I’m sitting on a sofa in what could be my Grandmothers house from many years ago. I study the dated decor but notice the infinite cleanliness of the house which is the product of 50 years marriage. I am sitting next to a very elderly lady with a perfectly formed perm. She has pools of tears welling from warm but sad eyes which have seen 80 years of emotion. Eyes which have witnessed love, happiness and tragedy. Her dignity and pride is trying to keep back her tears because her late husbands memory has been taken from her in the night. His war medals were lovingly polished and kept as the only memory she had of him, and they have now been snatched from her whilst she lay sleeping. Each piece of metal he had proudly worn on remembrance days reminded them both of how he had put his life forward to defend his young soldier friends and his country, those young men who died in front of him, those memories he would try to forget and could certainly never utter a word of.
The heater is on, that annoying hum where you adjust the compromise of noise to the correct delivery of heat. Just enough to keep you warm but not too much to make you over sleepy. My Police partner Chris is driver today. He and I haven’t said anything for a couple of minutes as the fatigue is setting in quite strongly now at 5.30 on this otherwise relatively quiet end to the night shift. The dull glow from the Police dashboard display buttons illuminated, waiting to be pushed into life and throw their red and blue lights around the countryside surrounding the car. Every push means a new emergency, means someone is in need of help, and they hope it will come soon.
I’m peering through the gloom of the open window on the ground floor into the lounge area of the bungalow. There is an old woman sitting in the corner of the room looking scared. A younger man, her son of 45 years is sitting opposite, with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and his other hand on a large axe which is resting on his lap. The TV is flickering in the corner of the room but no one is looking at it. The faces say a stalemate has descended upon the room. Everyone has played their cards and the next move is over to us.
We are playing a football match and our goal is huge, in fact twice the size of the opponent we are playing. We pull our resources together and work as a team as much as we can, but it’s difficult to score in their tiny goal. When we do score, the rule book is pulled out and sifted through by the opposition with their free lawyers, and something is found to discount the goal. Not sure many would like to take part in a game like this, but it’s how the Police play the game against our long term opponent, the criminal.
‘Dear Chief Constable. I would like to join the police. Can you let me know when and how I can please? Thank you, Harry’.
Maybe a little too frank and to the point and lacking some descriptive content, but it’s the best I could do at the age of 10 years old just after I visited Newquay Police Station open day. I received a letter from an inspector in reply, and although I don’t think I still have it, the words I remember. They were welcoming words, saying how Devon and Cornwall Police looked forward to seeing my application when I was 19 years old. My career plan was set. In school I accomplished 6 O’levels mostly grade c and a touch typing certificate. I applied to join the Police when I was 19… and was rejected.
I’ve been on many a multi storey car park and on many a high bridge, talking to the lost souls who have ran out of ideas and need to end it all. I have made a bond with most, and have held their hand as they step gingerly back over the rail, and I have seen one fall after making that bond. I have heard the sound as the body impact below. I have felt the guilt that I failed. I have been in that home with a crying mother and a wrecked home, by a tenager she can no longer control, and I see the demons which possess the mind of that so innocent child, and I run out of ideas as to what to say to her.
Nothing worse than driving up to a closed road with no explanation. Nothing worse than driving past a scene at 4mph after a 2 hour wait to find 6 police officers doing nothing with two on their mobiles. Don’t they realise I have missed my appointment and now have to re arrange it. Don’t they realise I have missed my dinner I wanted with my family. Christ, what is this world coming to. Perhaps they could do with some more cuts if they can’t be bothered to do simple things like put diversion signs out for people, or get a shifty on so I could have done the things I wanted.
Well strap yourself in, we are going on a bumpy ride.
I said to my plumber the other day, ‘mate, you really shouldn’t be doing it like that, why don’t you use a 22mm pipe for that, not a 15mm pipe?’ That was before I pulled up the reporter saying, ‘Hey, you should be using less adjectives to give your text more form’, and I’m sure the road worker appreciated me stopping my car and pulling the back of his trousers up, advising him, ‘There you go, keep the chill out old boy, and not sure you have used enough tarmac there either’.
I joined the job 25 years ago. I remember every week being told how young the police are now a days! I was young. I got in at 21, when the average age or my recruitment was 35 years old! Devon and Cornwall liked someone who had been there, seen it, done it. Wise. I have loved this Force, and with ending up in armed response for the past 18 years, have witnessed some incredible leadership. I am proud of my Force.
I had to lie a little when I was so young however, when attending a domestic, “What do you know about it?” Some guy would shout at my pale spotty face. “Well I’m going through a divorce at the moment, so I know it’s not easy with a child as well”. Naughty? A little maybe, but it got me through.
I’m looking at a 6 year old boy. He’s dead, hit by a car. His parents looking down at his little body, they are holding the hand of their other 11 year old son. I remember little about the boy, I remember everything about the look on the faces of what was left of his family. An expression I had never seen before, and hope will never see again.
I am looking at a car of Teenagers. All dressed in jeans and T-shirts ready to drive off again, not a mark on them, except they cannot, because they are dead. I remember Anna who was killed instantly by a drunk driver. I remember her bare feet and flip flops in the foot well of the car, not her obvious fatal head injury.