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,


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).



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.



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


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.



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,


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.


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


Monday, 10 July 2017

Doing a proper job.

I've just been looking at the Office of National Statistics website. It's very thorough. But it does use a lot of acronyms.

One of the acronyms is IDACI.  It stands for "Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index".  It is a figure that gets lower as the number of children who, for whatever reason, don't have what they need gets higher.

I remember one child I met. This lad must have been about three; a cheeky little chap who was rocking the saggy nappy, grubby dummy outfit as he strutted barefoot into the room.   He also looked pretty proud of his body art; an oddly orange patch down his front with pale streaks where the  dummy couldn't quite stop the dribble dripping onto his tummy.

If he is still with us he will be in his 30s by now.

We remember the children we meet.  We safeguard them as best we can as police officers. There are more officers than people may think who go that extra mile.  This is one of them. 

"As a former housing officer this officer was already aware of the high levels of poverty that existed in some parts of Cornwall when she joined the police.

During her work as a front line Patrol Officer she again saw first hand the effects of poverty on the young. At work she conscientiously fulfilled the Force Mission to protect the vulnerable.  But not being content to limit her compassion to work hours, this officer decided to do something for the families she saw struggling to provide for their children.  Drawing upon her experience with community action groups and charities, in June 2016 she started her own community action group “Little Wrens Wardrobe”.

Using crowd funding she was able to rent a small industrial unit on a nearby industrial estate.  By sheer hard work, dedication and raw energy, as well as her considerable persuasive skills, she established a network of donors and up to 15 volunteers to gather and sort through clothing, equipment, books and toys.  The idea was to respond to the needs of distressed families by taking referrals from professionals and volunteer organisations who worked with vulnerable families and children.

It was not long before news of Little Wrens Wardrobe spread with referrals coming from social services, mental health workers, domestic violence advocates, drugs and addiction support workers and hostels. Parents escaping violence, with mental health difficulties, addictions or simply going through a bit of a rough patch are amongst those helped.  In addition Little Wrens Wardrobe held  three free “thrift shop” events; events that would be respectful and accepting of those who came to use the service for free.

This officer works hard to break down the barriers that may stop someone asking for help.  She keeps her work and Little Wrens personas separate so as not to deter those she has had cause to deal with when in uniform.

The service is available to anyone in North Cornwall, and so far families from Bodmin, Wadebridge, Launceston, Camelford and Bude have been helped.  It is impressive how this officer has dedicated herself to building the capacity of Little Wrens Wardrobe.

This community group has responded to over 400 referrals from numerous statutory partners, run free “book hunts” for children during holidays, raised over £8000 pounds and is well into an 8 week process to apply for charitable status with the Charities Commission."

Now that's what I call a proper job.



PS - Please, please drive carefully.  Be kind to each other. Don't mess with other people's stuff.  

Monday, 3 July 2017

Instinct, luck and who knows what?

I still don't know why this officer crawled to the edge of a very unstable cliff at this exact spot.

Judging from last time we spoke nor did he.

However I am so grateful he did, despite our “conversation” about staying safe as he was allocated this job.

This is the resultant recommendation for a Chief Constable's Commendation, written some months ago and awarded this May.

"During a search for a lady who was in her 80s and considered to be at high risk of coming to harm, the actions taken by this officer showed initiative, bravery and ultimately saved the lady’s life.

The lady lived at home with her son; a man in his fifties and a chronic alcoholic.

A third party called the police with concerns after a garbled and worrying message from the son.

When police arrived it was immediately apparent that the lady was missing. It was a cold, drizzly night with mist, thick cloud cover and strong winds.  The lady was assessed as being at high risk. Extensive searches and enquiries were completed around their home and likely locations, but throughout the son continued to be unable to talk coherently with police or give a meaningful account.

At the first opportunity in the morning this officer went to the address to talk again with the son. With intelligent and thoughtful questioning of a still challenging individual the officer managed to piece together an account of the previous day.

He gleaned that the lady was intent on taking her own life.  In amongst the rambling and random account of where the son “thought” his mother had gone, the officer caught a passing comment that she once threatened to jump from cliffs along a section of the coast path known to the officer.

With no better lead the officer went to these cliffs and made his way along the coast path. It is a rugged coastal path with unstable overhangs and small bays where landslides are common. Conditions remained challenging with rain, low cloud, brisk winds and continuing cold weather. From the path you cannot see over the edge.

Still not sure if the lady had come to this location, and with no other help immediately available the officer decided to go outside of the safety fencing to check places where he felt the lady could have jumped.

