Thursday, 29 May 2008

Target profiling

No matter what the Police do, someone somewhere is going to be offended, aggrieved, persecuted, upset or discriminated against in some way. In short, we’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t, so most of the time we crack on anyway after lots of checks and rechecks to make sure that the action to be taken is proportionate, legal, accountable and necessary. We then take the flack later and deal with it. One of the extremely hot political potatoes of late has been concerning the use of target profiling to identify and deter suspected terrorists or criminals.

My view on the subject is this – if we have an identified threat from a specific group or gang then we should target them with aggressive intelligence gathering, stop checks and arrests in order to disrupt their activities and identify and prosecute where criminal offences have become apparent. This way the vast majority of the public will not be harassed and they will see that we are tackling problems that affect everyone. By making an environment too hostile to operate in, the targets (or potential targets who see a benefit in crime/terrorism) will then move onto a softer option elsewhere. The better result is they hopefully decide that they cannot comfortably work anywhere and that the risk of capture is too high to justify the act, so they quit and do something else instead, like become a politician.

Take for example, a group of criminals using mopeds in order to quickly enter and exit a given area to commit burglaries at specific types of premises. This tactic is by no means new, as most Police pursuits of mopeds will be cancelled if there is an element of danger. You only have to watch Road Wars or Traffic Cops to learn that riding on footpaths, no helmets, lots of pedestrians etc fulfil this criteria, then that particular form of transport becomes desirable for committing crime as you can use the things virtually anywhere.

In order to deter criminals from using mopeds to commit the types of crime that we KNOW they are being used for, we could do one of three things. 1) stop everyone from using mopeds, 2) randomly check any moped rider whether or not we believe that they could be a suspect or 3) target specific riders based on intelligence such as age, clothing, behaviour, time of day or other known elements of their MO (modus operandi or method of operating)

The first option is unfair, disproportionate to the problem and will alienate not only those who do use mopeds and don’t commit crime but those who think it’s unfair to target everyone to eradicate an extremely small minority even though most people will never ride a moped in their life.

The second option is equally unfair and could be considered a complete and utter waste of time as it would appear you are merely stopping people who you don’t suspect to be a target in order to balance the books, they will also generate plenty of responses from innocent parties along the lines of “do I look like a 15 year old burglar?”

The third option is the preferred choice as it gives a higher potential hit rate for stops, it is fair and proportionate to the threat, it also has a higher potential for success as it narrows down the target profile significantly.

I think most will agree that sending police officers out in high visibility jackets and vehicles to randomly stop vehicles and people who they don’t even suspect are related to the crime, in randomly picked areas, is an absurd waste of time. The people and vehicles stopped would be searched and personal details gathered for no reason other than it is believed that random checks have at some point deterred a suspect from committing a crime and it is therefore a valid tactical option.

The Police officers will be well aware that they are doing nothing but filling out forms for forms sake as well as getting on peoples nerves for making them late for work/college/pub needlessly. Even if the senior management maintain that doing random checks on random people could possibly maybe perhaps deter someone from committing burglary in the area, everyone feels that resources would be better used in specifically targeting the actual suspects instead of everyone else.

This is what currently happens with stop searches under Section 44(1 & 2) of the Terrorism Act as we are told “no one knows what a terrorist looks like, they could be anywhere and everywhere so don’t stereotype people and check anyone and everything” The Police officers cannot refuse a lawful order as the legislation is designed to be used to stop anyone and everything in a given (large) area and time frame, so legally there is nothing wrong with the order, as rediculous as the action may be.

During the IRA/RIRA/PIRA campaigns in the 80’s and 90’s, if you were a white male or female in your early to mid 20’s, had an Irish accent and people didn’t recognise you then suspicions would have been raised. If you were in an area where no Irish people lived or gathered then the chances are that you would have been stopped and searched. When I was a kid we used to have TV broadcasts on the BFBS (British forces Broadcasting Service) telling everyone to look out for exactly that profile and to report them to the Royal Military Police, because that is where the threat came from at the time. If you were black, Chinese, Asian, Fijian or Arabic, not many people would have suspected you of being a member of the IRA, again because people from those ethnic groups were not at the time considered to be involved in the threat.

Searches under the ‘Sus’ Laws and later S.1 of PACE still happened because they could however I very much doubt that anyone of those ethnic groups would have been told that they were being searched because the Police officer thought that they were members or supporters of the IRA, unless the police officer was conducting a questionable search and used that as an excuse for it.

