A Copper’s Curse

The job of being a police officer is, quite literally, a poisoned chalice. 

The immense pride you feel upon passing out of training school, boots bulled, shirt pressed and warrant card signed is an indescribable feeling. You’re ready to go out there and make the difference you joined for. That’s a cliche but it’s true. There’s also the excitement of thinking about being involved in car-chases, foot pursuits with prolific burglars, foiling armed robberies and so on and so on. 

The naivety of youth.

As days turn into weeks, weeks into months and months into years the chalice starts to tarnish. Upon going to your one-hundredth domestic, which will be undoubtedly be about something as inane as a ham sandwich (that’s a true story – see: Domestic Bliss – https://mountainninja999.wordpress.com/?s=Domestic+bliss&submit=Search); or yet another repeat-offender shoplifter who has stolen a 39 pence craft knife from Wilko’s (also a true story for which he ended up remanded and took to Crown Court); or yet another misper who isn’t actually missing but the (insert name of any relevant ‘partner agency’) has decided needs to be the responsibility of the police, then you start to feel a little jaded about it all. A bit negative. Forlorn.

Am I really making a difference?

Couple that with the way your bosses then treat you. I’ll say bosses rather than their preferred term of leaders because true leaders wouldn’t do the things that impact on their staff as much as the bosses do. Cancelled rest days for a football match. Changes of shift pattern that simply make commuting and home life more difficult. The infamous comment of, “if you don’t like it, then leave. You should feel lucky you have a job.” Yes, I have heard that first hand!

Little things like that erode away your respect for the person above you because you get the feeling they’re not on your side. They’re not fighting for you.

They don’t care…. so it’s easy for you to stop caring. You end up resenting the job. 

You see the media tearing you, and everything you stand for, to pieces. The Government doesn’t support you or the job you do.

Everything added together also results in you becoming blasé about the job. You go to job after job after job dealing with incidents that a police officer really shouldn’t have to attend. 99.9% of the time everything is fine. Not as reported and that experience compounds on top of the last one. You go to the next incident thinking, “this is just going to be another nothing job” and that’s it, the curse has struck. I used to be the worst one for it. I approached things with an “it’ll be alright” attitude. That’s when things can go wrong.

Policing, by its very nature, is unpredictable. Every day ticks over and is different from the last. The smallest of interactions can have a big, long-lasting impact on people and yourself. Also, without being overly dramatic, you never know when you could walk into a life-threatening situation. Whether that’s an aggressive criminal armed with a weapon intent on doing you harm or dealing with a road traffic collision on a busy road with other motorists flying past you at speed (and everything in between). In recent years we have seen tragedy occur in the examples I have provided above. That should never be underestimated.

The thing is, the curse also helps you do the job. It allows you to walk into the viper’s nest without fear. Your experiences of the horror that society has to offer desensitises you and gives you the strength to deal with the worst incidents imaginable with a shrug of your shoulders and a dark sense of humour.

It is then, when you sit back and take stock of things, that you realise just how unique police officers are. We will deal with anything thrown at us. Often with a moan and a grumble but the job gets done. 

And it gets done well more often than not. 

Every day I can look around and find an example somewhere that shows why, deep down, I am still proud of the job and still love it because the difference I wanted to make when I joined is being made by all of us together.

But that’s just another part of the curse!

All Lives Matter

Okay. I know I’ve been quiet recently. I haven’t blogged for a long time and I’ve left my Twitter account alone for a while. There is a good reason for it though…

Basically, I was fed up with the job. For a multitude of reasons. I had reached a level of service where it was easy for me to lose faith in it all. Crazy, bureaucratic decisions made by people who have no clue about what we do or why have been coming thick and fast over the last few years and after a while you end up feeling helpless because you can’t control or combat any of the nonsense. 

Couple that with the constant barrage of negative media headlines and spin and it leaves you wondering why you bother? It becomes easy to fall into the trap of thinking, ‘I’ll turn up, do my bit, get paid and then go home because I don’t care anymore’.

The problem is though, I do care. I care about the job. I care about the people within my community. I care about the way we are perceived and even though many many other cops hate to admit it, even to themselves, they care too. I know that because when the chips are down they all front up and do what they can. It doesn’t matter how horrific the incident is. How traumatic or emotional, the thin blue line will still stand there. In the face of criticism from the armchair critics or flying bottles. It matters not. The line stands firm. 

After seeing the world go mad over the last few months with incidents in the US, France and Turkey (to name but a few) one thing strikes me more than anything else… people seem incapable of comprehending what our primary role in society is. 

Our first and foremost priority is to preserve life. Nothing more. Nothing less. Read my previous blogs https://mountainninja999.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/i-tried-my-best/ and https://mountainninja999.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/a-big-bad-policeman/ to give you just two examples. 

