one is making you stay”, “Fit in, front up or **** off”.


It’s funny really, but I would have never dreamed of saying anything like that to anyone else, and I would tell anyone I heard saying these things to themselves to not be so silly.


As well as these “normal” symptoms I had for a handful of months been experiencing and minimising some “added extra” symptoms.  I noticed the first added extra in the early hours during night shifts when the struggle to stay awake was hardest.  For me that’s usually between 4.30 and 6.00 a.m. I occasionally heard/dreamt/imagined radio transmissions of people boasting about the nasty things they had done, or people screaming for help as nasty things were being done to them.  I thought I was awake, but who knows.  I would check my radio then check the usually dark and empty station, room by room, to make sure it wasn’t a radio on someone’s desk. We often end up left on our own at this time of day.  Then, at all sorts of unexpected times I found myself obsessing about the jobs where it had not gone well for me, or that had ended badly for someone else.  Now these intrusive thoughts really sucked. The real people, places and experiences that had touched my life filled my thoughts until I was totally immersed in analysing my decisions, what I’d missed and what could have been done to change the outcome. I felt also felt the same fear, the same stress, the same anger, the same struggles to take charge of myself.  I once found myself putting my head in my hands trying to remember someone’s name.  When I looked up it was 2 hours later.  I still can’t remember his name.


So it was that I sat in the Dr’s consultation room.  There were student Dr’s with my Dr.  One had been tasked to get my history.  The student Dr opened with, “Tell me why you want to see the Dr today?”  I had rehearsed in my head rationally explaining what was going on with me.  I was about to help the student do a good job, whilst getting in to see the real Dr as soon as possible.  I opened my mouth to say, “I have been experiencing some unusual things” but nothing came out. I tried again. Still nothing.  So I took a breath, calmed myself, closed my eyes and came out with a guttural string of “I I I I I I I I I I’ve”. Then I stopped. I hadn’t stuttered for 41 years.  Then I started to cry, wrenching ugly crying that flushed out more snot than I knew a human being contained.


Like I said. That was nearly two years ago.


I wish I could say it has been a pretty straightforward, if tough road to recovery but it hasn’t. I expected a few weeks on some pills, a couple of sessions where I could blag my way past a psychiatrist wearing half-moon spectacles and holding a note book, two or three weeks de-stressing at home and a couple of good long runs to “shake it off”.  Then back to the fight.


I was off sick for nearly six months in the end, having not missed a day for years before or since then.  I have benefitted from six Employee Assistance Programme counselling sessions after which I became better at managing my stammer.  Stanley the stammer is still there and quite possibly will always be just below the surface, but most of the time you wouldn’t know it’s there.    Whilst off work I went to Eye Movement Desensitising and Reprogramming therapy sessions.  I learned lots about bits of the brain and why they started getting their jobs wrong, and about the workings of cortisol, serotonin, melatonin, adrenalin and a bunch of other “ols” and “ins”.  The dose of my Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors gradually crept up in steps of 50mg until they went as high as they go.  It took months to get to a place where the knot of anxiety and churning stomach did not descend on me as soon as I realised I was awake.


In the early days I felt bad for not having my leg in a caste, my arm in a sling or a face like a Picasso painting.  In the past I have gladly accepted others sympathy in when in those situations.  I avoided people in general.  The dogs have never had such regular or long walks.  I discovered uplifting corners of the county I love but had never seen before.  Bird and wildlife watching became an obsession.


Finally I got back to work, but I am still working on getting back as a Critical Incident Manager.


And now?  I rarely stammer, I sleep better, I have an interest in life again and I no longer have auditory illusions, overwhelming guilt or nasty, totally immersive intrusive thoughts.  The stalking fear, a dark cloud that sits just out of sight over my right shoulder is still there, but just as soon as I can get hold of it I will get that sorted too. I am also far more accepting of myself and others who are battling their way back from being temporarily overwhelmed.  I would not be where I am now without my family, my colleagues and friends, patient counsellors, dam fine meds and my faith.  Thank you.


Yours,


Inspector


PS: please drive safe, be kind, don’t steal.

Dedicated to one amazing double glazing saleswoman who wandered into the front counter of a west London police station 30 years ago.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Sexual predators; help us stop them.