In the UK the current threat from Al Qaeda and affiliated groups is real, there are literally thousands of known or suspected members or supporters. On the news a few weeks ago Sir Ian Blair stated that several credible plots have been stopped and hundreds of cells are being tracked by the security services which is causing a nightmare for resourcing personnel. Using all of the current intelligence, the Security services are able to build up a profile based on background, beliefs, hobbies, friends, activities, web browsing, habits etc which give indications as to whether or not a person who fits that specific profile is deemed a threat and worth investigating.

Profiling has been used extensively by countries such as Israel on their national airline El Al. Along with increased security such as covert and overt air marshals, it has been used to good effect. They use profiling at borders and stop checks and have stopped attacks by doing so. The fact that they continue to be attacked and that the terrorists change tactics shows that profiling works as the enemy has to change continuously. This takes time, and subsequently gives their security services a chance to gather intelligence and reassess the threat.

Given the current threat I do not believe that it is proportionate sending officers to tube stations, bus stops or crowded places to search randomly selected people, just because some believe that using profiling could be seen as stereotyping or discriminating. Searches under S.44/43 are extremely random and virtually pointless, I have only known of a couple of arrests for specific terrorism offences while doing S.44 stops in groups or as tasking. There have been plenty of arrests, however they have been for other criminal or traffic offences after hundreds of random stops.

There have been many instances where the people stopped and searched have been so far removed from the known terrorist threat that is has been laughable, and yet we are still told that randomly stopping vehicles and people is a valid tactic as it “keeps them on their toes” and that we should not use any form of target profiling.


Friday, 16 May 2008

Organised community retributive action

Or being a vigilante as it is sometimes called, depending on your point of view. Vigilantism is an extremely emotive topic with arguments both for and against, and there are lots of people who will vehemently fight for both sides of the coin. Personally I am undecided on the subject, as a Police officer I am of course one of the people sworn in office to uphold the law of the UK and defend those who are unable to defend themselves. The problem is that we (the Police and more importantly the criminal justice system as a whole) have been failing on the latter point with increasing and alarming regularity. Things are not as bad as they could be, but they are definitely worse than when I first joined at the beginning of the new millennium, and considerably worse than when I was a kid.

The media have always used vigilantes as a subject for comics, movies and books, one of the most recent films that come to mind is the film Outlaw with Sean Bean. If you haven’t seen it already then I would suggest watching it, it’s not brilliant but the basic story line is something that most people can relate to, especially if you happen to live in an actual non-gated, non-taxpayer funded house in a normal community. A group of guys find each other after a series of personal tragedies and they decide that enough is enough and that they should take the fight to the bad guys as the Police (of whom most can’t lay in bed straight according to the ridiculously clich├ęd Bob Hoskins character) are unwilling or unable to do anything about it. It’s not film of the century by a long shot but it did get me thinking a bit.

Long before the Police existed, communities ran themselves and the Government was a long distant figure that demanded considerably less tax than now. Judges were sent round the country on Circuits to do the court thing so that they would experience life (and crime) in many areas of the country and not just where they lived. Crime was at a level that would seem like the pearly gates compared to now. The main reason for that is people knew that they didn’t have to put up with any hassle, and if it was too big for one person to deal with, a group of them could get together to sort the problem out. Even after the Police were set in statute with the Metropolitan Police Act 1829, communities could still look after themselves and address anything up to a major issue with a bit of common sense.

Children learned that they had to respect other people or face the consequences and that they couldn’t just do what they wanted, when they wanted to do it. This was still the case when I was growing up although the wonderful fruits of the 60’s mentality of doing away with discipline and giving annoying children a hug were still growing in popularity in schools and social opinions.

Nowadays there is no way that the majority of people feel they can take it upon themselves to challenge behaviour from fear of being arrested and charged after too many cases of initial victims being arrested while the suspects are let off or even compensated. Even worse is the fear of being kicked to death in the street for asking a bunch of drunk tossers to stop smashing your car up as sadly happened to Gary Newlove, or being kicked to death for protecting your boyfriend who was attacked for no other reason than how he dressed, as happened to Sophie Lancaster.

When I was 12 we lived on an Army estate just outside a small German town, there was one main road through it with blocks of flats (fenced all the way round to stop people going into the farms on either side) and a couple of play grounds. We had German friends, some of the wives who chose to learn German worked in local shops or the Army admin buildings along with some of the locals who were employed by the Army, and for the most part everyone got along. We then started getting problems with a group of Turkish lads in their late teens to early 20’s who would come onto the estate from their own housing estate a couple of miles away.

