Sunday, 29 June 2008

You might be a copper if...

This list has been doing the rounds for years, it's very funny (to me anyway) so here it is along with some of my own thoughts, just to mix it up a little. I'm crazy like that.

You have the bladder capacity of five people (after a few days kitted up on aid, drinking loads and not going to the loo, I think it was dehydration more than capacity, but it did seem odd)

You have ever restrained someone and it was not a sexual experience (once or twice!!)

You believe that 25% of people are a waste of space (of the people I deal with, I'd say closer to 75%)

Your idea of a good time is an armed robbery at shift change (after 12 hours all I want to do is collapse in a snoring heap on the train, however, nights going into a rest day is a different matter, kerching!!)

You call for a name check on anyone who is remotely friendly to you (because most of the time they are drunk and taking the piss, but the smell of alcohol is usually a good give away!!)

Discussing dismemberment over dinner seems perfectly normal to you (along with discussing what we're going to get for food while standing in the same house as a dead body, yes we do this a lot)

You find humour in other peoples stupidity (if you can't laugh then you'll only cry, and some people are really really stupid)

You have your weekends off planned for a year (having just looked, my diary actually goes up to Jan 2010, quite scary when I think about it!)

You believe the government should require a permit to reproduce (a bit serious this one, but if you look at a kid and just know that they are just f&cked for life then the answer presents itself)

You believe that unspeakable evils will befall you if anyone says " it sure is quiet around here" (it does, it's not a joke and you only ever say the 'Q' word if nothing is happening AND you actually want it to kick off in a big way, otherwise, calm, peaceful, still or serene are good substitutes and thus far seem to work)

Your diet consists of food that has gone through more processing than a computer can track (I do try and take decent food in, but sometimes Nando's or even a McDonalds breakfast is without equal!)

You're the only sober person in the kebab house (I'm not a kebab fan but when I get the orders in for other people, yes I am indeed the only sober person. The guys serving even drink which I'm sure they aren't supposed to but there are bigger problems in the world)

You believe chocolate is a food group (unfortunately true however a can of ice cold cherry coke and a Lion bar is an excellent pick me up at 4am when my brain it trying to comatose itself)

Having alcohol at 7am seems relaxing (if you work nights and have the opportunity to go to an 'early house' after your set of shifts finishes then DO IT, no matter what job you do. There is nothing like having a decent cooked breakfast and a glass of your favourite tipple after working a set of nights. For one, you get shitfaced soooo quickly and two, you sleep like a baby. Not good if you miss your stop and end up miles away from home or even on the way back into London, but having a drink after nights is ace, despite the logistical risks)

You have ever wanted to hold a seminar called "Suicide, getting it right the first time" (yes...... yes I have. I had the following conversation with a repeat drunk suicide threatener a year or so ago "how many times have you called us or the ambulance service to say you're going to kill yourself?" "loads" "and how many times have you successfully killed yourself?" "twice" "you seem to have made a remarkable recovery, stop wasting our time and get in the van")

You believe "Too stupid to Live" should be a valid court outcome (along with "and so I authorise for your bank account and all the belongings held in your name and within your home address to be seized and sold to increase pay to our armed forces personnel who actually deserve it")

You have ever had to put the phone on hold before you begin to laugh uncontrollably (yes along with taking the phone off of a colleague having a near argument with an obvious wanker and saying "Hi, do you know who this is? No? bye then" and hanging up)

You have heard the Sergeant muttering down the hall, "Who is in charge of this mess anyway?" (in addition to greeting the custody Sgt with a smile and for them to look worried and say "oh great, what have you brought in this time? are they going to try and kill themselves?")

When you mention vegetables, you're not referring to a food group (occasionally but usually in serious conversation as it gets everything across that you need to in one simple word)

You think caffeine should be available in IV form (along with entonox - laughing gas - we should be allowed to keep that stuff in the cars, it's brilliant. In fact, I think they should legalise it and sell it in pubs in single shot doses)

Your prisoner states "I have no idea how I got here" - and neither have you (usually in company with the question "so why have I been arrested??" for the 86th time!)

