Monday 29 May 2017


I write.  I like to write.

Sometimes I write for work, sometimes I write for myself and my own enjoyment.

But on the odd occasion more recently I write as a coping strategy, a personal little therapy to work through and make sense of bad events and sad memories.

Today I want to work through recent events.

There was a minute of silence on Friday.  It was at 11 o'clock in the morning and I was sat at my desk

The drilling and chipping around the station stopped. Men in dusty overalls paused in their labour. My colleague sat, arms resting in her lap, no victims of crime on the end of the phone or updates to crime enquiries to be tapped into the keyboard.

We sat in silence remembering the awful events in Manchester, to show our respect for those who had been taken from their families and friends too soon, too unfairly, too brutally.

We had done something similar few short weeks ago after the horrible attack in London.

That time my colleagues and I had stood in front of the station, heads bowed. We remembered, we showed our respect, we thought of our fallen colleague.

Whilst standing outside the police station and on Friday I felt angry at the perpetrators.

I felt overwhelming sympathy for the bereaved.

I felt sorrow and respect for the families, friends and first responders.

 I knew some of them will have to live with the psychological impact of those events; the illogical guilt, the "what if", the "if only".

I wanted to tell each of them I that it will hurt and the hurt can be utterly overwhelming, that there will be a hole in their lives and their guts that nothing will fill.

Especially I wanted to tell them it is OK to feel that way.  It really does suck, but it is OK to feel these things, and they don't need to beat you or define you. It is possible to live with those feelings and memories, and to go on to feel happiness again and make a good life; for the sake of those gone before us I truly believe we must.

This is not and could never be a comparison between my experiences and those touched by recent terrorist attacks.  My bad experiences do not compare, and I won't dwell on them here.  However I do want to share what a person I respect enormously shared with me.

I'm not sure why, but that is always where my mind goes in vivid detail during times of remembrance.

It was almost 9 years ago.

I was squatting in a metal walled work space with broken fire main pipes running up the wall to my left, sunlight coming through the doorway that was behind my right shoulder and a bunch of broken furniture in the corner. My back was against the wall, an internal bulkhead that was pleasantly cool.

Around the workspace seven or eight Iraqi Marines sat on the floor paying close attention to the man sat opposite me. He was Doc, and I remember vividly a part of his battlefield first aid lecture. He was explaining  what to consider when treating an eviscerated casualty.  Doc was there as a US Navy Independent Duty Corpsmen. They're good people.

We were two “coalition” personnel who went to the Iraqi accommodation block at one end of the al-Basra Oil Terminal, or ABOT as it was called, to occassionally deliver training.

The Iraqi living conditions on ABOT were not good.  The majority of the coalition staff were at the other end of ABOT about one kilometre away along a steel walkway. The coalition accommodation was better. We were 12 miles off the Iraqi coast.

At the time of this lecture there was a suicide bombing campaign centred on Baghdad being orchestrated by al-Qaeda.  I don't know how many bombs had been detonated, but fatalities and casualties were being counted in the hundreds.  Families of some of these Iraqi Marines lived in Baghdad and I've no doubt friends and relatives of the Iraqi Marines I was helping train had been lost to suicide bombs.

The marines listened with understandable concentration.  They were incredibly professional, proud and motivated.  They asked questions in broken English. What they were learning were skills they could expect to use for real.

Along with Doc I joined the Iraqi training officer in their canteen for a sweet tea.  We talked.

I can't remember the context exactly, but talking about the situation in Baghdad seems likely. My memory is that the training officer said something like.

"The sadness and fear that comes from these outrages does not have to paralyse you forever.  To live with that sadness and fear we must understand why we feel them. Then we must practice taking the sadness and fear  out of our memories. Then we will be able to live again."

Looking back to when I started working through my own issues, with the help of a couple of therapists and a bunch of SSRI meds, it seems to me I was being taken through the steps the Iraqi training officer was describing.

Survivors, families, friends and first responders will go on.  To those who have gone ahead I'd just like to say, "At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember you."

 PS - I would also ask that you drive safely, are kind to each other and respect each other's stuff.

Sunday 14 May 2017

One of the family.

PCSOs, or Police Community Support Officers for those of us in England and Wales1 who still speak English and not Acronym2, started to appear in the Devon and Cornwall Police around 2004. They are awesome members of the police family.

Anti-social behaviour was on the rise and on the telly; the two traditional precursors to news outlets letting us know we are going to “crack down” on something.

I was a Constable in Cornwall at the time and sure enough we cracked down. PCSOs had been recruited and I had been told to complete the Anti-Social Behaviour Act of 2003 “Eee Learning” package. It's a training method that got it's name after an enthusiastic Yorkshire student was told they were going on a training course devoid of human interaction. Or maybe not.

So the office of PCSO held by my current office mates has been around well over 10 years. That is about 253 or so “cop years” which are measured on the relativity based “life experienced” scale.

