Saturday, 28 February 2009

Teach Your Children Well

A child in Belgium on Remembrance Day parade. (apologies for not getting the end of our National Anthem) video

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's grocery delivery man.

After I left the police I re-civilianised myself and rode a lot of miles on my Harley. Then I decided to get a little job I did a bit of on-line groceries delivery for a major supermarket, whilst waiting for my next assignment in life. Here’s a few moments that stuck in my mind: A MENCAP care in the community `halfway house` where I couldn't tell staff from residents which, to me, means they’re doing a darn good job. Support MENCAP, they are magnificent. (Mencap - The UK's leading learning disability charity) A `mansion` (South Fork style) where the owners were a couple of nouveau riche low-life's in designer gear and a permanent state of domestic turmoil - think "The Osborne's" with the over-riding threat of imminent violence - just like being back in the police working sink estatesville. I was later told that the thug male of the house was a professional football star on a six-figure salary -per MONTH - whatever, still behaved like a low life p.o.s. You can dress a yob in Armani, but he’s still a yob. A university hall of residence - all female - where I was ushered in through three security doors and into a communal kitchen which was more of a chamber of hormones! Midday Saturday and most of them either still in bed with each other or slopping about in next-to-nothing- jim-jams - good job I knew where to look! I had to give the 19 yr old customer a £10 voucher because I was 10 mins late. One of her mates immediately piped up with, "Ooh, can we persuade you to always come late? Hoots of screams and giggles followed. With all the dignity I could muster I replied, "Well, as Charles said to Diana, `I'll be leaving one now`. A doorstep in the North of the city on a lovely sunny day, where the lady of the house received the goods from me, `dressed` in a baggy shirt, probably her husbands, that didn’t even cover her `map of Tasmania` and combined with the breeze and the bending, revealed everything, including her appendix scar. Didn’t bat an eyelid. A job where I walked into the open door of the delivery address to find a bloke who could not walk or talk. We communicated by nods and gestures. I just sort of assumed he wanted the groceries and unpacked them for him. A warden supervised care home for the elderly, where my 85 year old customer used to be a policeman in London, at my very 1st nick, when they wore the collar numbers on the collar! I had no time to talk to him, which was a tragedy, because of the time and motion clock I was working to.

An address where the SATNAV took me on a nightmare journey down a series of progressively narrowing cobbled alleyways where at one point I had to fold in both mirrors to get through with literally 2" clearance either side. Halfway along a lady in a Mini Cooper came the other way but told me she couldn’t reverse. I climed out of my cab window to back her car out for her, before climbing back in to drive my van out. And then found out it was the wrong address. Technology, pah! But at least I know I can maneuver a 7 ton van into a space the size of a cigarette packet. That was a tough job.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

"Inspector Clouseau and his men would've done a better job????"