This week I have also listened to two colleagues (one of whom is very close to me) describe incidents where they have fought to save the lives of two separate people. I watched them both fill up as they talked me through each job. One of them cried as they described the look the person gave them. The eyes said it all, “please police officer. Please help me”. That person thankfully survived but you will never read about what those officers did that day. You won’t see it on the news because it’s not a scandal. It doesn’t sell papers. 

The Police National Bravery Awards were also held this week. The winner, and runners up, and most regional winners all had one thing in common. They saved lives (or did their utmost to). Not fighting crime and crime alone. Saving real people from life-threatening situations with little thought for their own safety. 

Why though? Why did they do any of those things? 

Because that’s the oath they took and even the most cynical and bitter of cops still has that sense of duty to help people. 

The problem is, our world is full of darkness and horror. We generally see people at their consistent worse and after a while it starts to overcome you. You become suspicious of everything. Cynical. Thick-skinned. Prickly. Direct…. or maybe that’s just me! Things that make other people shudder are just part of your day to day routine. I recently attended a suicide where a young male had hung himself. He had been found by a group of school kids. That incident wasn’t even a speed bump in my day. I’ve been to that many jobs like that it becomes ‘normal’ even though it really isn’t and deep down I know that. I had to keep reminding myself that these kids had just had the shock of their young lives that would probably be a major life event for them for years to come. For me, it was just another Tuesday. 

In all honesty, I have grown envious of ‘normal’ people. I wish I could erase certain memories and enjoy the naivety that comes with not knowing these things. 

The truth is, though, I still love the job. I don’t think I’m built to do anything else. I take pride in wearing the uniform. I feel a connection to others that also wear blue because they are part of what I stand for. 

And, despite all of the grief that comes with it, I’ll still be there tomorrow responding to anyone’s cry for help. 

Because that’s my duty. 

And your life matters.

Seeing Is Believing

It’s been a while since my last blog. The simplest reason for that is the fact I lead a ridiculously busy life and don’t have much down time. The following story is, however, too good not to share so, are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

I was recently working a long and strangely quiet night shift. The city looked unusually pleasant in the crisp night air due to the festive lights and Christmas themed shop windows. The tedium was offset slightly by the fact I was working with my best mate which we hadn’t done for a couple of years due to being on different teams and doing different roles. 

As any cop will tell you, it’s important to be working the night shift with someone you get on with so you at least have something to talk about for ten hours cooped up in a car. As we drove around the city centre, the natural conversation turned to war stories of our time working on response at another district. We started reminding ourselves of various incidents that we had attended over the years and something became quite apparent. In all of our time working together we hadn’t really had any serious incidents or a ‘big job’ to our names. What we did have though, was a lot of strange, unusual, weird and wonderful jobs. In fact, there seemed to be a bit of a curse on us as most of them usually involved death… but that’s a different blog entirely. 

It’s also worth noting that I have mentioned it before but I seem to have a habit of being in the right place at the right time to be in a position to attend some big jobs. You only have to read through some of my older blogs to find evidence of that. This night was going to be like that and didn’t disappoint. 

My oppo and I were driving around the city centre after already completing our tasked patrol and realising that nothing was happening anywhere else in the district. It’s probably fair to say it was boring and we were only in the very early hours so we still had a long way to go until clocking off time. Then it happened… 

The radio crackled into life and the urgent voice of the dispatcher interrupted our benign in-car chit chat. It was obvious from the outset that this incident had set alarm bells ringing in the control room, “Any unit for an immediate graded incident to attend at the cathedral? A security guard has attended to an alarm activation and has found a naked woman hanging upside down covered in blood. Unsure if alive or not.”

I looked at my mate as he looked at me. Did I hear that right? A naked woman hanging upside down in the cathedral?

The brief circumstances passed had understandably raised a variety of questions in my mind but we were literally thirty seconds away. Despite what you see on television it’s very rare to be so close to an immediate incident as it comes in. 

We arrived at the cathedral and was met by the security guard who had also requested ‘back-up’ from his company. At this point in this dramatic tale it’s probably worth mentioning that this security guard’s company is the one our Government regards so highly that they want them to take over much of your police force’s functions. The same company who did such a good job of providing security at the London Olympic Games… 

In his defence, that at least gave the security guard more credibility. That and the fact he was absolutely petrified. I’ve never seen a grown man as scared. He had obviously started going into slight shock at the scene he had just witnessed. I asked him what had happened but he was struggling to get his words out.

 “She’s in there…”

“It’s just… horrible.”

“She’s covered in blood.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it.”

My senses were definitely heightened as we approached the main door. I had asked all of the relevant questions I needed to but the security guard was so traumatised that I wasn’t getting many coherent answers.

