Wednesday 17 July 2019


I once worked with a chaplain from the US Navy who in thoughtful or challenging times would use the phrase, "This too shall pass".
Right now is a thoughtful time for me as I look to a new position; my time in this job has passed.
I am moving on from my current role in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to go and work for a while in the UK's College of Policing.
I hope I still get to help out on the front line and that I do some good helping prepare those who choose to join the thin blue line for the challenges they will face.
It's been good to be able to share some of my thoughts and if you have been reading this, thank you.
I would also just like to say thank you for your kindness, honesty and driving with care.

Friday 31 May 2019

Alpha One Zero

Alpha One Zero.
It's a radio call sign, a handle, an identifier.  It belongs to the Inspector on duty as the Critical Incident Manager for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly police.  Just over the Tamar Bridge in Plymouth it's Papa One Zero.  If you drive far enough along the A30 into North, East and West Devon it will be November One Zero looking after you.
The One Zero role is essentially a challenging mix of supporting officers and supervisors as they do their job, assessing and authorizing the more contentious searches and powers that police use and managing those "critical" incidents that have already or may have a significant impact on individuals and the community.
When I was doing it as a full time job, which I did for a handful of years as both Papa and Alpha One Zero, my wife asked me if I was happy working as a One Zero.  It was a good question.
I would belly ache about the shift hours and the difficulty in getting time off. I would generally look grey and washed out and occasionally, when I needed to, I would recount depersonalized stories of what the team had dealt with during the shift. But it did get under my skin.  It was the single best job I have had in both of my careers.  It was only when I finally had my "wobble" that I changed jobs.  I will be eternally grateful for her quiet, non-judgmental support.  But as I have said previously, I have been working towards getting back in the fight and have started covering a few shifts again.
The last shift I worked was relatively "Q".
There was not too much handed on from the night shift.  There was a search of refuse sacks we has seized and had at a police station following a sickening sexual offence, an open area search for evidence involved in an attempted murder, two fourteen year old Mispers or missing persons to locate who may or may not have been targeted by predatory offenders, a high risk offender for a violent domestic to locate and arrest, a person to safeguard following some worrying stalking and a fatal road traffic accident to follow up.
The support group officers, patrol officers, neighbourhood teams and local investigation detectives searched, enquired, suspect hunted and safeguarded their way through that lot. At the same time the radio drove patrol and neighbourhood officers around the county to the never ending calls for service.
My admiration for those that still do that job full time was renewed, and I hope my hand over to the late shift didn't miss anything important.

PS Your kindness, honesty and safe driving is appreciated by us all.

Thursday 2 May 2019

Moor Beasts of Bodmin. The big black cat.