It occurs to you suddenly one night that you are policing the twilight zone (picture 3am, central London and a freezing cold and uncharacteristically empty iconic site. I'm out walking alone so I stop to absorb the ambience when a guy who looks like Morgan Freeman walks out into the centre. He unfolds a stool, sits down, unpacks a viola and starts playing the theme tune to The Godfather followed by a couple of Vivaldi's Four Seasons. The acoustics were fantastic)

Your favourite hallucinogen is exhaustion (see the above point about the early house, also I like to stay awake for as long as I can after nights, helps kick start the body clock and the feeling is akin to being off your face on codeine. It's the only time the film Barn Yard made me cry with laughter because its not even that funny, just don't drive, not good)

You nodded and laughed at all of the above, and realized what a sick bunch we all are (yep!!)


Tuesday, 24 June 2008

You have two cows.

This post has absolutely nothing to do with Policing (although the American Corporation model sounds like the Home Office and we definately live with a Socialist Government) but a mate sent it to me and made me laugh, so here you go -

Economic Models and Business Strategies explained with Cows.

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and gives you some milk.

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and sells you some milk.

You have 2 cows.
The State takes one of them and gives it to your work-shy neighbour.
They laugh in your face.

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and shoots you.

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk away.

You have two cows.
You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
You sell them and retire on the income.

You have two giraffes.
The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

You have two cows.
You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.
Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.

You have two cows.
You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for the five cows.
The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.
The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more.
You sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States , leaving you with nine cows.
No balance sheets are provided with the release.
The public then buys your bull.

You have two cows.
You go on strike, organise a riot, block the roads and set fire to cars, because you want three cows.

You have two cows.
You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.
You then create a clever cow cartoon image called 'Cowkimon' and market it worldwide.

You have two cows.
You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.

You have two cows.
You don't know where they are, you decide to have lunch.

You have two cows.
You count them and learn you have five cows.
You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.
You count them again and learn you have 2 cows.
You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

You have 5000 cows.
None of them belong to you.
You charge the owners for storing them.

You have two cows.
You have 300 people milking them.
You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity.
You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.

You have two cows.
You worship them.

You have two cows.
Both are mad.

Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.
You tell them that you have none.
No-one believes you, so they bomb the shit out of you and invade your country.
You still have no cows, but at least now you are part of a Democracy...

You have two cows.
Business seems pretty good.
You close the office for the day and go for a few beers to celebrate.

You have two cows.
The one on the left looks very attractive

Readers Contributions -

You have two cows, milked by the cow tsar.
One is black and one is white to ensure racial diversity, the black one fancies the white one thus ensuring we have suitable variation in sexual orientation.

You have two cows and pay protection for the milk

You have two cows (the hairy highland variety)
You dip one in chocolate, cover it in batter and deep fry it, just to see if it works

You have two cows.
They produce lots of milk for the people.
The State beat you up and steal your cows then give them to someone who has no idea about looking after them.
The cows die and there is no milk
It is all the fault of the Britain and America

You have 2 cows.
You give them a selection of tasks, including making sure that no-one is rude to any other cows for any reason, even if the cows haven't complained. You ensure that they have the correct ethnic proportion of cows for all the fields in the country, notwithstanding that there are almost no minorities in this field. They are so busy doing these tasks this that they have no time to be milked, so you buy some cheaper cows who don't produce any milk but look as though they should, and you hope that because you can see these cows, everyone will think that there is stacks of milk.
To fund this, you feed the real cows less so they couldn't produce any milk even if they weren't so busy doing non-milk producing activities.


Saturday, 21 June 2008

Why I'm not a big fan of CCTV

This was actually a response of mine to a question on another post, I've decided to expand on some of the points and offer it over for discussion.

My view on CCTV, is that just like anything else the government have brought in, they did it half arsed. It's very good when it's used properly and to it's full potential but without sufficient resources to use it fully in all cases, or to store and use in court proceedings, it is almost worthless most of the time. CCTV can be invaluable in fast time incidents where the control room or an experienced operator can give the officers on the ground not only the information they actually need, but a mental image of the scene prior to arrival. As an eye in the sky, in many cases it beats a plane or chopper hands down with value for money and versatility, but ONLY when used live.

As for trawling through hours and hours of CCTV for incidents it has to be viewed and used in real time and costs hundreds of thousands in man-hours every year, although some of the evidence that can be gleaned can be pivotal and can make or disprove a case. In courts they still demand the CCTV on VHS tape as they haven't got duplex (ability to view lots of camera angles recorded at once) or DVD players because of cost. Most council and private CCTV facilities now store onto hard-drive because it is more cost effective than additional storage or tapes and quicker to access and can burn off easily onto disc. The cost in time alone of transferring to a system that is nearly 30 years old from DVD's to VHS tape, is completely rediculous.