So the DCC of the Essex Police has had to make a personal apology to Mr Lubbock Snr. over blunders in the initial stages of the investigation into the death of his son at the home of ex comedian Michael Barrymore. It seems the independent police complaints authority have handed the DCC their take on the investigation, hence the personal intervention of the Deputy Chief Constable. a rank that traditionally holds, amongst others, the portfolio on discipline and complaints. The police get a lot of retrospective slating over `bungled investigations` and often it's the `poor bloody infantry` who take the stick or at the very least are the ones who are seen, in the eyes of the public, as the Keystone Cops . I never join in the beatings on the lowest ranks in the service, especially when it is they who are inevitably first on the scene and often have to act quickly and on their own initiative . But there was a well worn phrase in the service that I happened to fully concur with when the blame was being dished out in large, indiscriminate helpings, "lack of supervision". However experienced and trustworthy a front line officer might be, it is patently unfair to allow them to simply get on with it, without the supervisory officer stepping in, checking the procedures, setting parameters and finally offering support in the progression of the investigation up to the point where it is either closed or handed over to a specialist department eg CID, Traffic Division etc. It should be patently clear to a supervisor, of any rank, that whereas they are permitted, on occasions, to delegate their authority to a lower rank, they can never delegate their responsibility. That little monkey, my friends, is always on the supervisor's back and where the buck usually stops, whatever the job or profession. But there is a more worrying and very personal niggle in my mind today, that has prompted me into this post and it involves a communication I had from a good buddy of mine only last night. Like me, he used to be police. He was a highly experienced Traffic officer, crash investigator and a firearms specialist but, unlike me, he had too long to wait for his pension and decided he wanted another career so he quit and retrained. A loss to the service. A short while ago his sister in law was hit by a car as she was out cycling. She was critically injured and to this day, 3 weeks on, she remains in a coma. Her husband (his brother) has been told by the neurosurgeon that the prognosis is not good and to expect the worst. The driver of the car failed to stop. The following is an extract from his e-mail to me: I've been dealing with the *********** police (the area it happened) who are totally useless. It was a hit and run driver and they didn't close the road for A.I. Fortunately, the driver gave herself up later in the day but.. they've not treated it as a potential fatality: no family liasion, no nothing. Its a town beat patrol officer who is tasked to investigate. I had to go to the local police station and threaten a formal complaint unless they seized the car, which they did that night. I found a witness, with significant evidence, they didn't even consider to be a witness! Pathetic. Aside from all that.. life has been fairly normal. My buddy drove 150 miles to that police station in order to do what he knew he had to do. They were lucky to have an expert such as him to make the effort, take the time off, drive 150 miles to their town and push them in the right direction. I'm sure the beat officer assigned the investigation feels the weight of the task he has been handed. But a criminal act has been committed that will likely result in a young woman's death. She was comatose from the moment of impact yet the investigation has lumbered along like a drunk trying to find his way home, ie. with just the barest notion of where he needs to go. I am amongst the last to slate the police. So is my buddy. He actually felt sorry for the officer handed this crock. He doesn't blame him and neither do I. But we know the system. His sister in law's incident was clearly crying out for half decent supervision and correct action at the scene, but it wasn't there - in abundance. It doesn't get more basic than this, but if they are fucking up potential fatal road traffic accidents for lack of basic supervision and guidance, not to mention the meagre numbers available due to bureaucratic strangulation....? Perhaps a senior officer needs to visit my buddy and tell him if he's missed something?

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Following the Tyretracks of Hopper and Fonda

Utah, beautiful Utah. Riding into Monument Valley, homeland of the wonderful Navajo Indians and John Ford epic Western movies. We were the only ‘cavalry‘ there that day but the Indians were friendly and drove us round in 4x4’s, playing their flutes for us. Yes, they make their living from tourists, they know that, they told us so, but they were the most warm and friendly people you could wish to meet. These people were patriots, Native Americans, the descendants of the country’s ancient history, the grandsons and granddaughters of the heroic “Windtalkers” of WW2. We were in the presence of greatness. We did our best. The place was a truly moving and spiritual experience and I don’t usually do ‘moving and spiritual‘. Empty mountain roads, massive rocky canyons. Vast blue skies with those clouds from ‘The Simpson’s‘. Sweeping high-speed curves that led us across the Colorado River at Lake Powell. The deep joy of a rumbling Harley formation swinging through those big fast bends. Blimey, was it really this good? Yes. I left a five-minute gap so I could ride alone, at 60mph for 25 miles, without seeing another human being. Eagles soared, tumbleweed tumbled, mountains graced the horizon all around me and with that engine rumbling as only a Harley V-twin can, I sang my heart out for a while and then settled back, taking in the realisation that I was alone on an arrow-straight road stretching to vanishing point. Just me. No ‘knees-down‘, no ‘wheelies‘, no 0-100mph in ten seconds superbike “speed me to the next life” crap, just a remarkable, solitary and personal motorcycling experience that I simply have to live through again, because nothing else has come close.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Shoot on sight, as long as he's the bad guy

WPc Bloggs has posted an interesting piece on the latest press release in the tragic case of Mr de Menezes. Here is my ten pence worth, from the perspective of a former specialist firearms officer. Picture the scene if you will. A lovely English country town with a low crime rate, no troublesome overspill estates, minimal social problem families, traditional policing with well known beat officers. On a busy day you might have one on town centre foot patrol and one in a car to cover urgent calls. If anything more than that is required you'd be calling in Traffic Division to back you up or a unit from the next nearest town which may be half an hour's drive away. 

