I was reading a thread, posted in `another place`, a few minutes ago about anarchists protesting about something or other in Seattle, USA. It reminded me of this little piece of my past:
A hoary old beat officer pal of mine was called to a `minimart` in the
town we policed. Some little erk was trying to steal lager. He was a 19
yr old spotty tosser dragging out his youth on some pointless `bums on
seats` college course and was mildly intoxicated. My pal saw that his
leather jacket, bedecked with protest badges and rude words daubed thereon with tippex,
had the word `Anarchy` painted on it. Pc `Norman` says, `Anarchy means
you don't believe in the law, right?" Spotty gives a leery reply. Pc `Norman`
returns the beer to the shopkeeper and proceeds to take the leather
jacket off the back of the spotty, who struggles and protests. Norman
says, `I'm having your jacket as it's no crime to you`, and walks off
with it. Shopkeeper declined to press charges. Swift justice swiftly delivered? You be `da judge`.
No one got paid a bonus by coming up with good crime figures in my day, there was no officical money carrot dangled under the noses of our chief officers like that which was introduced but a short while ago by a government seeking credos. But there were short cuts here and there to be sure. I never knowingly took part in any corrupt practice, but human nature being what it is...
It was a night shift in November and my tutor constable was
on rest day. We only had 3 weeks attached to a tutor to `learn beats` before
being let out on our own so I hoped I’d get a good stand-in. I was allocated to
Ian who had just about 3 years service. Ian was a mature and friendly sort of
bloke and I was quite happy to be working with him. After parade and inspection
we were dismissed to our duties. The front office was the usual bustle of blue
uniforms grabbing radios and batteries, with those on armed duties signing out
Walther pistols and spare magazines. The standard `carry` was one up the spout
and safety `off` which meant the air was filled with the mechanical clacking
and clicking sounds of 6 or 7 pistols being made ready. The public counter was only
feet away from all this activity but in those days it consisted of nothing but
a `hatch`, which would be slid up in order to peer out at the poor enquiring
public. Not the warm and friendly open plan police offices you see today (those that are open for more than a few hours a week, that is). This
friendly enquiry desk, in a huge police station, could more accurately be
described as a trapdoor or serving hatch just wide enough to be able to reach
through and drag someone in by their lapels, should it become necessary. Over
the years I would see quite a few people swallowed up into the police station
in this remarkably quick and efficient manner, a bit like a Venus Fly Trap.
Ian was an authorised firearms officer and, together, we would be relieving the
guys on the front door of Number 10 Downing Street during the shift, but for
the first couple of hours we were free agents and so headed up Whitehall for
the bright lights to catch some action. Strolling across Trafalgar Square and
into Cockspur Street we were suddenly confronted by a guy trying to do a
3-point turn and he wasn’t doing very well, bouncing up the kerbs and stalling
the engine. Ian says, “We’ll check this one, I’ll stop him but watch he doesn’t
try to run us over”. We signal him to stop and he does so, immediately getting
out of the car and putting his hand inside the jacket pocket of his crumpled
suit. Eight years later I would recall this moment with a wry smile when, on an
exchange trip in the USA, I was in a similar situation, except when the guy got
out of his car in downtown Detroit and stuck his hand in his jacket pocket, he
became instantly unpopular with the cops I was with and was lucky not to be
slotted on the spot. But our man in London didn’t get a gun pointed at him;
even though Ian was covertly armed with a Walther PP. Our man just produced this
Metropolitan Police I/d card. He was a detective constable, he was driving a
car and he was intoxicated. Oh how my heart sank.
Ian was very calm and politely told him to put his I/d away because I was going
to talk to him. This was my cue and I went through the standard legal spiel
leading up to me requiring him to provide a sample of breath for a breath test.
He seemed surprised and asked me if I was joking. I said, “No, I’m too new in
this job to be joking”. His reply stuck with me, “Oh f**k, a bloody
probationer”. Ian was great and firmly put this guy in his place, explaining
that if he’d just let us get on with the procedure we’d all be better off. We
radioed for a breath test kit and within minutes big John arrived on the Noddy
Bike (just like the picture below). This was a lightweight motorcycle, a 200cc
Velocette LE to be precise, and was ideal for central London what with its
choking traffic and narrow Mews and alleyways, even though the rider looked
slightly ridiculous in his Macintosh and slightly modified but outwardly
standard police helmet. Although it was, for its time, a brilliantly innovative
motorcycle, water cooled and with a shaft drive, I’d made up my mind never to
be seen, dead or alive, on a Noddy Bike, as did most of my mates. Unbeknown to
me, that private promise would only hold good for a few years.
The breath kit was prepared. It was a glass tube containing crystals that would
change colour progressively if there was alcohol present in the breath. You
just snapped the sealed ends off and fitted a mouthpiece and a bag to the ends.
