Monday, 22 February 2010

Security threat levels, police responses and public perceptions.

A post I read a few days ago over on Stressedoutcop's blog got me thinking about the wider issues raised by his observations on dealing with the scene of a potential threat to the safety of the public. It comes in the wake of several other bloggers, including Crime Analyst, who have raised the issue of the utter paucity of available police resources to respond to the unexpected, although not necessarily a terrorist incident. Stressedout's post reminded me of one of my first bloggings, which was about a Sunday afternoon's duty being totally transformed, in a blink, from the excited buzz of Speakers Corner, Hyde Park, into one of mass death and the destruction of an airliner near Heathrow airport. My post focussed not on the scene, because I never actually arrived, but on the reaction of the great British public who prevented my unit from getting to it, inadvertently sparing us the horror of having to become temporary mortuary attendants but in so doing, adding to the problems of the emergency services at and near the scene. (Read it here if you want to) My entire police service was overshadowed by Irish Republican terrorism. In my early years in London there wasn't a week that passed when I was not either involved in some sort of bomb threat or security scare, or one that I'd heard of on a neighbouring division, via my personal radio or in another police force via the news media. In one week there were at least 5 explosions and a drive-by machine gun attack on or near my central London Division. I heard many an IRA bomb blast echoing across the rooftops of the West End and was among the first at at the scene of two, the images of which will never leave me. Even in my last decade, I was closely involved with operations that were mounted to protect military personnel at public events or on covert armed CT operations to try and protect prominent people or capture those who were intent on killing them. Since I moved on to other things further from the sharp end, other terrorist organisations and acronyms have entered the current vernacular and although less frequent than the dark days of PIRA mainland bomb attacks, the next generation, this generation, has been horrified by even greater acts of mass murder and destruction on an international scale, although one could argue that the citizens of Northern Ireland have endured a similar ordeal, spread over decades, which shifted the way they conducted their everyday lives. The one thing that I always feared, as a senior officer expected to assume command at the scene of such an incident, was having the resources available to do the essentials and having the clarity of thought and resolutness to get it all done and not let anyone down. As a Pc in London, when we had a confirmed `coded` bomb threat the initial 15 minutes were utterly nerve shredding, especially as we were rarely given a precise location by the informant, a deliberate tactic to heighten panic - (thats why its called terrorism). Being in central London we had lots of divisions concentrated in a small area and so always seemed to manage to get the resources we needed, at least from my perspective, although on every occasion it was very much on a `wing and a prayer`. Smaller forces have fewer officers per square mile and later in my career as a `county mountie` attending similar incidents, I really felt the difference of being away from The `Met`, particularly when comparing the practical experience of the county force who didn't have as much practice. Until, that is, they copped a real bomb, then it all stepped up a gear. Which brings me back to Stressedoutcops post. He said something that showed just how aware he really is to the situations he envisaged in his post and it was this, "I don't know how I'd react but hope I could detach myself from trying to be hands on and put in place the building blocks needed". Spot on. The blocks of building a structure of `contol` at a major incident, is down to the first officers at the scene. Having grasped the seriousness of the situation, the toughest thing is to realise that they have to remain detached from `alligator fighting` and think `swamp drainage`. Manuals are written on this sort of thing, but in short it means that the first officers must fight the urge to dive in to something which although appearing important in the initial moments, like slapping a bandage on a bleeding citizens head wound, have to be delegated. A major incident, such as the substantial and credible threat of a bomb going off, means that bigger things have to be considered like where to put the main RV point, ambulance and fire service RVP's, where the best access and egress points are to ensure your routes in and out won't become quickly clogged by emergency vehicles, good comms reception and a whole raft of other considerations that any police officer reading this will be well aware of - if their force has allocated the time to train it. In the real world the initial phase of such incidents are, as Stressedout` stated, totally chaotic and you are unlikely to find even a handful of Pc's required to do the work that a dozen would struggle with. Cordoned off areas by the use of the magic tape, the removal of the public from danger, the preservation of evidence, and the creation of good access points for specialist officers from all services are just 4 important tasks from a list that can go on for pages. It doesn't make exciting TV news footage but it is what the job will ultimately stand or fall by When the bomb threats and explosions became a regular feature of my working life, we became quite good at it, and so did the public. In the beginning, a cordoned off street or two would bring the problems and antics that Stressedout wrote of, with Joe and Josephine Public responding with gripes, complaints, piss taking and occasionally downright obstruction of our duties. Once the bombs started to go off, the glass started to fly and the flesh and limbs started to get blown off, the public (and the police) started to get the message. The sort of police training required to manage the first 30 minutes of a serious incident such as described herein and by Stressedout` happens, typically, once every 5 years, in a classroom, for perhaps an hour or two. Take a look at the faces of these innocent people. They are now just statistics and we should all remind ourselves that they were once living, loving and loved. It has been relatively quiet of late, so what has been happening in the lull? The debate on the various police blogs about the diminishing size of police response teams at police stations across the UK highlight their struggle to answer the usual influx of calls, let alone incidents that require the rapid build-up of resources that a major incident demands. And don't be fooled by the use of the term `Major` either. Around 15 simultaneous, serious casualties will pretty much close a typical hospital's A&E department. And as for Stressedout's original, valid point about the questionable value of the `Security Threat Level` and of the concurring derisory comments this matrix attracted, I think that it would be far better if this month's Home Secretary issued some sort of expectation of response from members of the public, so that they know how to react when confronted by a hastily erected police cordon and how, by failing to adhere to it or follow instructions issued at the scene thereof, they could actually be hindering the emergency services, putting themselves and others at risk and, if they breach said cordon they could be breaking the law. This would be far more useful than a nebulous soundbite that educates and informs no one but scares tens of thousands. Once upon a time, Londoners were amongst the most `bomb savvy` people in the western world (outside of Northern Ireland of course, whose remarkable people are in a different league altogether). I do hope it doesn't take more people being blown apart before the message gets across again.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Rush of the incoming tide of State control