It's a warm summers day. Lets use a little magic and give you the gift of foresight. You now know something that no one else knows. You know that a psychotic man is about to kill 16 people and maim dozens more. He is armed with miltary self-loading rifles, one of which is a Kalashnikov AK47 which although modified to single-action (automatic weapons are prohibited in the UK) when fired, projects a full metal jacket bullet at 2,300 feet per second (there are 5,280 feet in a mile, if this helps you get your head around the destructive power). The bullets would still have enough kinetic energy to kill a human at a range in excess of 2 miles so, in effect, if this man can see someone he can kill them instantly, certainly possible for a good shot to achieve at a range of up to 300 metres. It will fire just as quickly as he can pull the trigger. 

You know that the man will be totally random in the selection of his victims. Some he will simply stare at then ignore, others, regardless of sex or age, he will shoot and kill. If he sees someone driving by in a car, he might shoot at them, in fact he does just that on several occasions. His rifle bullets will enter a car's bodywork like a knife through butter. He is therefore totally unpredictable. I reiterate, he will kill 16 people and injure dozens more in under an hour. The police are getting information and are responding, but they don't know what you know, because they have not been given the gift of foresight. The first police officer this man sees will be unarmed and just appear in his marked police car in response to the calls for assistance. The gunman will see him from a distance and fire over 20 rounds at the car and kill the officer, but by then, unbeknown to the poor deceased policeman, he will already have killed seven and injured many others. 

As well as your fore knowledge of this tragedy you also have a gun with you, just a handgun, a revolver holding 6 bullets, but this will not be sufficient firepower to stop him at anything other than close range, 20-30 metres tops, closer to be sure of hitting him because, unlike him, you will be scared. Remember, he can kill you if he sees you at 300 yards and his AK47 has a 50 round magazine and he has plenty of spare bullets. Did I mention he also has another rifle, with similar capabilities, and a military pistol that holds 13 rounds? He knows no fear because his psychosis has numbed all emotion. He's like the great white shark in `Jaws`, with blank, staring, emotionless eyes that give nothing away as to what he is thinking or what he will do next. OK, now's your chance to be a hero and stop the carnage - in fact you are the only person who can because of your gift of foresight. 

You are now concealed behind a wall near a street corner when, to your amazement, the killer walks past your position but doesn't see you. He is walking away from you and you have 5 seconds before he will turn a corner and be lost from view. You know it's him because you have been gifted with foresight, plus you can see he is holding the AK47 down by his side, pointed at the ground. If you challenge him, he will turn and see you and will have the firepower of a modern infantry soldier. His bullets will blast through the brick wall you are hiding behind and still have the power to kill you. If you let him go, you know he will go on to kill more people as randomly as his psychotic whims take him. You cannot see anyone else in immediate danger but there he goes, 5 more paces and your chance to save all those lives will be gone. You can hit him right between the shoulder blades, or in the back of the head at this range (better for stopping him instantly, after all, adrenaline can do amazing things to keep you going even after you are shot) but you will only save the people if you take aim and fire now. What will you do? What's the right thing to do? 

OK, I'll allow you a little more time, but remember, real armed police would have already made their decision because they haven't had all the thinking time I'm giving you. Perhaps I ought to throw in some police-type rules of engagement to think about: You may only fire your weapon as a last resort, if there is an immediate threat to life (including your own) and there is no other way to detain the suspect. You should give a verbal warning to him, if practicable. (Of course the moment you make a sound, he'll turn, see you and bring up his devastating weapon to point straight at you, but then the person who wrote those rules of engagement isn't facing this situation, YOU are. I called him `the suspect`, because he hasn't been convicted of anything in a court of law. Of course, with your gift, you know he has already murdered and will increase his score of victims if not stopped - yet another advantage you have over real police. They only know what they are being told over their radios, which today are overloaded to the point they are crashing from excess radio traffic, panic calls and broken bits of information, although they do, by now, have his description - he's the man in combat gear, with rifles, walking round the town killing people at random. 

