Saturday, 28 July 2018

One hundred percent positive feedback.

I didn’t watch the video myself, but an officer I respect described it like this.

The vlogger's thirty something year old face filled the centre of the screen. He was a good looking fellow, heavy on the tattoos and light on the piercings.  Behind him you could see a good sized bedroom, untidy enough to keep it real but with enough expensive toys to be impressive at the same time.

He introduced himself by explaining his age, gender, weight and general health.  He then went on to talk through the time of day, how warm it was, who knew he was making the vlog and when he had last eaten and how much water he had drunk.  It sounded almost scientific.

And then he explained what the vlog was about.

“I am going to talk you through how I experience the effects of this dosage of MDMA.”

Before swallowing the pill with a sip of water he leaned forward and held it up to the camera. It looked professionally made.

I really don’t know how long it lasted, but I am told there followed a description of his physical and psychological experiences.  They included numbness in his legs, a warming in the belly, a bunch of “nice” emotions and sweating.

At the end of the video, the vlogger gave advice on which website was selling the MDMA at the best price and quality.  He then asked people who bought the MDMA to make sure they rated the drug and left feedback on the service the dealer provided. Apparently it is 100% positive.

The officer had been describing to me an “advice video blog” to “help” people make informed decisions about taking drugs.

As you would expect, it wasn’t a video that came top of the search list in a regular search engine (if we still call them search engines). It was on the dark web.

The whole concept of being able to buy illegal goodies in the same way that I look for new toys for my boat (that is online and with loads of guess work) I find terrifying.

I was also told that if anyone just a few kilos lighter than this vlogger took the dose of MDMA it could kill them.  In some cases (an increasing number recently) it already has.

Now, I don’t know how to stop this kind of thing. Sure, I and pretty much any copper can put together an operation to sort out the criminal activity. But if I simply say we should “crack down on it” as if that would end illicit drug use I show no more understanding of the problem than King Canute had of tides.

But I do know I want to get the subject talked about more widely.  Perhaps someone will start to take an interest in trying to figure out what we should do.

Thanks you for reading.

Yours truly,


PS. Please be kind, honest and drive carefully.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

It's summer.

This is my favourite piece of our coastline.  It's not the best beach, it's not the most rugged scenery, it's not the best surf.  But it is a piece of coastline I have swam from, kayaked from, walked along and sailed past for many years.  I love it.  But there are things here that can cause you problems, just like any other stretch of coastline.
I was pondering this place, and incidents when I have worked with the Coastguard, Royal Navy and Cornwall Rescue Group when I came across this on our Force internet page: 

"In 2017 there were 19 coast-related deaths in Cornwall. #CoastSafe  aims to ensure that you, a family member or friend don’t become one of this year’s statistics
Recent deaths have included:
  • A father and his two-year-old daughter died after being swept into the sea in rapidly changing weather conditions. They had been fishing on rocks at Fistral Beach, Newquay when a large wave knocked them into the water.
  • A holidaymaker drowned whilst trying to rescue his dog at Porthmellon near Mevagissey.
  • Another man drowned whilst looking for his dog at Dunderhole Point, Tintagel. It is thought he may have lost his footing and fallen into the sea.
  • A swimmer drowned whilst in the sea at Perranporth Beach.
  • A man died after getting into difficulties while swimming off Porthcressa beach on St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly.
  • Three surfers died after getting trapped in a rip current at Mawgan Porth, near Newquay.
  • A man lost his life when a scuba diving trip went wrong at Portholland.
  • A holidaymaker got caught in a rip current at Crantock
  • Two brothers who were fishing off rocks in the Newquay area got swept into the sea and drowned."

Now that's pretty grim reading, I know.  So what I would recommend as the antidote to the negative feelings it evokes, is a read of the advice here  #CoastSafe  . I always feel more positive if I know I can do something to avoid the bad things in life.

I recon this really is good advice and the skilled amateurs, professional athletes, military and emergency service personnel I have spoken to about stuff like this all seem to say the same thing.

And for those who are going to be a little more adventurous in your water sports, as well as making sure you have the right kit, it's worth bearing these four things in mind too:

  • Know what the weather is now and what it will be.  Read the weather forecast.  I use the Met Office Mobile Weather app for its Inshore Forecast.
  • Know what the tides are doing.  The water goes in and out as well as up and down, often much quicker than we expect and quicker than we can swim.   Again I use one of the free apps on my phone.  It's so much easier that the Admiralty Tide Tables and secondary port calculations I used to do in the Navy.
  • Tell someone what you are doing, where you are going and when you should be back. And please don't forget to tell them when you are back.  It saves a concerned call to us or the coastguard.
  • Take something with you so you can call for help.  There are some pretty good waterproof options for mobile phones now, or some cheap(ish) VHF radios if such is your interest.
    I promise you I will be doing all of these things to keep myself and my family safe when I'm next spending time at the coast or out in my boat.