They would pick on some of the younger kids, cause damage to cars and windows and generally cause a nuisance kicking over bins and graffiting buildings at night. For the most part, the adults would actually be able to chase them off however couldn’t do too much as it would have put the Army in a bad light. The RMP (Royal Military Police) stepped up patrols after complaints from families, although they were actually powerless to do anything. The Local German Police were also increasing patrols however due to racial tensions at the time (the 80’s saw a huge influx of Turkish migrants who were seen in much the same way as eastern European migrants are now in some areas of the UK) they were reluctant to actually do anything worth while.

Things got steadily worse over the summer with army kids getting beaten up and groups of kids throwing stones and cans at cars driving onto our estate. Then there was a big exercise and the whole battalion was away for 6 weeks, which meant there were hardly any men around. It didn’t take the gang long to realise that there was no one about to chase them off. They then came onto the estate for longer, making it virtually impossible for any of us to play outside, some of the women who worked in local shops were harassed on the way to and from work. Things came to a head when a group of 20 – 30 Turkish lads came onto the estate and went on a rampage smashing flat windows and setting the playground alight. After that we couldn’t go outside, our estate had become a no go area for the local Germans, as well as the Army families who lived there.

After the exercise our dads came home to see how bad things had gotten while they were away and one weekend we were told explicitly by our parents that we had to stay inside, no matter what. The gang came onto the estate as usual about 20 strong until something happened. Two ‘four tonners’ – army workhorse trucks – turned up and blocked the estate off at either end. No one could get out of the estate because of the fence around it. Men in combats and balaclavas were everywhere, they started to fight with anyone who wasn’t in combats, they were dropped to the floor, tied up and thrown in the trucks. Once everyone had been rounded up, the trucks drove off. The people rounded up were beaten, stripped naked and left in a field about 30 miles away from their own estate.

I lived on the estate for another two years and after that night no one ever came round again.

If that happened now there would be a massive investigation with people getting arrested for kidnap and GBH at the least and the media would be in an absolute frenzy about it. No one was arrested by the German Police or the RMP, nothing was in the local papers and no one ever admitted to being in the group who rounded them up, although everyone knew about it.

I have heard of similar things happening (although not on that scale) since I’ve been a Police officer. In a particularly rough town not far from where I live, four teenagers who were prolific car thieves and burglars caused misery to the people living in a couple of roads. They caused havoc until they were rounded up by people considerably harder than them, one managed to escape but the other three didn’t. Bricks and feet were introduced to parts of bodies that were only designed to be treated nicely and others which were essential in the control of a car.

They too, stopped for quite a while afterwards, mainly because of long hospital treatment. If they did carry on as they had, they certainly didn’t do it in those streets. There was a bit in the local paper about a gang of teenagers being viciously attacked by local men, the local councillor expressed her outrage at people taking matters into their own hands and the local divisional commander said outright that it would never be tolerated and that they would catch the offenders. To my knowledge, they didn't. I went to training school with a couple of guys who worked on the division, privately, they said everyone was well happy that it had happened. The ones beaten deserved every second and it solved the problem. They knew that all they were able to do was arrest them if they could catch them and then send them to court. Each already had a string of previous convictions and knew full well that nothing substantial would ever happen.

The main problem that society has with vigilantes, is the fear that once the problem that starts them off is sorted, that they will continue and eventually become worse than the original problem unless they stop and disband. The courts and the government will also not tolerate anyone circumventing their authority. I have known police officers who have given very serious consideration to using an unmarked van to round up and dish out a bit of social justice to specific targets, the question everyone wants to know is, would it solve anything?


Sunday, 11 May 2008

Speed Kills!

Actually, it doesn’t. Where speed is a contributing factor to deaths on the road, it is the inappropriate use of speed for the circumstances or prevalent environmental conditions that has lead to an incident where the risk of death is more or less likely. The problem is, you can’t fit that explanation easily onto a poster with big yellow writing to scare people. This also leads to other complications such as perceived double standards and blatantly inexcusable fund raising through speed cameras.