My mind was racing and playing out various scenarios of what I was about to be faced with. Will I need CSI? The on call Detective? More resources? Is there a murder suspect hiding in there? Why is a woman hanging upside down in the cathedral?!?!?

The security guard unlocked the ancient wooden door and it creaked open. It was pitch black inside so I asked, “Can we have the lights on please?” I was met with the undesirable answer of, “Sorry mate, I don’t know where the lights are.”

Right. This was definitely the plot from a horror film now!

“She’s in there. You guys can go in but I don’t want to see that again.”

My mate and I stepped over the threshold and into what was a side access corridor of the cathedral. We were going to have to search by torchlight only. I approached the first door and tentatively pushed it open before walking into the cavernous main hall. I was using my torch to quickly scan the rafters. I’d never been inside the cathedral before so I wasn’t familiar with the layout. It stretched out in all directions with small rooms and corridors in every corner. My priority was to find the actual scene to try and help the victim but I was aware that the building was almost impossible to contain if the offender was still in there. My brain was still trying to process all of the information quick-time whilst also running through a risk assessment. Had I managed to drop on another ‘once in a career’ type job?

We followed the natural route through the cathedral until we reached a small narrow staircase. Great, I was going to have to go down into the cellar! A voice then piped up behind me. 

“She’s in there!!! Down there!!! That door on the right!!! She’s in there!!! In there!!!” 

The words were garbled and almost spluttered out by the security guard. I thought he was waiting outside?

Despite it not being a firearms deployment the threat level was high. My mate and I set up on the door tactically. My hand instinctively checked that my sidearm was still securely holstered. I glanced into the room through the open doorway. It was narrow but about twenty metres deep and pitch black inside. There was also some sort of wooden partition that separated the room in two within the first few metres. 

“She’s in there!!!! At the back of the room!!! She’s hanging upside down!!! In there!!! In there!!!” The words blurted out from the security guard again. He was scared shitless. I glanced around and motioned for him to be quiet before I looked at my mate. I nodded and we entered the room whilst checking the corners to make sure the offender wasn’t hiding. 

As my eyes started to adjust to the darkness I could see the shape of someone hanging from the ceiling at the bottom of the room. For a split second my brain went into overdrive. We’ve got a victim! There must be an offender still in here! The cathedral was locked and secure! How the hell has someone managed to hang someone upside down? Is this some sort of ritualistic murder? If so, this isn’t within my particular skill set!

I then had the presence of mind to have a closer look. Call it intuition or a bobby’s nose (or more likely, common sense) I needed to know exactly what I was looking at. I shone my torch towards the bottom of the room. It illuminated a naked figure hanging from the ceiling that was covered in what looked like blood. The figure had long brown hair dangling into a wooden bucket placed on the floor….

….. but something wasn’t quite right. The figure had a shiny complexion… and no genitals… 

I looked at my mate as he slowly turned to look at me. One eyebrow was raised. I then turned to look at the security guard who I was aware was stood on my shoulder again. 

“It’s not real mate,” I said almost apologetically. 

“What? Wait, are you sure?” A look of confusion replaced the one of fear that had been there previously. 

“Pretty sure pal. It’s a model. You know, like a waxwork.”

The security guard pushed in front of me for a better look as I looked down and saw a plaque explaining the meaning behind the modern art display the cathedral had installed for the Christmas period. Something to do with the concept of death, morality, punishment and mortality according to the blurb.

I looked at my mate again and tried to hide the smile that had started to creep across my face just as the security guard came out with the best comment of the night, “Well, don’t I feel silly. Sorry lads.” I left the room to update the control room who had been in the process of sending the entire world to the incident. It was also convenient to go into another room to stifle my laughter. 

The poor security guard didn’t know where to put himself but all’s well that ends well.

Oh, and I still don’t understand modern art?!?!?!?  

 

Twitter: @mountain_ninja

A Race to Stop Searching.

What did you really expect to happen?

After a media led campaign of criticism which fuelled the ‘social commentators’ and ‘community spokespersons’ to stand on their soap boxes the police, in particular the Met, bowed to Government pressure and scaled back their stop and search tactics by their officers. This happened in two ways: Bosses panicked about cops being accused of racism and the frontline bobbies on the beat ultimately felt that it was safer for them to avoid unnecessary complaints by not searching people. 

What has been the result?

Knife crime is up 18% in London. The media are now back-pedalling furiously and calling for the police to do something. 

http://www.itv.com/news/london/update/2015-09-18/should-police-carry-out-more-stop-and-searches-to-tackle-knife-crime/

  
The problem is… we were doing something. 

How ludicrous is it that so many young people have had to lose their lives at the end of a knife for people to realise this? In my humble opinion there are certain people with blood on their hands.

The truth is, stop and search is a very effective tool in deterring criminals. Not just from carrying knives but also from dealing drugs, stealing property that doesn’t belong to them, carrying firearms and so on.