Added to this, is the fact that most police computers have the CD drive locked out to stop people listening to music or uploading software (which they never could or did anyway, as with the internet they blocked access before anyone ever got the chance to abuse it through fear of looking bad in the press or to the public) even viewing CCTV becomes a complete pain in the arse and cannot be done quickly or easily. Virtually all of the time we have to view it at scene in order to get all the information we need for the crime report or to relay to other officers. I also have no idea how many times I've been to a job where the person who knows how to use or even access the system isn't there, or no one actually knows how to use it as the head office just installed it without showing anyone how it works.

It's all well and good bringing in the cameras if you can use them properly and the infrastructure is behind them to actually use them effectively as evidence in court or investigation, but it isn't and in most cases it is collected and stored as unused evidence at the behest of the CPS. In many cases it's collected for negative evidence as the cameras aren't actually that good, it is also collected to cover arses as it is almost certain that somewhere a CCTV camera has seen some part of an incident and even if the footage is worthless, we can't be seen to ignore it.

I have no idea how many people think that CCTV is as good as on TV or in the movies, it categorically is not. In most cases such as shops or some old council cameras the image is shocking, due to poor quality equipment and an unrealistic expectation of its value. CCTV used to be a good deterrent when it first became popular, but nowadays many criminals know that it is practically worthless. They know that their brief will be able to bring the quality into question anyway and also that the chances of every frame of every vid being analysed and watched properly is incredibly slim. Whereas areas that install CCTV see an initial drop in crime, after time the crime rate creeps back up to its existing levels as they simply don't care if they are on camera any more.

There is also no such thing as digital 'zooming' of an image that can be used for everyday investigations, the reason for this is a computer program is used to extrapolate the information in the image to enhance it digitally, which is technically nothing more than an educated guess. An image only contains a certain number of pixels (such as the ratings used to show the resolution of digital cameras) and whether you have 1k pixel images or 10 mega pixels, if you zoom in too much you just end up with a big pixel on the screen. There are systems used by the military and other government agencies however they are not admissible in court. The reason it is not admissible as evidence is because one computer program could give one result and another could give something else and so there develops a question of doubt. Even if the system is proved to be 99.99% accurate, the 0.01% of doubt is an issue a good defence brief would bring up and capitalise on during trial, with the view to getting the evidence deemed inadmissible.

You can use a computer program to clean up an image by clearing static 'snow' pixels or enhancing the colours of existing ones. This type of enhancement was used by the FBI labs in the Milly Dowler case to ID a car, but there is nothing usable in court today of the same level as in the film Blade Runner where they zoom in almost indefinitely to a photo to get an image.

A perfect example of the expectations and limitations of technology is the photos that Police officers took at the 'Jack the Ripper' murders. They photographed the eyes of one of the victims in the hope that in the future the technology might exists to zoom in enough to get an image of the murderer. However due to the resolution of the film and prints, you can't blow up what isn't there in the first place and using a computer program to try just gives an indication, not proof. The same goes for a digital image and a tape frame.

In a case a few years ago, I had traced a car via CCTV through a large part of the city I worked in, from the location of the incident to a few hundred yards away from where the suspect was arrested in the same car as ID'd by the description of his face and the number plate. When I took the 15 odd tapes from the different cameras to the tech guys at HQ they did all the cleaning they could, but I was amazed at how little they were actually able to do to the image through possibility of corrupting the evidence. I learned that even in near darkness they could determine the colour of a car by analyzing the colour reflections from the headlights, but even that was not accurate and only gave a basic indicator such as red, green or blue. I had to use another car of exactly the same model that was luckily parked up at the roadside on one shot to prove the car we were looking at was the same model. As for zooming in and seeing the number plate or even the drivers face; not a chance.

A further problem I faced was the time index on each individual camera was actually different. In order to prove that it was the same car from each camera and not two conveniently placed cars of the same make, model and colour travelling at high speed from the incident I had to work through every camera in real time to get the difference, and then had to do the same to our radio comms channel, the incident log and the Police national computer. Every single clock was different, including the watch on my arm and the only way to get a proper reading was to sit on the phone to the talking clock. Without going through the pains of calculating the differences, which took hours, the CCTV could have been inadmissible through doubt of worth. As investigations go it was extremely interesting and worthwhile in the end; however the question of proportionality to the offence has to be raised. Imagine having to do that for every incident, let alone having to view every tape in real time anyway.