    Well that's it from me, and I wish you safe, enjoyable and simply great adventures this summer.



    PS.  Please do drive safely and be kind and honest.  

Friday, 25 May 2018

Helicopters and foot in mouth syndrome.

It's confession time again. It's good for the soul

There are a number of things in life that I unexpectedly found unsettling and which made me quite nervous.

One such is helicopters, sometimes known as choppers, whirly birds, petrol pigeons or diesel dodos.

I had quite enjoyed my first helicopter flight, in a beast that looked like the love child of a goldfish bowl and a budget Meccano set. It was Royal Navy helicopter called a "Wasp".  That was a fun tour of the countryside around Devon. All I needed to do was blank out the thought that it had only one engine.

I also enjoyed being dunked in the "dunker"; a mock up of a helicopter fuselage that gets dropped into a great big swimming pool and spun round so it's upside down.  You get to fiddle with a complicated seat belt, watch some bubbles and find your way out with everything back to front and inverted.  All this while wearing overalls and those naff looking plastic helmets that outward bound centres use.  It reminded me of the first time I rescued a black rubber brick whilst wearing my pajamas.

However, there then followed a series of less than positive experiences.  These included looking for a lost helicopter in a very big sea, (another ship found it and rescued everyone), watching a Lynx helicopter slide gracefully off a ship's flight deck into a pretty lumpy sea and several times feeling very travel sick in the back of helicopters.  To my mind, it felt felt like being in the very back of a support group van, with smaller seats, your worldly possessions on your lap, no windows, deafening noise and an overwhelming smell of diesel all the while being driven at high speed round a roller coaster track.

Another thing is that I tend to say something I later regret whenever a helicopter flight is involved.  Some minor example are, "That's no problem, of course I will sit wedged in the back here behind all this kit whilst you sit by the only exit - and window", "No, that strap is just fine, not too tight at all", "Why does your navigation system look like an old car Satnav tie wrapped to your instrument panel", "Should that dial really have all those cracks in it?".

My most ill considered comment came halfway through a "ride along" helicopter flight in an American police helicopter. It had been arranged by some kind friends and I was really grateful for the effort they had gone to in arranging the surprise for me. It was in southern California on the second day of a trip to explore the west coast of the US, a part of the world I had never visited but seen on the telly - a lot.

Anyhow, having been told there was no need to wear a bullet proof vest in the helicopter, and had the safety brief from the pilot I guess I was rather unsettled and nervous.  However, faced with two very all American hero cops I found my stiff upper lip and off we went.  As a true Brit I chatted about the weather and how rainy it was in Cornwall.  As a cop I gave as good as I got with the banter.

It all took a turn for the worse when the banter and chat about the weather collided.  I had just made some comment about two solid weeks of rain and drizzle at home and said there had not even a sighting of the sun.  I think I went on to say how great it must be to get constant sun and live your life with a Hollywood suntan.  With a rather abrupt change in tone, the co-pilot said "What do you mean?".  I said something along the lines of, "With a tan like yours you would be the envy of every pasty faced Cornishman".  His response was, "I'm Spanish".

It was a really quite helicopter ride after that.

Yours Inspector

PS Please drive safely, be kind, be honest.

PPS The one in the photo was the one with cracked dials and the "after market" Satnav.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

To save a life.

I looked for a picture I could use to open this blog entry. To grab your attention. To draw you into reading it. I found the perfect one.  It is a picture of a young person who must be about 13 or 14.  They are sitting up straight, with neatly brushed hair, clean and ironed clothes and a cheeky smile on their lips.  It looks like a professionally taken photo.  Maybe a family portrait or a school photo. I won't use it though.

You see, I was looking for an attention grabbing car smash type picture. I wanted a picture that would encourage us to think about how shocking and wasteful road traffic collisions are. But I came across this picture which had been shared by this young person's family, a family that will never see them again.  But I simply can't bring myself to use such a beautiful picture, or any of the others of mangled car wreckage. I will just have to make do with writing about what I want to share with you today.

What I want to share is this.  I want to publicly say thank you to a team of police officers and police staff whose work has saved more lives in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly than any other team I know.  They go out there and to do their job every day despite facing criticism, ridicule and anger.