Sexual predators.1  I wish I had a better term to describe those people who bully, pressurize, bribe and exploit others so they can feel powerful over other them and make them do things they don't want to do. It's not the label I would use for that kind of person, but I hope you know the type of people I am trying to describe.


And as anyone who has seen the headlines in recent years will know, there are nasty sexually motivated offenders out there.  Why? I'm no expert but I see around me that street drugs are ubiquitous, sexualisation of young people is used to sell music and clothes, pornography that normalizes bullying and exploitation is common
There is greed and violence associated with selling street drugs that has spawned whole networks, cuckoo houses and honey pots with an embedded culture of exploitation and lack of respect.
The ever growing World Wide Web has enabled ever more people to find, talk to and connect with people whilst remaining anonymous.  Pornography has almost gone mainstream.  Being less judgmental and having more conversations about healthy sex, experimenting and curiosity are I believe good things.  But I also believe pornography spreads the message that it is ok for sex to be selfish, an entitlement, exploitative and without consequences.


So, helping our kids (especially but not exclusively boys) respond to porn is kind of a parenting requirement in the western world.
But what else can be done?  Well the fight against sexual exploitation has got five messages which come from people who have been targeted by, survived and beaten predators.  This, amongst other things, what they said.




·   I didn't know I was being targeted for sex. I thought we were online friends. To the boys and girls in front of their iDroid Smartphone, XSwitchProStation, Tablet, Laptop and PC - it is ok to be suspicious.  If someone is trying to get to know you better or you are suspicions at all, go for the "kit always on, video chat check or ghost".  If you only know them online and only ever see their avatar, it's just sensible to have a video chat (with their clothes on!!) to prove neither of you are some middle aged bloke.  No cam, connection too slow, not allowed and 'another time' excuses earns a trip straight to the "ghost zone".  And if you are asked to do the same, it's up to you if you chat or take the "ghost" option.  


·  I didn't know my boyfriend wanted me to have sex with his friends. There are some things you need to know.  These are: You are an incredible person. You will do great things, have great friends and work out for yourself who you want to share your body with.  If your "boyfriend" insults, says things to hurt your feelings, insults you in front of his friends or acts like he is "in charge" of you, he is not your boyfriend and you should dump him.  Maybe try to avoid a row. Find an adult you trust, your parent, your doctor, your teacher, any police officer and tell them what has happened.  


·  I didn't know that texting a naked selfie would end up on the internet forever.  This applies to text messages and all your other tech.  If you haven't gone "kit off" then probably best you don't.  Every text, video chat or photo on any app can be recovered. People will show and share photos and videos, you know they will.  They will still exist on the internet when you find someone you want to get serious with.  They will be there when you go to university.  They will still be there when you apply for..........you get the message.  If you have already gone kit off, you will be fine but you may want some help if your photos are shared. We can help.  Oh and if you think about sharing, texting or forwarding something to your besties or mates - that is a criminal offence.




·  I didn't know that my daughter was being sexually exploited - I thought she was out with her friends.  For all the families of all types out there, please keep talking to each other. Be honest with each other. Don't judge. Do listen, help and support.  There is so much to cope with as you grow up and it's not easy.  Being able to help someone stop a bad decision becoming a really nasty situation is what it's all about.  Oh, and this more "do what I say" advice.  I am on a life long course learning how to talk to my family.  Just when I think I've got it sorted, the instructions change.



·  I didn't know if I had concerns about exploitation I could call the police.  You can. We want you to.  By email to 101@dc.police.uk or phoning 101, or online reporting at our website, or picking up the blue phone at a station, or Crime Stoppers Crime Stoppers Website .  Please do to tell us what is worrying you.




Yours


Inspector



PS - may the people around you be kind to you and each other, drive carefully and look after everyone's stuff.

1. I don't really like the term.   It suggests the abuser is some sort of a "stalking hunter" which in my experience is giving them way more status than they deserve. The converse is that there is some sort of "prey" which does not do justice to the bravery, dignity and ability to fight I have seen in survivors.

















Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Sometimes I love this job!



Talk about a varied job.  In a single shift, whilst I have been sat at my comfy desk bravely picking my way through the mysteries and perils of Excel spreadsheets (who knew COUNTIF could do that!) and Power Point Presentations, my colleagues have been calming angry motorists, investigating sexual offences, interviewing bullies who have threatened their neighbours, searching for missing people and, well just being the police.  And when we are just being the police we get up to all sorts of stuff.

