Thursday, 23 February 2012

A necessary evil

As happens every now and then we had our OST refresher this week. For those of you not in the job that’s ‘Officer Safety Training’. I always dread doing it as it seems to go on and on and on but I enjoyed it. It does however always raise a lot of issues when it comes to where and when we use force in the execution of our duty and perhaps even more pertinent, how much force we use.

I read with amazement how some people on social networking sites, television, the written media etc berate the police for using force. Many of those criticising describe how if only we as officers were better at talking to people, at reasoning with and relating to those we serve, we could avoid all conflict and everyone would come quiet and do what we ask.

To those people, where do you live and can I come and live there?

It doesn’t work like that I’m afraid. I wish I did. I wish we could avoid all fights I’m sick of the bruises. Those idealists that like to hound us for using force would have you believe that I’m lying, that in reality I drag my knuckles around waiting for the first opportunity to beat people up. I’m not going to say some police officers out there couldn’t use a few lessons in conflict resolution but we are not all like that. We are always taught in training that your best weapon is your mouth and it is very true. Every now and then I get given a special constable to take out and sometimes they ask when things are going to get ‘tasty’ or ‘interesting’ and I tell them all the same. Do not go looking for it, there will be enough times in a career (too many) when trouble will find you without any effort whatsoever.

After my first six months of initial training (seems like a bloody lifetime ago) I rocked up at my station waiting to meet up with my tutor, the experienced officer who would be with me for the next ten weeks showing me the ropes. I was expecting some 6’3 , tough faced, no nonsense old soak who would have villains quaking in their rockports. In reality I got someone about 2 inches taller than me, a lot skinnier than me and despite being two years older he looked about twelve. I thought bloody hell we’ll get killed if it kicks off.

I couldn’t have had a better tutor. There was no alpha male bravado, there was no testosterone flying about and no expectation that I should be some Jean Claude Van Dam.  What I witnessed was someone who could talk to people, who could reason with people, who could empathise with people, who could make people laugh but also someone who got the job done, got results and when needed could be assertive. Still to this day I haven’t met anyone in the job as good at talking to even the worst society can throw at us.

But you know what? Even with him, sometimes, not often but definitely sometimes, we had to use force, we had to get ‘hands on’. Whatever people say it is unavoidable. People do not like getting arrested, they do not like getting searched and sometimes they will do anything and everything to avoid it. This resistance is often amplified by the introduction of alcohol, drugs, mental health etc. 
People often say when we are in the town centre “LOOK IT TOOK FIVE COPS TO ARREST ONE MAN”. No it didn’t, it took five cops to keep the cops safe, the person being arrested safe and members of the public around safe.

 As I have experienced a number of times some people are bigger, they’re stronger and they’re more aggressive so when it comes to trying to restrain them, the force I would have to use on my own would probably seem excessive but if you don’t go in hard and fast you lose and we cannot afford to lose. That isn’t me trying to be some sort of hard man, I’m far from it (lover and fighter spring to mind) but it is the reality. I have been punched in the face, kicked, spat at, pushed over, had things thrown at me and on virtually every occasion it came to that because I was too hesitant, I didn’t identify early enough that talking to this person will not work, they are not reasonable, they will not come quietly.

So to those living in the pacifist’s paradise, come walk a mile in my size 10’s before you label us all bullies and thugs.  

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


I read this week about a mother’s disgust as her son had been sent home from school due to his new haircut. Apparently it wasn’t fair on the boy as he thought it was stylish and fashionable. Needless to say there was a photograph attached to the report and it’s fair to say it was neither stylish nor fashionable and was more reminiscent of three day old road kill lying strewn across the highway of his scalp.

Anyway I digress, surely the issue here isn’t the quality or lack thereof of this haircut but more the inability of this lad to adhere to the standards set by the school, standards which I have no doubt will have been made abundantly clear to him. Furthermore the issue is also his mother’s support of his deviation from what was expected of him and not of the school trying to enforce a minimum standard.

Maybe I’m just having a Jack Dee moment but isn’t this indicative of society today. We no longer seem to support standards, and I don’t mean sticking to impossibly high standards set by some old draconian miser but instead just simple, basic standards. Conformity seems to have become an ugly word, rules appear to be something to be broken and many appear happy to be sub-standard.

When I was in high school it was shoes not trainers, it was black trousers, not combats, ‘trackies’ or jeans and it was an ironed white shirt. Hair was short back and sides for the lads and tied up and off the collar for the girls. I probably disliked it at the time, I probably wanted to wear my trainers and jeans and a Stoke shirt but I didn’t because I knew that when I joined that school I entered into an unwritten contract to follow their rules and standards. In addition I did not breach these because my Dad would not have let me, he would have supported the school in enforcing these rules should I ever stray and if they had sent me home he would have let me know what he thought of my misdemeanour in no uncertain terms and would have immediately made me put right what I had done wrong.

