Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The Green Shoots of Crime Reduction - "Go Gordon!" (No, I mean really, GO)

I got a message from a local police officer yesterday via the Neighbourhood Watch alert system. I was told that a group of travellers had moved into the area and to be on the lookout as they would most likely be touting for work. This is good advice because, statistically, when these traveller groups arrive, you could almost watch the reports for artifice crime go up before your very eyes. The old and vulnerable being at particular risk. It was funny, because when I wanted to issue such a message across the area I used to police, less than a decade ago, I was slapped down by my superintendent for even suggesting such a `crime prevention` message as it was `too sensitive and we'd have their lawyers onto us`. The fact that I could produce the previous 3 years figures to show the spike in crime, directly overlapped by the period of their occupancy in our area, was to no avail. Perhaps things are indeed looking up for crime reduction, like Gordon Brown said yesterday? Update, 2nd Oct: Oops, spoke too soon. New message from Neighbourhood Watch at the police station, theft of horses and horse boxes has just started in the area. Not bad, we managed almost a week before it started, last time.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Volunteers Wanted - No Experience Necessary, As Training Will Be Given

Something strange has happened to this post. It has vanished and all that remains are these two pictures, which I substituted for the original Walther PP. The above shows the result of someone mishandling a .45 calibre firearm and some pretty rank footwear to boot.

I think I may have shot myself in the foot, because the original post contained a list of comments, one of which was from Conan the Librarian asking what I thought of someone called Sgt Smellie. Conan, I hope you read my reply, but if not I'll do another one, otherwise I'll put this down to the mysterious black hole of Bloggerworld.

This may be continued............. hang on... the comments have suddenly re-appeared......

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Logo's and Symbols Must Make Us Feel Better

My below comments about a Northern England chief constable and his burning desire to make things better by coming up with a new force logo, pricked my own conscience. I have decided to change my little comments logo/moniker as it seems unfair to solely promote one of my favourite breweries, especially as I am unsponsored. There are others I support and so it's time to fly a different flag for a while. So, I have decided to fly the flag of Suffolk's (and one of England's) finest and oldest breweries. The currently featured `brew of choice` is the mightily delightful Adnam's "Broadside" weighing in at a hefty Alc 6.3% vol which, to use an old Aussie drinking toast, `made a man out of me, made a man out of me wife` - [only kidding, Mrs `Sexydelightful` HD]. Some of the major American `breweries` would do well to look at Adnam's. It's best served cold (an American myth busted) and is delish`. Another American myth busted is the one about American beer not tasting like chilled urine - it actually does and when in the US, unless I can get Sam Adams, I prefer drinking mine, chilled or even at body temperature. Those with good close range vision, and maybe an interest in Naval history, may see the connection on the label to a sea battle in 1672, to go with the nautical name of this particular beer - what a history this tiny Nation has. Now known as Sole Bay, this historic area of The North Sea is overlooked by the home town of Adnam's Brewery. And in researching this little anecdote, I discovered that the crest of the former HMS Solebay incorporates the white rose of Yorkshire, to signify the support of the Duke of York in said battle of the Anglo-Dutch war. I wear the white rose of Yorkshire in the form of an enamel lapel badge, which I purchased as a contribution to one of the civic Mayor of Doncaster's 2009 supported charities, "Help For Heroes" - bless you, Madam Mayor (see my other link on the right side of the blog) So, the links of symbolism and heraldry took on an interesting slant for me. I am so easily fascinated these days. But as for the chief constable of South Yorkshire trying to think up a new logo.....please guv, just sort out the bullshit, work to cut out all the form-filling-arse-covering-beancounting and then tart up the logo when you've finished that, please. So come on Adnam's, how about a free T shirt (chest size 42") E mail me for contact details ;) NB: Drink sensibly, always adhere to the Government Health warning, be nice to children and old people, mind how you cross the road, say no to drugs, don't talk to strangers young or old in case you are suspected of being weird,, don't take photos of your kiddies in the bath, lift heavy things with care, take care when drinking hot coffee as it can burn your lips, ensure that you are aware at all times of everything dangerous and which is bloody obviouly risky, oh and it's not just hot coffee that can scald your lips, tea, chocolate and other beverages, if very hot, can have the same effect (sorry, should have mentioned that earlier), be safe, have a nice day (unless you have other plans).

