Wednesday, 8 April 2009
On the roll of the dice
I was puzzled. There I was, just off duty and changed into civvy clothes, having finished a hard week behind a desk trying to come up with a conjuring trick to save 4% of my division's annual budget in order to keep the HQ accountants happy. I'd been specially selected by the superintendent to do this - well actually he'd been told to do it but shit rolls downhill. I was amazed at being asked, because I'd never been sent on a course in accountancy or how to save money. I'd done many firearms courses, tactical adviser (firearms and public order), managment of disasters and civil emergencies, police instructor training (2 very hard months in Harrogate), then there was counter terrorist search and I even spent a month at the Army Staff College on `low intensity warfare and counter-insurgency`, so I really felt puzzled as to how I could end up trying to come up with a plan to save £115,000, especially after I'd pointed out to the superintendent that I'd failed GCE Maths - twice. I was puzzled because not only had I succeeded in completing my allotted task with a lot of help from some good friends who'd already been there, but also, I'd managed to save £135,000, a cool 20 grand more than was required. My puzzlement was because having proudly presented my work to the super', who'd checked all the proposed facts and figures, he promptly told me to re-work it so that we just saved the required £115,000 (where he got the we from I'll never know). He said that we should keep that bit back so that we had a head start for the following years savings plan. As you can imagine, I was underwhelmed. I believe that my old force has since employed divisional accountants or `budget managers` who are probably much better trained at fiddling the figures and not saving too much money at a time. Anyway, this was playing on my mind as I strolled across the town centre car park towards Sainsburys. I'd decided to get me and Mrs Hogday a bottle of Soave, so I was taken slightly aback when from out of my line of vision, a lanky scrote stepped in my path and said, "Oi mate, can you do us a favour"? "No I can't", came my rapid reply and I kept on walking. I recognised him as a local lowlife substance abuser. My snappy rejection of his opening line was clearly not what he'd been used to getting from the poor unsuspecting public he'd previously harrassed and seemed to take him unawares, because he looked a tad puzzled before he made a recovery and came back at me with, "No mate, you don't understand". We'd had several complaints, of late, about `aggressive begging`in the town centre and I twigged that this was probably one of them. I couldn't remember his name but I knew the face from my frequent visits to our crime management unit and from reading the daily incident reports of druggies, drunks and brawlings. This bloke was a pain in the arse. I was tired and wanted to get my wine and go home and drink it with my wife and my dinner, so I spelt it out for him in simple words; "No, you're the one who doesn't understand, I am not your mate and I won't do you a favour, so get out of my way". He started to walk alongside me as I continued across the car park and try to engage me in more of his banter but by now I was getting seriously pissed off. I stopped and told him once more to bugger off. He said, "Give us some change" and stood right in front of me leaning into my personal space. I stepped back and turned discretely sideways on to him, whilst slowly rolling up my evening paper tightly - very effective if you need to prod someone in the solar plexus which, I started to perceive, might be necessary. I said, "Listen carefully, get out of my way and stop demanding money". This drug influenced dreg then said something that almost made me laugh, "D'you want some then"? I have to say it was said a bit half heartedly as I suspect even in his mildly addled state he realised that at a well proportioned 6`3" and 14 stone, with my left foot leading, I did not look like his usual pushover victim. I said, "Do I want what"? He just clenched his fists and stood there, slightly rocking in the breeze. I decided to spell it out to him again and, to my recollection this is pretty much what I said (and which I later entered into my police pocket notebook and which later entered a police investigation log, for reasons that will become obvious if you stick with me and keep reading): "Look at you, a skinny, pasty, heavy-smoking, drug-using wreck. You don't look like you could run 25 yards and yet you are seriously considering taking me on? You must be joking. Do yourself a favour and get back behind those bushes over there where you spend your wasted days. I am now going to contact the police control room so do yourself a favour and piss off out of my way". I moved back half a pace, keeping a close eye in case he did decide to assault me which I though was possible but, with me having taken the initiative, now seemed to have receded for the moment. Time to move away. I walked off and was immediately onto the police control room via my mobile. Being a job issue phone I had a direct dial straight to the control room console that covered our area. I relayed the incident, told them to ensure the CCTV was running and monitored and requested a local unit attend and turn the guy over (job slang for stop/search/obtain details). He loitered in the area of the bus station with several of his cronies, which is where I was eventually heading, so I was pleased to see one of my guys checking them out as I emerged from the supermarket. The whole thing was over in less than 3 minutes and the end result was I got a lift home in the area car. Two hours later, Mrs Hogday and I were walking the dogs prior to our wine and dine when my mobile phone rang. It was the duty sergeant at the control room, an old mate of mine. "Hi Hogday, free to speak? About that bloke you had the problem with in the car park earlier, well I thought you'd like to know he won't bother you anymore". "How's that?" "Well actually he won't bother anyone anymore, He's been found dead in the multi-story car park". I was shocked! "Fuck me! I never touched him" . The Sgt replied, "We know that. Its all on CCTV. It looks like he just collapsed. CID are dealing so can you ring the DS". I relayed my story to the DS and later faxed him the copy of my pocket book entry, pretty much as I've written here, which he found quietly entertaining in its frankness. I never minced my words. It would appear that this guy had indeed been in the multi-storey for reasons we'll never know and could only speculate on, and had been found by a member of the public, dead as a doornail. There was a post mortem and the Pathologists report painted a very sorry picture of his overall state of health. A long term chronic drug abuser and alcoholic, his death was due to some sort of pulmonary embolism or other very nasty, sudden, no hope, goodbye cruel world thing. The Pathologist further stated to the investigating officer that this guy's organs were so shot and his overall condition so poor that he was, in effect, `a dead man walking`. The following week I spoke to the Detective Sergeant and went over the incident again. The thing that always stays with me (and this wasn't that long ago) is that had I felt it necessary to fend this man off with my rolled up newspaper in his gut, thump him or even just give him a firm shove, he could very well have dropped on the spot and any subsequent conversations with the Detective Sergeant could well have been under caution, in an interview room, turning my entire evening into a world of shit. With everything done correctly and with my entire encounter with this aggressive street person captured on CCTV, coupled with the pathologists findings, I would have been exonerated from any blame, but the fact that I did not have to lay hands on him, or at least chose not to even though I was coming close, made this a very close run thing. Please do not draw any inferences between my telling this story now and the unfortunate death of Mr Tomlinson at the end of the G20 day in London.