So to the woman with the son with the dodgy hair do; support the school not your son’s desire for daft hair. They are not just trying to enforce pointless rules to annoy you and make you look after your own son for the day. They are giving him standards, they are making him see he cannot just do what he wants, he has to adhere to rules, laws, policies, procedures, guidelines etc. Not just now in school but in life. National service anyone??

Friday, 25 November 2011

Positive action

Around 18 months ago I went, as I do regularly, to reports of a male on female domestic assault. On my arrival the brave bloke, despite being heard in the background on the 999 call to the police saying he would 'have all them pricks', had scarpered. The female had an obvious facial injury and was in pieces. The person she loved, the person she relied on and trusted had beaten her up. He had done it before clearly. Most domestic abuse victims suffer on average 35 incidents of abuse before it is brought to the attention of the police.

I did the usual, put out obs for the male, took pictures of her injuries, got a medical consent form signed, took a statement etc. He wasn't picked up on the day so he was circulated as wanted. He was lifted about four days later and guess what. She retracted. He'd got to her before we'd got to him.

Unfortunately this happens all the time. It has happened since then with this same couple around five or six times. Sadly despite many interventions being put into place she still has him back, he still hits her and one day I believe he will kill her.

Now we as police get crucified when this type of thing happens and rightly so in some cases, complacency, laziness and ineptitude from some cops has left the door wide open for serious domestic crimes to go on occurring. However many cops, myself included, take domestics very seriously and it's gutting when despite the police taking positive action wherever possible, the same cannot be said for the courts and the CPS.

Going back to my earlier example, our latest arrest of the male for abuse led to eight charges of common assault. We'd chased him for a month. We finally got him to court and they give him bail at court. The same day he got bail with conditions not to contact her he did exactly that, through the ever problematic medium of Facebook. He was subsequently arrested and kept for court, what did they do, bailed him again. Today he was seen in town with her, nicked, she's now looking like retracting all her statements and the CPS will no doubt drop the lot.

So please remember next time you see the police criticised over a domestic murder, some of us tried bloody hard to stop it, some didn't!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Cutting off your nose to spite your face

I never really understood this phrase as a kid growing up, it's one I would hear my mother use on a regular basis when talking about the latest heinous crime her sister had committed which was usually overspending to have a better car than her sibling rival or something equally as trivial.

Now however as a police officer I understand this phrase all too well and we are all guilty of it. I remember during training if it wasn't diversity they were beating the drum about it was 'Partnership working', the be all and end all approach to delivering the ultimate service to the public. You know what, if we all bought into it, I think it may just work, but no one does. Instead everyone protects their own, works within their own 'remit' and it causes progress to almost grind to a halt when the simple thing would just be for people to be a little more flexible. Yes it may be a little work now that you hadn't banked on, it may be something slightly outside your remit, your normal routine, but imagine what we could achieve and how much wasted time we could save in the future if we all worked TOGETHER.

Tajfel (1970) studied how the slightest difference in conditions between groups can cause discrimination, the term 'minimal group paradigm' was coined. Basically a 'them and us' mentality, groups that for no apparent reason feel negatively towards one another for no good reason other than they're in a different room, different department , different organisation. Sometimes it feels like the police, healthcare, CPS, social care, children's authorities etc need a group 'banging their heads together' session.

I'm not absolved of this, i've been guilty of it too, but the more I see how the short termist, lip service approach to tasks for other people does nothing in the long term, the more I see that only by really embracing true partnership working can we ever move forward and make a difference.


Thursday, 3 November 2011

Are you my real mum and dad?