I was sat at a terminal in Bodmin Police Headquarters when I got the email from our Press Office.  They were looking for an "urgent response" to a news report that a panther like "big black cat" had been seen in a garden and scratched a dog.  As the newly appointed Wildlife Crime Lead for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly I thought I'd better respond urgently.
On this occasion, unusually, someone from the police had gone to see the reporting person.  Even more unusually a plaster caste had been taken of a foot print that had been carefully protected under a dustbin lid.  I think the fact that we attended and took that plaster caste is what made this particular incident newsworthy.  That and also I guess the fact that most of us are a bit fed up of the "news" that has filled our papers, web browsers and tellies for the last few months.  Putting out a bit of a story about big black cats prowling around Cornish villages probably sounded like a really good idea to the news hounds.
I did not hold quite the same view, and after running my thoughts passed some of the more experienced Wildlife Crime Officers  I found they had the same views.  These were, in summary, that the risk to anyone from being attacked by a panther in Cornwall, or any other rural part of the UK, appears to be quite a bit lower than the risk of being hit by lightening.  Also that the poor beast should be left alone to get on with its life as best it can, and not be subjected to the unwanted attention extensive press coverage could very well bring.  Hence the hopefully really dull response we wrote for our Press Office.
As an aside, I used to do the same as the duty Inspector when I'd get phone calls from crime correspondents calling me "mate" and asking for updates on anything "interesting" that had happened overnight.  Since the 1980s I've found a "nothing to see here" type of response works best at protecting the privacy of those who would otherwise find themselves subject to unwanted attention.  If they want that attention, that's fine and they have every right to step into the spotlight.  I just don't point it at people, or big black cats.
Does that mean I don't think there is a big cat out there, somewhere?  Absolutely not.  I am as sure as I can be that big cats are scratching a living out there somewhere in the UK.  When I was working in the Control Room just over a decade ago I took more than one call from concerned members of the public about big cats.  At least two I remember were from farmers, good solid practical people who had seen them on their land.  And during one night shift get together (we'd got a take away to share) one of my colleagues opened up his conversation with, "You'll never believe what I just saw driving here.....".  It turned out that on a quiet and secluded country lane a panther sized, panther looking, big toothed, big black cat had jumped over a Cornish hedge in front of his patrol car. After a split second caught in the headlights (and I like to think a locking of eyes with my colleague - but that's probably poetic license on my part) it jumped over the opposite Cornish hedge and was never seen again. That is unless it's the same one that turned up six years later and scratched a dog in someone's garden.
Anyway, that's it from me about big black cats.  Other than to say don't go approaching one if you see it, do let us know it if you are worried about your or anyone else's safety, but don't be surprised if we just take a few details and don't send a helicopter to you with blue flashing lights.

Monday 25 February 2019

Beasts of Bodmin Moor

"Get on". The farmer nodded to the platform at the back of his quad bike.  The ford focus patrol car had gone as far as it was going to go down the dirt track that wound its way through the woods from the road to the fields.  I left the car at the gate to the field.  It was splattered with mud from the track, and I thought about the 100 yards I would have to reverse back down the track before there would be enough room to try a three point turn.  But that was a problem for later, after I'd investigated the report of worrying livestock.  So I clambered onto the back of the quad and the farmer bumped and splashed his way across his field towards his isolated farmhouse.  It was the remotest and muddiest property I had so far visited since joining Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, and the owner could have doubled for Compo on the telly show Last of the Summer Wine.  As we arrived at the farm buildings he stopped with a jolt and pointed at the carcass of a sheep, its face and throat badly mauled.  The farmer had found the dead sheep that morning, the animal that had attacked it being long gone.  There were a couple of other sheep with injuries, but they had survived.  And they weren't pregnant. That was the last time I personally dealt with a sheep being killed, and I never did manage to find out who was responsible.  And to be perfectly honest I'm not sure we would even be able to attend an incident like that these days; we'd probably have to take the report via the internet or over the phone.  When I later spoke to the farmer to let him know I was going to file the crime as undetected he said, "Well I'll shoot the begger if it come back, even if 'tis Beast of Bodmin."
Attacks on sheep are far too common, particularly on Bodmin Moor where since last April there have been reports of 54 sheep being killed, 22 injured and 11 that had to be rescued after getting trapped in a quarry. And it's the Beasts of Bodmin that have four wheels or are "man's best friend" that are doing the damage.  Bodmin Moor is a common and sheep and ponies graze there, sharing the moorland and its roads with dog walkers and cars.  The challenges the sheep and ponies face are hard enough without having to cope with cars travelling at inappropriate speeds or dogs off the lead and worrying livestock. But we can all make their lives that bit safer with a little more care and attention when driving, and keeping our dogs on a lead between the beginning of March and the end of July, and at any other time of year when we are near livestock.  There's also a bit of a day of action on behalf of the livestock on the moor this coming Saturday 2nd March, with awareness events being held at Minions at 11.00 am and Pensilva at 3.00 pm.  You will definitely be able to get to them without getting stuck on a dirt track or taking a muddy ride on the back of a quad bike.
prevent livestock worrying on Bodmin Moor

PS. We wish you safe travels, and thank you for your kindness and honesty.

Monday 4 February 2019

How fast?