So, made your mind up? In the time you took to read the last 3 short paragraphs the killer covered another 50 yards, strolled up a driveway to the front door of a house and killed an 80 year old man in his kitchen. But we'll make an allowance for you, we'll re-wind the action and return you to when you were watching him walk away from you, just 3 paragraphs back. Enjoying this artificial pressure from the comfort of your chair in front of the computer? 

 OK, I'll take over from here. Ending 1. You couldn't make your mind up and didn't shoot him but felt it was too dangerous to shout a challenge, so waited for back up to even the odds against you getting killed. He went on to kill another 9 people, the armed response team eventually arrived and managed to locate him in his old school, where they contained him and tried to talk him into surrender. He turns one of his guns on himself and ends his life. Of course if you had shot him, you would have altered the course of history and saved the lives of 9 innocent men women and children who would never have known this. But that sort of magic only happens in the movies. 

Ending 2. You shouted, `Armed police, drop the weapon`. He did and was arrested, charged and tried for just 7 murders and numerous attempted murders and assaults. He was acquitted of murder but was never the less convicted of manslaughter because a psychiatrist proved he was mad. He's locked away in a secure psychiatric unit for the rest of his life. You followed the procedures and it worked, so well done you. As Dirty Harry said, "Sometimes you gotta ask yourself `do I feel lucky`"? Well, today you were. 

Ending 3. You level your revolver at the back of his head at a range of 3 metres, fire a single shot and he's history. There are 9 people alive today who will never know that you saved their lives. You face a full enquiry and interrogation and have to explain again and again why you felt it was necessary to shoot him in the head, from behind and without giving a warning. The dead killer's lawyers make great play of this at the hearing in the Coroner's Court, how you shot him in the back of the head as he walked away, making it sound like something John Wayne would say, with contempt, about a low-life gunslinger who killed his friend. 

Fortunately, with all the facts taken into account, the Coroner's jury returns their verdict of justifiable homicide and you are freed from blame, although some of the murderer's family and friends will always view you as a stone cold killer who didn't give their guy a chance to surrender. 

Ending 4. You shout `Armed police, drop the weapon`. He turns and opens up on you, rapidly firing 10 rounds in your direction, the bullets passing through the brick wall and hitting you several times. You managed to get off two shots before his bullet number 9 bursts through your chest and exits out of your back, bursting your heart and killing you. Your 2 shots were wide of the mark - one of them may even have gone through someone's lounge window - sorry, I forgot to tell you that you must always try to take account of the background before discharging a police firearm, as you may be putting innocent people at risk. He goes on to kill the 9 people he was always going to kill, before taking his own life (see Ending 1). You are hailed a hero and are awarded the George Medal - posthumously, of course.  

The above story, apart from you, the fantasy policeman who knew what was going to happen, is true. Read Ending 1 again but ignore the first sentence, because you weren't really there. That's what happened. Phew! OK ready for the next task? You are a specialist firearms officer but have no magic foresight, only the one fitted to the barrel of your firearm. Your senior officers and anti-terrorist commanders and spooky, shady people working in the security services are the only ones who have a sort of foresight on this one. They have the imprecise foresight that is sometimes called `intelligence` which is information gathered from secretive sources, some electronic, some from informants and some from who knows where - well I did say it was spooky and secretive, it has to be, I mean we are dealing with fanatical stone cold killers who think they will go to somewhere called `heaven` if they die a martyrs death. 