What they do with the powers and authorities they have been given is phenomenal. They work with councils, schools, doctors and social workers to look after vulnerable people. They also contribute to searching for high risk missing persons, staffing cordons at major crimes, conduct the pervasive “concern for welfare” door knocks, shepherd drunks, keep the lid on disputes between neighbours and “crack down” on anti-social behaviour as well as much more.

And PCSOs do all this whilst being the approachable, and sometimes only face of policing in their communities. I have no doubt that PCSOs are doing the majority of everything I did as a Constable. However PCSOs are not allowed to be in charge of putting a prosecution case file together, or get involved in the “dynamic and confrontational” aspects of policing the streets. That said, a PCSO and I once got a written pat on the back from a Chief Superintendent following a very exciting bit of rough and tumble. We both collected a few bumps and bruises, and a fellow went off to prison for an extended stay. Just awesome.

But times have moved on.

Alongside the police the 213 Parish and Town Councils in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Cornwall Council, the Fire and Rescue Service, housing associations and others have got much better at working together to address the anti-social behaviour of the few.

As is the way of the world, other unpleasant human behaviour is on the rise and on the telly. I am standing by to crack down on it, whatever it may be. I am sure my PCSO colleagues and I will adapt again, perhaps see a new acronym join our family, and embark on another bout of computer based education.

I hope you have a great week.

Inspector blogging

PS -- please drive safe, be kind, respect other's stuff.

1PCSO in Scotland stands for Police Custody and Security Officer, a bit like a Detention Officer here but with car keys and lots more collecting and transporting of prisoners and people with the police because they are poorly - in their mental health.
2I am not a big fan of using letters instead of words. Consider World Wide Web versus WWW for instance.
3Which is not as long as Community Service Officers have been around in some Police Departments in the United States of America.

Sunday 7 May 2017

Push the button.

I am back in the Patrol Office for a little while.

Actually it is the former Detective Superintendent's meeting room into which displaced staff at the station have moved whilst “building improvements” take place.

The disadvantage is that I get easily distracted from important analysis and project management by chatting with the the Patrol, Neighbourhood, Public Protection, Alarm Fitters and Crime Management Hub staff.

The advantage is that I get easily distracted from important analysis and project management by chatting with the the Patrol, Neighbourhood, Public Protection, Alarm Fitters and Crime Management Hub staff.

One morning last week I was lucky enough to chat with a Patrol Officer as he finished off his last night shift before his rest days.

I would like to share with you his 'job of the set1'.

He is a quietly spoken and friendly fellow with a ready smile and seemed to enjoy telling me how he got to “blow stuff up!”. That's not exactly how he described it, but close enough.

You see, of the millions of tons of explosives we Europeans have thrown, fired, launched and dropped at and on each other over the last 120 years an unknown percentage did not go bang. On small item from that percentage, for an unknown reason was found in a remote rural corner of South East Cornwall.

The finder called us, we called the Army, the Army called the Navy and in the way of things we sent a Patrol Officer to put up tape and 'keep the public safe'.

Over the next four or so hours I like to think he may have seen a fox, some moorland sheep and ponies in the distance and perhaps an early Skylark or two. He didn't say. But he did say that the public, who may have had some kind of sixth sense, were not to be seen anywhere.

In an impressively military way the Navy arrived, probably with a rubber boat on the roof rack. These guys always have a rubber boat on the roof rack. They might call it a de-rigged eight foot Gemini secured to a vehicle mounted boat cradle. I won't. Also, on arrival these guys always ask the police officer to move the tape back “another 50 yards mate”. They then have a huddle, look at the picture again, and put a bunch of explosives next to the bomb. They may use phrases like extend the blast area cordon, Render Safe Procedure assessment, disposal charges and munitions. I won't.

Once the necessary had been done, the area thoroughly checked and the team were stood behind something solid, the “Navy bloke in charge” asked the Patrol Officer if he wanted to “press the button?” Who wouldn't?

The sequence of events went something like this.

The “Navy bloke in charge” held the detonator with confident, professional nonchalance as he said to the Patrol Officer “What you need to do is squeeze this handle and at the same time press this button.....”

Here it is worth pointing out that a police officer usually has to work out a “course of action” in confusing and volatile situations, using limited and unreliable information, often provided by emotional and sometimes chemically enhanced people, who have an agenda or worse.

To have a crystal clear situation with unambiguous instructions is something just too lovely to ignore.

The Patrol Officer immediately reached out, took the detonator, squeezed the handle and pushed the button.

The small black plume of dirt propelled by white smoke jumped into the air, instantly followed by the intimidating boom and the satisfyingly chunky shock wave. Or that is how I like to think it went down.

What the Patrol Officer did say is that after the loud bang the Navy bloke in charge went pale and went on the say “......after I do one last safety check, give the all clear and tell you to go ahead.”

Have a great day,


PS – I like to speak plainly. It has helped when I have been working out my own courses of action.

PPS – Please drive safely even when you're a bit late, be kind to each other, and leave other people's stuff alone.

1“Set” in this context means a 'set' of six shifts worked as 2 days, 2 lates and 2 nights.