I gave chummy his final instructions on what to do, when I was suddenly treated to a remarkable display. He suddenly started
shaking like he’d been electrocuted and then collapsed on the pavement,
twitching and convulsing. I was both gobsmacked and horrified as my first real
live breath test, a pretty simple procedure, started to rapidly descend into a
sort of theatrical farce. But Big John wasn’t fooled and said what he thought
of this `act` from the intoxicated detective in very uncomplimentary terms. In
my naivety, I expressed my concern for his welfare and glanced at Ian who was
looking decidedly pissed off with the whole situation. There were a couple of
empty seconds where we both tried to think of our next move and a small crowd
of people had started to gather round and stare, as they do, when Big John
solved it, albeit accidentally. He decided to dismount from the Noddy but in so
doing he had forgotten the engine was still running – easily done as they were
very quiet. Unfortunately, he had also left it in first gear and as he stood up
and released the clutch it leapt forward and ran over the horizontal
detective’s leg, causing him to leap to his feet cursing and swearing in pain.
Big John didn’t flinch, put the Noddy on its stand and proudly pronounced,
“Told you he was bullshitting”. He was arrested for refusing the test and a van
was summoned to take him in.
He was booked in by the sergeant, without any fuss and in a matter of a few
minutes, declining any medical treatment. Such a contrast to today, where
officers frequently have to queue up with their prisoners outside the cells,
often waiting ages to be let in. Today’s prisoners have to be asked a myriad of
questions about their physical health, mental health, if the arresting officer
was nice, dietary requirements, shoes size, star sign and favourite film star
before getting anywhere near a cell. This prisoner however was no fool. He knew
the system and had clearly started to remember Contingency Plan `A` that had
doubtless been worked out by his hard drinking colleagues when the breath test
laws were introduced several years before, in 1967. The plan recognised that time
is of the essence, or in his case, time would remove the essence.
Remember, this was before the advent of breath analysis machines that are now
in every custody station and give a reading pretty much within a minute. We had
only two options; blood or urine. He failed the second screening breath test
and was asked to supply blood. He agreed, knowing that a police surgeon (doctor
on retainer) would be called and in central London on a busy night that would
take time. Doc eventually arrived after an hour and asked him if it was OK to
take a blood sample, at which point chummy refused, with a big grin. This meant
we would have to demand 2 urine specimens that had to be given within an hour.
60 minutes later, no urine had passed so we then enter the final phase and
revert to asking for a blood specimen. This time he agrees and after another
delay the doc arrives and gets a syringe full. Our man is released on bail
pending the lab report which, unsurprisingly, came back just under the legal
limit. His delaying tactics had worked a treat. My next breath test job, a few
nights later, was over and dealt with in less than an hour. Deep joy.
Please, don’t try `Contingency Plan A` if you are arrested. It doesn’t work
like this any more.
a sad irony that the news media are eagerly waiting at the court to
bring us the sentences for the manslaughter of the six children in Derby
at the hands of their `parental` wpos (hint, w = worthless).
Sky and BBC news will interrupt
whatever is being screened at the time to get us there live, windswept and almost as it
happens. During the olden days of Albions Fatal Tree, we'd be gathering at Tyburn or Northampton Market or at any of the numerous gibbets that were part of the system of the day, although it is highly unlikely that an incident like this one, committed then, would have raised an eyebrow, let alone a hue and cry, fires and infant mortality being par for the course.
As many of my old chums will know, those poor kids had already
been sentenced to their chaotic lifestyle, pretty much from conception.
There was no media scrutiny of these poor souls then, yet bad times
were very much on the cards from the get-go. I guess being placed by
social services on the `at risk` register, even as an embryo (if the family background and circumstances were risky enough) pales into
insignificance when compared to the end result of this horrendous case.
Of course reporters must be factual in what they report - and very
careful about saying what they really think. I know what that feels like. Its almost as if we must say, `we know there are awful people out there just like this trio, breeding with complete impunity and no perceivable parenting skills, we just have to let them get on with it and hope for the best`. Its wrong to be prejudiced (although it saved my neck on many occasions, maybe I'll call that `sixth sense suspicions`), so I ought to say that the other tragedy is that none of those children had the chance to grow up and make something decent of themselves, maybe even discover a cure for something horrible. The prospects for that happening were pretty remote, way more remote than some or all of them ending up like the people who brought them into the world, but you never really know for sure until one or the other happens, you just have a pretty good idea.
In the below news
article, there is an interesting quote from Professor David Cantor, a
name well known in police investigative circles for his work in
psychological profiling. He stated, "He [Mick Philpott] lived in a world
where he could get away with anything....". Correct, Professor, him and thousands of others - and I haven't got a tenth of your qualifications. I await hearing of his pre-cons with no anticipation of surprise whatsoever.