And this team doesn't face ridicule and anger from traumatised victims or drunken idiots.  Police everywhere are used to and expect to take abuse like that once in a while.  These heroes face it every day and rise above it.  The abuse comes from that strangely inclusive group to which many of us belong; motorists.

Thank you to the Devon and Cornwall Safety Camera Partnership.  Life savers, every one.

Here I have to also admit that the first thoughts to pass through my mind when I see a fixed speed camera or a white police van with a camera window are usually ill considered and not very charitable.  It worried me that I thought like that, especially as I know a couple of people who work in the safety camera partnership and they are really good people.  So I asked one of them if they would help me write a short entry in support of what they do.  And this is some of what I have learnt.

Driving too fast kills more people on our roads than anything else we do in cars, lorries, vans, buses or on motorcycles.

The fixed cameras and the mobile cameras are where they are for a reason; usually because more than one terrible thing has happened.  We also see how fast people are driving and count up the terrible things that happen after the cameras are there.  We drive slower and less people die.  Those in the know call it "cluster route analysis".

Often the people that live somewhere ask for the safety cameras and like them being there.

Police don't just pick a site and away we go setting up cameras willy-nilly.  We talk to lots of other people and decide together where they should go; people like Cornwall Council, Schools, Parish and Town Councils and the Highways Authority.

There are, I am told by a source who has proved reliable in the past, more miles of road in Cornwall than there are in Belgium.  I'm not about to get out a measuring wheel to prove the point one way or the other, but I hope it's true.

So that's it apart from to say I hereby pledge not to borrow a few miles per hours from the speed limit just because I am running late or because I can, or consider the speed limit as a target speed in all road conditions.  It would be great if you did too.



PS, I hope you enjoyed the read and please be kind to each other, and honest in what you do.

PPS, It kicked me right in the emotionals when I saw the picture of that young person.  My thoughts and prayers are with their family.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

And breath.

With my thanks to Leah: Yoga With Leah

After I worked my "back to the floor" shift, which I wrote about last time, I started to find my thoughts drifting back to the family my colleague and I visited.  I wonder if, and hope that they are safe and well.

But I am not the Officer in the Case (OIC) for the crime. I do not work in the Multi Agency Referral Unit (MARU) and I am not a Safeguarding Officer (we just say Safeguarding Officer), so I won't be told and I won't go looking things up to check how they are getting on.  That would be a bad thing to do.

So for this particular job, as with so many other jobs we go to in The Job, there is the potential for unnecessary thoughts and worry.

Until my "wobble" (another thing I wrote about!) I thought I was one of those blokes who was immune to nasty events, who easily blocked out unwanted thoughts when they popped into my head and who simply decided not to worry about stuff.  In the end I did not so much admit to myself the reality, as was ambushed by it.  The reality was, and remains that I am not one of those blokes. I am not immune, can not stop unwanted thoughts and I do worry.

I also realised that it would be good for me to actually do something about the thoughts and worries that I know I will come after some jobs.  And it turns out that some of the stuff that would have been good for me to do, I had been avoiding.  I guess it was a mixture of misplaced machismo and distrust of everything I considered a bit "hippy".

Now I am learning how to do that stuff.  I know it by the name "Wellness".

It was after the recovery counselling and therapies I went through that our outstandingly good Force Medical Officer (FMO), "The Prof" suggested I might like to give it a go.

It would be wrong for me to try and describe the theories and practices I am trying to learn.  I would not do them justice.  Suffice to say I find myself listening to my own breathing, sensing my own body and accepting my thoughts and emotions from where ever they come.

And it came as a very welcome surprise when my education about this type of stuff was enhanced by a really rather terrific couple I met just a few days ago.

They are a friendly, clever and all round lovely married couple I met whilst on holiday.  The bloke is a six foot and a handful of inches tall, 250 pound (I used a calculator work out that is just over seventeen and a half stone) former professional football (the American kind) player and current personal trainer.  His other half is a Yoga instructor. I think that makes her a Yogi. She is very professional, incredibly capable and inspiring when leading a class.

If she ever finds herself in Cornwall (the English one) and we can persuade the College of Policing that Happy Baby is a valid "ground position defensive tactic"  I reckon she would do a cracking job leading one of our officer safety training sessions.

Now, another thing that struck a chord with me was when the former professional football player is also a personal trainer told me that he chooses to take one his wife's classes each week or so.  The class he specifically chooses is one that focuses on breathing and balance.  He tells me he calls it his "reset" time.

