Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Happy New Year peeps!!!

Here's last years London fireworks for anyone who never saw it, for those of you working in town tonight I hope you have a view of this years, it's about the only thing that's going to be enjoyable!!

See you guys in 2009,



Sunday, 28 December 2008

Good will to all men

Christmas Eve

Busy night judging by the number of bods in custody, I spoke to a mate on the other team as I took the vehicle over, he looked completely shattered. No one had a break (as usual on nights) and they were live dealing with constant calls from early car at 6pm until we came in the following morning for 7am. There were only a couple of calls outstanding, a couple of drunks on buses refusing to get off, shop alarms going off, so we cleared them up and headed back in for briefing. They had quite a few people in custody considering it was the night before Christmas Eve.

The next couple of hours were lots of calls to alarm activations then we had the first ‘proper’ job of the morning; executing a court order to seize travel documents of a three year old whose mother was threatening to remove from the country permanently. A Judge in the high court has seen enough intelligence to determine that a child is at risk of abduction and has seen fit to order the Police to execute the court order “as a matter of extreme urgency” to seize all and any documents related to travel, but has not provided us with the intelligence pack and has only authorised a power of arrest if the officers have reasonable ground for suspecting that any person has not complied with the order.

There is no power of entry or power of search, and no information as to exactly which travel documents we are to seize. Short of someone slamming the door in our faces, we can’t really do anything other than ask ever so nicely if they wouldn’t mind handing the bits over, as we don’t know what we’re looking for.

I call the court up to check exactly which documents we are supposed to be seizing and ask a couple of reasonable questions - does the child have a passport? Where has the intel come from that the child is at the address? Is there intel that a flight has been booked or other travel arrangements have been made? The answer from the court is they don’t know anything. Not very helpful. We get no joy at the address, or with any agency related to travel documents as Christmas Eve is a discretionary day for civil servants, and they all appear to have taken it off. It’s not as if a suspected child abduction is anything serious anyway. We manage to find some other addresses as well as the court issued one and check each of them. No luck, to be honest the mother has probably taken the child already.

We all contributed to putting a buffet together so each crew on our team can get some food and we can at least experience a modicum of festive cheer in between calls to shoplifters, arguments, dippings, people getting drunk and fighting etc.

Later on we get the best example of instant karma I’ve seen for a while. A bloke trying to shoplift sprints away from security, decides to cross one of our main roads to lose them, and promptly gets gobbled up by a taxi. Thankfully the taxi driver and his passengers were unharmed, and after LAS checked the guy over and confirmed he only had minor injuries he got nicked. It turned out he was also wanted on a warrant for burglary. The warrant wasn’t backed for bail meaning we couldn’t release him and had to keep him in custody to put him for the first available court hearing.

Unfortunately for him, the first court wasn’t until the 26th. Mwah ha ha ha ha ha ha. Merry Christmas.

Christmas Day

So much for expecting to have a nice chilled day. As I walked down the corridor to get the car I walk past the front office and see a mountain of exhibits scattered around the place, loads of seized clothing and a couple of the nightshift guys sitting on the floor cataloguing everything. One of them looks up and see’s my rather puzzled face “R&B night” he says. I shake my head and ask “how many injured?” without looking up again he says “four separate GBH’s that we dealt with, one’s in a really bad way, there are a couple of scenes as well. It went pretty tits up when the clubs kicked out”.

I was surprised it was only four then his colleague said “there were a few other ABH’s but they didn’t want to know (didn’t want to make a crime complaint to Police) and LAS dealt with them”

The hospital and scene guards took up most of the morning and tied up pretty much everyone, then as yesterday there were lots of alarm calls, a couple of building searches, a couple of domestics (one was quite nasty apparently) and then lots of driving and walking around deserted side streets looking for people to search, if appropriate, obviously. We had some good vehicle stops and searches and got some good intel although we didn’t get as many bodies in compared to a normal dayshift.