By sections of the media creating a furore surrounding stop search which caused many people to jump up and down making lots of noise the police ended up backed into a corner. The feeling was, “OK, let’s give people what they want.” I’m fairly certain that people didn’t want to see this level of violence on our streets. 

It’s not a matter of race either, as some would have you believe. In simple terms it’s a matter of the local demographic and attempting to you use local crime intelligence to target the right people… the criminals!

If you have a spate of street robberies being carried out predominantly by little green men wearing red baseball caps and hooded tops then common sense would dictate the best way to catch the perpetrators (or prevent them) is to patrol where these offences are occurring and try and disrupt the people who matched the description of the offenders. 

I have been doing this job for just over a third of my lifetime. In that time I have stopped and searched thousands of people. At least 98% of which I would describe as being a criminal. They had criminal records and chose to live their lives by being sociopathic, self-centred and greedy. They saw something that they wanted and just took it with little regard for anyone else. They were the type of person who would target the decent people in society so I would target them. It was my job to disrupt them and prevent them from doing that. As I have previously admitted, I don’t work for the Met (although I’ve had a bit of experience down there). Most of my service has been spent policing a town where the demographic is predominantly white-British. 

Guess what?

99% of the people I have stopped and searched have been white-British and although it’s fair to admit that most of those searches resulted in no evidence being found it also has to be mentioned that a lot of them were successful. I have stopped known criminals and found hidden on their person items such as: 

  • Knives
  • Drugs – Class A, B and C (sometimes in places you really wouldn’t want to look)
  • Stolen sat Navs
  • Stolen mobile phones
  • Stolen meat and cheese – who on Earth buys stolen meat and cheese that has been hidden down the trousers of a drug user?!?!?!?
  • A police style extendable baton
  • Imitation firearms

I’m sure you will agree that all of the above things have no place on our streets – especially the scruffy trouser marinated meat and cheese! It’s also fair to say that none of those items are linked to any particular race. They are linked to criminals. 

That doesn’t stop us from being generalised and labelled racist though. 

Since moving into my current role, I spend most of time policing one of the UK’s big metropolitan cities. Understandably, it is hugely multi-cultural with many different communities calling it home. It’s now my job to police them all as best I can…. by targeting criminals. My mentality hasn’t changed at all. 

I still stop and search people, the only difference being I get accused of being racist more often now. Quite often it’s just a tactic to try and upset my mojo. Sometimes I wonder if they do actually believe it or not? The truth is, every person that has ever accused me of being a racist is actually a criminal. Generally quite a nasty and prolific one at that. 

Stopping those people and searching them is part of my job. I try to be polite and professional but if someone is going to start shouting and screaming at me in the street they will be met with a robust response. 10 years ago that wouldn’t have been questioned at all. Nowadays, almost every interaction we have is filmed by someone on a mobile phone hoping that they have the next viral cop video on their hands.

Now, this bit is important. You have every right to film or photograph just about anything in a public place. That’s part and parcel of living in a free and democratic country. But, just because you have a right to do something doesn’t mean it’s ethical does it? By our very nature, police officers are quite cynical and sceptical of most things. That’s what the job does to you. You can’t help it. That also means we can get defensive about a camera being pointed at us when we’re just trying to do our job. Not because we’re doing something wrong but because we’ve seen hundreds of clips on the internet that have been edited and cut to put a negative spin on things. Where are the videos showing us in a positive light? I can guarantee that today, somewhere in the country, a police officer will have done something truly incredible. 

They will have shown bravery. 

Skill. 

Integrity. 

They will have saved a life. Made a difference.

That will never make it onto YouTube or Facebook. Twitter won’t be talking about them. It’s just part of the job we signed up for isn’t it? Not quite, but then I’m biased. 

After so much time doing the job I hate to admit that cynicism sometimes gets the better of me. That’s partly because my world is constantly the worst that society has to offer. The minority but still the worst. It starts to get under your skin and affects you until you have a word with yourself and snap yourself out of it. And then you will be faced with one of these negative video clips doing the rounds and it drags you down again. You find yourself trying to justify the job to yourself again.

 All of that is another factor for our collective morale being so low. We have spent so long feeling that we are being attacked and undermined with little or no support that it has become part of our culture. A negative black cloud constantly hanging over us because we feel that we can’t do right for doing wrong. That then undoubtedly affects the way we approach the job and probably the way we deal with people. 

Which it shouldn’t. 

I firmly believe in the key principle that the police are the public and the public are the police. Deep down I know the majority do support us and its you that I’m now going to appeal to. We need to hear you! We need to know that you’ve got our backs because that will give us the faith to keep plodding on. 

This was brought home to me recently by my wife who still works on my old patch. Sat at the dinner table Mrs Ninja asked me, “Oh, I forgot to mention it… do you know Mr Joe Public from Generic Street in town?”