You only have to read through the papers or look at news stories involving speeding and the police, or traffic matters to see that large sections of the public are unable or unwilling to separate PC’s on the street whose job is solely to respond to 999 calls and the council run ‘partnerships’ responsible for enforcing speed restrictions. Personally, I hate speed cameras. I think that they are divisive, ill placed and serve no purpose other than revenue generation. I can’t remember which paper it was in otherwise I would link to it, but I read a story about a year or two ago where an undercover reporter went to Gatso stating that they were from a council considering putting up speed cameras. Part of the sales pitch from the company was along the lines of “if you target school runs and rush hour, you’ll make more money in a week than you’ll know what to do with”

If Gatso were all about saving lives and the nobility of penalising drivers, then I would think the company would donate all their profits to charities like Brake. They don’t though, they are a very profitable company that has had a boom since the major role out of cameras in the UK by councils. The only reason that the councils run the ‘partnerships’ with the Police is because only the Police have the jurisdiction in law to enforce traffic legislation and without the Police partnership (of which they cannot opt out of as the Home office requires them partake) the councils could not enforce the speed cameras. It doesn’t take much to see that the reputation of the Police in the UK has been almost damaged beyond repair thanks to the introduction of speed cameras and the reduction of traffic departments. All people see is the word Police, they don’t think that it’s the local council that is sitting back rubbing their hands together and counting the cash. The local Police force only get a small percentage of the revenue made from cameras, almost as a token gesture or so they can say "look, the Police make money from it too"

Where I live there are a lot of schools and a lot of 20mph zones, if there was a speed camera outside the schools to catch the taxi drivers and idiots who blat along the roads outside them at 60mph plus then fine, I think the majority including myself would accept them. But they are not, they are on the main arterial roads and on the slip roads out of the city. When was the last time you saw a speed camera in a 20 or 30mph residential zone? And even if you have, I’ll wager that there are considerably more on the main roads in and out of the town or city than where your kids play in the street or where you take the dog for a walk.

The main roles of traffic (or roads policing) departments is to cut road deaths, enforce traffic legislation, to educate other drivers and to deny criminals the use of the road. It is a considerably more effective deterrent to bad driving and criminal behaviour having a marked Police car driving along the road with experienced officers who will watch how you drive, or where you have come from and can stop you at any point to see how much you’ve had to drink. By getting rid of traffic officers and replacing them with static cameras or unmarked mobile units whose sole purpose is to prosecute speeding motorist the roads are left open for people who don’t have driving licences, have no insurance, get drunk at the pub then drive home or use their cars for criminal behaviour.

The first two might not seem like a big issue, but just think how pissed you'd be if your other half was in an accident caused by some kid with no licence? Or if your child was run over by someone with no insurance? The latter part of using it for criminal behaviour is another one that people rarely think about - funnily enough no one walks around with bags labelled swag and a balaclava. I know traffic officers who have arrested more burglars than most response officers, simply because they find them in their cars on the way out while we are scouring back gardens looking for the start of the trail for the dog unit.

As a response officer I use traffic as a means to get my head into peoples cars, have a nose around and find out who they are and more importantly what type of people they are. Any copper worth their salt can tell usually within seconds if someone is going to be known to Police either having been stopped lots of times previously or having previous convictions. This is usually because of stereotyping and I make no apologies for that, if I’ve stopped someone it’s for a reason and I’m rarely wrong about someone having a criminal history. If I do stop someone who is a genuine normal member of the public who has never had any dealings with the Police or the courts, its usually a pleasant surprise (for me anyway) and is the result of some indiscretion that I am usually able to deal with by having a chat with them. The only time most of us ever process someone is if they fail the attitude test or are simply driving like a knob and don't care. We stop people in cars all the time, and to be honest, it’s more of a pain to write out tickets or a summons book than to have a chat and just remind some people that there is a reason for speed limits or traffic lights and that they need concentrate.

As far as traffic legislation and prosecution goes, the Home Office don’t count it for anything which is why they put pressure on forces to reduce the expense and personnel in traffic departments. Contrary to popular belief (thanks to speed cameras) we don’t get any points/stats/bonuses or figures for issuing speed tickets or any other traffic process. If we stop someone and they are unlucky or unless they are seriously taking the mick by doing double the speed limit in residentials or jumping reds while on the phone, then the chances of actually getting stuck on by a Police officer is remarkably slim. This is in stark contrast to speed cameras which don’t care if you’ve never been stopped before, that you pay your taxes and don’t burgle your neighbours. Once you’ve been caught you need to be able to afford an extremely expensive solicitor otherwise your licence (and insurance premiums) is in jeopardy.

