“The call was passed out over the radio that the security at Morrisons had detained a shop lifter and were asking for assistance from the Police. A call like this is graded as an emergency so we flicked on the blues and flew straight across to the shop. That annoyed me when I arrived because obviously every time you respond with lights and sirens you are putting people at risk. We got there and some bloke in jeans and a t-shirt came running up to us excitedly saying “nice one lads, she’s in here, come on” and scurried off. We had no idea who he was, no badge, ID or anything to suggest he was a part of the security team. I stopped him and asked who he was and he told us he was an ‘Undercover Store Detective’ and it was him that had caught the ‘shoppy’ and that his colleague was sitting with her now. He opened the door to what looked like a broom cupboard with a table and chair crammed into it. There was a a lanky security guard stood with his arms crossed across his chest with a stupid grin on his face. He told us later ‘this is my first catch’, hence the excitement I think.
Sitting in the chair was a woman who looked to be in her late 30’s. She was wearing a trouser suit and had black leather satchel like bag with her. She wouldn’t have looked out of place as the store manager. She was sobbing uncontrollably as soon as she saw me enter the broom cupboard. Before I could even speak she was begging forgiveness. My partner took the security guards out of the office whilst I sat with the suspect. A few minutes later he came back in with 4 items in his hand. He placed them on the table. Two of Morrisons finest microwave meals currently on a 2 for £6 offer and two £3 DVDs. Pepper Pig and Ben 10. The woman howled and began crying even louder.
My colleague told me that the ‘Undercover Store Detective’ had been patrolling the store and had seen the suspect put the items into her satchel. He thought she was using it to carry her shopping to the till at first because he said she didn’t look like a ‘shoppy’ but she walked straight passed to tills and to the exit. There was some discrepancy as to whether she had actually left the store and completed the offence but he was certain she had and would check CCTV for us. I asked the woman her name, date of birth, address and I ran her through the PNC. Nothing at all came back on her. I asked for a check to be done on her address and surely enough it was recorded but under her husband’s name and they were only recorded as being victims of a burglary the previous year.
So this wasn’t your usual shoplifter. I passed her a tissue from the pack I carry in my stab vest and asked her what had happened. Her story was that 8 months previously she had been made redundant from her admin role at a local hospital where she had worked for 15 years. The had 2 kids, a 5 and a 7 year old. They had struggled on for the first couple of months on just her husbands wage as she tried her hardest to get a new job. Then disaster struck when her husband’s firm went into administration and her husband lost his job too. They had lost all income, had fallen behind on bills and mortgage payments, they had not been able to celebrate Christmas properly and although her husband had found a new job which didn’t pay enough, she had been to one failed interview after another and was still out of work. They were still behind on bills and all money was going on feeding her kids and paying the essential utilities.
That day she had been to an interview, hence her dress and appearance, and was very confident when she left. She was on her way home when they called her so she pulled into Morrisons car park to take the call. Sadly, another failed interview. She told us that she couldn’t face going home to her kids and husband again and giving them bad news and so she decided what she needed was to feel like she had provided for her kids and to see a smile on their faces.
She had taken the meals for their tea and the DVDs were to see them smile and so they could sit and watch them in their bedroom whilst her and her husband talked. I don’t mind admitting, her story and her emotions made me choke up a couple of times. Ultimately what we had here was a mother who was desperate that she was willing to cross a line she had never even considered before and break the law to provide a meal and a smile for her kids. She fully understood what she had done and was more than apologetic. She was petrified that now she was going to be arrested for theft she would never find a job….that’s when I made my decision.
I used my discretion. I knew my partner would agree cause we were so much alike. I told the woman not to worry and to try and compose herself and I left the room. The two guards were right outside the door like two puppies awaiting praise and a treat. The uniformed one asked “Have you locked her up?”. I told them that I hadn’t locked her up and that I wasn’t going to either. They froze on the spot, their tales no longer wagging. They told me that I MUST lock her up cause that is their company policy. I told them that their company can’t have a policy that dictates what Police Officers do and that I have ultimate discretion in this situation and I don’t believe that criminalising this woman is the best way forward nor is it in the public interest. I explained her situation.
The ‘undercover’ guard was on my side. He agreed that it’s not the best solution. The uniformed guard was more upset at losing his first catch. I tried several times to get him on side but he wasn’t having it and so in the end I simply told him it was tough. It was my choice and the lady would not be getting arrested today. We all crammed back into the room and I explained to the woman that she would not be getting arrested and that we were going to take her out of the store and have a chat in our car. Lanky, obviously upset we had stolen his catch butted in with ‘But you are barred for life from this store’. She burst into tears again. She begged him to reconsider as she lived just around the corner, had shopped their all her life and couldn’t afford to travel to the next nearest supermarket every time they needed something. The guard was unrelenting and insisted it was ‘company policy’.