My response was a blank look followed by a suspicious question of my own, “should I?” (I know you should never answer a question with a question but, as a cop, I like to be the one doing the questioning).

“Well he knows you. He reported something to me earlier and upon hearing my name asked if I was related to you…”

At this point, my wife went on to explain how she didn’t know how to initially answer the question. During my time as a beat cop I had enthusiastically targeted the local criminals in an effort to be known as good at my job. It meant that our regulars often knew my name and didn’t like me all that much either. 

After a bit of hesitation, Mrs Ninja confirmed that she did in fact know me and, for her sins, was actually married to me. 

Mr Joe Public’s reaction was unexpected. 

He reeled off the day, date and time that I’d had dealings with him… 6 years ago. He remembered my name and collar number and what I looked like. More importantly, he remembered in great detail the way I had dealt with him and his family. 

He was full of praise for the police officer who had attended that day (praise is not something I’m too accustomed to).

In the 6 years that had passed, I have dealt with thousands of other Mr and Mrs Joe Public so I had to rack my brain to remember this particular person. When I did I also remembered the incident in great detail. It was the suicide of this gentleman’s brother. A sad job to deal with but a relatively standard incident for a police officer. 

It then struck me.

Something most cops are guilty of.

We forget about the emotional impact these incidents have on your average member of the public. To us it’s just another incident. To them it’s a major life event.

Mr Joe Public’s life had turned upside down in that moment whilst, for me, it was a fairly standard part of the job. We all end up desensitised to the horror of the underbelly of life because we are the few who see it up close and personal every day. 

What Mr Joe Public hadn’t realised when he spoke to my wife was just what impact his few words could have on me. Even I was surprised by the effect. It gave me a huge boost and made me feel good about the job again.

It reminded me why I joined the job in the first place. 

If you are a fellow cop reading this then please take heart that there are huge numbers of Mr & Mrs Joe Public out there who support us and wish us well. 

If you are Mr & Mrs Joe Public then please let us know that you’re on our side when you see us out and about. You’ll never realise just how much of a positive impact you can have on us.

Lastly, if you’re a politician or a journalist then start taking some responsibility for what you’re doing to this country and its society. 

  
 

I Tried My Best…

Foreword: as has become a bit of a habit in my blogs I feel the need to add a bit of a disclaimer at the beginning. I don’t profess to be a policing expert. I also don’t try and hold myself up as something special. My blog is not an ego boost nor is it there for me to grandstand. It is, as was always intended, a way to be open and honest about the things we do in the name of duty. I am just an experienced frontline cop doing the best job I can under challenging circumstances. The public deserve to see things from our point of view occasionally because the media don’t seem to like reporting a lot of what we actually do… especially if it’s not crime and crime alone. 

********************************

Apparently, lightning doesn’t strike twice….

Throughout my career I have had a bit of a habit of being in the right place at the right time (or the wrong place at the right time depending on how you look at it).

Last year I wrote a blog titled “A Big Bad Policeman” (https://mountainninja999.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/a-big-bad-policeman/) which was probably my most honest and heartfelt piece since I started writing. In it I described an incident that I referred to as a 1% job. A once in a career type job. 

Quite recently, though, I seemed to be in the right place at the right time…. again.

It was a normal night shift for me. Nothing unusual or out of the ordinary. An early deployment for my team but nothing extraordinary and a quick resolution. Once that was all sorted it was just out on our regular directed patrol. 

The nature of my role means that my ‘patch’ is the entire force area. That means I regularly have to change channels on my personal radio whilst also monitoring a force channel in the car and my department’s dedicated channel on a colleague’s radio. The benefits are that we are able to help out across any district or beat area within the force. The difficulty being that your local knowledge of an area is never as good as the beat cops and you haven’t really got a clue what’s going off on a certain radio channel until you have been monitoring it for a good half hour or so. 

On that particular night my colleague and I had decided on the spur of the moment to cross district to target one of our tasked nominal criminals. I changed on to the relevant channel whilst my colleague drove us in the general direction of where we needed to be. Almost immediately, my radio sparked into life and a message passed by the control room for an immediate graded incident. A concern for welfare job. A beat unit shouted up that they would attend, we continued with our tasking as it didn’t sound like a job for us. 

The dispatcher then came over the radio again… they sounded more urgent. The caller was still on the phone with the call handler. Their house was on fire. 

They were trapped inside. 

There was then a flurry of messages passed between local units coordinating themselves and each other. Everyone was now travelling to the incident. Teamwork at its best and, in my humble opinion, the true epitome of policing. I knew we had to be relatively close. I also knew that we had more equipment in our car readily available to us than the local units. I shouted up the control room and told them we would be attending with a method of entry kit (the big red key) and an enhanced medical kit. I typed the address into the Sat Nav (no local knowledge) and my colleague set off on an immediate response with blues and twos. It seemed like an eternity but, according to the incident log, we arrived within two minutes. 