We did manage to actually get a bit more proactive patrolling done than usual and the visitors with nothing else to do did seem to appreciate seeing lots of Police officers around to take photos with. Considering some Christmas days that I've spent at work, it wasn't actually that bad really.

Boxing Day

We’re standing in the back yard listening to the radio and it seems that every cock and his mate has decided to visit our patch and cause mayhem for the families out shopping and the shop staff trying eagerly to sell them everything possible. It got so bad during the day a Section 60 was authorised in the hope that some aggressive searching and Policing would discourage most of them to bugger off somewhere else. A couple of vehicles come back in for a quick handover and after the usual pleasantries and friendly insults we chuck our kit in the back and head out.

Despite having extra people on, plain clothes units out targeting steaming teams (thieves who swamp an area enmasse to cause mayhem and steal as much as possible) there are calls coming out all over the place for Police assistance to stores and from other units requesting back up. We get a couple of urgent assistance calls which ended up in several people arrested from different jobs, we also had a couple of officers injured at each one. With the majority of shops closing, the calls dropped off a bit but those who came up just to cause trouble just went to other parts and carried on. Group robberies, assaults, steaming off licences etc carried on for a bit and for the first few hours of the shift was a case of blues to a call, jumping out, throwing whomever in the van and then blatting off to the next.

It was stupid.

After the shoppers went home the calls eased off a bit as the pubs started filling up and we managed to get a brew in, it then went pear shaped again as the pubs kicked out and the clubs started filling up. We had quite a few pub fight calls with doorstaff requesting support, “innocent people assaulted by doorstaff” and units requesting backup after queue fights and ejections got continually out of hand. As the drink and Christmas cheer really got going we had a couple of nasty GBH’s and a few ABH’s involving some of the most unpleasant casualties I’ve met in a while who started the fights but failed to get the first punch in and then tied up desperately busy ambulance crews.

Another ‘victim’ was found in a bleeding heap outside a hotel, fortunately for him the first crew on scene had already dealt with him earlier on after seeing him and a couple of mates square up to a group of blokes, they circulated the description of the suspects who were picked up not far away. I can’t go into too much detail, but they had very stupidly linked themselves to the attack on the victim and we were literally in stitches as we got them out of the van.

We then spent the remainder of the shift ‘encouraging’ drunks to grow up and go home, such as the idiot who decided to step in front of the car and shake his cock at us whilst we were on blues, until he realised we were the Police and not an Ambulance, and that we were neither impressed, nor amused.

All in all, it was a rather busy and somewhat unpleasant blur, and reinforced my view on a couple of things -

1) I hate drunk people.
2) I should have booked it all off.


Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Merry Christmas

If you're working, you're not the only one, just remember to keep the eyes in the back of your head wide open, especially at the seasonally festive domestics.

If you're not working then well done for convincing duties to let you have a life.

And for those readers who aren't in the job, thanks for visiting and contributing to my blog, I'll let you know next week how my joyous Christmas was spent as my crystal isn't working at the mo.

From me, to you, have a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year, I hope it's a safe one!


Saturday, 20 December 2008

Cops with cameras

As most frontline coppers do, I like to watch stuff like Road Wars and some of the other Police Camera Action type programs when I'm on my days off. It is very 'job pissed' but handy for a bit of shouting at the TV, snippets of useful procedures and techniques and a bit of a laugh at what some people do on camera, no matter what side of the criminal justice fence they operate on.

One program that got my interest was called "cops with cameras". Compared to some of the others it's not that great but the basic premise works quite well - strap a load of miked up body cams to a team of officers from different units and watch what happens.

One particular clip caught my eye, two response officers were searching for a guy with a huge knife threatening random people in the streets, they split up to search a building line and one runs into the suspect who doesn't decide to drop the knife and come quietly. Funny that. The ensuing fistfight and struggle was caught on both cams as the other officer went to help and it looked exactly the same as any other violent struggle - lots of punching, lots of screaming and shouting and not an iota of Steven Seagal-esque flawless armlocks or body throws to take down the suspect in a couple of 'nice on TV' moves.