I am now the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly representative on the Roads Policing Strategy Group.  It's great.  For the most part it involves trying to work out how to reduce "KSI"s, take dangerous and uninsured drivers off the road, get communities involved in making our roads as safe as they can be and that type of thing.  Oh, and in case you were wondering KSI stands for Killed and Seriously Injured.  I had to ask when I first heard that. I'm not a traffic cop.
I also had to ask about another phrase, "The Fatal Five".  It was being thrown about by my colleagues in white cap covers. The "fatal" bit was pretty obvious, and I figured there were five things to do with roads that would end you up that way. But I didn't want to assume what those five things were, hence I asked about that too.  I fear I might be getting a reputation for asking too many questions. Anyway, the answer is here -  The Fatal Five .
I was not surprised to learn that number one on that list is inappropriate or excessive speed, the results of which I saw early on in my career.  The first time that I remember consciously seeing the results of excessive speed was when I was looking at the engine block of a Mk1 Ford Escort in the middle of the carriageway, next to a small tree it had knocked over.  The debris that had once been the Mk 1 Ford Focus containing that engine block and its proud owner was spread in lumps and chunks quite some considerable distance either side of the engine block.  I was on a cordon whilst a  Traffic Police Sergeant with an awesome moustache and a clip board took measurements and made notes on his beautifully drawn map of the crash scene. Whilst I was holding one end of the tape measure next to a lamp post and he walked the other end out to the front axle, I asked him how fast he thought the car had been going.
He gave me one of those, 'stop asking sfqs [silly flaming questions] looks' before answering, "I'll tell you exactly how fast he was going.  He was going too bloody fast.." Then as he wound the little handle and the tape measure disappeared back into its black leather case he continued, "Now get back on that cordon and make sure some dozy berk doesn't drive through the road closed sign and run me over."
That was a while ago and cars are now generally safer to drive (but just as dangerous if you are unlucky enough to get hit by one) and better at staying on the road.  But they do still crash. Here in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly there were over 460 reports of damage only and personal injury road traffic collisions last month.  Going too fast will have been a factor in almost all of them.  I sincerely hope that you are not one of the next 460 or so reports.  Driving at appropriate and safe speeds helps.



PS Please drive safely, and as ever your kindness and honesty are appreciated.

Friday 21 December 2018

Ding Dong Merrily

I know that singing "ding dong merrily" in the carol refers to the heavenly peal of bells proclaiming the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

However it made me think of tonight; Friday the 21st December, the last Friday before Christmas, the traditional office party and night out on the town Friday, the Friday of over indulgence, the Friday where things may be said to the boss that will later be wished unsaid.  In short, the Friday where people may well have a ding dong because they got too merry.

We call it "Black Eye Friday".

And Black Eye Friday is one of the "days of increased demand" we plan for in the Devon and Cornwall Police operation, codename "Op Tinsel".

That's a jolly sounding name for a bunch of planning we do; planning for all the other stuff that tends to happen over Christmas and New Year celebrations.  I am sure with a little thought you could list most of the things we plan for; if you felt so inclined.

And to just give you a flavour of the "Op Tinsel" shenanigans my colleagues will be dealing with over the festive holidays, here is my own story of a little incident the last time I worked Black Eye Friday in amongst the evening and night time economy (or ENTE as we un-euphemistically call it).

It had just gone midnight and I was single crewed as the ENTE Inspector wandering around a busy little waterfront district full of pubs, clubs and restaurants.  To my right was a harbour wall and a bunch of trawlers and leisure craft.  To my left were open air seating areas with gaggles of smokers gathered around the propane gas patio heaters. I could feel the cobbled streets through my boots. It was flipping freezing and my scarf had gotten dewy where I had pulled it up to keep my nose warm and ended up breathing through it.

In my right ear I had been listening to the units telling "Whisky Victor" how they were heading back to the station following an arrest, nursing some dangerously drunk individual or otherwise busy.