It’s not like TV or a film when doing this job. There is no dramatic background music. If anything, the car journey is often a very calm affair. My colleague and I even had time to discuss and plan who would be grabbing what kit from the boot when we arrived. 

As we turned on to the street I was scanning the houses to give me a clue where we needed to be. There was still the optimism that the incident wouldn’t be as bad as it first sounded on the radio. To be fair, I would estimate that a good 90% of our jobs turn out to never be as bad as they are first reported. 

This wasn’t one of those jobs. 

I grabbed the big red key and just set off running towards the house. I glanced at the windows as I ran past. They were blackened with smoke and soot. I could hear someone screaming for help. The adrenaline was now surging through my body. My heart was beating faster but I felt calm and focussed. As I ran down the path I saw two officers trying to smash a window in an effort to get into the house. I adjusted the red key in my hands as I continued down the path before shouting for them to give me access to the door.

(I did apologise for shouting after the event – perhaps I wasn’t as calm as I’d like to think).

BANG. The big red key did its job and the panel of the door went through with one hit. It wasn’t lost on me that a health & safety manager would have criticised me for not wearing gloves, arm guards and eye/head protection but these things do seem to be lost on them. I clambered through the hole I had made and expected to have to hit another door. That one was unlocked. 

I opened it with little thought of what was behind it. As it swung open I was met with a staircase. For a split second I was confused as to why I couldn’t see very well. The smoke was so dense that I could barely see my hand in front of my face. I started up the stairs before actually looking where I was going. For a moment my nerve almost faltered when I saw orange flames licking against a radiator and across the final step of the stairs. I shouted for one of the little in-car fire extinguishers which was quickly passed to me by one of the two officers who had followed me in. I more or less emptied it at the flames before they disappeared. I carried on to the top of the stairs where I was greeted by a landing stretching out in front of me. It was noticeably hotter up there. The smoke was choking and thick. I stupidly grabbed my torch to help me look down the landing but it was useless. A door was open further down the corridor and I could see flames crawling up the wall furthest away from me. Selfishly, I hoped that I didn’t have to go into that room. 

I was shouting for the occupant who was now silent. I was starting to doubt that anyone could survive these conditions. 

I tried to walk down the landing but was beaten back by the combination of heat and smoke. My own survival instinct was screaming at me to get out of there.

I started to feel helpless. 

I tried a second time to get to the room that was on fire. Not sure what I would see in there, then I heard it…

“Please help me.”

The voice was in the room directly next to me. I forced that door open with my shoulder and started looking on the floor where I was expecting to find the occupant. I then saw their outline stood in front of me. I shouted that I was going to get them out of there and that they had to follow me. I reached out and grabbed an arm conscious that I was probably going to cause some pain and feeling bad about it. 

I guided the occupant down the stairs and then climbed back out through the door. Other officers were there to help me out which I was thankful about. I was also thankful for the fresh air that smacked me in the face. The entire local shift were now on scene and assisted in getting the occupant out. 

I won’t go into any more detail out of respect for that person. They are someone’s loved one. Their family. As I write this this they are in hospital receiving treatment for 80% burns to their entire body. 

I did my best to get them out of there. I have analysed the incident again and again. Could I have done more? Should I have responded quicker to the original radio message? There aren’t really answers to those questions. 

I just did my best. 

To that persons mother and family, if you ever get to read this I want you to know that I did my best. I went in there for your loved one and I would do the same again tomorrow should I have to. 

To you, the public, I will do the same again tomorrow for you or your loved one. That is part of my oath. 

To those who knock us and criticise, please stop destroying the job I love, believe in and give myself to every day. This incident is what the job is all about. It’s not recorded as a statistic anywhere and it’s not dealing with crime and crime alone. It’s about protecting people. The reason why we joined the job in the first place. Doing what we think is the right thing in that split-second. Acting on instinct to try and protect a stranger.

If you are a fellow cop reading this then my message to you is simple. Don’t let the negative stuff in this job or the politics drag you down. Remind yourself why you joined up in the first place. 

We do these things because we believe in the job. We gave our oath and took it seriously. There are thousands of us standing on the thin blue line who still believe in it. Still want to do our best. 

I did my best…

… and I’ll do my best again tonight when I go out on patrol. 