I really wanted to tell you about some of the stuff I have been neglecting to share with the fans of this blog, both of you. (Thanks Dad).  So armed with a cheap plastic pen and a bunch of sticky notes (sadly not Post-it notes, but a non branded generic sticky") I interrupted those colleagues I could find in the station to find out what interesting stuff they had been dealing with.

It turns out it was this lot.
I don't mean to suggest everyone had been dealing with snakes.  Just two of them.  Two officers that is, and three incidents each with their own snake. The first officer was on foot patrol when he saw a small crowd blocking traffic on what is a pretty busy thoroughfare. As he approached he was saw a "four foot long red and white snake curled up in the middle of the road" and was immediately elected by the crowd as snake catcher in chief.  As he put it, "It must have been my snake catcher uniform that gave it away".  The said officer tried to drag the snake out of the road by the tail. Apparently it tried to bite him. In the end a local "snake enthusiast" came to the rescue by wrapping the said snake around his arm and promising to look after the snake until it's true home was discovered.  I don't know if the snake is still there, or if wrapping strange snakes around your arm is a common practice amongst snake enthusiasts.  It certainly is not amongst police officers.

The other officer went to two serpent related incidents in the same week, totally unrelated incidents too.  The first was to a California King snake in the garden of a house on the outskirts of a small market town.  California King is a great sounding name for a very snaky looking snake of unknown provinence, especially one that had wrapped itself around a lady's flower pot.  It didn't look at all friendly so the lady did the obvious thing.  Again, the best snake catcher the lady could think of was the police.

And it was just a couple of days after that the same officer was called upon to exercise his snake catching skills once more.  This time it was to catch a Corn Snake.  I really don't know, or want to know much about Corn Snakes.  Having had a very brief peek at Wikipedia they look like the sort of animal people should avoid, unless you are Bear Grylls in which case they would probably make a handy mid morning snack.  Anyway, my mental image of the Great Corn Snake Chase is set to the theme tune from Benny Hill and involves a single file, police lead team of intrepid locals snaking through the village after the snake.  Sadly the reality was less amusing and the officer happened to have a dog pole (the sort that allows you to keep outside of biting range whilst placing a rope loop around the dog's neck) which did the job just fine.

I also managed to jot down some tales about mysterious whit rabbits, stubborn sheep, angry horses and indestructible deer,

I'll keep them for another time.

Yours

 Inspector


PS - please take care when driving, be kind and leave other's stuff alone.



                                       


Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Bang Bang

Thanks to the Police Federation October Newsletter for the phot.
Guns, it's all about guns again.  As I mentioned before there are people I respect and like who are keen on their guns.   I don't really get it, but I didn't grow up hunting and carrying a gun.  I don't envy my colleagues who carry them.  I get it that we can't uninvent, take away, make safe or ignore the guns that are out there.  Whilst unarmed, apart from cuffs and a stick, I have twice gone after armed robbers who still had their guns.  One of whom I had watched loose off a bunch of rounds into the roof of the bar he was robbing.  I really do not know what I would have done if I had caught up with either of them.  I get it that the robbers themselves would have ultimately decided whether they would kill, so it's true that it's the person and not the gun that chooses violence.  But I am absolutely sure most people like me know the brutality, loss and evil as well as the efficiency with which they are dispensed if the person decides on violence is magnified and enabled by a gun.
The horror, tragedy and suffering that we have just seen one person unleash in Las Vegas was so wrong.  I do not know those who suffered or their families, but I still hold them in my thoughts and wish them peace.  Professionally I respect the first responders who went to the scene.  I wonder how we, I, would have managed the incident.  It really did make me think about how I feel toward carrying a firearm.
Then I saw the article in the Police Federation newsletter from which I borrowed the picture above.  The title of this article made me sit up and feel a little worried that we, the Old Bill, The Job, The Bobbies had decided it was time to go for it.  The title was:


"Member survey shows increased support for routine arming"


But I felt calmer when I read the following.


“Despite the atrocities seen this year, a terror threat that only goes up, never down, and prolonged pressure heaped on officers, they still hold on to the principle of policing by consent, with two thirds of officers not wishing to be routinely armed if given the choice.”