My colleague questioned whether he has the authority to do that given that he isn’t actually a Morrisons employee and when he confirmed he did have authority my colleague assured her that he would speak with the manager and let her know (he did do and the manager was fantastic and allowed her back into the store). When we got the woman back to her car I provided her with details of local groups and charities such as the Salvation Army which would be able to help her and her family and she couldn’t thank us enough and promised never to do something so stupid again.
When I spoke to my supervisor to get the call finalised I was shouted at. I was told that I should have arrested her and that it will take some ‘clever wording’ in order write off the call to comply with the National Crime Recording Standard. I was told it was my duty and that I will probably now have to go and arrest her from home. I told him that wasn’t going to happen and that if he thinks that is the best way to deal with somebody in her situation then he can go and drag her out of the house in front of her kids. As it happens the call was finalised and the woman wasn’t arrested. Job well done in my eyes.”
The above is a true story told to me by a serving officer. I use it because I think it demonstrates well the human side of policing. Here we had two officers whose “duty” dictated they arrest the shoplifter but whose morals dictated they help the woman and their morals won. I don’t think any good person can argue or criticise the officers for the way they dealt with the situation. Had it been another officer who attended the call the woman could well have been arrested, charged and walked away with a criminal record which could potentially prevent her finding employment. But this is just one example of many where Police Officers have to fight between their morals and their duty and quite often duty wins for reasons I will go into.
Over the last week I have spoken to many Police Constables who have answered several questions for me to help with my blogs and a project/campaign I am working on. One of those questions was;-
Has there ever been a time when you have been instructed to carry out a duty as a Police Officer which clashed with your personal morals and beliefs and if so, how did it make you feel and how did you deal with it?
The following are some of the answers I received.
“I am dead against fox hunting so when I was told I was policing the hunt to stop hunt saboteurs I objected. I explained to my boss that I didn’t feel I could because I don’t agree with fox hunting but I was pretty much told he doesn’t care what I agree or disagree with, I am a Police Officer and will do my duty. Having to “protect” these sick bastards while they scared and killed foxes made me feel ashamed for the first time in 17 years of being a Police Officer”.
“It drives me mental when people call the Police to say “there are kids playing in the street and being noisy” and then we get sent along to move them on even though they have done nothing wrong. They are just playing in the street and having fun for god sake. It’s not late at night or early in the morning, they are not committing crime, they are not even being anti-social or breaching the peace! The are PLAYING. Yet we get ordered by supervision to ‘move them on’ because we have a ‘duty to the public’ and must ‘maintain public confidence’… Well it might make the person complaining happy when we move harmless kids away but it doesn’t do much for maintaining the confidence of the youths, of their friends and family when they tell them they were chased off by the Police. Obviously if they are being rude, committing any offences, targeting somebody… we would have no issue dealing with them but all this does is make us look like bullies driving around scaring kids and spoiling their fun.”
“I got deployed with a team to prevent a breach of the peace whilst bailiffs evicted a man who had not been paying his mortgage. When we got there there was a removal van, about half a dozen bailiffs and removal men and they were waiting for us before they went up to the address. There was already a crowd gathered outside defending the man and who were angry and shouting at the bailiffs. My Sergeant spoke to the fella in charge and made sure the paperwork was above board and legal. We had to move the crowd back which obviously resulted in pushing and shoving and arguing with insults being thrown our way. We stood for about 2 hours separating the crowd from the property. The evictee was crying. Officially we were there to prevent any crime taking place but to the public we were HELPING the bailiffs evict a man. I felt guilty. I felt like stepping aside and letting the crowd through and helping this man get his house and possessions back. I couldn’t because I had a legal duty to prevent breaches of the peace and protect and preserve life and property.”
“Fracking is something I am 100% dead against and so when I took part in training to police protests at fracking sites I began asking myself how I would react when expected to stand guard outside one and prevent protesters gaining access. Truth is, I would WANT to let them in and even help them stop the fracking but I would HAVE to do my job and fulfil my duty and follow lawful orders. That really causes a moral dilemma and conflict”.
So here I have highlighted just a few of the jobs and duties expected from a Police Constable which cause internal battles with their own morals and beliefs. Jobs where their sense of lawful duty takes precedence over their morals. Police Officers may sum it up by saying “We’re just doing our job”. In part 2 of this blog I am going to look at the consequences of them doing the opposite and standing by their beliefs AND ask where exactly a Police Officer would draw the line at simply “doing their job” and following orders.
I want to take a moment to look at and address some of the commonly held myths, beliefs and misconceptions held by the public, perpetuated by the media and ingrained within society today in relation to the Police. The idea isn’t to defend the Police and it isn’t to patronise or “prove you wrong”. It is to raise awareness of REAL Policing. To help people see and realise that the Policing you see in the media both the negative stories in papers like the Daily Mail and the action packed scenes in TV shows like Cops With Cameras is NOT a true reflection of the work and duties of Police Officers today. Nor are the many rumours, beliefs and misconceptions you see on social media, hear down the pub or talk about amongst friends. I want to look at how the term “The Police” is used by the media as a cover-all term and how that can have impact upon public opinion. I also am going to look at some of the beliefs the public hold regarding the Police. Comments I have heard time and time again and opinions people have kindly expressed upon request to help me write this blog.