The other major problem that the 'Speed Kills' slogan creates is it leaves us (the Police and other emergency services) wide open for calls of hypocrisy and double standards as we regularly use the legal exemptions from the speed limits in order to attend calls. All Police and emergency service drivers have degrees of training that permit them to drive at certain speeds or in certain conditions such as patrol, response or pursuit. The contrast in training and experience between Jo Bloggs who passed his test a few years ago and drives to and from work every day and an advanced Police driver who clocks 500+ miles a week as a Police driver in addition to their own, is like someone who is a weekend fun pilot versus a professional pilot.

In order to remain in complete control the driver needs high levels of training and continuous exposure and has to be able to handle the car beyond its own limits in the conditions that it is going to be used in. Driving at 130 miles an hour on a race track is easy, wide smooth un-cambered tarmac is very different from a council maintained two lane B road where 60 miles an hour can be hairy, and as such all Police driver training is done on the road to give as much realistic exposure as possible. Another point to consider is that the exemptions are only permitted in situations where the Police (or Ambo/fire) driver is using them in the execution of their duty. Outside of work or even at work and outside of a situation that enables the exemptions, we are just as liable if not more than everyone else, regardless of what the papers say with inflammatory headlines like “150 Police drivers caught speeding AND NOT ONE PROSECUTED”

If we get caught speeding outside of work we go through the same process as everyone else and usually higher penalties if we go to court. We then have to advise the professional standards departments who will consider whether discipline is needed. If we get caught at work and it was a perfectly legal use of the exemptions then the ticket is scrubbed, it would do no one any favours at all to prosecute every emergency service driver for every legally breached camera or red light, there would be no one left to answer calls within a weekend. With no one able to drive emergency vehicles with the legal exemptions, road deaths would increase exponentially if live saving first aid is delayed even by a few minutes, purely because we would be unable to use speed or traffic exemptions appropriately to the conditions and the circumstances.


Thursday, 1 May 2008

Noise, bricks and flames.

It's about half nine in the evening and it's dark. The only light is the orange glow of the few working street lights, and the occasional bright flash of petrol bombs either directed at us or the other units running around the place. We’ve been running about for the best part of 8 hours, my throat is raw from constantly shouting at the top of my voice, every muscle aches and is screaming out for fluids as my trousers and top underneath my coveralls are completely drenched in sweat. The various bits of armour are digging into places that I would rather they didn’t and my knee pads have developed an annoying squeak every time I move. Through my heavily misted visor I see him poke his head around the corner of the alley just off to the right, at the same time my colleague calls him out as loud as possible to the rest of the serial “ALLEYWAY TO THE RIGHT, PROTESTOR!”

As we turn the shields to face the threat, he launches a couple of bricks in our direction, no bother, they impact squarely on the shields which take the hit well and he buggers off back around the corner. Our serial Sgt has already told us our objective is to secure and clear the alley complex before we can move up to the next junction. Once we’re there we can relieve the PSU (Police Support Unit) that is currently taking a battering from bricks and petrol bombs so they can move on and give the protestors some good news. It shouldn’t be too hard, the alley and courtyard is only about 15 meters deep.

Mateyboy pokes his head back round and then jumps out again to throw some more bricks before ducking back in. I feel a heavy tap on the shoulder so I look at my colleague, we both see him and hear him shout over the din of heckling and exploding petrol bombs “the next time he comes out, I want you two to get in there and f&cking do him, clear?” we nod in unison. We start to move up to the alley entrance, it’s about 3-4 meters away and badly lit so we can only see up to the first corner. We step over the bricks as we move and discoloured shards of broken glass smash and crunch as we walk over them. Rolls of charred ignition paper still smoulder as they burn up every last vapour of petrol.

As we get ready to go in, I lift my visor slightly to wipe the steam and mist off so I can at least see the shape of the alley. It’s just wide enough for us both to fit in side by side, on the left the 2 meter high wooden fencing is charred from countless incendiaries, the concrete wall on the right is black with smoke to well over ten feet high. The first corner is about another 10 feet in before it bends to the left, opening out into the courtyard. I try to regulate my breathing so I don’t steam up the visor again, the slow deep breathes helping to bring my heart rate down.