I had a guy recently come into the station to ask advice with regard to damage to his car. It was parked in a bay and he new there was a council camera about 50 meters away that looks at it and wondered if the traffic department would seize the tape and view it to get a picture of the driver. I was honest with him and told him that they probably wouldn't, simply because CCTV is so over rated. Some record at only one frame every second - sometimes every 3 seconds - and the likelihood of actually getting the car, driver and registration number for insurance was incredibly slim. We filled the form out for him anyway, but I had to be realistic that the chances are he would be footing the bill himself unfortunately.

At incidents where you have different accounts of what has gone on you can use recorded CCTV to give an indicator as to who is telling the truth but without sound and live record, it is still not great and you can never get the nuances of body language on one frame a second video footage. There has never been a conviction based solely on CCTV evidence, there has always been some other corroboration so as the governments answer to solving crime it's not all it's hyped up to be. At nearly every incident I attend now we have people saying "the CCTV will prove it, go and watch it now" and to be honest the fact that there is CCTV everywhere (and thanks to TV programs) it gives the public an extremely unrealistic view on its evidential value and potential.

It's a very simple tool in the box, nothing more.


Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Not so unwritten carrier rules

When operating in a public order environment or even just on normal boring-as-sin aid for protestors outside Parliament, arms fairs or Embassies, there are lots of different rules, regulations and SOP's (standard operating procedures) that we have to consider. For use of force authorities we have common Law giving normal 'any person' powers to use force to prevent injury, save life and limb and for self defence. Under The Police and criminal evidence Act '84 we've got Section 117 and under the Criminal Law Act '67 Section 3, both sections give us specific authority as a constable to use as much force as is reasonable in the circumstances to effect arrest, defend others/ourselves etc.

If we have to search people we've got powers of search under Section 1 of PACE (with reasonable suspicion) Section 23 of the misuse of drugs act (for drugs, funnily enough) Section 60 of PACE (search anyone in a given area without suspicion under authority) as well as Section 44/43 of the prevention of terrorism act, again for searching anyone in a given area under authority.

In addition to these basic tools in the box there are authorities for cordons and containment, SOP's for use of different levels of expertise and deployments of reserve units or specialists like dog units or mounted branch. When we undertake public order training we go through the various authorities and SOP's, as well as when we go to officer safety training so they are well and truly drilled in. This is mainly so we can justify actions in statements and can answer questions if we ever find ourselves in the box gripping the rail, but also in case anyone (usually with a hidden camcorder) actually asks us under which authority we're operating under by restricting their liberties.

More important than all of these however, are the host of unwritten rules which exist to make the duty pass considerably easier and to make sure everyone knows where they stand. A lot of these unwritten rules are cast as that evil 'canteen culture' malarkey and are incredibly discouraged, even if accepted as the norm and somewhat essential. In a situation where you have extreme boredom for long periods of time and have 7 people in a carrier, you need some kind of ground rules otherwise you'll end up pissing some or all of the others off and it just makes an unpleasant or boring duty even worse. The chances are you'll be working with them again and that doesn't help. The other aspect to consider is that because in a public order incident you operate as part of a close team, the sooner you have good camaraderie then the more likely everyone will be to trust you if it does go pear shaped. The unwritten rules apply to everyone regardless of age, rank or gender.

A while ago I was severely bored and immobile so I wrote some of them down (mainly after one of the guys on our team pissed a few people off on aid) if you have any of your own then feel free to send them!

*If you're the carrier virgin then you buy the doughnuts or an appropriate substitute - we did, so should you, its just rude if you don't. Healthy alternatives do not count.

*The carrier virgin (or team member with least service) must bring a quantity of extra long elastic bands, easily available from the station office. Being in a field in the middle of no where is boring, these will come in handy.

*The Operator is responsible for spare airwave/radio batteries, assembling reasonably new newspapers from around the nick, ensuring there are at least 2 decent maps on board, bringing an appropriate bag of sweets for the driver, sorting out a bin bag and making sure the last team didn't leave any skanky food on the shelves. Not nice when you put a hat up there to find a week old Met-issue Tuna Wrap stuck to it.