Firstly and most importantly I think it may be best to look at just some of the duties your average Police Constable is expected to deal with. I refer here to the “patrol bobby” you see (or you may argue DON’T see) on a daily basis. A Police Constable is the lowest rank in the service but is also the foundation of the service. As a PC you can move into almost any role within “The Police” providing you have completed two years probation and have the competencies needed for the role. For example, a PC upon completing their probation on patrol/Neighbourhood team (the default position for all Police Constables) can move into the dog section, mounted, roads policing, drugs team, Firearms, CID… The list is very long. Many people think if you work in one of those other roles you must be a different rank from the uniformed bobby. That is not the case. The role of the PC is very diverse but Patrol or Neighbourhood Policing is their default position.
So let’s look now at the duties of a PC on a patrol/Neighbourhood team. The list is below is just a fraction of the duties and jobs a PC is expected to deal with at any given time. They are the first responders to pretty much all 999 calls, non emergency calls and simple public enquiries.
Burglaries both ongoing and historic
Robberies both ongoing and historic
Assaults both new and old, minor (push or slap) and serious (ABH, GBH)
Theft both ongoing and historic
Neighbour disputes of varying degrees
Sudden deaths both suspicious and expected
Nuisance Youths (anything from knocking on doors, being loud, playing football)
Frauds and deceptions
Road Traffic Collisions
Poachers and Wildlife crimes
Prison crimes (Crimes actually inside prison!)
Death warnings (telling people a loved one is dead)
Preventing breaches of the peace
Assessing a scene for CSI
Guarding a crime scene
Domestic violence both ongoing and historic
Child Sexual Offences
Transporting for ambulance
Assisting mental health workers
Assisting other law enforcement agencies
Assisting other policing teams (CID, Roads Policing etc)
Assisting door supervisors
Taking alcohol off children
Dealing with public nuisances
Guarding suspects at hospital
Protecting victims at hospital
“Suicide Watch” of suspects in Police custody
Working in the Custody Suit
School fights and other school related incidents
Facebook name calling and bullying
Civil disputes (even just to inform people it’s not a police issue)
Ebay purchase disputes
Parenting kids (“My son is refusing to do homework” = true call)
Loose Peacock!! (actual call I attended)
Forcing entry to property for other agencies (ambulance)
Compiling case files
Speak with CPS
Arrange solicitors to attend
Arrange for an interpretor
Completing stop and searches
Attending community meetings
School inputs and talks
Control Room duty
Front Desk duty
Vehicle checks prior to mobile patrol
Reporting faults with patrol vehicles
Transporting paperwork, exhibits and colleagues to court
Like I said, this is just a fraction of the jobs a PC is expected to deal with. They are a slave their radio, to the orders of the higher ranks, the demands of the public and anything else they come across in the course of their shift. A lot of these jobs take up a lot of time. For example, it is not uncommon for an Officer to arrest a suspect for a simple offence such as shoplifting (simple in complexity, not seriousness) at the beginning of an 8 hour shift and for that officer to then be tied up dealing with that job for the entire 8 hours. Waiting to get into the custody area, recording the crime, writing a statement for the arrest, obtaining a statement from the victim, seizing property, possibly a house search, arranging CCTV, waiting for a solicitor, possibly arranging an interpreter, interviewing, obtaining charging advice, possibly speaking to CPS, charging, bailing or releasing the suspect, completing a file…. Bet you didn’t realise how much goes into one simple arrest for a straight forward offence did you?
Attending a sudden death can often take several hours as the officer has to wait for life to be pronounced extinct, await the undertakers, possible arrange for the door the officer has forced open to be repaired, replaced or boarded. Even reassurance call to an vulnerable victim of a crime which occurred weeks previously can take an hour or so if the victim is afraid, upset or simply wants some company for a brew.
Throw all of this in with the fact that despite what you may hear from politicians, frontline services are being massively cut. The number of Police Officers covering your home town, city or village each day and night would shock you if your force’s senior command allowed you to know the truth. The Police Officers know the true extent of the situation but they are ordered not to tell the public by the pseudo-politicians at the top of the command chain in order to “maintain public confidence”. If they disobey and reveal information which could undermine public confidence then the Officer would be disciplined at least, dismissed at worst.