I really do wonder if I would have avoided my problems if I had made time for my own "reset" time alongside the more traditional exercises I was happy do.  There really is something to be said for looking after your mental and emotional health alongside burning calories and working on muscle groups.



PS - please drive safely, be kind and be honest.

PPS - I can't help thinking of Saturday morning cartoons from my childhood when I say Yogi in my head - Yogi, Yogi, Yogi, Yogi.............

PPPS - these guys are from Burlington, Ontario (the Canadian one), so it's a bit far to commute for a weekly class at the moment.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Back to the floor.

It was the thought of learning how to use a new piece of kit that was my final hurdle.

For some time, and especially since the burble of an Airwaves radio no longer sent a tickle of cortisol to my chest I have been planning my way back to the streets.  Or more accurately in the case of patrolling rural Cornwall, the streets and dual carriageways, single tracked grass growing country lanes and footpaths.

I had the good fortune to have a "very important meeting" with a colleague I was a Constable with in north Cornwall.  She is now the project officer for the new piece of kit I had to get my head round, and I was her local contact or "getting the message out there" for the users of the said piece of kit.  After the meeting I got a useful tutorial on the piece of kit, and finally had the confidence to switch from "training mode" to "live mode" and set up my very first "shift".  I had become an official user of the Devon and Cornwall MDT, the Mobile Data Terminal.

After a quick check with the duty Sergeants in East Cornwall I joined an experienced, very capable and professional officer for a day shift.  And I am grateful to them and their team.  Hosting a slightly bruised and terribly out of date "boss" is probably not most coppers idea of an ideal shift.

Anyhow, with rank badges off I joined them for briefing.  In terms of numbers of officers working we were pretty well off.  Covering one market town, two small coastal towns, a handful of villages and a bucketful of hamlets and farms we had a Sergeant, three patrol Constables, one Neighbourhood Constable and a Police Community Support Officer. And me.

For the first time in the longest time I went through briefing as if I meant it, noting registration numbers and crime numbers, colours and types of vehicles, primary taskings, offender management plans, MISPERS by which I mean missing persons and then recent crimes.  My crew mate seemed much more relaxed than me.

The first task of the day was to do some door knocking around an address where a suspect for domestic assault was arrested the night before.  The partner did not want to give a statement and the children swore blind they had seen nothing; using almost exactly the same words. So at an hour when people were likely to be awake and actually feel inclined to let a copper into their house to take a statement we went door knocking.

My first customer was a chatty older lady who invited me into her sitting room and spoke over her loud TV to let me know her daughter could tell me all about it.  As is the way, I had to piece that together from a list of first names, explanations of friendships and relationships and graphic descriptions of who did what to whom whilst trying to work out what was hearsay and what she had actually seen, which was nothing at all.

We tried again but the victim herself still refused to tell us anything.  But my colleague got to have a private word with the kids whilst I talked to the victim.  We are doing what we can.

After a statement where I passively shared half a pack of cheap cigarettes, fumbled with my plug in keyboard and MDT I admitted ignorance and sought help from the local Constable to download the statement and get it to the officer from the Sexual Offences and Domestic Abuse Interview Team who was "dealing with" the arrested suspect. He was waiting in his cell.  Apart from making grammatical and spelling errors that would embarrass an eleven year old, and referring to my colleague as "my daughter" when talking to the witness I did OK.

Then it was to a "silent 999" we thought came from a remote house, which looked more like a mansion when we arrived.  It would have worked well as a location for a hammer house of horrors movie.  It turns out the owner was very understanding and the 999 call had actually been dialled in the pocket of a bloke at the Eden Project. That is nowhere near the mansion.  Go figure.

After that my crew mate drove us back though lanes not quite wide enough for our car to a roundabout to keep observations for a suspect car that had been on briefing and was circulated on our radio channel.  As an advanced driver who has completed some pretty technical courses I trusted her judgement on the right place be to be.  And it was.  After spotting a car of the right make, model and colour we followed and stopped it only to find an extremely polite older couple who may never before in their life have spoken to the police.  I do hope we left them with a positive customer experience.

We parked up again and joked about buses and such, then the actual suspect car drove past.  Well that was it.  We wiggled around the country lanes to close up on the subject vehicle, no lights or sirens.  It took an unnecessary right turn which was pretty much the give away he had seen us.  But he hadn't made of yet. So, with traffic light and plenty of places to stop we lit up the blues and twos and indicated for the car to pull over.  Guess what happened?

Anyway, after the car had sped off we stopped, switched off the lights, siren and applied the handbrake.  Lots of cars came to look for him, and one the Neighbourhood Constable very nearly stopped him until the naughty car pushed the police car out of the way. The tinker.