It had reached the point where I was trying to figure out if I was the only copper left in this little corner of tobacco smoke and lager scented paradise when "she" appeared.

And she was a sight to behold. Taller than me. Older than me - I think. Wider than me. She was wearing the tiniest of black dress and very clippy shoes.  She was also pretty drunk and obviously immune to the freezing temperature.

I did the gentlemanly thing and ignored her, hoping she would pass by and take her entourage of similar looking friends with her. But no such luck.

"I love policemen," I heard her say. Then I looked and knew I was doomed. She had changed course and was coming straight toward me. She was sucking her right middle finger in what, I assume, she thought was a seductive way. Her left hand was making little circular motions over her left chest, as we say.  Again, I can only assume she thought it would inspire me to some sort of friendly response. It didn't.

To cap it all, literally, when she got close enough she took her finger out of her mouth, reached over and tried to touch the metal rose on the tip of my custodian police helmet.  That last sentence is not a euphemism either.

I briefly considered arresting her for either a public order offence, common assault, possible battery if the finger got as far as the rose or some such.  I didn't.  Instead I decided to exercise Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 in the prevention of the aforementioned "crimes".

She stepped back very abruptly when I pushed, using an open palm against her right shoulder and applying only as much force as was necessary, proportionate and legal in the circumstances to stop her touching my little metal rose.

As it happened she started to shout, "You can't do that! Who the f*** do you think you are!" and quite a lot of other colourful language.  Then her entourage joined in.  Then the smokers, hearing the distressed ladies shouting about how a policemen was picking on them, started to walk over.

So what did I do?

Actually I can't remember exactly, but it involved picking the smokers as the group I should really deal with first.  I think I was less than friendly when I turned to face them, but we quickly built a rapport. They were actually a bunch of Navy lads who soon worked out what was going on.

By the time I turned back to send the ladies on their way, they too had left.

And the moral is what?

Is it to make sure you dress up for the weather? Perhaps you shouldn't get drunk? Maybe trying to put your wet finger on an on duty police officer's head gear is not actually a good idea? Or even, the police are there to do a job and try and keep people safe so expecting them to act as the butt of a drunken joke is unlikely to end well for the joker.

Yours ever


PS Please drive safely and as always be kind and honest this Christmas.

Thursday 15 November 2018

What just happened?

Yesterday there was an incident at the police station where I work.  It was mid morning and a man was overwhelmed by a mental health episode; a noisy and dramatic mental health episode. Sat at my desk I heard muffled screams of, "Help Me!". They had that note of desperation that made me think it was genuine. By the time I got outside I found myself on my lonesome looking at a police car with a smashed passenger door window. I was relieved that there wasn't any blood.
I soon found the source of the commotion just round the corner being restrained by three of my colleagues.  He had moments before been having a jolly good go at smashing up the police station, starting out by smashing his head through the police car window. The coppers inside the car had a bit of a shock and got covered in glass.  I think one of the coppers was a Special Constable volunteer doing his very first shift with his tutor.  I hope he comes back for a second shift. The man then tried to kick in the doors to the police station, again causing a bit of a shock to the one copper and the one member of police staff inside.  There was a bit of a tussle and the poor fellow was restrained.  Then a slow off the mark Inspector (me) turned up.
No one was seriously hurt and the officers from the damaged police car spent the rest of a long day with this chap going to hospital, the local custody centre and eventually a distant mental health assessment centre.
For the poor guy involved, and those who have not experienced stuff like this very much, it will have been a day that had a significant impact on them and one they will remember for a long time.  For others, who have perhaps been coppers for a little longer, it will have been something to chat about over a cuppa and simply another Monday doing The Job.
So much of being a copper is dealing with stuff day in and day out that most people only witness or become involved with on rare occasions.  And it is so true that as a copper you really don't know what you will be doing on Monday, Tuesday or any other day of the week.
I recently looked up what "the police" had dealt with in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly during October.  What the coppers here in Cornwall did during the days and nights of the week of October was handle 2,800 crime reports, 477 safeguarding non-crime enquires, 154 missing person reports, 462 road traffic collisions and 7,092 reported incidents.  Each one of those numbers represents something really important that has happened to someone.  Each one of these numbers represents part of a day's work for the coppers.
That's it really. I just wanted to share that story and let you know "what just happened" in October.
PS. The Special Constable did come back.  Good man.
PPS.  Please drive safely, be kind and be honest here in Cornwall and wherever you find yourself.