Let me give you some examples of what I mean. I spoke to a friend still serving in one of our countries largest forces yesterday. He covers an area over 200 square miles in size. A rural area with a population of around 61,000 people. Normally there are 4 Police Officers covering this area. The “ward” as it is referred to, consists of miles of country side, forests, nature reserves etc and requires vehicles to be able to respond to emergencies in the many residential areas at any given moment. The 4 officers are banned from “double crewing”, that is they MUST work alone and not in pairs. They have 2 marked Police vehicles. The day I spoke to my friend he told me that of the 4 officers there was now only 2 covering the ward because the bosses had seen fit to take one of them to police a different part of force area. That left 3. Then one of the officers was sent to assist a GP gain access to a house. The Doctor was meant to be meeting a patient with mental health issues but was getting no reply to knocking. The Officer attended and was told to force entry on welfare grounds (to protect life and limb) and upon gaining entry found the man was just sleeping on the sofa. The Doctor took the patient to hospital for an assessment and the Officer was left behind to wait for the house to be secured by the council. He had been waiting over 3 hours at the time of my call which left my friend and his colleague with one vehicle and 200 square miles to cover. This meant that these 2 officers would have to prioritise any call that came in for their area. It meant longer response times. It meant 4 people’s work now split between 2. It meant that the public were not receiving the service they probably thought and expected they were. This isn’t a one off example. It is especially a problem for the rural forces or forces with rural areas. My home town is no different with contacts within telling me there are regularly not enough Officers to cover the area properly.
So a huge list of duties and expectations (some of which should not be dealt with by police officers such as ebay disputes, facebook issues, parenting difficulties, transporting people and things….) coupled with ever dwindling resources is the TRUE reason you do not see so many Police Officers on patrol anymore whether that is in a car or on foot. I will admit and agree that many Officers probably do not want to be patrolling on foot these days but that is not through laziness (although I admit there will be the odd one who is lazy) it is more because with such vast areas to cover and the enormous range of duties they are responsible for with such small numbers, walking around in one town is not practicable.
For example, when I used to walk around on foot in the town of Wetherby I was useless if a call came in at Boston Spa or if a colleague in Aberford, a 10minute drive away but part of my ward, needed assistance. If you want more foot patrols you need more police. If you want more police you need to get behind them, stand up for them and fight the Government. It is their austerity measures causing this problem. The 20% cuts to Police budgets with an impending 25-40% FURTHER CUTS to follow this November! It is not “The Police” that make the choice not to patrol or to take their time getting to your call, it is the GOVERNMENT forcing this problem onto society through drastic austerity measures. Forcing senior ranks to make difficult and possibly dangerous choices over policing priorities.
I blame the Government and the media for a lot of the myths and bad opinions of our bobbies. I agree those bad apples in the Police Service do not help in any way and if you read my other blogs you will see my opinion of those who disgrace the office of Constable. However, it seems to have become the norm now to just report negative Police stories and to link anything to do with law, order, legislation and everything crime related with the cover-all term “The Police”.
We see “The Police” and images of Police related items such as the blue and white Police tape, being used by mainstream media when reporting on things which if we were to be fair, are not the fault of the Police. For example, when a particularly horrible suspect is released from custody on bail or without charge it is reported that “THE POLICE HAVE LET DANGEROUS SUSPECT “JO BLOGS” WALK FREE TODAY…”. In actual fact, if a suspect has “walked free” on bail or without charge, that is down to the law and legal system, neither of which “The Police” wrote or has any control over. There are very strict rules regarding the bailing and remanding of suspects which the Police simply abide by, not write. The decision to charge a suspect is made by the CPS in most cases or a trained Crime Evaluator in other matters. Decisions are based on evidence, threat to victims, witnesses or even the suspect and other factors. Although it is a custody Sergeant who authorises the release of suspects, it is done by following very strict rules which leave no room for ifs or buts or any personal opinion or preference, so how can they be blamed? Unless of course the release has been caused by a failure, malpractice or mistake by “The Police”, in which case you could blame the Officer responsible, but not the entire Police Service of England and Wales, your entire force or “The Police”.
When the Government introduce controversial new laws such as their snooping charter, the media often state to the public that it is “The Police” who want to have these powers. It is NOT the Police who request these powers. It is the Security Service and the Government but because it will be the Police who are forced to enforce the laws whether they agree or not, it is “The Police” that get the blame.
When it was discovered that the national crime statistics were wrong, fiddled and manipulated it was blamed on “The Police”. That resulted in many people thinking the bobby they see patrolling, attending their calls etc is a liar and fiddles the crime stats. The Police all over the country were labelled as liars and trying to cover things up when in actual fact the crime stats were fiddled by the senior command, the pseudo-politicians and the Home Office. Why label and tarnish an entire section of society, a vital public service, based on the actions of people who are so far removed from real life and the daily good the Police do? My guess would be to keep the wedge between the public and the public servants firmly in place so that they are less likely to stand together, shoulder to shoulder against the Government. But that is just my opinion.
This desire to blame “The Police” for everything, even it is not the fault of the Police subsequently bleeds into society. We have all heard the criticisms, opinions and myths surrounding policing. Let me elaborate and start with this one…
It’s lunch time, you hear sirens in the distance, you see a Police car with blues and twos on heading into town in the direction of shops and you say/hear “There they go, off to get their lunch” or something similar along those lines. We have all heard it. The comment has been uttered since I was a young child and even before then I am sure. I can not comment on whether that actually ever happened back in the “olden days”. Perhaps in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s when Policing and life was completely different from today. However, I can guarantee you that it does not happen today and if it ever did then the Officer(s) would be disciplined and most likely sacked along with charged with any traffic offences they committed.
