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Why Do I Bother?

July 1, 2007

Why Do I Bother

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.

Result.

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Only Pretend?

June 3, 2007

Only PretendI’m sorry there hasn’t been an update for a while. To be honest that was my intention – you see, I didn’t think I’d want to do much Police blogging until I had finished my initial 23 week, largely classroom-based, course. I didn’t think it would be very interesting or exciting, compared to the exploits I’ll be getting up to when I get ‘on division’.

Take the last couple of weeks, for example. We spent a while in class taking about law and discussing the numerous nuances of robbery and theft, including whether the use of a primate in a burglary still means it’s a burglary. We conducted our first pretend suspect interviews, where I put into practise everything I’d learnt from The Bill to get the pretend robber to cough up the fact that he did indeed steal the pretend handbag from the pretend lady. I’ve handcuffed my colleagues in various positions and discovered new and intriguing ways to restrain them. I’ve beaten massive foam pads into submission with my baton. I’ve even been out in public to practise the ‘Stop and Search’ powers I’ve got, shocking a number of nice old ladies in the process who thought the actor I was delicately probing was a real criminal (“Make sure you search ‘im good son, I bet he’s got DRUGS on ‘im!”).

…and I got to thinking – actually this IS interesting.

Still, this is only pretend. I know it’s not going to be like this when I start for real. We’ve not really started on forms and filing, and I doubt we’ll have a lesson on ‘detections’ anytime soon. However, one lesson did bring it back home. We weren’t told much about the practical, except that it concerned ‘blades’.

“We’ve had a report of a bloke acting suspiciously near a car around the back of the classroom. Go and have a look.”

Simple enough.

“Hello sir, can you tell me what you’re d…”

Ah, he’s come at me with a rubber knife. That was jolly quick. Dead am I? Fair enough.

And how we all laughed as the video the staff made got played back to us. All 18 of us would have been stone cold dead in a matter of seconds. But it’s only pretend, isn’t it?

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(Insert Orwellian Reference Here)

April 21, 2007

Thought PoliceThe Stephen Lawrence enquiry has had a profound effect on the police service, and rightly so, but I never expected just how PC one is expected to be to become a PC. We’ve just completed a number of days of pretty intense “diversity” training, and although I realise its vital that as a police officer I do not discriminate, I’m starting to realise what a minefield this could become.

Words and phrases I’ve been using for years are now taboo, their origins rooted in our country’s shameful colonial past. Jokes must be appropriate and not offend anyone, heaven forbid a member of the public overhears a chance muttering while we’re on patrol. Oh, and I can’t “brainstorm” in class any more in case an epileptic in present – a “thought shower” will have to suffice (presumably that isn’t too offensive to those who don’t enjoy washing).

And what happens when we cross this imaginary line? We didn’t have to wait too long to find out. One colleague bust into our classroom crying after being accused of uttering a ‘potentially racist’ remark, following a complaint that had been made. Again, a phase she had used for years in blissful ignorance that it had any such connotation, but she was duly pulled up on the matter and a record make about the incident. But who would be so petty as to complain? My eyes starting darting around at my new colleagues with a sense of suspicion. We’re supposed to stick together yet someone has obviously ratted on this poor girl.

We later discovered it had been a trainer who had heard the remark and complained rather than one of us, but with posters plastered around our training college encouraging everyone to ring the ‘Integrity Line’ if we hear something juicy, it could well be one of my colleagues in the future. Having started the course as one of the more lively characters in the class I’m now making sure that I’m not so vocal now because I’m sure I’ll slip up sooner or later.

 

UPDATE: Since this sorry little episode we’ve had the opportunity to chat to our force’s diversity department, who were of the very sensible opinion that people shouldn’t get caught up in the semantics of such words and phrases because it was completely undermining what the real issues are. We asked them if they could have a little chat with our trainers.

So I have found some sensible people in our force. Only took 5 weeks.

