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.