*The jump seat (next to the side door) MUST be offered first to either the Sgt or the Inspector, then it should go out in height order.

*Despite its name, the jump seat is not for jumping out of, especially when moving, you'll hurt yourself and make the rest of the carrier look stupid.

*The BINGO seat is the one furthest back from the door, after the jump seat, this gets offered to the Inspector if they want it, before you look dumb for asking, it stands for "Bollocks, I'm Not Getting Out"

*Always volunteer to get the snacks. Upon receipt, the snacks must be dished out as quickly as possible on return to the carrier.

*You can never have too much water, even if its cold and miserable, any water hanging around is yours - reallocate it to your carrier as soon as possible then at the end of your duty always dish it out, if no one wants it then stick it in your locker.

*The Medic is not a 6 headed monster, you are allowed to talk to him/her even if they are from another nick, whilst they are on your carrier, you're one big happy world hating team.

*During operational feeding, everyone on the carrier must stop eating and eyeball the incoming group to prove that they are not as good as you.

*The carrier virgin is NOT allowed to pack the kit bags, they'll earn this right only after forgetting that their hi vis is in the pocket furthest away from the door, and at the bottom of the pile because they thought they'd never need it.

*Bring an mp3 player, preferably with speakers if you have decent music, earphones if not. You will need it.

*Prior to the Aid you'll more than likely stop off to get nibblies and papers, it's customary for each person to get a different one so chip in.

*If you really must fart, have the courtesy to fess up and laugh as loud as possible while everyone wretches, entombed in a moving metal windowless stink pit.

*Double time or not, if someone is sleeping then photos are acceptable - elastic bands flung off a baton MP5 style at high speed to the groin, are not.

*If you're on Double time and everyone else is on a reallocated rest day - or even core shift - then get the McFlurrys in, you're being paid enough.

*If you choose to bring some playing cards, make sure they're normal ones, it's not nice to get a group bollocking if someone sees the FHM deck and decides to have words in front of the whole food hall.

*We know you're excited but it must be emphasised that you are more than likely going to be walking around in your big hat/bowler and hi vis - you probably won't be getting kitted up and sticking anyone today unfortunately.

*No, you aren't going to be carrying any Halon, it's just for show.

*Despite what the person on the other side of the desk says, there is no limit to the number of biscuits you can have from the Police room at football stadiums. It is your duty as carrier virgin to return to the carrier with an excess amount of biscuits, just don't get caught walking out with a box, their head might explode.

*The rules to the game 'who'll shit first' are simple - in order of rank followed by specialism then length of service, everyone puts a quid in the kitty and picks one of the public order horses. If your horse shits first, you win the kitty. Easy.

*And finally, yes it is true, every other nick DOES has fitter people than yours.


Monday, 16 June 2008

Didn't see that one coming

It's night duty, a few weeks after being signed off to patrol independently and I’m crewed with my team tutor and mentor who I shall refer to as W. Having a massive three and a half years service (anything more than a year was massive at the time) and having already served on a proactive surveillance team, he has my complete trust and respect. A couple of years older than me, quite a bit shorter, and considerably more ginger, he has no issues in fully utilising his officer safety instructor skills to gain the upper hand with everyone I have seen try to fight him (at least a dozen at that point, which was loads) Whilst tutoring me, he was always serious. He still answers any question I have sincerely, no matter how stupid or based on having been told complete lies. Like me, he's come from a Services family and had been aiming to join the Marines to follow his dad but chose the Police instead. Having worked with him for a few weeks since my last course at the training unit he is completely different, more relaxed, and more of himself than when he is in teaching mode.

We're skulking around one of our rougher estates looking for anyone to spin when the call comes through the radio “a unit to attend 40 South Street, call from a family member, drunk male attacking his wife” I later read through the incident message and the exact words the 17 year old caller used were “please help, he’s drunk again and punching my mum, I can’t stop him, please help”

It's after pub kicking out time and the roads are relatively empty so we get to the address in good time. As we are walking along the path up to the door, I can hear a man shouting and the sound of furniture being thrown about. W asks me to get an update to the control room and get a van running. The hall light isn’t on but I see the front door open as the caller comes out. He’s 17 and looks like any normal kid although he is upset that he can’t protect his mum from his dad. Apparently he’d got back from the pub drunk after watching the football, his team lost, so naturally, he took it out on her. Again.