Thankfully the decision on how we arm the police is not solely up to the police federation or the police themselves.  I am sure you will be asked what you think too.  So whilst the headlines are instantly pushing bad news into our faces, and you are seeing more specialist firearms officers out and about, I don't think you will see the likes of me routinely armed any time soon.  But then again, that is just my own, individual, unofficial, gunphobic opinion.


There, just wanted to get that off my chest.  I now need to concentrate on something closer to home for a while.


Yours ever,


Inspector.


May your driving be smooth, your kindness strong and your materialism honest.

Friday, 22 September 2017

"Weapons Grade Honesty".

Would this scene prompt you to any of these? A  cheeky smile and a wave as you walked past, or maybe dropping the mobile phone and checking your seatbelt as you drove past, or even an angry shout of "why aren't you out arresting smack heads and rapists".  This could so easily be me in the photo, and I've prompted all of these.

I guess it's all about how you see us.  Do you see police wasting time on a sunny day, or planning a high risk missing person search, or searching for a drug stash, maybe dispatching an injured animal, making an RV prior to assisting the health service Section a violent patient, helping a woman who jumped from her car to escape a violent husband or looking for lost car keys. Yep, I've done all that in places like this.

We don't always know what the police are doing.


****************************************

"I used weapons grade honesty".

I heard that last week.  I thought is was fabulous.

The context was an officer explaining how he "responded" to a complaint at a parish meeting. The complaint had been about police not doing enough to enforce a "No Entry" sign on a rural road.

It made me laugh (inwardly!) as my mental picture of the scene in the church hall gained detail.

I guess "Weapons Grade" means different things to different people, but is mostly associated with very unpleasant materials intended to do horrid things to the other side.

It's the association with "honesty" that tickled me.  No enemies, no unpleasant materials and intended to simply let people know what the police have been up to instead of sitting in wait for commuters.

The summary of the honesty was simply how many officers were working, how many crimes they were investigating, what incidents and crimes we still had to attend and how many truly vulnerable people rely on the police in times of crisis.

I suspect that some police in the past have not been too keen to share exactly where we are or what we have done.   In my experience it has not been because we want to deceive the good people of our communities.  I guess the reason is one of not wanting to cause nasty anxieties and nervousness by oversharing with those who have had very little to do with real time policing. 

So, before the "strongly worded emails" are fired at the police or "demanding action" letters are enriched by one of a number of interested elected officials and dropped on the police, perhaps it is better to have a chat or come and see what we do.

Maybe a Lay Observation patrol would be interesting.  Or emailing 101 and asking for an appointment to talk through a community issue. Or even writing to the police and asking for someone to call round when they can.

In any case, life is so much nicer if we can talk to each other rather than "escalating" to a state of Mutually Assured Disgruntlement.  (OK - I may have just made up that last word but I like it).

 
Yours

Inspector

Please, be safe on the roads, considerate to those around you and respectful of property.



Friday, 1 September 2017

On the buses.

And on a lighter note, you might want to read this one with a cuppa and a good dunking biscuit.
*************

Do you remember On the Buses? Rainbow? The A Team? My former colleagues on C Relief[1] probably do. They are TV shows from the 70s and early 80s.

They were used extensively as references during my trial. It took place at the end of a late shift about a week after "the incident".  I was summonsed to a C Relief Kangaroo Court[2].  Now, Kangaroo Courts are one of those things that were acceptable in the '70s and '80s but are probably best left there[3].  They consisted of a gathering of colleagues, usually in the canteen if it was when the bosses had gone home or a pub at other times.  They were where any Constable who had committed an offence against the Section was weighed off, that is punished.  It was not so much a place of summary justice, as instant sentencing.  But sentencing did have to wait until the the "brief circumstances" of the incident had been colourfully recounted.

My offence had been to embarrass the Relief.  My guilt was taken as read.  My plea was utterly irrelevant.


The story was told. 

It happened here, at this bus stop.  I think Tears for Fears were at number 1.


 I remember it was a Sunday on a dry clear, yellow street lamp lit evening coming up to 9.30pm. I was walking back from a foot patrol on a distant beat, trying not to see anything untoward so I could get away on time.  I remember thinking if I was quick I could get the 10 past 10 westbound tube and be home just a bit after 11.  It was a quick change over between lates and earlies so I’d be up just after 4 to get to the tube station so I could travel back into town and the start of shift at 6am.
Then I heard it on my PR, or personal radio.  The black microphone that was held to the lapel of my tunic with a bent silver clip clicked and hissed. The lead to the microphone had a fabric covering which went under my tunic and round my back to a dangling Stornophone appendage clipped to my belt.  It banged against the back of my right thigh as I did the Old Bill foot swinging walk that is foot patrol.