In a small bay where the officer knew the soil and plants overhang a dangerous cliff of 80 feet, he approached the cliff edge on his hands and knees. By this time thoroughly wet and muddy, he managed to get close enough to peer over the edge and see below.

On a ledge roughly 40 feet down the cliff he saw what he described as ‘a bin bag or a pile of something black’.  Rather than ignore what seemed to be a small pile of flotsam he decided to shout out the ladies name against the wind.

He saw movement and a hand poked out of the black bundle and waved.

It was impossible to climb down from the overhanging shrubs the officer was lying on, so he called for assistance and made his way back to the nearest route he could find down to the beach.  Once there he was about 100 yards from where he thought the lady was.  The way there was underwater with a high tide and a choppy sea state of 4 or 5. The only way to get to the stranded lady was to wade through the surf of breaking waves up to waist height with the constant risk of losing his footing. At what he judged to be the right place he started to climb a difficult sloping cliff face up to the lady.

He again caught sight of her and made his way to her, joining her on the ledge she had been on for over 18 hours and overnight. She was hypothermic, badly bruised and had cut her leg exposing the bone. He reassured her, treated her badly cut leg and warmed her as best he could using his coat and body warmth. He remained calm, controlled and stabilised the casualty whilst providing sufficient information to arrange a helicopter winch rescue.

He put himself at considerable risk on more than one occasion during this adventure and was on the ledge for nearly two hours.

The ladies life was saved and appropriate support put in place for her.”

That’s it.

To whom it may concern,
please drive carefully, try to be kind to each other and don’t mess with stuff that isn’t yours.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Just to say..........

I have a friend. Honestly, I do. He is a former colleague but I can prove he is also a friend because Facebook says so.  He is a quietly spoken, kind, clever and thoughtful guy.

He also owns a gun shop. It is a good gun shop. It is the type of gun shop that sells really sleek looking hand guns and rifles to smart looking people who want to be prepared for a home invasion or hunting season or the apocalypse or perhaps who just like guns.

He does not live in the UK.

Once we, as in me and my friend and a couple of other former colleagues who did not end up as my friends, were hanging about waiting for a briefing on something ever so important. I can’t remember what it was.

I can remember what we talked about.

There was the “guilty pleasure food” we would head for when we got home.  I won’t share what mine was for fear of being mocked by my colleagues, but the clue is that they are made in vast quantities in Callington.  And with less automation across the rest of Cornwall.

Then my friend asked whether I knew the story of the “Cornish 9 / 11 Hero”. I didn’t.  His name is Rick Rescorla.  It’s an inspiring story if you get the time to look it up.

I am pretty sure it was after 9 / 11 my friend’s gun shop started.

We don’t have gun shops in the UK of the type my friend had and still has.

But more and more recently we do see coppers out on the streets with guns, which is a change.  Firearms have become a more common sight in the UK.

I don’t think most of us are used to the sight.

Two armed officers, both of whom I’d served with as a Constable on patrol, turned up our office on Tuesday.  They had just finished dealing with and recording a domestic incident, and had dropped into the nick to grab a cuppa and use the porcelain facilities before resuming patrol.  I wasn’t used to seeing them with guns and it felt a little strange to think these were the guys I used to stand beside at the occasional “confrontational” situation.

I was interested to see how the community reacted to them and what they would say to the great British Public if they could.

There were two things.

The first officer went for an explanation about what to do if see an emergency vehicle with its blue lights and sirens operating whilst driving.  That should really get its own blog.  So it will.

Now there’s something to look forward to.

The second officer thought it would be a good thing to explain it is ok to have random people come up to unarmed and armed officers to say hi, have a chat. 

He explained that a man had approached them when they were patrolling a town centre.

He had clocked[i] the fellow walking towards him and automatically made his assessment. This member of the public coming towards him smiled and looked a little embarrassed. The officer prepared himself for one of the “Public Information” questions that are so common. How do I get to such and such?  What bus do I need to catch to get to? My neighbour has done this and what will the police do about it? That type of thing.

What actually happened was that this fellow walked up to officer and said “I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for everything you do to keep us safe”.

It took the officer a while to figure out how to respond.  In the end he settled for “You’re welcome”.

 The fellow then left, looking a bit less embarrassed.

 The officer had a brief whispered conversation with his colleague to decide if the man had been taking the mickey, or was being genuine.  The officer describing the events to me made a point of saying the whole experience left him feeling a little stunned.

In the end they decided the man seemed genuine.

Another officer in the office at the time said, “That happened to me when I was PSU[ii] in Exeter.  Some teenager came up to me and said “Thank you for being there to protect us”.”