60 out of  3660 children in care were adopted last year according to Cameron.
This issue bugs me, I know this figure wont break it down into those in permanent care, those in temporary care, those with cultural issues when trying to place them etc but still, 60 from 3660 is less than 2%. A fair bit less. It’s a shocking statistic.
Its baffling when you think of the amount of good people out there who no matter how much they’ve spent on expensive IVF simply cannot have children. People that would clearly make fantastic parents that for whatever reason get turned down when trying to adopt.
I read examples frequently of people who have been rejected for being too old, from the wrong cultural background, the wrong sexual orientation and even because their BMI was too high. I appreciate there has to be guidelines and boundaries when placing children but over 98% of kids in care staying in care just isn’t good enough.
There are fantastic people that work in care and they do their very best with often limited resources to bring as much normality as they can to the lives of children they look after but nothing can replace having a good, loving, supportive family.
This brings me on to another thing that bugs me, decent people in solid relationships and decent jobs spend thousands of pounds and years of their lives trying to have children through expensive IVF treatments and sadly never get lucky yet so many people I come across in my job who survive on a diet of tenants super strength lager, ready meals and amphetamine seem to have enough kids to fill a crèche. Where is the justice in that?
Around a 18 months ago my colleague and I were sent to an address on a street well known to us for the delights that live there. Social services were there to do an assessment on the living conditions as there were five children (one mother, five fathers) who were all on the child protection register. Social services were worried about the reception they’d get so we were supposed to be sent to avoid any breach of the peace. What we witnessed was nothing short of a disgrace. Not much surprises me in this job anymore but I was left astounded by what we saw.
The living room was a tip, I expect that sadly but try not to judge people by the standards of my OCD girlfriend but on closer inspection it was worse than a bit of mess. The staffy bull bitch was clearly in season and was dripping blood over the same floor that there was a baby crawling about on. There was faeces smeared on the walls. Food had been left on plates in the corner of the room for what must have been at least two weeks. The beading around the naff laminate floor had come away from the walls leaving sharp edges pointing out at the eye line of the crawling baby.
We moved into the ‘dining room’. The door was off the hinges that it was now crudely propped up against. Faeces were again smeared across the wall, to this day I do not know if they were from a human or the dog, sadly I believe it was likely to be the former. There was pools of urine on the floor under the dining table, again I am unsure of the source. There was a broken piece of glass in the corner of the room leaning against the wall and one of the chairs had two legs snapped in two and was upside down sat on another chair with the broken legs sticking up. The kitchen was a similar story, the bathroom had the children’s toothbrushes sat in mould on the window sill and the back door wasn’t properly attached.
I don’t get angry at jobs very often but by the time I’d seen the bedrooms I was seething. The children’s bedrooms again had faeces smeared on the walls, the children’s mattresses were sodden with urine and the bed linen clearly had either never been changed or certainly hadn’t for a long time.
A dangerous door led to an attic room which the mother of the five children, who was pregnant with unlucky number six, assured me no one ever used. In the corner of the room was a pile of clothing, some covered in excrement, some had blood on it, all of it was filthy. The most startling and upsetting was the single mattress in the corner. On it was a teddy bear, a half eaten box of children’s cereal, and a mound of dog faeces.
Needless to say with the help of the on duty social services manager (who despite my normal moans and groans was brilliant) and my sergeant at the time we got the kids taken off the woman who was in turn arrested for neglect along with her spaced out excuse for a partner (father of the impending sixth child).
18 months on and that female has split up with Mr excuse for a man. She has three children back (the three eldest) and lives next door to her sister and mother in a different street. I visit her when I can to make sure she’s keeping the place nice and to be fair to her she has turned her life round. She’s also now a great informant and thinks I’m brilliant (she’s not all bad).

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Can my pregnant friend......

Can my pregnant friend p*ss in your helmet?

Yes of course she can, however we’re in a town centre so once she’s finished I will nick her for exposure and criminal damage.

I’m not overly keen on the helmets we have to wear when working nights in the town centre however I do not want it full of urine from a pregnant (or otherwise) female.

Every time I work the town centre I get asked this question but the niggling question always remains in my mind:


I remember before I joined the job I watched every police program going

That changes…quickly. Probably about 15 minutes into my first such shift to be precise when a 45 year old ex squaddie decided to start fighting with me, my colleague and three bouncers whilst clearly under the influence of his little friend ‘cocaine’.

We won the fight but he got hurt, we got hurt, one of the bouncers got hurt and the police car we threw him in the back of got hurt after he got so worked up he lost control of his bowels.

See this is what annoys me about the town centre. People get drunk (me included when I’m there for pleasure and not work) but some will not listen to reason. We have Section 27 notices which direct individuals to leave a locality because we feel they will go on to cause or provoke alcohol fuelled violence or disorder. Note to the government and the judicial system, the only purpose they serve is that of filling up our cells. I have issued numerous such notices and I can count on one hand those who have taken heed of the warning and buggered off home.

We all get drunk, sometimes we get far too drunk, but can we stop using this as an excuse to act up! People need to start taking responsibility for themselves and if you can’t drink without getting involved in fights, don’t come out or drink water.
(@dangermousette will tell you I still do) and I remember seeing the all action (heavily edited) ‘highlights’ of town centre public order shifts and I couldn’t wait to get involved in some of that.

An Introduction to PC Dangermouse

So here it is, my blog, my opportunity to rant in more depth than the limited characters twitter offers me.
I wont pretend to be the world’s greatest intellect so if you’re after something profound and meaningful probably best to go elsewhere.

I am a response cop with a medium sized force and have been for the best part of three years. I’m not the most experienced cop but I’ve seen enough to provide a few interesting stories and give me plenty to rant about. I do love a rant and can often be found on my soap box.

I wont deny it there are parts of the job that drive me mad and I will on occasion harp on about them but keeping with the honesty, no matter what I find to moan about, this is the best job in the world. I get to do things no other job could offer me and meet people that I would not meet in any other walk of life.

The best bit of the job is, and always has been the people, the people you work with especially but also the people we encounter. I don’t just mean the victims, some of the most likeable characters I’ve ever met are folk I’ve had to put in a cell for the night, that’s just the job I guess.

I will try and post something at least once a week but if you follow me on twitter @pcdangermouse you’ll know I do go missing from time to time when work and life gets in the way so bear with me.
Anyhow I’m off for now but I may just pop a short story up soon.