Monday, 21 September 2009

Who Ya Gonna Call.....?

My spies tell me that a new chief constable in the North of England, somewhere, has set one of his first vital tasks to his force - to come up with a new slogan - nice one Guv. After the grilling that former assistant chief constable Tew got from the Leicester Coroner last week, I understand that the favourite slogan on the `canteen consultancy` list was: "Northernshire Police - Better Than Nothing?". Glad to see that at least the troops haven't lost their sense of barbed, ironic humour amid the excrutiating information emerging from that coroners court. (See the above link for a taste of senior managementspeak).

Saturday, 19 September 2009

What dreams may come - a totally pointless tale

Had a bloody weird dream last night. I think it was because I was out last night doing a talk to a men's organisation in the town ( very few `mens` organisations left, I was intrigued) I talked about how a predominantly unarmed police force deals with armed criminals. It was for a good cause - I got a donation to a charity of my choice - a very good cause would have been myself but on this occasion I chose the charity. I dreamt I was back in the job - So I suppose I should really call it a nightmare. I came home, had a Speckled Hen then finished off a 3/4's empty bottle of vin blanc. "Beer before wine, you'll be fine. Wine before beer, you'll turn queer". I started watching "Memphis Belle", such a good movie, but was too knackered to see all of the airborne action so went to bed. Anyway the dream was about me and my old mate and we were in a police station.
There I was walking in to the back yard. My mate met me at the door and showed me across the yard to a big ticket machine that had our names on it against a row of yellow buttons. He was having a good moan about it and said it was the latest idea from headquarters and that all staff now had to buy a ticket to park in the yard and for us chief inspectors it was £30 a week. I went inside and there was a meeting taking place. I recognised a few faces. My mate said there was a major incident and would I mind going into the garage to get two perspex covers so that some of the lads could use them as shelters at the place where they were running the forward control point (where this perspex crap came from I'll never....no, wait, of course, they were from the nose cone of the Memphis Belle!). I walked into the garages and there was a huge set of flimsy shelves going up into the rafters. They were full of wine glasses and bottles, all full of red wine. My mate told me that he had taken up winemaking. I tried to pull out the perspex covers and the shelves started to sway back and forth and then the bloody lot fell down, showering the floor in glass and red wine. He looked at me and said, "I suppose we'd better sweep it up". Then I woke up.
For a few moments I was lying there thinking how I missed being back in traffic division and how one year (my last) just wasn't enough and perhaps I should've stayed on for some more fun and games. Then I remembered that the only fun and games were the snatches of fun that we managed to create to take our minds of the endless bureaucratic, pointless, number counting crap that we were constantly wading through.
I'm OK now. I've had some wheatabix and my 1150GS passed its MoT yesterday. I think I fancy testing an F800. But I was drinking white wine, so why was it red in my dream? Oh no, now I'm all confused again.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

"Behave yourself or that policeman will come and take you away"