Twitter: @mountain_ninja 

 

The Blame Game

Disclaimer: before I go into the main body of this blog I feel I must clarify that absolutely nothing I am about to write is intended to be an excuse for anything at all. Specific or general. My musings are simply my opinions on the job (which I do still love) and are intended simply to offer a different perspective on policing in an effort to dispel the myths surrounding our work within our communities. I don’t intend to be controversial and always aim to tell the truth. I often speak my mind about the inability of police leaders and the Federation to speak out on our behalf so I have to stand by the confidence of my convictions and do the speaking out in a more public forum. I can only hope that eventually someone will read my blogs and realise what’s happening before it’s too late…

In recent weeks, months and even years I have seen an increasing attitude whereby the police seem to be at fault for everything. Don’t get me wrong… we make mistakes. Often high-profile ones at that and, I can assure you, every cop in the land will cringe when we know that we’ve dropped the ball on something. Quite frankly, it can be embarrassing and I don’t mind being honest about that. It’s just my professionalism and desire to do the best job possible. I’m also more than happy knowing there is a huge amount of responsibility and, ultimately, accountability on me and my actions. That’s the nature of the beast and it was made very clear from the outset. I knew what I was getting myself into. There is no other job in the world that is quite as accountable as being a police officer. Every single interaction I have with a member of the public, every decision I make and action I take can be put under the microscope and torn apart should something go wrong. That is the main reason why most cops will say that, with all the will in the world, unless you’re in the job or have done it in the past, you can never truly understand it. 

My issue, however, is with the incidents where we seem to be wholly blamed whilst others absolve themselves of any responsibility whatsoever. That can be an individual or an organisation. Either way, the finger often gets pointed at the police with shouts of ‘their fault!’ This is often picked up by national media who spin their angle and publish a story which is then read and believed by most everyday folk, some of whom then perpetuate that story on social media. The cycle is infinite and I can only assume it sells a lot of papers… 

One recent story is that of the “Jihadi brides” – the London schoolgirls who are believed to have travelled to Syria to join IS. The police were quickly blamed by the father of one of those girls due to the way they tried to delicately deal with a separate incident of one of their friends travelling to Syria. Now, I might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I hadn’t realised when I recited my oath that I was basically accepting responsibility for the upbringing of every child in England and Wales. 

As a father myself, I can only imagine the pain and suffering those families must be going through but, I’m sorry, I struggle to see how you can absolve yourself from your parental responsibility of the upbringing of your teenage daughter. 

It seems to be the way modern society has gone. Almost everyone points the finger at someone else as a natural defence mechanism. 

Probably at the detriment of myself on occasion, I was taught from a young age that if you did something wrong it was morally and ethically important to hold your hands up and accept responsibility along with any subsequent consequences. I now try and teach my own children the same. 

In my humble opinion, the problem we are faced with is that large sections of society don’t seem to comprehend that criminals don’t work on the principles I have mentioned above. They do what they do for themselves because of greed and a sociopathic tendency to lean towards the easy option. They have no interest in ‘reforming’ and living an honest life (which is where the prison system falters) and the criminal justice system in Britain is so bureaucratic that it makes things easier for them. That is not the fault of the police. Yet it’s the police who are blamed for lenient sentences, for criminals not being in prison and who go on to reoffend. 

We are fortunate to live in quite a liberal and democratic society where the burden of proof on any criminal investigation is very high – admittedly in an effort to avoid any miscarriage of justice – but this can make the simplest of cases ridiculously complicated as it gets wrapped in red tape. The important thing to understand is that the police generally have a good idea of who is guilty in most cases. The CPS has made sure that, with its threshold test, even the smallest piece of evidence cannot be omitted or the case will be discontinued. The criminals and their solicitors know this. They therefore go ‘not guilty’ on even the most nailed on job hoping that somewhere in the chain will be an admin error and the CPS will bin it before risking their precious performance targets.

It is also important to understand that our society has developed an obsession with the need to reform criminals through the prison system. Unfortunately, in my experience of dealing with true criminals, they don’t reform and have little or no interest in doing so. They’re very good at the crocodile tears and saying the right things via their solicitor but what they actually do is laugh at the rest of us. I’ve heard them do it. 

That’s why it baffles me to know that so many ‘normal’ everyday folk have such disdain for the police. They mutter ‘pig’ under their breath as we walk past. They can’t help but post negative comments on social media sites and share the gutter press stories. On occasion they take it a step further. They spit in our direction and revel in one of our number being injured. 

This week I had a prime example of this mentality. I was deployed on a job looking for a criminal. One deemed dangerous enough to warrant an armed response. We were sent into a pub where we believed he was hiding. Now, I’m not naive. I’m well aware that our presence in a pub will always cause a stir. We try not to do it wherever possible but sometimes we have to. As I negotiated my way through the tables I felt a sharp impact under my shoulder and the sound of smashing glass. I immediately knew what had happened. Some brave soul had seen their opportunity when my back was turned to throw a pint pot at me. Luckily, my body armour took the brunt of it. I spun around to see who was responsible. His bravery faltered within him in a split second when he realised I knew it was him. All he could mutter was,

 “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…”

He was a young lad who, on the face of it, appeared decent and that’s what saddened me more. He was more interested in showing off to his mates to have a go at the ‘pig’ who had dared walk into their pub than he was about the dangerous gangster wannabe who was in there with him and who wouldn’t think twice before doing him over if it was in his interest. 