Thursday 25 October 2018

For the Fallen

I have enjoyed many great sunny beach days with my family here: the kids surfing and body boarding, my wife enjoying a cuppa, the dogs impatiently pulling us towards a walk along the coast path.

But sometimes I like to come here on my own. For me it is a "thin place". In the cold, grey winter months, free from distractions and when I can feel the cold wind and spray against my skin it feels as if the spiritual is closer to the physical; the barrier between the two is somehow thinner than other places. I feel closer to my own thoughts, closer to the hidden universe, closer to the souls that have moved on.

Recently I learned that a poet called Laurence Binyon knew this place,  Polzeath.  I like to think that he also knew it as a thin place.

I am given to believe that on a cliff top overlooking Polzeath beach in 1914 he first started to write "For the Fallen".  You may recognize some of it.

For the Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children, 
England mourns for her dead across the sea. 
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit, 
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal 
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres, 
There is music in the midst of desolation 
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young, 
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. 
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted; 
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. 
At the going down of the sun and in the morning 
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; 
They sit no more at familiar tables of home; 
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; 
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound, 
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight, 
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known 
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, 
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; 
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, 
To the end, to the end, they remain.



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

Friday 21 September 2018

A letter from America

I got a letter from America.  I thought it was great. It was a thank you letter.
It reminded me of when I was a child and on Boxing Day and the day after my birthday I would be given a note pad, a pen and be told to get on with my thank you letters.  One particularly vivid memory comes from when I was about ten years old and my family lived in a small town in Suffolk.  I had just finished a letter to my Aunty Joan (everyone my age seems to have had an Aunty Joan) and was proudly showing it off to my father before folding it into the envelope.  For a split second he seemed a little confused before his eyebrows rose in understanding.  "You will need to re-write this page.  She didn't send you an 'apost-lorder', she sent you 'a postal order'."  What happened was that when I had opened my card I saw a piece of paper fall out. When my mother picked it up I thought I heard her say, "You've got apost-lorder.  I'll swap it for this pound note and change it when I go into town". 
There were no such mistakes when I read the letter from America.  I should hope not too. It was an open letter from the US Ambassador, Robert "Woody" Johnson, to say thank you for the way in which the visit of the President of the United States of America had been handled. It was published in the Police Federation magazine this month and addressed to all the coppers in the UK. I am still one of those I am happy to say, so the letter was to me too. And I guess he wrote it at the Embassy which is technically US soil, so I am sticking with saying that I got a letter from America.
Two things struck home.
First was that he took the time and effort to write this letter to the rank and file police officers. He didn't need to. The obligatory letter to senior officers probably gets written fairly regularly I am sure. But I don't recall any other ambassadors writing a letter specifically to the officers who worked the shifts.  It was generally complementary, which was nice. And it was friendly, which was also nice.  But more than that it showed an appreciation of the professionalism, good humour and the extra hours worked by those left back in force to cover the abstractions.
Second was that he chose "Police", the magazine of the Police Federation of England and Wales. It wasn't sent to the big boss to "cascade down to staff".  It wasn't posted on some webpage or wall we may or may not stumble across.  It was published in the only publication I know of that is distributed to every rank and file officer in England and Wales.  I really don't know if it reaches Scotland and Northern Ireland; I really should find out.
Anyway, it was much appreciated and made me think that perhaps my parents did have a point.  It is polite to write thank you letters, and people do appreciate them.
PS. Please be kind, honest and drive safely.
PPS. The magazine is here. The letter is on page 24.
Police - August and September

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.