I was riding down the (Sussex) road one day,
In the merry merry month of May
When the police came up to me
and said. "In case someone can't see,
You can have this orange coat, on me"

Yes, the Sussex Police have been running a campaign whereby they have been stopping motorcyclists who have not been wearing fluorescent clothing, lecturing them on visibility and then handing out free fluorescent tabards or some such piece of dayglo. The police have the power to stop any motor vehicle they want to, whether it is breaking the law or not, yet I am seriously wondering if the skills of the Road Policing Unit staff could not be put to better use. Maybe they are the same ones who have been ordered to be out there at 3am issuing survival blankets and flip-flops to pissed chavettes wearing next to nothing so they don't fall over, turn an ankle and then succumb to hypothermia or unwanted sex on their way back to wherever, after a night out consuming `buy one get one free` double shots of liver poison from the club owners? This sounds like a stealthy attack on aspects of life that should be a matter of personal choice and I am very concerned about the rush of the incoming tide of State control. I am a member of the Motorcycle Action Group aka MAG and the President, the star of the below video, wrote to Sussex Police to ask where this was all leading and received what was, to me, a familiar "straight bat" politikspeak reply. The Road Policing Unit Inspector made the `party line`points I would expect. I understand the sort of managerial/`political` pressures he has to work under having been a senior officer myself. Thankfully, I walked away from all of that, avec hard earned pension and my sanity, although he still has my sympathy and respect for the job he and his officers do, when they aren't issuing dayglo vests that is. What I did fully concur with was the principle contained in the Inspector's penultimate paragrah, that being about something they call `Operation Eyesight`, where he stated they are stopping cars to advise drivers of the need to have their eyes tested. Even this, I would argue, is a further waste of their time and skills although the sentiment is sound. But even this shows the flaw in the law. Having been to the scene of a horrendous accident in London during my probationary training attachment to Traffic Division, I watched one of my colleagues measure out 25 yards and ask the driver of the Mini, that had just wiped out a pedestrian on a crossing, to read the number plate on the Police Land Rover. Legend has it that this man replied, `What Land Rover`? Thereafter, I became something of an eyesight test zealot. I discovered many years later, as a junior but very well informed supervisory officer (I was by then a law instructor) that very few operational officers knew that they had the power, under certain circumstances, to request the driver of a motor vehicle to submit to the basic eyesight test and I'll wager that is still the case, Traffic Division/RPU officers excepted. So why is the road safety nanny of the Home Office edging ever closer to legislation on dayglo bibs and hi-viz clothing for motorcyclists, when the only current requirement for a motorist/motorcyclist to have their eyes tested compulsorily is a one-off, just before they take their test? Even then it won't test other essentials like peripheral vision. Thereafter, the driving licence law merely leaves it to the licence holder to ensure they can conform to the eyesight requirements which, in turn, were probably set in the 1930's. If this was the same for airline pilots, how many of us would want to fly? Yet, statistically, its the roads that will kill us.