The intelligence suggests that there is going to be another mass murder, just like the one a few days ago, where 52 innocent people were blown up and killed by suicide bombers. Today you are at the very sharpest tip of the cutting edge of that team. It will be the `foresight` of these people that will direct your actions. The secret, intelligence people have given the description of the persons they suspect are going to detonate yet another bomb. One of them was part of the group that had already killed those 52 people and had got away but was suspected of getting ready to detonate a second bomb. His home is under observation. You and your team have never ever seen this man in person. 

Today was the day. So dangerous did the commanders think it was, that no one was being allowed out of Parliament or Scotland Yard, such was the fear of this particular bombing. Of course you had been told how very, very dangerous this suspect was and you knew that a bomb detonation, of the size and type the `intelligence` suggested, would be more lethal to you and the public than any firearm or even a hand grenade could be. After all, you'd seen the pictures at closer hand than was released to the news media. OK, look, I've had enough. I'm not going to go on about this one anymore. You can look up the transcripts and reports yourself and you all know which case I'm talking about. 

Think back to my first Hungerford scenario and go back to being the person with the foresight I sent out to save those 9 lives, but then substitute your own 100% accurate foresight and knowledge for the flawed knowledge passed to the firearms arrest team on that fateful day at Stockwell Station. The rifles that Ryan openly carried and used to deadly effect in Hungerford are now a concealed bomb in either a rucksack or a bomb strapped around the suspects body under his clothing. He can detonate it with the press of a button. A shot to the body may either detonate it or allow him to press the button. You have been told this and that the immobilisation of his central nervous system must be the prime objective if you are to have a chance of preventing another slaughter of the innocent, by bomb. 

But, unlike in my Hungerford example, you do not know for sure if this is the one. Someone else tells you he is and furthermore a surveillance officer indicates him to you. Unbeknown to you, all this informatiuon is fatally flawed. But you are the instrument of the command team, the dangerous pawn who can use deadly force. You are following orders, including rules of engagement. You are trying to stop a bomb from going off. Even a bomb disposal expert wouldn't approach one of these if it was still connected to a fanatic who might still be alive. As for not giving a warning? If I were the imaginary man in the Hungerford story, in possession of all that information about his prior killings and the random, psychotic nature of Ryan, I would not have given a bloody warning. 

The arrest team at Stockwell knew of the psychotic nature of these people. They just didn't know they were working with flawed information, but either believed it to be true or when questioning it, received orders from a much higher authority to act as they ultimately did. In accepting those orders, they succumbed to those who were supposed to know better. Those who only had to study the photographs and intelligence reports and logs, rather than having to stare into the eyes of the human being on the tube train. How can anyone possibly hold them individually responsible for the death of that poor innocent man? That said, how can culpability elsewhere be ignored?

Thursday, 12 February 2009

`.......And There's Ahmed, Our Little Brit Friend....Oops, I only mentioned the war once, but I think I got away with it`