As I may have mentioned (once or twice yawn, zzzzzz) I was a village Bobby for 3 years during my 30 year career and, as a result, lived in the "Police House" within the main village of my 75 square mile rural beat area.
I used to socialise in the area which included having a drink in the local pubs, my daughter went to local play and pre-schoolgroups but, unlike my towny police colleagues, I was generally regarded by my locals as their personal policeman. I got to know all the various strands of the community from the great and good (some of these were only great in their own minds, foolishly believing that being members of the local hunt gave them the ability to command respect, ha) to the likely lads, the ever-so-slightly deranged and the downright villainous. I had great discretion as to how I dealt with them, as each demanded different tactics, albeit that we were all subject to exactly the same law, including me, which is why my empty glass was always the first on the bar and I was out the pub door when time was called. If the locals occasionally stayed behind for `afters` I wasn't bothered unless there was a complaint, but at least I wasn't part of the problem and could look them in the face if I had to lay down the law.
I always gave my locals the respect that they deserved, although this was sometimes at odds with what they believed they were entitled to, but I always tried my best to be fair - and if they didn't like it they could always complain to my chief inspector, but no one ever did. If I had a warrant to arrest one of them and it was "backed for bail" I would always allow them the dignity of meeting me at the police station at a mutually agreed time (within reason) to minimise inconvenience to both of us and to save them the embarrassment of being carted off in a van in front of their neighbours. These "arrests by appointment" took no more than 20 minutes between arrest and release on bail and I used them as both a subtle way of me imposing my authority and of showing my reasonable nature to them.If they broke their part of the bargain, I'd be there for them with a van, at a time of my choosing (but rarely convenient to them).
My solution to kids anti-social behaviour, once a friendly word was ignored, was one of pure harassment. With a cheery smile I would make their lives unpleasant. Two on a bike? bike with no lights? Riding on the pavement? Using obscene language? Anything I could find. Into my notebook would go their names and round to their houses I would go. If I got any grief from the parents then they too, in due course, would cop shit from me and always directly proportionate to their lack of co-operation. Vehicle checks revealing infringements would be dealt with according to Hogday's law, which resembled the criminal law but with my applied discretion which, if they cottoned onto it, would result in the desired status quo or `Pax Hogday`. If they didn't cotton on I would make myself a total pain in their arses too, but always politely. Thankfully, I was not in an urban area and these local arses were not large in number. I could quickly show my generous side whenever I had the opportunity and never had any serious trouble in the way I did my job. I returned to the local pub for the first time in 20 years, just before I retired. I was warmly welcomed by several people, only one of whom I remembered, but who took great delight in telling those at the bar about how I used to chase their arses all over the place. I tried to buy them a drink but they were definitely `in the chair` and I didn't put my hand in my pocket. I was touched.
But Country Beat bobbies were phased out. Prosecutions for `minor` offences were engineered out of the system by various means, including the introduction of the CPS and their prosecutions policies and `seriousness cut off points`. Policing `targets` for police forces were set by faceless mandarins at the Home Office and met by obedient chief constables and police authorities. Discretion was phased out. ASBO's were introduced in the place of the former `subtle social controls` that I was brought up on. Oh yes, I've just remembered where this little ramble was supposed to be going. One of my locals was a hard up but hard working single Mum with a son who had, to use the modernism, "learning difficulties". The local yobs used to make fun of the lad and his mannerisms in the way that kids sometimes do. If I was chatting to them on the village green and any unpleasentness started I would speak my piece and try to impose a little of my own value system on them. In the bigger picture one could argue that this was none of my business, as such things are the responsibility of parents, but I made the point that if they spoke in an aggressive, derogatory tone in my presence I would draw a very clear line in the sand as to where I stood, tell them why and try to impose a little social responsibility upon them. They threw eggs at him and his front door once and I was all over them like a rash for weeks for what, in isolation, would appear to be a minor matter unworthy of police attention. Which is why this story made me feel desperately sad.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

East Anglia, my East Anglia

Always a source of amazement to me, how some town planning committee can approve an architectural "thing" building such as the appartments shown above, in an ancient coastal town that has a fabulous old cinema right next door to them (the picture bottom right). I do understand what Bill Bryson meant when he wrote of the architectural vandalism committed all over this Country, in his book, "Notes From a Small Island". Still, at least the stainless steel Scallop on the beach shows what can be done - although I'm sure some purists will say it spoils a nice view. Hey ho. (Oh dear, I think I'm sounding like Prince Charles).

Monday, 14 September 2009

Britain is Mad - Official

This is a photograph I took on Saturday. We were just visiting the Suffolk Coast for 36 hours worth of `brain sweeping` R&R. They are beach huts...just beach huts. Want one? Click this. Yes, £50, 000. Bloody hell, what were they thinking asking only £50k? You can buy most of South Detroit for $100,000

Matthew Parris spoke to me on Saturday (The more the State bosses us around, the less we abide by its rules)

.....

I believe in the State.

I believe in a strong State.

I believe in the State’s core purpose: to regulate and arbitrate.

I believe in the State’s power to do good; to bring justice, security and order; to defend and protect its citizens; and to make their lives better.