The reason being is that in all Police vehicles these days there is a “black box” device. This device requires the Officer to either scan their warrant card or security pass or type in a unique code in order to start the car. So long as the engine is running this device records EVERYTHING that vehicle does. It records, speed, breaking, gear, mileage and every time the sirens or lights are turned on. So if an officer has a collision in the vehicle the data is automatically looked at. If he is found to have been speeding, didnt break, using lights and sirens when he shouldn’t have been etc, then the officer is facing one hell of a problem. The control room supervisors and senior management can and do conduct spot checks on the vehicles. They can check what speed Officers are driving, they can make sure light and siren use coincides with an emergency call or other relevant and permitted incident. They are notified if the car goes over a certain speed and Officers are often called in to account for it. They can even check how long a car has been parked up with the engine running to ensure Officers are not wasting time. So the myth that Police use blue lights to get home on time, get their meal or for anything other than a lawful and permitted reason is absolutely untrue.
Another common complaint and frustration as a member of the public is that “The Police” attended a burglary, damage, theft etc and “were useless, they did nothing at all”. When the Police attend any crime scene where the suspect(s) have left they have to look for clues or evidence. They will check if there is CCTV covering the scene. Were there any witnesses to the offence? Has the suspect left any items behind? Has the suspect left any forensic evidence such as fingerprints or blood etc. Unfortunately, criminals these days are switched on and quite often do not leave any evidence behind. So if the Police Officer is unable to investigate your crime further it is NOT because they are useless or can’t be arsed, it is because there is no evidence to lead to a suspect. You can not logically or fairly call “The Police” useless for not being able to magic evidence out of thin air I’m afraid…. And if you want to use the argument that if they were patrolling more they may deter these crimes, please read the beginning of this blog again then complain to our Government.
“I told ‘The Police’ that that bloke down the road was dealing drugs last week and they’ve done nothing about it!”… This is a common complaint I hear from people or see on social media. It is so frustrating for us as members of the public that criminals in our society seemingly get away with their crimes without any Police action being taken. It is very frustrating for Police Officers that they can’t just go and search a property or a person who has been pointed out as committing crime such as drug dealing. It is THE LAW that prohibits the Police taking quicker action against suspected drug dealers. If a member of the public tells a Police Officer that “Joe Bloggs” is dealing drugs from his home address they will take that information and submit it as intelligence. They will check the Police system and if there are other recent reports of the same nature then they can look at swearing out a warrant, organising a raid at a time when they have enough resources and then searching the address….If there are no other reports or only a couple then I am afraid the information will sit there until futher intelligence gathering can be done. The courts will NOT issue the Police a warrant on one or two intel reports. They will not issue a warrant until the Officer can satisfy them that the information is viable, reliable and they know as much as possible about the address and it’s residents. This all takes time. It takes Surveillance, intelligence gathering and an operational order. These all take time. Some operations can take months to put together, especially if the suspect is switched on and smart. A lot of this information will not be passed to the member of the public who reported it and so to the unaware it WILL seem like “The Police” are doing nothing. They are doing something, just have some patience. It is hard to do all of these essential things to get a warrant when they are also doing the duties in the huge list above.
“I TOLD “THE POLICE” THAT MY DAUGHTER WAS BEING LED ASTRAY BY A BOY AND THEY SAID THEY CAN’T DO ANYTHING”… The same applies to parents worrying about the friends their kids have. The Police do not have the legal powers to instruct people, including children, who they can and can’t associate with. The law allows people to socialise with whomever they wish. This boils down to simple parenting. So long as no criminal offences are being committed or there is no immediate risk or threat to life and limb, the Police will not and can not act. It is down to parents to handle their children and there are other services around to assist if they can not. The Police will be there to deal with any crime or risk to life and limb only.
“I SAW “THE POLICE” LOCK SOMEBODY UP JUST FOR WALKING DOWN THE STREET WITH A BRITISH FLAG”… Well that simply isn’t true. I’ve seen a recent video which starts just as the Police are arresting somebody carrying a Union Flag. You do not see any of the incident before this. The title of the video is purely designed to cause unrest as it claims the Police arrested the person because the flag offended somebody. There is no law against carrying the Union Flag or any other for that matter and so it is only possible that the person was arrested for their conduct. Words or actions used whilst walking down the street with the flag. The Police can only arrest for what the LAW allows them to and no law will allow them to arrest for this. Simple as that.