I hear that Prince Harry has been sentenced..sorry.. ordered to attend another equalities course to ensure he doesn't cause any more offence to anyone (some hopes - well he is a Royal, so offending someone is always on the cards). I have attended 3 bouts of `Equalities Training` during my career and I must say that the quality of the training did improve, ever so slightly. My last course was in my final year of service and I did try to excuse myself on those grounds, figuring that if I was a sexist, racist bigot they'd have surely found out by now. We were all in civvies which was supposed to get us more touchy-feely-relaxy but no one wanted to let their guard down if indeed they had one up. What am I saying? we all had our bloody guard up in what was an atmosphere of mistrust, suspicion and a general feeling of doom and gloom and that we could be shopped to professional standards department if we so much as looked at someone in a funny way. Also, I was the only officer of `supervisory rank` in the class and everyone knew that. The instructor, an old colleague of mine, got over the usual intro/icebreaking session and then tried to open us up by getting us to talk about any experiences with `minorities`, `hard to reach groups`, Gypsies or travellers. The response from the floor was dire, so I decided to break the ice and elected to give my ten pence worth. I started off by stating that I had the upbringing of a WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant). I explained that I lived near a family originally from Jamaica, who came to Britain in the late 1940's on the SS Windrush, but apart from them, I'd never got to know a black person until I joined the Metropolitan Police and met black colleagues at the training school. I told the group that my youngest niece was married to a Sri Lankan and that my wifes oldest, closest friend is half French and her husband is British but of Indian origin and a Muslim and that we are the best of buddies. So far so good. The instructor asked me to continue. I stated that it wasn't until I commenced my police service that I encountered my first incidents of racial abuse. It was at an anti-apartheid demonstration in Downing Street. Amazingly, I found a photograph of it on Google images, and it sits at the head of this post. I was just out of shot on the opposite corner and later ended up in a right bundle when the crowd turned ugly. I knocked down a man (who happened to be black but who wasn't knocked down for that reason) with a rather effective right jab to the chin. The word `Home` on the banners refers to the then Foreign Secretary, Sir Alec Douglas Home, but I digress. The instructor then asked me about my experiences with Gypsies and travellers. After a good hard think I asked if I could speak freely and honestly. "Of course, that's what we're here to explore", came the reply. Taking a deep breath, I said, "It is my firm and honestly held belief that there are genuinely honest, hard working travellers out there who are just pursuing their chosen lifestyle, trying to earn an honest living and who wouldn't dream of stealing, robbing, causing physical harm to anyone or anything or playing confidence tricks on the vulnerable and elderly". I paused to draw more breath and then to a totally silent class said, "It's just that in 29 years I've never met any". That's when it all went horribly pear shaped. There was uproar* in the classroom for what seemed like an age and my old colleague gave me such a look and asked if we could have a quiet word outside, but by now the rest of the class were having none of it and insisted that anything said was done so in full hearing of the rest of them. My statement was debated uphill and down dale for the next 20 minutes before the instructor reluctantly accepted that I had not said anything wrong and we broke for tea and bikkies where the debate continued. In fact so animated was the conversation that the force training officer came over and said he'd not seen an equalities class looking so positive and animated in discussing the course. Naturally, the poor sod had no idea what had just happened. Of course I knew I'd not said anything wrong. I neither lied nor said anything of a prejudicial nature against travellers, my opening statement had surely made that clear, yet I was made to feel as though I had. Perhaps that was the organisation's intention, but it left me thinking `fuck `em` (the organisation, that is). *Addendum: Perhaps I ought to have made it clearer. The `uproar` was a mixture of hoots of laughter, a burst of spontaneous applause and a bit of cheering.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Never Say Die Another Death Again Mr Blond