His sad excuse of “I didn’t mean to,” was even more pathetic. 

I think it’s very easy for the general public to see the ‘scandals’ and failings of the police and believe that we’re all the same. All power mad and violent. It never fails to amuse me that the people who accuse us of generalising and stereotyping fall into the trap themselves. 

I’ll be perfectly honest with you, I have no interest in wielding any power over anyone. I do my job because I like protecting good people from bad people and, when the opportunity is there, I like to make sure the bad people are accountable for their actions. Most cops I know are the same. It’s the ethos that makes us stay in the job.

A job that is never easy despite what many ‘social media warriors’ try to claim. 

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a prime example of how difficult the job can be. CSE is a disgusting crime. The perpetrators prey (and that is the best word to describe it) on vulnerable young people, quite often girls, and spend a lot of time grooming them. Convincing them that they’re boyfriend and girlfriend. 

Have you ever tried to convince a teenage girl of anything. Now consider trying to convince that teenage girl they’re not in love. Trying to convince them they’re actually a victim of crime. 

I’ve tried to do that and it’s an impossible task… it didn’t stop me from trying though. For hours. The very next night she was reported missing again. In her eyes she was in love and she had been brainwashed into believing the police had a vendetta against them. We weren’t to be trusted.

Again, we had intelligence as to who the perpetrator was but the CPS require evidence, quite often from cooperation of the victim, in order to bring a case. That’s the system that operates in this country. I’m sure that, later in life, that girl will come to realise that she was a victim and that we only ever tried to help her… that’s the optimism that keeps a cop plodding on anyway. 

As I said at the beginning of this blog, I’m not looking to make excuses and I’m not looking for sympathy. I just want you, Joe Public, to know a few things…

I take my oath very seriously. I’ve put myself in harms way in an effort to protect strangers on many occasions and I would do the same again tomorrow. I go to work every day promising my wife that I will be careful but always with that thought at the back of my mind that something could go wrong. Despite what you are led to believe, I never go out there trying to persecute people, stitch anyone up or physically hurt anyone. Quite the opposite to be honest. If a fellow cop is dodgy then I won’t be protecting them. There is no conspiracy! There is also nothing special about me. I am just a cop doing my job along with my brothers and sisters on the thin blue line. 

I am not the enemy of the public, I am a protector…. even if you can’t see that sometimes. 

  

Twitter: @mountain_ninja

The Answer Sheet

A different tact this post. With a nod to UK Cop Humour and Bullshire Police here is my satirical take on frontline policing. 

There aren’t many guarantees in life… unless you’re a Bobby and then, at some point in your service, you will be posed a question that can be answered by one of these:

1. No, you can’t wee in my hat… even if you are pregnant.

2. Yes, this road is closed.

3. I also technically ‘pay my wages’ along with thousands of nurses, doctors, firefighters, teachers, council workers and people on benefits.

4. You’re not kidding anyone when you say that you “get paid on Thursday”.
5. I also don’t believe that you’re in the middle of decorating your house/flat. 
6. No, I wasn’t bullied at school.
 
7. I’m not concerned that you’re going to get me ‘sacked’.
8. I also don’t believe that you know the Chief Super…
9. … and even if you do, it’s not going to affect the way I’m about to deal with you.
10. I’m sorry, but I don’t know your relative/friend who worked for the police 20 years ago in a town 50 miles away.
11. I’m really not responsible for things my force did or didn’t do 30 years ago.
12. I’m also not responsible for your inability to make good life choices and nor is society.
13. Yes, I am allowed to eat on duty.
 
14. I really don’t need you to tell me how to do my job.
15. If you have a strong opinion about the police, 2am on Saturday morning and with a belly full of cheap lager is probably not the best time to express that opinion.
 
16. If you are “studying law” you probably need to study more… you don’t know as much as you think you do.
17. Yes, I don’t mind admitting that I enjoy an alcoholic beverage on my days off. I just don’t feel the need to drink too much nor the need to fight my significant other/friend and the world.
18. Handcuffs aren’t designed to be comfortable (unless they’re pink and fluffy but we’re not issued with those). 
19. In all honesty, I don’t enjoy giving out traffic tickets but you were driving like a tool of your own accord so, here we are.
20. Yes, I should be out dealing with ‘proper criminals’ but fate and chance dictate that I’m here dealing with you and your buffoonery. 

Normal service will resume when I find the time to write the next blog post. 
Twitter: @mountain_ninja