The kid says he called us, he tried to stop him from hitting his mum but his dad just pushed and kicked him out of the room. As we walk into the house, W goes in first and tells me to get the kid out of the way. We go in and I see the stairs on the left of the long hall and I tell the kid to stay outside the room. I hear a woman sobbing from the front room off to our right, the door is ajar and I can see her sitting slumped on the floor, she’s hiding her face from him as he is standing over her screaming into her ear about something but I can’t make it out. W pushes the door open and we start to go into the room. The man doesn’t acknowledge us, he keeps his back to the door and just shouts “I told you to get OUT!!” The woman lifts her head up and looks at the door, her left eye is bleeding and is already starting to swell closed, her bottom lip is cut badly and blood is pouring down her chin, I can see the cuts on her legs, more than likely from where he was kicking her on the floor.

For a second she can’t understand what she is looking at, and then as she realises her face contorts in horror, this gets her husbands attention and he turns around to look at us. For a moment he is shocked and then angry and shouts at us “get the fuck out of my house, you’re trespassing” W says to him “I don’t think so pal, step away from her, you’re going to be coming with us” He shouts at us again to get out then sees his son behind me and screams at him “did you call them you little fuck? You’re done, I told you to keep your nose out you little bastard” I tell him that we could hear him down the street and neighbours called us but he ignores me and stares straight at W who has already got out his baton. As he racks it and starts moving into the room, I move to his left.

We’ve done a few takedowns together and as he took the time to practice with me and a couple of the other guys in the back yard I know W favours going in from our right side to control the left arm. W moves in and raises the baton, placing the tip on his right shoulder, he then shouts at the man “I said get away from her NOW” We get closer as the guy starts to turn fully square to us. He starts to drop his head and roll his shoulders forwards, as he starts to bring his hands up I know that he is about to move on us. W has stepped forward again, closing the reaction gap and I move with him. Just as the man launches forward and goes to grab him, W drops down low and strikes the guy as hard as he can across the left knee causing him to scream in agony and fall forwards. We both move in taking our respective arms, folding them up behind his back and we use his momentum to push him face first into the floor.

As we all hit the floor I hear the wife shouting “please don’t hurt him” I look up at her and can’t believe what I’m hearing, this man has just literally beaten her black and blue, probably scarring her for life given the state of her face. W shouts at me to get his arm round, he’s already managed to get a cuff on the left arm and he has it half way up his back, ready for me to get the right one in. As I try to pull his arm up he pulls against me screaming and swearing at us. He manages to pull his arm round enough to start to tuck it under his chest. The only thing I can do to control the arm is to punch out his bicep, causing it to deaden to give me enough control to turn his arm round in the socket allowing me to put a ‘goose neck’ lock on his wrist. Once I get the lock on I can then bring the hand back round behind his back and force it into the handcuff.

As I start to punch the arm the son shouts out “why are you punching him, you can’t do that” as he starts to walk towards us, W shouts at him to get back. I again punch the arm and get a good hit in but the only thing going through my mind is “what the hell is wrong with the people in this family?!?” As I lift the arm out I manage to turn it round, locking out the elbow and turning the wrist towards it giving me complete control of the arm, I then get the hand down and W pulls the wrist into the cuff. The guy is still screaming and swearing at us but I hear the diesel engine at top revs and I see the flashing blues in the window telling me the van crew has arrived. A second later I hear them bang through the front door and into the hall, shouting out to us to check we’re ok. As one of the guys puts his head round door, the son shouts at him that we’re beating his dad up and my colleague says to him “hang on a minute, didn’t you call us?”

The man hears this and goes ballistic, he screams out “ I fucking knew it you bastard, you called them” he starts thrashing around on the floor, trying to turn to W, biting out to try and get the nearest thing to him. W asks me if I’m ready to go, I change my leg position to get ready to stand up and as I do so W nods at me. With our arms locked around the guy’s arms and shoulders and with the help of adrenalin, we lift him up easily. As we start to move to the hall my colleague goes to the front door to hold it open and I see the son move further up the hallway into the house. At least he’s now out of the way. W starts to turn so he goes out through the door first, the hallway is narrow so we have to go sideways with the guy bent forwards. As we get into the hall the man is still screaming and swearing but he’s now started spitting, he tries to head butt W and kick his legs out, missing and falling forwards as his weight shifts. We fall against the stairs and I bang my head and I hear the son screaming now “what are you doing to my dad, get off him, you’re hurting him!”