And so, after checking if anymore paperwork or forms were needed (Electronic PNB entries, Unifi Crimes to update, Storm logs to update, DASH forms, VIST forms, NCRF forms, use of force forms, Section 9 statements, COMPACT tasks to update, Unify UNIFI custody records, UNIFY Enquiry tasks to update or a bunch of stuff I couldn't remember the name of) I was assured by the Sergeant he would sort out anything I'd forgotten.

Gratefully I said my thank yous and went home to walk the dogs.

Next time I try some back to the floor training, I will try and remember how to be a Sergeant.



PS - there was a crash, someone was assaulted and a thief got away.  If only.

Monday, 19 March 2018

I still hear voices. Thank you.

"Ear worms".

What a great combination of words.

I know they are often used to refer to those catchy little ditties we hear on daytime radio shows, and which wiggle their way deep into our consciousness. And I am so sorry if "The Birdie Song" has unexpectedly popped in to your otherwise well ordered thoughts.

However, "ear worm" has a different connotation for me and quite possibly others too. I hear my ear worms on Airwave police radio speakers or the secret service style ear buds that I wedge in my ears.  I used to use chunky headsets with cotton covers that made my ear sweat.  Not anymore.

I wanted to write about ear worms because this week is the first week for a long time when part of my daily routine will not involve swallowing a bitter tasting Sertraline pill.  I was rather concerned that the "not real" voices I used to hear in the dark old days would come back.  They haven't.

And the mere sound of chatter on an Airwave police radio that had started to make my chest chill with anxiety, well that has returned to an almost comforting noise.  It makes me feel part of something, again.

The familiar voices that make the chatter have returned to being my ear worms; ear worms I understand and know how to live with.  No matter what I am doing, If I hear Airwaves chatter it touches my ear drum and gets instantaneously conducted to whichever part of my consciousness and unconsciousness that is trying to keep track of where everyone is, what they are doing, what nasties are out there and what I should be doing etc etc etc.

So, I still hear voices, but they are technologically as opposed to psychologically conjured out of thin air. That's good.

And now to say thank you; thank you to a really rather amazing group of people.  These are the people who are there with you during every painstakingly dull moment of a long shift, working with you in every rushed and confused journey to an incident when information is flying around like a flock of startled birds, whose spirit is alongside you every time it has well and truly hit the fan and they are working magic to make sure you are not the only one it is flying towards.  Some people call them "Gold".

These are the Radio Dispatch Officers(1) and Control Room Staff who spend their shifts in one of the most incredibly high stake, multi screen, non-role playing strategy "games" I have ever seen.  And do you know the most amazing thing?  Well, actually there are two amazing things.  The first is that they sound phenomenally calm and controlled under the inhuman levels of stress.  The second is that they keep doing it; keep coming in to work; keep guiding "the blue line" to where it is needed and doing their very best to keep those on the line as safe as they can be.



PS - the snow makes the little winding lanes even more slippery, and also makes it even more important to look after each other and each other's property.

(1) - the computer calls them Resource Deployment Officers, but what does the computer know!

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Show me yours first.

I really don't know why I didn't mention these guys earlier.  Well, actually I do know.  It's because I didn't realize they were out there when I wrote the piece from which the paragraph below is an extract.

That is not to say I had never read something about them, been briefed about them or seen some cunningly crafted awareness raising materials. After all they have been around since 2010. But if I had, it hadn't stuck.

Hopefully you will have more luck.

These guys are the "Internet Watch Foundation" or IWF for those in the know, and they have a logo that reminds me of the telly programmes Panorama and Joe 90.

The Internet Watch Foundation will do their very best to get rid of pictures and videos that have ended up on the internet, and which really should not be there.  They will help young people who have had live streams recorded, shared pictures and sent videos of themselves with their kit off  or getting "explicit".  If you, or someone you might know want to get hold of them, they are here Internet Watch Foundation
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 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.
And just so you know, these people also work incredibly hard to bring down the live streams, the shared pictures and videos of child abuse, often of the vilest sort.  So I'd like to say "thank you" to anyone who works or volunteers there and happens to read this.
PS.  When I was small(er) I was told that driving a car is safe until you forget that it's not, that it's never ok to fight just because you are angry and that I should leave other people's stuff alone.  © My Dad

PPS. If you Google IWF and find yourself looking at people lifting up really heavy looking stuff, you are on the wrong page.

PPS. If you are under 25 and sometimes think the pre-internet generation don't get it, find one of them and ask them what the title makes them think of; honestly.