“THEY ARE POLICE OFFICERS THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO CONTROL THEIR ANGER BETTER”… Sadly there are many reports of Police using excessive force and I will never try and justify it. I will however just try and explain why a Police officer is no more able to control their temper, adrenaline and reactions in a violent situation. It is believed and expected (and rightly so) that The Police are highly trained in dealing with violent situations. That they are trained in self defence and are skilled in controlling their adrenaline. They are not. A Police Officer will still suffer the same adrenaline rush, the “fight or flight”, reaction as anybody else. They are of course more like to choose the FIGHT reaction. This doesn’t mean they will scrap with somebody, it means they will stand their ground and deal with the situation. In training all role plays of violent situations are far too Health and Safety controlled and so they can never be realistic and officers can never really be trained for real life until they hit the streets and encounter live situations. The level of self defence training they receive is no more than a few strikes to “pressure points” on the forearm if somebody grabs you or your kit or to press the mandibular angle to try and “gain control” of a suspect. All of this impractical Unarmed Defensive Tactics training mixed with pushing back with their hand held infront of them saying “Get Back”. I studied martial arts throughout my childhood and teens and also read a lot of self defence books too. I learned more from those books than the Police taught me. There were always requests from Officers for more realistic training but it was never permitted due to “Health & Safety”. So when an Officer gets involved in a violent situation his/her natural animal instincts kick in and unless they have had sufficient training OUTSIDE of the service they simply do their very best to survive and control the situation. Unfortunately, that sometimes leads to excessive force being used or mistakes being made.
These are just a few of the gripes, misconceptions and opinions expressed to me from members of the public and friends. I am sure there will be more. I am not for one second trying to say that the Police are perfect, don’t make mistakes or that all issues are down to cuts and being under resourced. There are problems in the Police Service which are caused by individuals whether that be corruption, racism or other criminality or malpractice but on that issue I would add that again, the actions of these individuals is not reflecting or representative of “The Police”.
I hope this blog has gone some way to increase some awareness of the situation within the Police Service of England and Wales and has come across as intended.
**In my next blog I am going to look at some of the duties Police Officers deal with which clash with their morals and beliefs but which they are legally obliged to fulfil and ask where would that obligation to duty over personal morals would end.
This blog is more me thinking aloud.
I am writing this blog for the public. For the people wanting to rise up and make a stand against the UK Government. For the people who plan to attend one of the many anti-austerity marches this year.
I am also writing this for the Police Officers who are tasked with Policing these marches. Police Officers who can relate to many of those marching having spent the last 5 years seeing their own pay, working conditions, pensions and living conditions being hacked away by the Tories. Police Officers who have nothing more than their strong sense of duty preventing them opening the cordon and letting the crowd through the gates of Downing Street. Officers who are doing their duty but some of whom I know for a fact want to be part of the march but would face certain dismissal and possible criminal charges if they did so.
Both sides are against the austerity being inflicted upon the nation. Both sides are suffering various levels of pain at the hands of this tyrannical government. Both sides (with perhaps a few exceptions) did not want the Tories back in power. Both side have a common enemy but will, over the course of the year, end up going head to head in battle on the streets of London and dare I say other major cities.
The protesters will march. The Police will march and contain.
The protesters will increase their numbers and try and break containment. The Police will increase their cordons.
The protesters will begin to venture off track. The Police will begin to kettle.
The protesters will begin pushing and shoving. The Police will begin pushing and shoving too.
Things will get thrown, batons will get drawn. Police will get hit, protesters will get hit.
The Police will use the media to claim the protesters were thugs and violent. The protesters will use social media to claim the Police were thugs and violent.
Protesters will be caught on camera breaking the law and face justice. Police will be caught on camera breaking the law and they too will face justice.
Both sides will take casualties. Public property will get damaged. Innocents will get caught in the fracas and they too will get injured by either side.
And whilst all of this goes on and the public pick a side and begin condemning the other, the common enemy, the people responsible for this uprising, the people who hide behind the Police Officers’ strong sense of duty whilst simultaneously attacking both warring factions will sit in their fortresses laughing at the chaos in the streets below but vehemently condemn in front of the camera.
The Government will condemn the protesters and deny they were responsible in any way for the public dissent. The Government will criticise the Police for their slow response time, their lack of resources, their lack of equipment and the actions they took. They set the two sides against each other then sit back and attack them both again and again….and we let it happen time and time again.
These protest which we are seeing and will continue to see in increasing numbers and strength are directed toward the same Government, the same enemy that the Police have faced for the last 5 years but have been prevented by law from doing anything about it or to protest in any way.
The difficulty is that the Police are sworn to protect ALL person and ALL property without showing any favour to either side. You may argue that by stopping the protesters reaching their targets and by using force against the protesters that they are showing favour towards the enemy. However, I assure you that if the Tories were to suddenly man up and come outside of their fortresses and try to get at the protesters, if they decided to stop hiding behind their fences and the duty of the Police and try to fight back, the Police would 100% absolutely stop them too. They would use force where necessary and would make arrests for any crimes they committed. That is because although I am sure the vast majority would love to see David Cameron or George Osborne get given a slap or a bit of a beating, they MUST act without fear or favour and protect each person (even their own enemy) from danger…That is the nature of Police work and that is what they are duty bound to do. To do any different, to step aside and us gain access to Downing St, Westminster Palace, Tory HQ or any other Government building would guarantee they got the sack and faced criminal charges for neglect of duty and misconduct. They would absolutely face greater convictions than any single protester.