I believe in the State’s duty to care for the needy; to ensure that the rich help the poor, and that the weak are helped by the strong.

And I believe finally in the State’s nobility as an idea; the inspiring power of the national ideal; the tremendous possibilities unleashed by collective action; and the love and duty owed by citizens to the State.

But the incontinent expansion of the State’s reach degrades its grip. It undermines legitimacy, lowers confidence and breeds disregard. Twelve years of new Labour’s flabby-minded growth in the public sector, and the bloating of its claims on individuals’ lives, have begun to rot the whole idea of something the Left ought to believe in, and the Right do: society, and the public good.

I wish I'd written that

The full piece is here.

(Overseas folks who want to read it but can't get through on the link, let me know via comments and I'll paste the lot)

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The Judas kiss in the garden....the bliss of malice without accountability.

I didn't know what to blog today as I've been a bit `elsewhere` of late, but then I heard some wonderous things in the news yesterday, then I saw a thread forming, then a sort of link, leading me to tip a hat to Nickie Goomba, whose own banner flies the message "It Don't make Sense" reminding me that, sometimes, most times, it sure don't. So, yesterday we had the conviction of the `liquid bomb` terrorists - well done indeed and a huge `thank you` to the Metropolitan Police team (which included officers seconded from forces all over the country) and also the 12 good persons and true of the jury.

These counter terrorist investigations are the sort of thing that, for obvious reasons, you read about after the event and are often bizarre in the extreme. Many little sub-incidents along the path of the incredibly complex investigation and trial are forgotten, like occasionally reported police activity across the country, with secretive armed raids by police in black coveralls and helmets, on suspect addresses, of some poor innocent sod in the East End being accidentally shot in the shoulder and the following pious press articles of police blunders and cock-ups. Only the investigators know how dangerous the suspects are and only the officers taking down the door to arrest them know real fear and the strength it takes to hold it at bay. But for me, the most chilling thing that came out of the news coverage yesterday, was listening to the `after I am dead` video message from one of the convicted. Shallow and lacking in anything remotely convincing of clarity of thought through idealism, we were treated to what came across as a yob in a shemag who `um'd, err'd and ya-know-what-a' mean'd` his way to his concluding remark, "An' well, er, don't mess wiv da Muslims, right". Then there was the little press statement from the Home Sec that his department is now going to back the British `jobless` by making it harder to employ immigrant workers unless the jobs have been offered to UK citizens first. That's nice of them, but this is something our Australian and Canadian pals have been doing for decades.

Why this should be suddenly introduced now, when there is an economic crisis and jobs are being lost across the country and several Polish people I know have been telling me they are leaving to go back to Poland to work, is a little odd. Something of the horse and the bolted stable door about this one. And finally, there is the continuing tale of Libyans, the Government and the deal that didn't, then did or didn't happen - closely followed by the revelations of compensation (blood money) that the Americans got but our negotiators somehow missed - or did they? Perhaps 30 years of Irish Republican terrorism, aided and abetted by Libyan arms shipments and that nasty Semtex stuff of theirs was accidentally overlooked in all the wheeling and dealing that was (or wasn't) going on behind closed tent flaps. I mean, in a politician's busy schedule these things can happen. "The Judas Kiss in the Garden. The bliss of malice, without accountability". (Marina Lewycka - "A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian")

 I have a tale from my past which is sort of linked to the intrigue of today's headlines and the half-truths, secrecy and subterfuge. I just felt that in my little tale, the smoke screen was somehow more dignified and, just occasionally, you think, `It makes sense`, especially when you don't believe all you read in the papers. Names, etc have been changed but the story is 100% true. It took place in England but the incident, that provoked the response, did not take place in the UK. (Oh and they weren't Muslims either, so lets not get whipped up into a frenzy - after all, I'm not working for the newspapers - knowingly). It’s always created something of a dilemma for me, whenever I read a book about the exploits of people at the forefront of counter terrorist operations, in particular those written by former members of British Military Special Forces. Their stories are both gripping and awe-inspiring and deserve to be told. The dilemma is that by so doing the risk is run of exposing valuable tactical information. Following on from my occasional theme of police firearms operations from my past service, I have a little tale to tell but I still believe that, even after more than 2 decades, there is still some sensitivity in its origins so I have decided to tinker with the identifying features and alter the names. I'm not paranoid but I feel I need to be careful about how I tell it. The following are extracts from my notes, raw and lacking in grammar:

Summer of 19**. Earlier this particular week I watched a TV news bulletin that said there had been a terrorist attack at ***** (Continental Europe). It said that a bomb and machine gun attack at ***** had killed and injured many people. I thought little more about it as there were quite a few incidents involving ****** across Europe and elsewhere at this time. My pager goes at 8pm on Saturday evening and it’s the Boss. I phone in and get this: "Hogday, RV at ****** 0200. Go via the armoury. Book out a 9milly for yourself and load up your car with carbines + ammo+ Body Armour and all the CS you can find. Try and get a few hours kip first – you have still got a Merc Estate haven’t you?”. No kip materialised, just lots of staring at the ceiling.

First briefing at 0300 as we take over from 2ic and the Red team, who'd been there all day. Briefing is very bad news. We’re told we’re going to arrest those responsible for the attack I’d heard about on TV and that they have been hiding up in, of all places, ****** Terrorists living in England? Well who’d have thought it? Spooks (Security Service/MI6) appear. They’ve been there all day, we learn. We are given a 2nd briefing. As entry team Sgt I am taken to one side by the spook after the briefing. He says, "Are you and your team up for shooting someone over this, because that is exactly what I believe you will end up doing". I tell him we’ll deal with what we see and he then says, "If you take any casualties, just fall back and hold them there and we will have military SF take them out, they'll be at ***** standing by". Nice one Mr Spook, isn't it us supposed to back them? Not on this occasion it seems, as Politics dictate the strategy.

2ic and the first team stand down and leave the building. We draw weapons. I'm the only one with a 9mm Browning; everyone else has .357 Magnums, plus carbines for the containment team. No bloody sniper was tasked despite my strong words to 2ic and The Boss who said the ACC (Assistant Chief Constable) wouldn’t approve them - reiterated on the de-brief a few days later, such as that was. Bit of a joke actually. I have always liked snipers having our backs. We get the usual highly detailed (not) intel brief on the location and the bad guys. Intel believed there were only 2 or 3 of them but we regard anything from SB with extreme suspicion. The same spook then takes me to one side again and tells me that they really can't be sure exactly how many are in there, but asks me again, in a round about way, if we are ready to use lethal force. I give him a bit of a look and assure him that the entry teams are good to go and will kill everyone, as he requested. He misses my joke and goes all coy and backtracks on me. I reassure him that I am not wired for sound and so he can deny the conversation ever took place, at which point he sort of laughs. He was beginning to get on my nerves.

We brief in detail but as no one can give us an accurate layout of the flats we can't do any dummy runs, as we would do if we’d had the time. The Boss steps up to the plate and says that as he is in charge he will assume responsibility for `door 1` where main man is supposed to be and that I will hit door 2 with my team, simultaneously, where another two nasties are said to be. I felt my stomach turn over at this news, but it was my job to lead and that included the difficult jobs. All respect to The Boss who was as unhappy as the rest of us, but was a good leader who had my confidence. When we got there, the rooms were so close we were shoulder to shoulder anyway. All individual team briefs completed, the ACC then gives us his words of wisdom before the final briefing. He tells us what he has been told and a lot of it was news to us! We then discovered the previously hidden tiny details about how dangerous these guys were. I kid you not, after this the lavvies were full of our guys queuing up to dump any excess baggage that had suddenly made it's presence known in their lower intestines. Fear smells like crap.