“Yeah, any unit able to take a fight on a 207 bus at..” and then my C Relief colleague on comms duty gave a location uncomfortably close to my own and worse still, one I had to pass to get to the station.

I admit I waited a second or two to see if a car would shout up on the radio and go so I could “arrive on scene” second.  It was probably a waste of time as I would still more than likely win the prisoners and paperwork as the Relief’s only probationer.  But you never know.  I thought I  might still have been able to salvage 3 or 4 hours sleep when it was all over.  But no one spoke, until: 

“5 9 4, are you on your way back yet? It’s still kicking off.”

If you look at the picture I was about 100 yards down the road you see to the right of that wonderful red brick block of flats.

I really can’t remember what I responded on the radio but my inside voice said some naughty words.  I then started to run, ignoring the ten inches, two pound lump of electrical circuitry leaping around on my belt and thumping hard into any part of my anatomy it could reach.  That’s why it was at the back of my right thigh, and not the front.  At the same time I was attempting the “foot chase three piece juggling act”.

First is the "helmet grab". It is not so that you can hold on to it but so you can at least drop or throw it somewhere you will probably be able to find it again later. Next comes the "truncheon check or pull”.  Your stick, which normally sat passively in an extended sleeve at the back of your right trouser pocked, worked it’s way up as you ran.  If you had forgotten to loop the strap around your belt it eventually fell out. That’s the "check".  If you thought it would be a fighty incident, you could slip your thumb through the strap, pull up and swing your hand backwards.  The strap wrapped around the back of your right hand and the grip of the truncheon landed in your palm. That’s the "pull".  Then finally it’s the “radio block”, which is your right hand going across the front of your face to stop the microphone smacking you on the nose.  The clip always failed, the microphone tumbled down the front of your tunic until the fabric covered lead stopped it.  At this point the microphone and lead acted like a weighted pendulum, swinging between your legs and then arcing back up until the microphone is saved from being damaged by being safely stopped by your face. 

Anyway, with my helmet dropped behind the hedge (it was there even then!) my truncheon strap still around my belt and a sore nose I saw a fairly well built fellow punch two boys whilst a third had jumped on his back.  It looked like a human rodeo.

They were on the pavement next to the rear passenger platform of a number 207 London Transport AEC Routemaster Double Decker Bus. A beautiful machine.

It was claimed at my trial that whilst these next events unfolded I was humming the theme tune to “The A Team” whilst pretending to be Mr T.  I dispute that.

What happened was that I had empty hands, no longer had a helmet and was faced with a right royal fist fight.  There wasn’t time to get my truncheon out and shouting "Police, stand still" had exactly the effect you would expect.

I thought I was looking at the back of a full grown man having a violent go at a bunch of kids.  I did what anyone who had only recently left their teenage years would do; what I knew, which at that time was to play ruby.

I sprinted the last 10 yards and dropped my right shoulder so it hit the big bloke at  waist height by his left hip and drove through with my legs.  Had it been on the rugby field, within my own 22 yard line and I was driving for the touch line it would have been a beautiful thing.  But it was neither.  Apparently it looked like a game of human skittles.

I remember seeing one of the boys leave the ground and end up the other side of the hedge.  My head hit the pavement. It hurt. I flapped and flailed around a bit and managed to get hold of punching bloke’s right arm, keep him face down in an arm lock and snap on one cuff.

As I looked up there she was; silhouetted against the lights of the passenger platform.  It was like seeing the legs of the lady that does the cleaning in Tom and Jerry cartoons, but this time with the top half as well; a scary top half too.  With hands on her hips, wearing a grey London Transpot uniform and giving me a look that would curdle milk she was the most authoritative figure I had ever seen.  Nestling on her chest was one those ticket machines that look like a grey enamelled cash till, and at her hip was a leather money pouch.  It was the bus conductor.

The next few seconds are a little vague.  I don't remember exactly what she said, but I seem to recall being asked what I thought I was doing.  The words stupid, boy, robbery, knife, them, off duty and help were in there though.