I ignore the son and regain my footing, pushing the guy further forwards to keep his head down, at least that way he can’t see what he is kicking at or trying to head butt. W shouts at him to stop resisting but he’s still thrashing his legs around as we try to move him down the hall. We’re bouncing off the wall and the stairs as we get closer to the door, trying to shuffle through the hall with someone trying to kick out isn’t easy. By now we are both screaming at the guy to stop resisting and trying to kick us but we are nearly at the door so W starts to move out to his left, giving him space away from the guys legs to make it harder to kick out.

As W is right at he door I feel a huge impact at my right side, knocking me forwards. I realise that the son has just tried to jump on my back and as I turn to look at him, I lift up my head to see W let go of the dad and jump towards me. As I turn to my right I see the son with his right arm up in the air, moving towards the back of my head, W throws a punch straight towards me and before I can finish thinking ‘what the fu…’ I see his fist move past my face, striking the son straight in the mouth, causing him to fall to the floor. As the son collapses in a heap I see him drop the biggest Phillips head screwdriver I’ve ever seen.

This kid, who had called us to stop his dad from beating his mum up, has just tried to stab me in the neck with a screwdriver.

I started to fall on top of the dad as we were both completely off balance, W scrambled over both of us and jumped on the son, as my colleague holding the front door moved in to grab hold of the dad’s right arm. W pinned the son to the floor as we got the dad out and dragged him – still screaming – to the van, putting him into the cage. The van driver rushed in behind us to help W handcuff the son, who was then walked out and put into the back of our car while someone requests another van to take him. I'm stood next to the front gate of the house, my hands shaking from the adrenalin and the fact that I was just nearly stabbed, all I can picture is the screwdriver on the floor. W walks over to me and says “that was close. I didn’t see that one coming. Are you alright?”

I just look at him and say “I need a fucking brew”


Saturday, 7 June 2008

How many does it take?!?!

I have no idea how many times I've been asked how many Police officers it takes to restrain someone. Usually it's a rhetorical screech in my ear, others it's some drunken arse counting us all out as loud as he can. Anything more than one on one, and we get accused of excessive force. The problem with one on one is when trying to restrain someone who doesn't want to be restrained or is actively fighting, you need to use even more force in order to control them. This inevitably leads to injuries which we are then criticised about.

Unlike two blokes having a fight on the street with the intention of ripping lumps out of each other, the methods that we use are designed to do a number of things instead of just putting someone on the deck and walking away. First and foremost is to actually cause as little long lasting injury as possible to the person being restrained and secondly to minimise the risk of injury to the officers involved. By having a number of officers controlling a limb or the head and another just concentrating on handcuffing, you can safely prevent someone from lashing out and injuring themselves. It is considerably better to walk into custody with someone gobbing off that it took five or six officers to hold them down, than one or two walking in with someone bleeding and battered, having been sprayed and batoned to the floor.

Invariably if someone can be handcuffed easily then they will be, it is much easier to get them into a van if they are compliant. It also makes the custody procedure quicker and minimises the possibility of having to do 'constant watch' on someone (sitting on a chair outside their cell watching them for the duration of the shift whilst seriously bored) if they think they have been mistreated and have decided they'll just try and kill themselves in the cell to get one up on us.
Another consideration is that while most people will just watch, some will stand there screaming abuse at you because the person on the deck "ain't dun nuffink" while others will attack the officers, either because they are vulnerable or because they want the person to escape. If there is a crowd of 200 people we'll be lucky to get one or two who will actually help if we're on our own (most will get the mobiles out and film it for youtube) which is why as many officers as possible will come in, control whatever they can get hold of so the person can be cuffed or strapped and then removed. In addition to remaining in control of the incident by ending it quickly, it also prevents the likelihood of positional asphyxia, which can be fatal.