So why not box clever and rather than play the games of our enemy, rather than go to war with each other, rather than protesting against austerity, cuts and the Tory tyranny but then attacking physically and verbally other victims of this regime, co-operate and protest in an alternative manner?
What does/has attacking Police with barriers, cones, bricks, rocks, sticks and smoke bombs achieved for the cause?
What has punching, kicking, elbowing, headbutting, baton striking or spraying protesters achieved for the Police?
Both sets of actions have simply brought both parties into disrepute and seen them facing public criticism and legal action. Counter productive and does nothing to alter the course we are heading. Nor does it have any impact upon the common enemy, David Cameron and the Tory party.
The Police are absolutely NOT going to engage in violent protest. But imagine the impact it would have on WORLD media and the Government if the Police stood amongst or side by side with rather then surrounding or kettling the protesters.
If the protests remained friendly and non-violent with nothing being thrown, nothing being burned, nothing being damaged and no reason or excuse given for the Police to draw their batons or begin cordoning or kettling then the exact same message could be expressed without the enemy and it’s media being able to criticise anybody at all.
It isn’t only the protesters who would need to make a change in their actions and attitudes. The Police would need to recognise that these men and women are marching and protesting against something they too have been victim of for half a decade. They would need to be a little more tolerant and understanding and recognise that these people represent them and their grievances too. That these people are doing what the Police have been wanting to do for 5yrs but have been prevented from doing so by law. To remain calm and use alternative methods of policing the marches and dare I say, question orders given to the contrary.
A simple gesture such as standing together facing the Government Buildings rather than the crowd would show a participation, a protest without actually “protesting”. A sign of defiance against the Government and solidarity with the community NOT the enemy.
The Police Officers policing these events would need to stand together as one in their actions. They can’t sack or discipline everybody after all.
John Lennon said
“When it gets down to having to use violence the you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you; pull your beard, flick your face to make you fight [they will use the presence of the Police to do this that is what you all need to recognise] Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humour”
These protests would have so much more impact if the public recognise the restraints placed upon the Police and the fact that THEY CAN NOT ALLOW THE LAW TO BE BROKEN NO MATTER HOW MUCH THEY MAY DESPISE THE GOVERNMENT. The Police also need to recognise that the public partaking in these protests only want the same as you. Fairness, Equality and the Tory scum out of power. BOTH sides need to accept that those responsible for the austerity are the ones fuelling the violence and the moment either side resort to aggression the Government has won again.
The Public is the Police and the Police is the Public. Uniting as one would have unquestionable impact.
This short story is true. It is a story about how each of us is just a few unfortunate steps away from being left with nothing at all and how we are all vulnerable to homelessness. This incident changed my life in more ways than one. It took place whilst I was serving as a Police Officer and the gentleman’s name has been changed and place names omitted.
John was a career Police Officer with a force I shall not name. He had served as a PC for almost 16 years. He had a wife and 2 young children whom he adored. He was healthy, active and had a blessed life. He owned a 4 bedroomed house with large garden in a nice area and he and his wife drove nice cars. With not a worry or issue in the world he was a lucky man and had a life many would envy.
In 2010 following an incident at work John was injured both physically and mentally. The physical wounds healed very quickly but the psychological wounds never did. He returned to work reluctantly after a short period of sickness. He never liked taking time off and had never had a day’s sick leave in his career and this alone bugged him, but he understood the importance of making sure he was up to doing his duty and returned as soon as he felt physically capable.
After only a few weeks back at work he began to realise he just wasn’t himself both at work and with the public and at home with his family. He wasn’t sleeping well because he would have regular bad dreams and flashbacks to the incident which put him out of work. He was becoming short tempered which was completely not his true self. He became a little reclusive, not wanting to attend family events, not wanting to take the kids out for weekends away or even to the park. The more it went on the more he knew he needed help and that something wasn’t right but he just couldn’t bring himself to ask for help.
One afternoon at work following an argument with a colleague John lost his temper, punched his colleague and damaged a force computer before walking out of the station and going home early. To cut a long story short he was subsequently suspended. Whilst suspended he was pressured into going to the Doctors and seeking help. He was of course diagnosed with depression, post traumatic stress and anxiety and despite the fact he did not want to take medication he was prescribed tablets.
Whilst on suspension and taking his meds he did make a substantial improvement and although not fully his old self, things at home were improving. That was short lived however.
He was taken off suspension and allowed back to work but on advice from his GP and family and friends he took time off sick to try and get back to some “normality”. He was still under investigation by Professional Standards for assaulting his colleague and damaging a computer however they were pursuing misconduct and disciple matters rather than criminal matters given the circumstances (and their negligence with offering him the correct support at the time of his incident and injury).
He ended up being off work for several months and he believed it was his sickness and insistence that PSD did things on his terms for medical reasons that ultimately resulted in him being required to resign from the force. He did so reluctantly and he described it as being the day his life ended.