I also remember faces pressed against bus windows and interested onlookers leaning over the flat balconies. They all seemed very interested.

Anyway, with my punchy man arrested I wanted to find my young victims, who didn’t seem too keen to talk to me.  There must have been five or six of them, which I hadn’t realised before.  Then the one who was furthest away started to run away – with my helmet!

Punchy man and I had now stood up. The perceived wisdom then was that if a copper lost a prisoner the discipline side would cost them two day’s pay.  I didn’t want to lose two day’s pay so I snapped the free cuff to the upright grab pole on the passenger platform before I went after my victims.

The bus conductor and punchy man looked at me like I was stupid.   But I do remember more words coming my way, the ones that stuck in my mind being similar to those above but with more emphasis on the “stupid” and one new word “gang”.

It was not so much that the penny dropped, as the pole axe struck.  The “young victims” were a gang who had tried to rob the bus conductor at knife point when the off duty conductor came to her aid and fought with the robbery gang until a police officer knocked everyone over, handcuffed the victim to a bus and let the robbers get away.

I turned, hurdled the hedge and sprinted after the rapidly receding figures. By the time I got to the corner, they had vanished. I swore between breaths.  But as I looked down I saw one of the little darlings not 2 feet away trying to hide himself and his butterfly knife under the hedge.

With the butterfly knife in one hand and the scruff of my new prisoner’s collar in the other I marched back to the bus stop.

It looked very different.  There was no bus.  I later learned that the driver saw me run past him going after the suspects and he figured he would leave me to it. He knew nothing of his bus’s new human fixture on the passenger platform.

The audience hanging over the flat balconies were still there though.

I felt a bit dazed as I stood there with my hands full and the microphone of my PR hanging in the space between my legs like a parody of the Fleetwood Mac, Rumours album cover.  Then the air horns heralding the arrival of my colleagues could be heard.

The next few minutes were excruciatingly embarrassing as I explained what had happened. Apart from arresting one of the victims, allowing at least four  suspects escape and losing my helmet and cuffs I had caused quite a scare when I lost control of my personal radio microphone.  My colleague on comms duty had been calling for an update and when one had not been forthcoming he had "patched through" to the area wide radio network and called "urgent assistance" on my behalf.  It sounded like every copper in my half of London was on their way.

Our Area Car driver stood them down, but I had to make the radio transmission asking very nicely for police to stop any London Transport 207 buses going west, and to check if they had anyone hand cuffed to the grab rail. I did not get the ten past ten tube train.

So it was that I found myself standing in front of this Kangaroo Court a week later.  My sentence, well I was awarded a nick name "suitable for an officer who is too nice to children".  I was "Bungle" for the next six months.  If you've ever seen Rainbow that will make sense.  I also earned myself "tea duty", which included post shift washing up, for two months.

It was almost a year later, when I was a little wiser and my boots a bit more scuffed and Bungle had long been abandoned as yesterday's joke that I found a scruffy newspaper cutting stuck to my locker.  It was a small black and white version of this poster.

 It's the back of an AEC Routemaster double decker bus.



Cheerio,

Inspector


PS - Drive safe, be kind, don't steal.



[1] Relief – fully staffed at an Inspector, three Sergeants and 15 to 20 Constable responsible for one Sector for one 8 hour shift.  Now I guess it’s a Section with 1/5th of an Inspector sorting out day to day stuff, 1/9th of an Inspector helping sort out incidents and “issues”, half of a Sergeant sorting out enquiries, day to day stuff and incidents, and 2 or 3 Constables on Patrol and “specialist units” waiting like coiled springs for something within their “remit” to happen– but it’s still called a Sector
[2]Ostensibly the term comes from the notion of justice proceeding "by leaps", like a kangaroo[9] – in other words, "jumping over" (intentionally ignoring) evidence that would be in favour of the defendant.” Wikipedia
[3] Here I would like to point out that being on the "bench" that handed out the sentences of the type that were handed out then would today get someone in to lots of trouble.   However, to a man and woman all the officers who were at these proceedings, apart from me have retired long ago.  I feel it is safe to share this story now.


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Painless.

I was not sure whether I should write this one.  Then I was.

I have been thinking about suicide lately. Quite a lot.

It's not in a "taking my own life" sort of way, but in a "what can we do about it" sort of way.