I remember when I first needed corrected vision. I was sat astride my police bike on the side of the road, with a colleague on his, spotting for a stolen car. I noticed he was picking up number plates a lot quicker than I was (no ANPR in those days, sonny) so as a responsible biker I turned myself in and found that my eyesight was just below the limit for police drivers/riders yet still OK for the DoT test! I was grounded until I acquired glasses, but it started to snow so I didn't care.

All the dayglo in the world won't do a bean of good (even if one assumes it does in the first place) if the Nations drivers can't see properly. So why hasn't this been legislated for instead of the pursuit of this highly dubious dayglo malarkey. Incidentally, I wear a reflective vest, but only at times and in circumstances of my own choosing. I want a level playing field, not marginalisation because I'm a biker. This is an infringement of my rights over an issue that needs addressing elsewhere. The Home Office road safety legends-in-their-own-lunchtimes must be blinded by their own over-inflated opinions of themselves not to see this. This is why I support MAG and the right to use my own judgement and discretion about what I wear when I ride a bike. I am all for law, where it's proven to be needed.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

I'm Delighted to tell you, `Welcome, you're crap`

Last week, for instance, a colleague of mine (let's call her Judy) was informed by her line-manager that she could only fail one more student otherwise the course would fall below benchmarks. Never mind that half of the students shouldn't be on the course anyway. Some halfwit enrolled them without checking their initial assessment results and poor Judy was told that she couldn't get rid of them - she would just have to 'support' them to achieve. They are so far below the required level, that 'support' in this case will have to mean 'passing them anyway'. So much for raising standards. The above `cut and paste` came from a post on a new blog I stumbled across the other day," The Forbidden Lectures of Lizzie Love" That extract struck a familiar chord with me, reminding me of a few trainee police officers aka `probationers`, that I was once responsible for as a patrol sergeant. I'm talking about the ones who, as hard as they and I tried, just weren't going to couper la moutarde. Yet towards the end of my career, people with very questionable ability were getting in and staying in, at best just bumping along the bottom and at worst were total liabilities, creating havoc and even occasionally and by some miracle or some other mysterious hold they had over the organisation, getting promoted. Mindful of the fact that we all come from various backgrounds and with varying standards of education, both academic and from the college of general life, it also touched ever so slightly on what I read on Behind Blue Eyes yesterday. We are all different. However, when we choose a particular career path there are usually certain things that one must achieve, certain minimum standards or bench marks, in order to become accepted and, heaven forbid, competent. Once in, we can then set about getting good at it and maybe even find a particular path within our chosen career that we would like to get really good at - is `specialisation` a non pc dirty word yet, I'm not sure? Yet I have seen people in mine and other jobs, quite recently, who seem to struggle to write a sentence one can understand, even when ignoring the grammer and speling. I won't go on, but will close with the thought that if my former job, and others by the sound of Ms Lizzie's piece, have been reduced to lowering the bar until an applicant can shuffle over it, then what does the future hold? I think its time to dust off a couple of old Mr Huxley's books and re-read them, because my current world doesn't look so brave or new at the moment.