As time went by and as he struggled like crazy to get another job and keep the family afloat things went from bad to worse. They couldn’t pay bills, they were increasingly in debt, they argued a lot, tensions were running high and he felt all his progress with his depression was going to waste more and more each day.
Eventually his wife and kids left him. He missed mortgage payments and debts were out of control. He lost everything. Within less than 2years John was left broke and homeless. His friends had all but deserted him, his wife wanted nothing more to do with him, he never saw his kids and he ended up living rough or moving from hostel to hostel.
Eventually he ended up in my area living in a tent in some woods next to the motorway. He begged for change and food at a nearby motorway services and used their toilets and showers to keep clean. He learned to catch rabbits for extra food and rainwater for drink. He kept himself to himself and nobody would have had any idea there was a man living in a small wood as they drove by every day.I had no idea myself until a colleague told me and I made it my business to go and visit him and that is how I got to speak with him at length. I would occasionally sneak off without work mates knowing when working single crewed and see if he was around and check how he was doing and sometimes took him a sandwich from morrisons and bottle of water.
He told me one day how he had come to the decision to live in these woods. He had spent months on the streets and in homeless shelters but said that every night he closed his eyes he was scared he would never wake up. He talked of thugs and youths robbing homeless people for what little money or possessions the had. He told me one day he was robbed by 2 teens who even heartless tore a photo of his kids to pieces whilst they laughed and one held a knife. That day he was thrown out of WH Smiths for trying to buy some card and glue to stick his picture back together.
He told me how he had come closer and closer to turning to drink and drugs as the temptation living rough in towns and cities was too much. How he had had to go against every moral fibre in his body and break the law by stealing food, drink and a new sleeping bag to survive. He told me how shops and even fast food venues like Mcdonalds would turn him away as soon as he entered. The final straw was when the Police and Council began targeting the homeless and removing their sleeping bags etc…In his own words
“I never felt so lonely and I was surrounded by thousands of people”.
He knew of my area as he would often visit as a child and so made the decision to travel up by hitch-hiking with friendly wagon drivers. He said one or two even allowed him to sleep in their wagon at night and fed him too. When he arrived in the area he moved from place to place trying to find a nice, quiet and secluded spot to make his “home”. He said he tried half a dozen or so before settling with the woods. He was able to work “cash in hand” as a labourer for a local company for a week which paid him £150. With that money he bought a one man tent, warm clothes and sleeping bag and camping supplies and set about making his camp site home.
John was always very humble, very grateful for any time you would spend talking to him and always politely offered you a brew. He would also turn down any acts of charity and offers of help and said he was used to his little life now and quite enjoyed the peace.
Several months went by without any sign of John and winter was upon us. We were contacted by a hospital ward to ask us to check on his welfare as he had been admitted with various health problems caused by his lifestyle and the cold and he had walked off the ward. For 4 days I visited his camp to see if there had been signs of life. It was blisteringly cold and even in a wool hat, gloves, fleece and body armour I was cold. There was no way John was going to survive nights in this weather and there wasn’t so much as a recent fire at his camp. All his possessions were there but he wasn’t.
It was on the 5th day that news came back to us that John had been found. Upon leaving hospital he had taken what little cash he had and paid for one night in a B&B in a different force area. Whilst there John had seen fit to end his own life and was found the following morning by staff. He had overdosed on heroine.
The news was a massive blow and John’s entire life story impacted me in a way of which, up until hearing the news of his death, I had no idea. His life, I believe, shows just how fragile our lives are. How everything we deem to be important and take for granted can just be pulled away in the space of a few short months and there is nothing you can do about it. How those is desperate need of help can often go unseen and their needs unnoticed before it is too late. I found myself asking if there was anything more I could have done to help him or if I could have changed his life for the better. I couldn’t have. I offered him all the help I could reasonably offer and he was always so appreciative but would politely turn it down.
It is for this reason that I get so passionate about homelessness in this country and will always stand up for people in that dreadful situation and will try to do my very best to help when and where I can, even if it is simply by raising awareness.
People need to open their eyes when walking around cities and towns and stop pretending that homeless people don’t exist or that it’s not their problem or that “you shouldn’t give them money they will only get drunk or buy drugs”. I invited a homeless guy to join me and my mates for a beer on my stag doo in York in May but he turned the offer down because he was T total. Instead me and my mates give him enough money to go eat and spend the night in a hotel. He was chuffed to bits and split between us cost about £10 each. That’s about 3 and a half pints sacrificed to help somebody in need.
My better half bought a homeless guy in York a hot drink and sausage roll last winter, his reaction genuinely put a tear in my eye. As I looked around I was filled with rage as people looked at us like we were scum for feeding the poor bloke.
Ignorance and dismissal of this problem does nothing to change it and given that we are all just a few unfortunate steps away from being in the same situation, we should all do a lot more to make sure the problem no longer exists rather than sweeping it under the carpet or walking around with blinkers on.
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