Before I start, I apologise for the length of this one. Blame cake-eating drivers and cheese.
We’re coming to the end of our basic training now, and the prospect of actually being out on the streets is now frighteningly close, although everyone in the class is desperate to finish. When we started, I remember the trainers telling us that by week 18 (of the 23 week course), we would all be getting fed up with sitting in the classroom and all we would want is to get out there – to be honest I got that feeling in week 5.
However, the advantage of being in school is that a) you’re expected to screw up, so if you do anything wrong you never get a bollocking, just ‘learning points’, and b) every criticism is ‘sandwiched’ between positive points about what you just screwed up on. In a nutshell, you hardly ever get punished and you always get a well done at the end of whatever exercise you do. Now, I’m not so insecure that I need a pat on the head and a lollipop whenever I succeed in life, but everyone likes a little gratitude once in a while, don’t they?
Two experiences this week have taught me that it won’t be like this once I’m doing the job for real.
The first experience was sadly all too common. Driving home from training, about 5 minutes from home, and I stop at the traffic lights next to an impossibly large SUV thing on my right. I casually look over and, not only is the enormous woman in the driver’s seat trying to conduct a conversation on her phone while it’s wedged between her left shoulder and her ear, she’s eating a sodding cake! And with only her right hand on the wheel she desperately fumbles with the controls as the lights go green and we all start to pull away. Unfortunately I see drivers using their mobiles every day, whom I usually chastise with a glaring look, but this woman was really taking the biscuit (or cake).
So, straight back home and I scribble all her details down on the back of an envelope. Registration, car make, model, time, location, and as much of a description of the driver as I can considering she’s sitting down. Ring up my own force and, to their credit, took me seriously and noted down all the details – including that fact I was an off duty police officer. “So, what will happen now?”, I asked.
“Well, as you probably know, if this report is corroborated my two further independent witnesses then it’ll be investigated”.
Hang on, hang on. I’m supposed to be a ‘professional witness’ as a police officer. Yes, I’m still in training but I can write my own witness statements and everything. We get marked every week on writing down descriptions. I got every detail I possible could about this incident…I even noted it was a sponge cake with lemon icing. But I can’t be trusted apparently. It needs to be corroborated by two other drivers, who by some miracle saw this women and bothered to ring in like me.
And the second one, which happened the very next day. Ironically, we had just returned from a ‘complex crime’ practical out in town. Rather than practising arresting our colleagues all the time, they try to make things a little more realistic by taking us to a shopping centre (with real shoppers and everything) and getting us to arrest actors hiding little baggies of sugar in their nether-regions.
Anyway, I was giving a mate a lift home and the end of the day and we stopped off at Tesco so I could get some dinner. Stupid me, I wanted the cheese that was half price off (400g) but had mistakenly picked up the 600g cheese. Being the petty man that I am, I’m waiting at the customer service desk to correct my little grocery faux pas when I notice a security guard at the main entrance grappling with man. For a moment I think I could probably keep quiet and stare at my shopping, but then my moral fibre kicks in and I start to run after the man (I will refer to this man as SUSPECT). SUSPECT runs across car park, with me chasing, and then changes direction and darts between a row of parked cars, headlong into the bonnet of a car, tumbles over, picks himself up continues. He eventually gets to a parked car and tries to get into the back seat. I’m right on him now, and my mate who was in the car park and heard me heroically shouting ‘Stop. POLICE!’ is behind me. I grab suspects arm and actually start to arrest him, but he’s shouting to the driver of this parked car to go. Not really wanting to end up under the wheels I’m forced to let go and they start to pull away. But sadly not before I have the opportunity to shout…
“You’re only making it worse for yourself!”
Oh, the shame.
Anyway, we obviously call the real police and I spend the next hour and ten minutes taking details from the security guard, calling an ambulance because he’s knackered his leg, and beginning to find out exactly what happened. My mate takes details from the bloke whose car was damaged by SUSPECT as he tumbled over it. I find out that the security manager had spoken to a girl who he thought was the girlfriend of SUSPECT, and he has all her details because she had been detained at the store before. Fantastic. Just wait for the uniformed officers now. And wait. And wait. And hour and ten minutes after I call, they casually roll up. Rather than just parking at the entrance, spend 5 minutes finding a space in the car park. They stroll over to us, and we take then to the managers office and explain exactly what happened. i.e. What we had just spent 40 minutes doing. We had got all the details of the witnesses, names, addresses, phone numbers, called ambulances, calmed down members of staff. And while we regaled them with this they just stood and stared at us, with a look of boredom that could possibly have been terminal had we continued with our story any longer. One officer didn’t look a great deal more experienced than us, possibly less, and proceeded to take our names and addresses despite the fact that all she needed to do was get our collar numbers and then get the rest from the force database.
“Right, you two can be off then. I’ll just need you to write a witness statement and send it to me.”, the older officer said.
“You don’t want a description of the actual suspects then?”, I replied. (Now, I know I’m fairly new to police work but I thought it might be pertinent.)
…and he kind of looks up into space, then back at me and just says:
“Nah, well, it’ll be on the witness statement won’t it?”
I was too disappointed to say anything else. Alright, you might be coming to the end of a 10 hour shift. This might be the third time today you’ve been called to Tescos. It’s probably that case that you really couldn’t give a flying fig about a member of the public being fairly badly assaulted, but for God’s sake, just pretend like you give a shit. And not for my sake, but for the 60 year old security guard whose leg just got mullered.
Rant over. I just hope that when I’m knackered, despondent with the job and at the end of my tether, at least I’ll have the professionalism and the decency to make an effort in front of those who we serve.
And by the way…
a) I’m still claiming that as my first arrest.
b) I got the refund on the cheese.