This was the first time anyone had said anything like that to either officer.  In the years they had been a police officer no stranger, no run of mill member of the community had approached them for no discernible reason other than simply to say thank you.

The armed officer has served for nearly 15 years.

The second officer has served for 13 years.

And apparently the act of saying thank you is spreading.

Our deputy Chief Constable is at Glastonbury.  He has just tweeted “Can’t move anywhere without people shaking our hands. Great public support for the police”.

I have to admit I feel a little “stunned” myself.

What with guns being seen strapped to police officers on the streets, referenda, elections, wicked people doing horrid things, tragedies and outpourings of love life can already feel a bit overwhelming.

Add to that a very real, positive and noticeable change in the way people relate to and behave towards the police family and I think it’s understandable that some of us are not quite sure how to respond.

“You’re welcome” seems a little inadequate.

So I just wanted to say that if anyone feels a new sense of gratitude or respect for the police family it is good to let us know.  Any letter, email or conversation you have that lets us know you care is a good thing. Your kindness and support is appreciated, immensely.

But it may take the street tempered and world weary members of the police family a little while to become used to having nice things said to them whilst out in the public eye.

I’d ask that you be patient with us. It is a pretty new thing for us and we have yet to work out a better reply than “You’re welcome”.




Oh, and to everyone who is in the ambulance, fire and rescue and police families in whatever role, you are awesome.


PS – please drive safely, be kind to each other and don’t mess with other people’s stuff.


[i] “Clock”: to see, to notice, to have your attention drawn to. As in “I clocked the bloke who had been on briefing”.  Old Bill Slang – none existent publications.
[ii] “PSU” an abbreviation of Police Support Unit also known as “the big van full of police officers with shields and crash helmets” and “ a unit of police officers who have undergone specialist tactical training in Public Order and Riot Control.”

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Anniversaries and amalgamations

When there is a lot going on it is a good to remind yourself of a little history and why you are here.

Devon and Cornwall Police have been doing that recently.

On the 1st April this year we were officially 50 years old.

That is seven years younger than Simon Cowell and five years older than David Walliams according to Wikipedia.

And we have been celebrating. There have been "High Teas" for former officers and our friends, events to meet the public, a time capsule entombed in a mini obelisk and fancy "50th Anniversary" epaulettes sold to raise money for the Chief Constable's charities.

Our history may not be as long as some, such as the Metropolitan Police in London who opened for business in 1829 and haven't closed since, or the Great Western Railway (GWR) that ran its first train in 1835.

The track Isambard Kingdom Brunel built still crosses his bridge at Saltash and runs the length of Cornwall to Penzance.  I once met a "passed fireman" who used to work the footplate and feed coal to the boiler of a GWR engine, and he had stories about smaller railway companies joining GWR.

So it has been for Devon and Cornwall Police.  In 1967 the Cornwall County and Isles of Scilly Constabulary, more  commonly called the Cornwall County Constabulary joined the Devon and Plymouth Constabularies and so we were born. 

The Cornwall County Constabulary of 178 constables, 1 sergeant major, 2 superintendents and 1 chief constable in the name of Colonel Walter Raleigh Gilbert was formed 110 years earlier in 1856. 
He was a descendent of the Sir Walter Raleigh's half brother.

At this time there had for 20 years already been Borough Police forces in Bodmin, Liskeard, Launceston, Truro, Falmouth, Helston, Penryn and St Ives.  The Cornwall County Constabulary filled the gaps and started amalgamating these smaller forces.

The Bodmin Borough Police, all 3 of them, held out until 1866 before amalgamation.

The final amalgamation was in 1947 when the Isels of Scilly Constabulary joined forces.  I don't know how many of them there was, but I would guess that they needed some persuading.

The world continues to change, the era of fish riots in Penzance where the Army helped the Chief Constable restore order and cutlass wounds were common have thankfully long gone.  Today has its own challenges which in time will seem to be outdated and things of the past.

Right now we are working ever closer with Dorset Police in a Strategic Alliance. 

So that is my police family's history, up until now.

As to the why we are here, I'll summarise how my Chief Constable and a former Commissioner of the Metropolis put it.

We prevent and detect harm and crime, protect the vulnerable, safeguard communities and we are always resilient and ethical.

It's a little too long to make a strap line or sticker for a police car, but some things just are.

And it's not really changed in the last 160 years.  I like to think it is pretty well summarized by the saying we are "The Thin Blue Line".

That's it for now except to say please take care when you are driving, be kind to each other and try not to covet your neighbour's nice things.