The one James Blond film I've never actually seen is "Moonraker", so imagine my excitement when I noticed in the TV guide that it was going to be shown Sunday afternoon. Then I read on, only to have the TV guide’s junior sub-editor' completely ruin it for me by giving away the entire plot in precise detail: "James Blond investigates the mysterious disappearance of a space shuttle and uncovers a plot to take over the world". I was seriously pissed off I can tell you. Giving away the entire film in one crappy, throw away sentence. Then I remembered, we had a DVD of "Die Another Death" and I hadn't seen that, so I thought, "fair go, that's a decent substitute and Pierced Brodson is OK", so I decided I’d watch it. Now, 48 hrs later, having fully absorbed the spectacle, but still smarting from the Moonraker-plot-spoiling TV guide, I still feel cheated but I've decided that I can just as easily write a film review that will not only whet the appetite, but won't give anything of the plot away, so here it is: There was this attack on a Commie North Korean base by James Blond and some Cornish surfers with lots of explosions and machine gun fire and he nearly got killed and then there was this chase on military hovercraft with guns and explosions and he nearly got killed and he was captured. Then he spent 14 months of torture in a filthy interrogation centre manned by psycho’s where he nearly got killed. His hair was all matted and long but even after 14 months he still looked really well fed (funny, that), then there was this explosion and an escape with a chase and machine guns. Then there was this exotic Cuban beach resort with an abundance of every luxury (bloody loads of good booze and grub for a Commie State, I recon we’ve been fed political bullshit all these years) and there was this busty bimbo appearing from the sea, in a wet bikini (well it would be, being in the sea), anyway, out of the sea she came for no good reason. She had one of those really subtle double entendre/innuendo type names that these films are famous for. I think it was “Tig Bits” or “Jow Blob” or similar. Then they ended up on a bed under a sheet. They were so sweaty but still they wanted to be covered up by that sheet. Then they were in a secret high-tech Cuban base, full of lasers, where they blew it up – more explosions and machine gun fire – and nearly got killed. Then some geezer, I think it was Basil Fawlty, gave him an Aston Martin. Then there was this weird bloke who wanted to take over the world and Blond got into a nearly-deadly duel with him and nearly got killed (thank the Lord they were both experts in all sorts of sword fighting techniques) then there was an exotic location on a frozen lake and explosions and a chase and machine guns and he nearly got killed. Then another bimbo appeared but she wouldn’t get under that sheet with him unless it was strictly called for in the line of dooty, so into bed they got, then there was a chase with a fancy Jag with rockets, explosions and machine guns and he nearly got killed, but the Aston had more rockets and machine guns and ejector seats than the Jag did. Then there was a massive space device that was destroying the world and then the weird sword fighting nutter started this maniacal laughter and unleashed the doomsday device and Blond managed to run alongside a jet plane and get on and nearly got killed and then the aforementioned irrelevant bimbos ended up on the plane and there were explosions and machine guns and tits all over the place and blokes hanging out of the plane and he nearly got killed. Then the screen went black and all these names scrolled up the screen and Mrs Hogday nudged me, said, "Well at least with a Blond film you know what to expect", then asked if I would nip down to the shops. And here's the best bit; as I drove into the supermarket car park, some old guy stepped out in front of me. I’ll never forget that look of naked fear in his eyes. And just like in the Blond film… he nearly got killed.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Biking, Cops and Hells Angels