After hours of exercise and overheating my heart beat has been blasting in my ears making hearing extremely difficult, the adrenalin tends to shut hearing down anyway but at least my vision is up, every slight movement and flinch keeping me focused. I’ve been holding it the same way all day but I check my grip on the long shield again, top left, bottom right. It must be in the right position to get as strong a hit as possible, if I can get in close enough to blade him with the shield I will do, it’ll serve him right for chucking bricks at my head anyway. I remember the instructor’s words “think about your target area, lift high and strike anywhere from chin to knee with the bottom edge, no one will walk away from that one happy, and they’ll certainly think twice next time”

We watch the alley for any sign of movement; we both see the foot poke out from the corner as he starts to come at us again. That’s the cue, there he is, our turn now. We both lift our shields and sprint towards him screaming “POLICE, POLICE!!” as we go in. He stands at the end looking at us as we move on him, within a second we’re into the alley, closing on him as he stands at the corner. He turns and starts to run back to the courtyard. As we get to the corner we can see the alley opening up and then I see them, two petrol bombers waiting for us, a ready bottle in each hand. One is standing on some stairs up to the gangway and the other is hiding behind the fencing, both obscured from the alley until you get to the end. It’s a trap, and we’ve just sprinted right into it.

Almost immediately as we see them the first two bottles are launched at us. I shout “MISSILES!!” as my colleague shouts “OH SHIT!!” as he sees the same thing. No time to turn and run back, we get ready for the impact, a split second later then BOOM, one explodes at out feet. Another immediate BOOM as the second hits the wall to our right spraying our feet, legs and shields with glass and petrol. The flames have nowhere to go in the confines of the alley other than upwards and we are instantly surrounded from head to toe by searing hot fire, the impact from the rapidly combusting and expanding gases knocking us back. I remember the cover up drills to escape the flame, hold the breathe you’ve got, chin down to get a good seal with the visor on your chest and then drag back with the shield for protection.

We both get into the cover up position as the flames surround us and we start to pull back, stamping our feet to shake off the burning petrol and dragging the shields on the floor to use them as cover. Then more bombs come in before the first have the chance to burn out, a third and a fourth explode at our feet, encouraging the flames around us to grow even higher, every part of our bodies engulfed in bright orange fire. All I can see through my visor is my arms and shield, everything else a hot bright yellowy orange as the flames heat up without anywhere to dissipate to, the alley seemingly turning into a blast furnace.

I can feel the heat on every part of my skin, even through the fire resistant coveralls, armour and soaking wet clothing. It takes no more than a couple of seconds to get out but it feels like an age, my lungs are burning as the breath inside is trying to get out, my body screaming for more oxygen as my heart rate sky rockets.

As we get to the entrance of the alley I can’t hear a thing but I see the white smoke of the halon fire extinguishers blasting around us, subduing the flames on our legs and feet. We stamp our shields on the floor to get rid of the last little splashes of petrol and I look at them to see the previously clear Perspex is now completely black from the flames. I look over at the man wearing the orange tabard who sent us in there and say “you did that on purpose didn’t you?” he laughs and replies “of course I did, that was well funny! Good cover up drills by the way lads” my colleague looks at him and says “Yeah. Thanks for that, staff”

As the instructor walks over to confirm the next actions with the PSU commander my colleague says to me “That was hot. Bastard” I nod in agreement “yeah, just a bit” We finish up the incident and go for the team debrief in the hangar, we discuss what went well and what lessons we learned. In the cold air every one of us has taken our coveralls down and upper armour off, steam is rising from everyone as the sweat in our clothes evaporates. Everyone looks red faced and knackered but most are smiling. Our instructor has won his own rivalry contest with the other instructors, overall we did rather well getting through the incident in a quick time. Despite a couple of hiccups, we performed considerably better than one of the other PSU's from a neighbouring force who came to train with us.

A couple of hours later after having a drink at the bar, my kit is hanging up in the room, stinking the place out with petrol fumes and sweaty clothes. I get a cracking nights sleep in the short narrow plastic bed despite the world’s loudest frogs outside, thanks more to exhaustion than comfort. The next morning we get up to finish off the rest of the training and incidents, after getting dropped back at the nick, it's home for some well needed sleep and a damn good wash of body and kit.

There are many things about our job that suck, and it’s obviously not everyone’s cup of tea but public order training has always been one of the highlights for me. Although I personally haven't taken petrol bombs outside of Gravesend yet, I can tell you that scaffolding clips, bricks, bottles, broken paving slabs and sharpened coins are pretty regular attenders at the football matches and large scale disorder jobs that have gone pearshaped when I've been at work!!