Needless to say it didn't look particularly nice, but then anyone who as ever had to try and restrain someone who doesn't want to be restrained will tell you that violent use of force doesn't look nice. It's not supposed to.

A couple of weeks ago the Mark Aspinall video brought out the same criticism of the Police that usually happens when a routine arrest appears to go over the top. I think there are three things missing from the video which would have given a considerably clearer picture of what happened - the other 7 minutes of CCTV conveniently missing from the news stories, audio of the entire incident, and close up audio/video that would have been recorded had the officers worn cameras. Having watched the vid a couple of times, the strikes/punches were clearly Home office approved officer safety techniques to deaden a muscle group - they are aimed at the shoulder and stop when his arm goes back into the cuff. Despite the hundreds of armchair experts saying we can't use punches, we can, it's approved, trained, and used when we need it.

The only thing I would have done differently in that situation would be to pin the guys head to the pavement with both hands and all my bodyweight, exactly as I described in this post, which funnily enough says about biting - which Aspinall did. As soon as you pin the head you neutralise the use of the neck, shoulder and back muscles which makes it considerably easier to get someones arm into a cuff, which Aspinalls clearly wasn't at the time he was punched.

Last year the video of 'epilepsy sufferer' Toni Cromer caused exactly the same stir and the media was all over it with accusations of brutality, racism and victimisation after PC Mulhall used several strikes on her during a violent arrest outside a club. The story ran for a couple of days until Cromer admitted during an interview on Sky News about having drunk a bottle of Brandy, having never had an epileptic fit in her life, admitted that she did not suffer any injury inconsistent with a restraint (arm bruises and cuffbites), admitted that she had pleaded guilty to criminal damage and admitted that it had never crossed her mind to pursue an allegation of assault by the Police, despite the video being shown in court. That was until convicted racist Ruggie Johnson decided to try and make a name for himself and released the video to the press claiming racism. PC Mulhall was dragged through the mud, and worse.

After investigation the IPCC and the CPS confirmed that the use of force was completely justified and legal, PC Mulhall was exonerated. The media never gave as much coverage to this fact as they did of the original story, even after PC Mulhalls apparent suicide a year later. I cannot help but wonder if he had a camera on him, with mike, would it had prevented those allegations in the first place?

There is only so much you can describe in a statement about an arrest. Even if you go into 8-10 pages describing everything about the scene, the suspects actions, your actions, what observers did, history etc, it still doesn't show the incident as well as video footage. As they say, a picture says a thousand words, and I've always firmly believed that writing how someone was violent, aggressive and fought whilst being arrested pales into comparison when you show a video that could be an outtake from '28 Days Later'.

There are obvious limitations with CCTV such as range, coverage and lack of audio. There are also going to be occasions where an officers memory of an incident differs from the footage, especially when extreme stress, violence and adrenalin are factors in perceptual distortion, which can lead to accusations of lying. I was involved in an arrest a couple of years ago where a drunk bloke was threatening people outside a club with a knife and a broken bottle. My mate and I rushed him and ended up struggling on the floor before we managed to get him cuffed. Thinking about it right now I clearly remember being only a couple of feet away and fighting to control his arms and disarm him for several minutes before a van turned up. The CCTV however showed that we were around 15-20 feet away before we ran at him and we managed to get him disarmed and cuffed in less than a minute, and the van arrived almost immediately.

I believe that for the vast majority of arrests and incidents, an eye's and ear's view would show courts and the public what it's really like when we deal with people - specifically those who don't want to be dealt with - and how completely unrealistic many of the expectations of how we should deal with suspects actually are. Given the current problem of Police officers accounts not being believed by the media or the public (despite evidence supporting the accounts) I think that frontline officers having body worn cameras is a vital tool that we could benefit from.


Monday, 15 December 2008

Computer Says No

For some reason I can't log into my blog site (although I can get onto Blogger?!?!) through my laptop so I'm using a funky iPhone which has now convinced me to get one. When I can figure out what's going on I'll put another post on!