It is a painful and heart breaking reality that suicide is all too much a part of life.  It's a bad part of life.  It's a part of life worth trying to make better.  I've avoided even talking about it, until recently. That has made it difficult to do anything about it.  I now talk about suicide.

Every copper I know has been touched by a job where someone has taken their own life.  I and four other officers I know have had to watch helplessly as people took their own life.  It sucks.

And it was shocking to realize that three colleagues I have worked alongside on various teams have also taken their own life.

Until recently Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly had the highest per capita suicide rate in the UK.  It is fourth now.  Nationally there are about 6,000 death certificates issued each year which show the cause of death as suicide. Putting that in perspective, since 2010 there have been less than 2000 fatalities per year on our roads. 

I know all this because I have had the opportunity to attend two courses recently.  The first organised by the Police Federation and designed to help officers help officers, and the second organised by the National Health Service in Cornwall designed to equip anyone who wanted with the knowledge and skills to help someone who is having thoughts of suicide.  This course is called Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training or ASIST, and like lots of good stuff lately seems to have kicked off in Canada.

One of the interesting things I saw on the course was this;

Bridge between suicide and hope

Two hundred suicide interventions is a lot.  It's way more than anyone I know, and I know a couple of very experienced Hostage and Crisis Negotiators.  So I guess Sergeant Briggs knows what he is talking about.  He actually talks through what is in the syllabus of the course pretty well in one way or another.  There’s just one thing extra I’d mention.

That is the "why" would you take your own life?

There are suicide survivors who have told their stories and explained the reasons they made attempts on their own lives.  There are some common experiences.

Bad things happened in their lives; so many, so bad or so big that it feels as if they just can’t be faced or "dealt with".  Usually there was also lot of other stuff causing stress and worry.  They became physically or emotionally isolated for whatever reason. Some had reached out or made "cries for help" which did not help. Others couldn't ask for help. Most had slipped into clinical depression and could not see a way out.

The instructors on the course described it as being in an utterly "hopeless and helpless" place.  It's a horrid, painful place to be.

Most of those brave people who have shared their experience as survivors said two things about the attempt itself.  First was that they made the decision to suicide because they wanted the pain to stop, not because they wanted to be dead.  Second was that during the event they regretted what they had done and wanted to live.

So what can be done about it?  Apart from being a friend?

Well, assuming we have taken the time and trouble to go and talk to someone we are worried about:

1.  Listen carefully and see if they mention or you think suicide is on their mind.

2.  If a suicide inkling is there, then ask them.  The advice is that no survivor has said they thought of suicide because someone asked them. Just the opposite.  A version of, "You seem to be going through a lot at the moment.  I am worried for you.  Have you had any thoughts of suicide?" seemed to work well on course.

3.  Now, this is the "how long is a piece of string" bit.  Talk to them and try to get them to tell their story. Listen well when they talk. Do not judge them.  If you can, gently guide them into explaining why they are in the situation they are in.  Don't tell them to "get a grip" or anything similar.

4.  Keep a look out for turning points; turning away from suicide.

5.  Help them take the first step back from suicide; taking them home to a relative or friend or going with them to make an appointment with a GP.  Something like that.

Finally, if it does not end well it is not your fault.  You tried.  In the same way a medical first aider may try and it still end badly.  If it does end well, you just saved someone's life.

Do let me know if there's anything else you would like to know.  I can phone a friend if I don't know.

But if you need help now you should know that I don't see your messages for a while, so why not phone one of your friends, or the Samaritans.  They're good people.  Their number is 116 123.

Yours

Inspector


PS - Please drive with care, be kind to others and yourself, and don't steal stuff. 













Monday, 31 July 2017

Confessions and Cars, or "Lights, Sirens and the Highway Code"



My Tutor Constable was called Henry.  He was wise, humorous and knew the first name of every landlord on our patch.  He was also able to fill an entire shift relaying tales of daring do and the particular insight into the human condition they afforded.


I remember two of these insights; "No bloke driving a car badly in the history of blokes driving cars badly has ever said 'Sorry Constable, good to know and do you have any useful advice for me?', and ‘No bloke in the history of blokes being told to calm down, has ever calmed down because a copper told them to calm down'. "


And now I would like to share my confession; just between you and me.


It's about the driving bit. 