If you have a look at the picture above, you'll see that there are four officers involved in restraining the guy on the floor, the fifth officer standing up has either dislocated floor-guys left hip and is holding his leg, or more likely is holding back the guy to his right. The female officer at the front is holding the head against the floor, although this may be uncomfortable, it stops him head butting the floor (which happens a lot) and creating injuries to blame the police later on, as well as leaving them free to spit at/bite the officers closest to him. It also puts her in a position of control where she can speak/shout directly in his ear so he can hear the instructions such as 'stop resisting' or 'put your hands behind your back' etc. Pinning the head can reduce the likelihood of him fighting as most people tend to calm down when their head is restrained.

The male officer at the back is holding his legs to prevent him kicking about and also from using his leg/back muscles to try and lift himself off the floor. The most common method we use to control legs when some one is face down is to bring the feet up to the buttocks, cross the ankles then hold the feet there. Most of the time this can be done by one (large/strong) person however if you have someone who is drunk/drugged or is high on adrenalin then it may take two people. The reason for crossing the legs over is to put the largest muscles of the thigh in a position of mechanical weakness which prevents them being used, it also gives a level of pain compliance that can be applied or eased off as appropriate with the ankle joint, especially if the person being restrained has a muscular build or is not very flexible.

The officer on floor-guy's left side is holding the arm over the back so that he can be handcuffed. Depending on the strength or mental state of the person being restrained, getting the arms out can be pretty difficult, especially if they have a high drink induced pain threshold. The natural instinct when being pinned is to go into the foetal position with the arms in to the chest to protect the stomach and head, and bring the knees up high to protect the groin.

This is why most people pull their hands in front of them, although occasionally you can have someone hiding or trying to get to a weapon or drugs. Either way, the person is being restrained and cuffed for a reason in which case the best place for the hands to be is behind them so that they cannot strike out to the front, even if cuffed. By having one person on each arm you can apply pain compliance in the form of locks or strikes which either immobilise the muscle groups or deaden/shock them for long enough to be manipulated into position.

Once you have the persons arms into position to be cuffed then either of the arm controllers can handcuff, although it is often preferable to have someone else come in to handcuff separately. This could be because the person is still trying to pull their arms round in which case they still need to be held, which means that the officers are unable to get their cuffs to apply them. In addition to the issue of getting handcuffs out, when your own adrenalin is pumping it is very difficult to apply them without catching clothing, their skin or your skin so if possible it's much better to have someone else do it.

While someone is on the floor in the prone position (face down) one of the most dangerous situations we have to consider is positional asphyxia, where the chest is compressed by their own mass or the weight of officers pressing on them, meaning that the person on the floor cannot breathe. This is the main reason that we tell people to calm down and stop resisting so they relax, meaning we can get them off the floor or put them in a better position (on the side similar to the recovery position) so they can breathe much easier. The last thing anyone would expect us to do is just stand up and leave someone alone who is violently thrashing on the floor, as I said already this can cause more injuries, it also looks seriously unprofessional just letting someone thrash about in handcuffs with everyone watching them.

Positional asphyxia has caused some people to die at the scene or soon after (up to 24 hours in some cases) where a lack of oxygen to the brain creates medical problems that were not there, or in some circumstances aggravated ones that were. If someone has been trashing about on the floor or in a violent struggle before hand, the oxygen deficit is huge and even a small amount of pressure can restrict the ribcage. One of the stages that can occur before unconsciousness is a violent outburst of strength. This is basically the bodies last ditch effort to get air in the lungs and oxygen to the brain and can be a subconscious action, the problem for us however is that it is impossible to tell a conscious struggle from an unconscious one.

In order to reduce the risk of positional asphyxia, the easiest way is to get the person cuffed and controlled immediately. Sometimes this can mean six officers on one person, which can look bad to those who have no idea what has been or is going on. The public perception of this is nothing compared to that of a death in custody and the inquest later. One of the main justifications for the Police use of Taser for violent or armed suspects is that it is a form of instant pain compliance, which does not need officers to be virtually sitting on and crushing a suspect while they are handcuffed.

It is much better to use a weapon that has immediate effect, does not contaminate anyone else, and has virtually no risk of broken bones - apart from falling to the ground. I personally would much rather see someone controlled or dropped instantly with a Taser than jumped by five or six blokes who have nothing more than a steel bar, brute force or a chemical agent that is more likely to effect them than the suspect. The risk of injury is considerably lower if you actually look at all the tactical options and risk related to each one properly - especially as word of mouth has already seen the threat of Taser to be more effective than virtually anything else.