Sounds a bit like throwing down the gauntlet, `Biking, Cops and Hells Angels`, but it's really just an extension of the last post about my dream and anyway I intended this blog-thing I've started to reflect things I've done or like doing. Now I don't personally know any HA's although I've had a coffee and a beer or two with the occasional member I've met on the road. Not being judgmental, I still would unless something gave me cause not to. No axe to grind, on that one and if I look back far enough, there, but for the grace of providence, could have gone I. With my other hat on, I recognise the other side of the organisation and I've been involved in a few little `operations` to arrest one or two. I've read a few books on the subject. Mrs Hogday even bought me Sonny Barger's book `Ridin' High, Livin' Free` a few years ago. Quite an interesting read, although I still prefer the magic of John Steinbeck for road stories. This particular yarn came about in the wake of a near fatal shooting of a gang member during an HA's inter-chapter feud and I was called out to do a house entry and `armed criminal arrest` of the suspected trigger man. Although the CID painted the usual picture of the target being `Britains most dangerous man` it was a straightforward early morning warrant where the firearms unit would secure the place and then handover to the CID murder squad. The door entry was simple as it wasn't a chapter house we had to breach. These days that sort of thing takes much planning and in some cases explosive method of entry (MOE) is considered, by those police forces who have the necessary skills and the senior officers with the bottle to approve it, although I do not know of any that have actually used it. We considered this option once for about 10 seconds, until I saw the look on the superintendents face. We'd done a recce of this chapter house, which revealed a security system and re-inforced doors that included former police cell gates retrieved from scrap dealers and building demolition sites. It was coded by us as FFK or, to give it the full title, Fort Fucking Knox. One of my guys, ex SAS, was busting to show us how we could do it, but superintendent still said, "No" from behind his locked toilet door. On the occasion of this particular story, the door was popped easily and myself and my small 3 man entry team were in within seconds. Almost immediately, the target appeared at the top of the stairs and was hard-challenged (had guns pointed at him along with instructions in words of one syllable). Cool as a cucumber, he slowly put his hands on his head and said, "No problem". 'Cuffed, he was passed to the team waiting outside. The rest of the ground floor was declared clear and it was then that I heard movement upstairs. I steamed up, followed by my 2 and 3 and did a fast and low tactical entry into the room where the movement was detected and found myself facing a naked woman in the process of pulling up her knickers. This was the trigger man's girlfriend or ol' lady to use HA parlance. Seeing me and my firearm pointed at her she left the knickers at half mast around her knees and put her hands up. A quick check of the room and hearing the words "All clear" behind me told me my back was safe. I said I was sorry for the intrusion and told her to cover herself up. Without so much as blinking she said, "That's OK darlin', give me 5 minutes and I'll do you a bacon sandwitch". Such was my surprise at this generous offer, one that I would never normally refuse, I actually said, "No thanks" as I holstered my pistol. That was the last thing I was expecting to hear from someone whose bedroom I'd just crashed into whilst pointing a gun at their very naked chest. Incidentally if, like the boys back at the police station, you were disappointed at me not giving a salacious all boobs and bush description of `ample firm breasts swaying seductively as the pale pink rays of early morning sunlight played tantalisingly across her pert nipples and .........`, I'm sorry to disappoint, but the absolute truth is that I couldn't remember what she looked like, as all I was interested in was whether she was holding a firearm, but having started you off with a broadly generic description I guess you can make up the rest :) We found a sawn off shotgun concealed inside a dummy exhaust pipe on his motorcycle, although the attempted murder weapon was believed to be an M1911 ACP - now that's what I call a handgun. My second encounter with a member of the HA's was very different. I was off duty, out for a ride on my own motorcycle and noticed a biker tinkering with his machine in a lay-by on a trunk road not far from my beat house (For the benefit of my American and Canadian chums, `rural beat` officers lived in a police house that had a small office attached and we were literally part of the community we policed). I pulled in to see if he needed help. As I rolled to a stop behind him, I noticed the familiar death head back patch and top and bottom rockers. 30 minutes later and we'd botched up the broken fuel pipe with some spare I had in my emergency kit and he was on his way. [When you owned a British motorcycle you carried a good kit of `stuff`]. A couple of hours later the police office doorbell sounded. Although I was off duty I would often answer the door unless otherwise engaged, in which case I'd just lay low and wait for them to read the sign on the door and pick up the direct line telephone to the main station. I opened the door and there stood the HA I'd helped. He said, "This is for you" and handed me a bottle of Scotch. I said there was no need. "Take it officer, I was stuffed back there, thanks". With that he placed it on the porch floor, turned and walked down the drive. I hadn't told him who I was or where I lived so asked how he knew where to deliver it. He just winked at me. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1463307/Sir-Gervase-Sheldon.html

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

What a Dream I had last night

We'd just ridden through Joshua Tree National Park where we'd been serenaded by "Love Hurts", being gently sung by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. I was filling up the bike at a service station in the California town of Twentynine Palms, where you really can feel the heat of it's desert heart. As we rolled out of the gas station two kids in an old Camaro waved a peace salute at us and shouted, "Hey, Harley fuckin' Davidson"! I returned the gesture with a salute, military style. I turned down a dusty track and then turned left onto Ironage Road to cross the desert land toward Route 66. Now it was Jethro Tull playing on the bike's CD player, "Life's A Long Song". Dust devils were rising up from the moonscape scenery and tumbleweed tumbled as we passed a few Native Indian homes, with old Ford trucks and various old V8 engines in their yard, before we were finally swallowed up by the landscape. An hour later and we entered Amboy, Pop. 19. The air temparature gauge on the Electra Glide was way off the clock, which finished at 120F. At the one service station, opposite the post office, we rode under the canopy, switched off the motor and stuck our heads in the huge barrel of water with cans of drink floating in it. We went inside and bought some, at outrageous prices, but in the land of the parched, the solitary convenience store owner is King. Then I woke up in my bed, at home in England. I pulled back the curtain and looked out. It was snowing.