 

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I hereby do solemnly and sincerely and truly declare and affirm…

April 1, 2007

Thats not me on the rightFirstly, massive apologies for my apparent disappearance. This was mainly due to being very busy with moving, starting the new job and endless trips to B&Q to furish my new gaff, and also a protracted battle with BT to get internet access – an organisation even more inept than the Home Office? Quite possibly.

So, week one of basic training is over and I can’t actually remember if we’ve done anything useful. We’ve had a number of introductory lectures which hint at the course ahead, but nothing too exciting apart from having a play with the uniform and some radios. I think this 23 week course is going to be a slog – even after only 5 days, I’m fairly sure just my allocation of forms and handouts has put pay to a number of Scandinavian forests.

My new colleagues seem a varied bunch, which I suppose can only be a good thing with the equally diverse communities we’ll be serving, but I still look at some the the 5 foot nothing girls (and guys) and wonder how they’ll cope with the PCP-sozzled 7ft homicidal maniacs I’m so looking forward to meeting on the mean streets of wherever. Still, until we’ve learnt how to use the impressive looking kit we now all have they’ll probably fare just as disastrously as me.

I hadn’t looked forward to the rigmarole of the attestation (swearing in), but I have to admit my cynicism about “responsibility and professionalism” quickly evaporated after listening to the likes of the magistrate and the Assistant Chief Constable. I guess I can be a little proud of myself for getting this far, and it did make me realise that the long slog would probably be absolutely necessary if I’m to learn what the hell I’m supposed to do with all this power I’ve now got.

Scary stuff.

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Cash Value 0.00001p

January 26, 2007

Super Skag-Head Special

Sorry but I couldn’t resist using my (and I think you’ll agree) exceptional desktop publishing skills on this one.

Now, I’ve lived for most of my life in a very quiet rural area, where modern issues such as horseless carts and electricity are not really fully understood, so I don’t think it would be entirely fair for me to comment on whether this new proposal would be effective or not. Having never (knowingly) met a habitual hard-drug user, I’m still fairly non-judgemental about these things, but having asked to be posted to a fairly run-down area I’m sure I’ll get up to speed on the issues fairly quickly once I’m on patrol.

I am inclined to support indicatives that focus on trying to ween drug users off drugs rather than the alternative of incarceration, because with the current state of the prison system they are probably far less susceptible to temptation outside of prison than inside – not that many would be sent to prison anyway.

Still, I’m sure the Daily Mail is delighted with the story, and the BBC boards are positively brimming with renewed hatred for the Home Secretary. I don’t think anyone even cares that it wasn’t the Home Office that proposed it.

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So I’m In Then…

January 22, 2007

A (Fairly lengthy) Police Application FormWell, that wasn’t too traumatic I suppose. One fairly lengthy application form, a long wait, 4 or so security forms, a wait, an assessment centre consisting of a “structured interview comprising of four questions, a numerical reasoning test, a verbal logical reasoning test, two written exercises, and four interactive exercises“, a shorter wait, a fitness test comprising a shuttle run of about 7 minutes jogging, five big pulls, five big pushes, an informal interview, a medical, employment forms, a uniform fitting, and finally a few more forms – that’s all you need to do to become a Police Officer nowadays

All I need to do now is wait a little more before I start, and personally I cannot wait to meet the raw recruits who may one day be guarding my back as I bravely kick down the door with my ‘Police Federation discounted’ Steel-Toed Duty shoes (which you have to pay for yourself, I was shocked to discover). I just hope the young lass who I met at the fitness test will have brushed up on her observation skills by then.

Picture the scene: Me, ill-fitting shorts, bright yellow numbered bib, freezing gym. We duly get told to spread out down the side of the gym, in numerical order, to get ready to start. Just as we are about to step off, aforementioned girl (No. 4) steps slightly off the line and looks up and down the gym like a mentally-challenged meerkat.

“Oooo, look at that! We’re all got into numerical order by accident! Isn’t that weird?”

No, it’s really not.

Oh God, what have I done?

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