The Boss then gives me two CS grenades and tells me he has the last one and that we'll lob these behind us to cover a fall back. An ambulance crew turn up and one of them bowls up to us, all red faced, and asks who's been shot? Their call to RV with us had lost something in the translation between the police and the ambulance control rooms. The Medic says, “We’ve been told there was a shooting, who’s been shot”? The Boss says, "No one yet, but take a good look at us two and follow us". I was so ready for this job to be done and dusted. Everyone loads up in several vans to head to the Form up point. For the first time we meet a local police serial who were there for outer containment. We arrive, de-bus, form up and step off all in about 20 seconds and without a word being spoken. The containment team had to find cover positions on the hoof as these had not been recce'd prior-to. The spooks were shit scared we'd be tumbled by these highly dangerous characters and apparently leaned on our Assistant Chief Constable not to approach the premises until the last moment, so we were told. This would absolutely not happen today and didn't for us, from this point on. On thinking back it seems unbelievable.

Covert approach to premises in single file, weapons drawn covering doors and windows, but its 0530 and broad daylight. I even saw a bloody curtain twitch, though thankfully not at the target address. This was not looking good at the briefing. As we approached the target premises it was looking bad. The landlord then meets The Boss and I at the side door with a bunch of keys. We do a final R/t check and then the Boss lets us in with this big bunch of keys –the landlord stuffed them in his hand and just legged it. We are quietly let in. Boss and Tony 1st, me and Roger 2nd, Dave and Don 3rd (they are there to watch our backs on the landing as we do the room entry and also provide back-up for any eventualities). As we step through the dark hall the Boss scoots in without allowing our eyes to re-adjust to darkness and there's this bike with a busted spoke lying on the floor. I step on it. I feel the spoke snag in my coveralls and have to yank my leg a few times to get free. I later discover that the spoke has actually skewered the skin at the back of my left leg right through, I actually had an entry and exit wound but I didn't feel anything until we'd got back, thanks to Dr Adrenaline.

We stack on the landing o/s our doors. I have eye contact with the Boss as we check the doors, which luckily are typical bed-sit cheap crap. Thumbs up. Silent finger countdown 3,2,1 and doors are hammered and thankfully fly open – we had no `Hatton` rounds in those days. (special door busting munitions) Boss and his No2 find Target 2 in bed with a local prostitute who wakes up, goes bananas and promptly pees herself. Not the dawn she was expecting. Target 2 surrenders, no probs. Roger hits our door that actually falls, top-down, like a drawbridge, and we step across it. Two targets in separate beds. I challenge both and they jump out of bed. I am stuck trying to cover 2 men. Without a word needed Roger steps in and takes one off me. Mine won’t drop his bed sheet that he’s clutching to his chest and so I can’t see his hands. I was less than 6 feet from him, on aim at his chest, and genuinely thought I would have to slot him but I challenged him for what I thought was the 6th time (it was only 2 according to Dave, outside looking in). I shifted, aim 6” higher, to his head, at which point he dropped the sheet, revealing only Y-fronts. 9 mil Browning speaks louder than words and saves me from shooting an unarmed man.

I have often pondered on how I would have fared had I done so, bearing in mind the way that these people had been portrayed, as highly erratic and dangerous, at the briefing. Frankly, that is all I could have relied upon, plus the fact I couldn't see his hands behind the bedsheet. Marginal stuff in a liberal democracy. Unbeknown to us, because we were busy, the door of the third room at the end of the corridor, which Spooks/SB told us was a negative, opened up just as the shouting started and a man appeared, fully dressed and on his way out pronto. He saw Don, who had the Remington 870, and dived back in. Quick thinking Don reacted immediately ran at the door and put it in as matey disappeared inside. He just quietly stood against the wall and faced Don, who had the shotgun shouldered and on aim at his chest. The bloke just smiled at him and showed empty hands. We later discovered this was actually the `most wanted` main player. Covering our two targets, I call up for the arrest team and after what seemed ages an SB Dc shuffled in. I was expecting my guys but there had been a comms breakdown. I tell him to ‘cuff the suspect as we were covering one a'piece and couldn't come off aim as our back-up men were busy with the unexpected extra targets appearing out of the woodwork. He just ambled in, didn’t seem to hear me and started searching bloody drawers! I was told that one of the containment team, 50 yards down the road distinctly heard me shouting, `for f'ucks sake will you cuff this bastard`, but I can't remember that. He eventually took the hint and after that we checked the rest of the place. I think there were 11 people in total in there - all of ******* origin.