"I am an Inspector in the Devon and Cornwall Police and I have, more than once had a word with myself about my bad driving and twice been set on the path to a Speed Awareness course by the flash of a camera."


The words of advice to myself were of the “verbal warning and educating" variety, rather than reporting myself for the consideration of a prosecution. I am not sure I could even report myself. And I won’t waste the time of “Legal” trying to find out.


One example was a few weeks ago.  I was in my own car heading to a beach with a car full of spaniels. I was driving an old, tatty and suitably scuffed recreational 4x4.  I was on a minor single lane road lined by tall hedges and trees right up to the junction about 100 yards ahead. 


Then I heard it.  The “wah, wah, wah” warble of an emergency vehicle.  I felt that twinge of anxiety and started to look for the flashing blue lights.  About 3 cars back was a police car with its blues and twos in full display.


The police speak “I was proceeding….” version is that my vehicle and the vehicles behind me would block the carriageway as it narrowed and the emergency vehicle would have to wait for us all to manoeuvre the junction safely on to the A road.  I therefore indicated, to the near side whilst progressively slowing my vehicle and coming to a stop before the road narrowed.


The “keeping it real” version is that I said “Where the foxtrot is that coming from?” to the spaniels. I then peered into the mirrors and tried to look over my shoulder. I thought the police driver would be grumpy if I got in the way of the junction. I indicated, pulled left and braked.  The car behind me slowed and pulled over too, the car behind that hadn’t seen the police car and went to overtake us. The police car had to brake heavily. The car in the way didn’t know where to go and tried to go to the right, effectively blocking the width of the road.  The police car switched all the flashy noisy things off and sat there until we sorted ourselves out.  It was not pretty or quick.


Once safely on my way to the beach I had a word to myself about my bad driving.  I certainly didn’t say to myself, “Sorry Inspector, good to know and do you have any useful advice for me?”.  In my head it was the fault of the car behind the car behind. Or even the Highways Agency for the road layout.  Or perhaps the farmer who hadn’t cut back the trees so I could see if the A road was clear.  Or maybe………


I ended up asking a proper driving professional, a supervisor in the Serious Collisions Unit what the advice and guidance is.  An officer who, with his colleagues on the unit has more experience of when driving goes wrong than anyone should have.  His reply, well it started like this:


“As always the Highway Code tells us everything we need to know about life… or is it just the rules of the road… I always get those two mixed up…”


It went on to very professionally explain it all came down to rule 219 which tells us all about Emergency and Incident Response Vehicles.  The best part says, “Consider the route of such a vehicle and take appropriate action to let it pass, while complying with all traffic signs.”


But like most things all it will tells us is the “what” to do.  We have to work out the “how” ourselves.  If our "how" is perhaps not the best "how" we may even get told it was bad driving.  But hopefully we won’t get told to calm down.


Yours truly,


Inspector




I would ask that you drive carefully, are kind and calm and be content with what is already yours or can be legally acquired.




PS – I recently saw a version of Henry’s wisdom on the side of a mug.  It made me chuckle.



Friday, 14 July 2017

We're all going on a summer holiday.


Just a fairly short entry this time.

It's a nasty topic, but I am really pleased we can talk about it.  That's because I used to lie awake worrying about what I should do as a Critical Incident Manager, and what to tell people to do in the first few minutes of an attack like this.

This advice from the National Police Chiefs’ Council has my “what to tell people to do” worries covered.  I'm still working on the "what I should do" bit.

So if you’re heading to Cornwall or the Isles of Scilly, or anywhere else for that matter for a holiday this is worth watching.


There’s just one extra thing I would also ask you to think about. But not too much.

That’s what you would do if you found yourself face to face with the baddie, with nowhere left to run or hide and all the telling you could manage had been done.

I don’t think there is a right answer.

Me, whatever the answer turned out to be I’d prefer to actually be "doing something about it"; apart from the obvious which would be sorted by a change of underwear after it's all over

If I surrendered and it ended badly I’d feel like such a doofus.

If I tried to talk my way out I would be aiming for the most Oscar winning,  Brexit level negotiating I could manage. If I fought it would be with the nastiest weapon I had to hand and with as much aggression as I could manage.

And please do remember, this is incredibly rare compared to other bad things we deal with all the time. 
So enjoy your holidays when they come.

Yours
Inspector

PS, when on holiday please drive safely, be kind, respect other peoples stuff.