The theater is dark, the lights go down and they have little idea what they are in store for. 2000 students, of the age to start driving or just started driving. A few mobile phones are flickering whilst Snapchats are read, and whatsapps are contributed to… and then silence. The projection screen comes up with a short film where some teenagers get into a car and start driving. Statistically a lethal cocktail with inexperienced and confident young people. There’s an innocent distraction in the car and it ends up crashing. The scene shows the occupants unconscious with a little blood, but mainly steam from the engine and the music that had been playing in the car is now silenced. The darkness envelopes the car before a scream joins the atmospheric scene. You can feel the panic, and you can then see the blue lights of a police car approaching.
Storm is a 3 year old German Shepherd Police dog, who his owner Jim adores. They have spent those 3 hard years nurturing each other through 13 initial weeks hard training and numerous courses and training sessions since. They are always at each others side, can wholeheartedly trust each other, and will gladly put themselves in harms way to protect the other from evil. The bond, is unequivocal.
It’s a Saturday afternoon, and Jim is steering his Police Ford Focus Estate through the back streets towards the report of the burglary. It’s been called in by a neighbour and it sounds like a good one. A man in his late teens has been seen dropping down from a flat roof at the rear of a rather affluent looking detached house which backs on to some fields. He’s been seen running with a small clutch of items towards the hedge of the rear garden when the witness sensibly decides to give up the view in priority for phoning the police.
This is a true account…
I’m single crewed coming off the motorway at the end of a late shift. The radio operator says, “You are wanted on channel 181”
I flick across channels sitting at the main Junction 30 of the M5 Motorway and introduce myself to the new operator. “You are wanted at Exeter Custody. They have a situation there where they may need a taser”
I have a glock 9mm and a G36 semi automatic and a baton gun, all safely secured, but I also have Taser and Pepper spray. A little array of delights, each suited for a particular incident which may arise, constantly assessed and re assessed to ensure I choose the correct option in a split second of decision making. I blue light it to custody and press the intercom button. The door immediately opens which highlights their haste. Scanning the monitors the custody Sergeant points to one which has a pink glow to it. “Strange, didn’t know you had a chill out room?” I say.
“We don’t” he replied, “That’s blood. He’s poured water all over his cell floor and cut his wrists”.
I know the detained person. Very violent and suffering from an extreme mental health issue. This man had been holding a street ransome climbing on to roofs and throwing slate tiles like frisbees for 100’s of meters around. He is now lying completely naked in a foetal position against the wall with his back to the centre of the room.
“Slashed his wrists?” I ask? It is clear I am wondering who messed up with this one.
“He managed to smash his toilet and used the sharp edge of the bowl. That’s where all the water has come from. We are calling some public order officers in but it’s taking time.”
My other armed response unit is now with me. We all go down to the cell with a detention officer. “It’s hard to tell how bad his cut is with that water and blood, and he’s been still for too long for my liking. Guess there’s no time to wait!”
I nod to the detention officer and he cracks the door open. I move in immediately finding the floor extremely slippery. My taser packed safely away because of the water. I call out to him, but there’s no movement, and no answer. I move closer and see his pale body looking drained of blood. I hasten my step and touch his torso to feel the temperature. His head facing the wall still and still no response. I tug at his side and I feel a smack of something in my face and mouth, no time to react but step back and fall over, he’s span around and is fighting. I am grabbing at him to get a grip of him somehow but he’s like a wet fish at the bottom of the boat writhing about and he is too slippery, my only hope is to work him towards the door where my colleagues can help me control him. Now we have him outside in the dry corridor, we are constantly fearful of positional asphyxia where we know we will be up for manslaughter, so no weight on his chest or his back, but it is still impossible to control his slippery torso especially when you are thinking not only for the moment but for the inquest further down the road. He had huge strength and was tossing us about like rag dolls, and I was beginning to think we had lost this one.
“Taser, taser, taser” I hear, and we jump back. Simon fires the taser and our fighter is now arched and motionless. I view where the barbs are and realise I can get a cuff on, then the other is safely applied, and now all four of us are panting huge gasps of air.
I can taste the metallic taste of blood in my mouth. My mind goes back to my first encounter with him in the cell and realise he has hit me with a well aimed lump of phlegm. I spit on the ground but I know it’s too late. I feel disgusted, especially as I know this man has a lifestyle of drugs and poor health. Still that’s for another time. We don’t have spit hoods so we have to just ensure his head is turned the other way. An ambulance arrives, his wrists are not too bad. The water has made the blood look more than it actually is. We cover him with a blanket but he’s obviously not too shy and kicks it off. Simon gets in to the ambulance with him and later reports that he has been spat at full in the face again. They get to the hospital, and Simon has held the blanket between him and the suspects face. But as the doctor distracts Simon, he feels another blast of well aimed phlegm dripping down off his top lip over his mouth. It’s ridiculous.
That man is now dead. He died 18 months later from a drug over dose. I wondered for a while whether I was infected with a disease that would effect the rest of my life and the relationship with my wife and children. Simon did the same, until it happened again 3 months later.
It’s a no brainer to me and when people argue that it takes the dignity away from the suspect, then I say more than my dignity was taken that night. I say that we police are feeling like punching bags right now with little judicial, national media or political back up. I fear for the coming generation who have to do it all on much less money and prospects.
I propose, that without Mayor or other Political intervention, spit guards are tried for all Forces as indeed some have them already, especially in Scotland. The Met do not. Not to be placed on every detained person, no cop wants that, but many politicians and public have jumped to the conclusion we do, and that it is some black hood which disorientates the wearer like some Daesh prisoner. Nothing like this at all, they are in fact, a fine mesh which is perfectly breathable and is a hood / guard which is placed over the head to stop any ‘further’ spitting for those that have previously spat and put on those that threaten or are believed to spit again as in this case.
It’s simple, and it’s common sense.
A Beautiful Sunday morning in Devon. I’m single crewed with guns in the safe and some traffic and Armed units out and about. We are dual rolled in Devon and Cornwall. Blessed with a lower crime rate than many but just as many fast roads so Traffic and Armed response go hand in hand.
10 o’clock and the scenery is passing much more quickly as I am on my way to a collision between a car and a pedestrian. It’s in a car park so can’t be too bad surely. My armed response is there. I strain at the radio to hear their tone of voice. Hard as nails when they need to be, but soft as pussy cats when you bring in humanity, real people and families.
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.