At the main briefing, SB had assured us there were only 2 or 3. I gather we had taken out most of those responsible. As I exited the premises a containment officer came over and asked if someone had chucked a bucket of water over me - I was totally soaked in sweat, right through my coveralls and into my body armour. I must have looked like a drowned rat. The de-brief found the ACC and the spooks absolutely ecstatic. He spoke to us and said that he’d genuinely feared there was going to be some fatalities. He then said we'd all get commendations. Yeah, right. I think he realised he'd said too much in all his excitement. It's a tough life waiting in the office – (didn’t Blackadder say that to Captain Darling once?) The MI6 guy said that he'd seen a few jobs in recent times and that we had gone to the top of his score sheet - whatever, I think we were just pleased no one was hurt, apart from the holes in my leg. We were all too full of adrenaline to say much more than general banter, but everything calmed down and suddenly we were back at PHQ and I genuinely cannot remember either getting there or anything afterwards until I got home.

Later it began to hit me how ill equipped we had been, particularly in terms of specialist kit we'd been asking for for ages. I immediately went all aggressive on 2ic, demanding to know why, despite our previous requests, we had insufficient ballistic helmets, paltry CS munitions, inappropriate ballistic shields, no decent door openers, you name it. I certainly made myself unpopular with him for a while. I don’t think as a force, we were alone because this was part of the incremental development that always seemed to be the way in which police forces do things. But we were the best we had at that time and our kit just wasn't good enough. Where have I heard that recently? The targets were spirited away that day and handed over to the foreign secret squirrels and were gone, whoosh, bye-bye, just like that. The detained person records were held in secret, too. There was a news blackout. The spook told us before the op that under no circumstances were we to use surnames etc.

Epilogue: 4 days later and we were up at PHQ in a de-brief. It was with 2ic and The Boss as far as I can recall. They were quite subdued about our comments of how we were given a task that was just `off the page` as far as suitable kit etc, but at least it flagged up deficiencies we'd been griping about for ages, including the need for more training, particularly in ballistics first aid, MoE, etc. The SB search of the premises revealed some interesting stuff. Before I withdrew I saw small circuit boards and batteries attached to small pieces of plywood being bagged. There was other interesting and slightly worrying paraphernalia but, as expected, no-one mentioned anything to anyone. It was believed the bombs they used at ****** were in oxygen cylinders as well as a grenade being thrown. Certainly they managed to kill and maim. All the stuff seized was also spirited away somewhere. Funny lot, SB.

It wasn't until years later that I discovered foreign authorities had announced how they'd arrested them in a totally different country. Before we went in to the house, the spook said that this group were part of ****** and had been very successful and were wanted across Europe. He said it was essential that neither our names nor where we were from became known to them as they were just the sort who would do a reprisal job to save face. I have never ever cared who gets the credit for a collar anyway but I was happy to keep this one quiet although it certainly made me extra sceptical about what I read in the newspapers. Mick eventually told Mrs Hogday and I that he was shocked by what 2ic had said to him when they handed the job over to my team that night and he had always felt very bad about it, even after 13 years or so. He said he'd been waiting for the right moment to `get it off his chest` and tell me the truth for years. He told us his secret whilst we were having dinner in a pub. He said, "2ic was white as a sheet and just before he left he got me in a room on our own and said, "Mick, this job is a real bad one and I think we could lose someone on this. Whatever you do make sure that you are not on the entry team. Let Hogday lead the entry, you run the containment team". Knowing 2ic as I did, I can't say I was surprised to hear that, but it still caused me a little shiver down the spine. I think we said something monosyllabic about him.

An internet search on this organisation today tells me that they are not an active terrorist organisation any more, but when they were, they were very active and very successful. They do not have oil or other valuable resources in their land, that I know of. I bear them no malice. The incident that resulted in my little job was something of a turning point. I wish their nation peace and continued respect and recognition of their troubled past. I hope they choose their friends with care.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Out of the Ashes

A friend e-mailed me these recently. The USS New York, with tons of recycled steel from the World Trade Centre used to make her bow section. That's the spirit of America I know and respect.