Monday, 15 February 2010

You Scratch My Back......

"Watch your back" is a well worn phrase and had several hidden meanings in my former life. A few times during my 30 years in uniform I encountered people who clearly intended me serious harm. It wasn't an everyday occurrance, in fact the reverse was true. The attached video footage jogged my mind and prompted this short post. It was on BluTube, There are two occasions that remain burnt into my memory; the first was when I was arresting a man on Trafalgar Square for making threats whilst armed with a knife. He very nearly got the better of me - OK, lets be totally frank here, he had got the better of me and I was `greying out` due to a choke hold he managed to put on me. My former judo instructor would have killed me for allowing this to happen. Suddenly my vision returned and I found myself coughing and gasping myself back into a reasonable condition to get back into the ring. It was then I realised that a very large and powerful black man had got hold of my prisoner and was bending his arms into all sorts of horrible shapes, as a large crowd of onlookers, the same ones who had watched my original struggle, continued to gawp. My rescuer was a hot dog seller, known to us as "Stretch" who I had arrested the previous week for footway obstruction, a common offence in the West End in my early days. I quickly regained control of the situation and the arrest was completed. The bloke was eventually sent down for 3 months, thanks to Mr Barraclough, the chief magistrate at Marlborough Street Court, but not before failing to answer his bail and making threats to me by telephoning my section house (single officers quarters). Nasty bastard, but it was not unexpected as we tended to deal with nasty bastards a lot of the time. Stretch told me that he liked me as I always spoke to him and treated him right. The only other example that had a real impact on me was an internal matter. I saw the guilty party wriggle, lie, threaten and use senior officer `friends` to avoid capture and, in so doing, try to inflict `serious harm` on me. What I saw from that little band of brothers and their `old boys club at the top`left a bad taste that has yet to fully fade. Give me the scum on the streets anyday.
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Saturday, 13 February 2010

"Save me officer" (but don't expect a tip)

It's been a been a tad dull this week, but I believe I really must write something as a measure to prevent my brain from seizing up. I will jot down a diaryesque ramble through the last few days: I finished off my first aid refresher training. Amongst all the other assessments I and two other colleagues were subjected to, my practical test was to deal with a man who had accidentally severed his thumb with a chisel. Actually, its rare that these things are done deliberately, so I don't know why I said `accidentally`, but you never know. I arrived at the scene and quickly assessed the prostrate casualty (no, not the prostate, thats on the advanced course). It was the usual things, personal risk, safety measures etc, at the same time as I was simultaneously eyeing up the shocked and bleeding casualty. The `severed thumb` was a latex rubber creation from the SFX department and was remarkably thumb-like, the sort of thing you'd dread to find in a mouthful of pork pie, only more pink on account of it being freshly amputated and uncooked. I was impressed, especially with the `blood`. Our instructor deserves an Equity card. I strapped up the stump, treated the casualty for shock and even called for some ice so I could pack the severed digit up, ready for the micro-surgeon [who I radioed ahead for and asked to be put on standby, along with anaesthetist, theatre nurses, a head CT, blood matching and a porter (I was a big fan of ER so I'm good at this shit). Then onto the defibrillator training - It came as such a shock. The trainer wanted to prove a point about how easy it was, so asked if any of us had seen it before. I was the only one who hadn't (well not one of these fancy new gizmo's anyway) I kept schtum. `Right`, said the trainer, "Hoggers hasn't seen this ever before, so to prove how ridiculously simple it is, I'm going to give him the bag and when he comes through the door to the casualty scenario he'll have to work it out for himself". No pressure then. As a former police instructor I knew that this guy had broken the golden rule about not belittling a student. OK, I hadn't been belittled, yet, but with his opening remarks about the simplicity of this life-saving kit, I was in for a lifetime's worth if I balls'd this up. In I came to find poor old resusci-Anne, unconscious and not breathing, yet again. Just after I'd given her mouth a quick clean with a steri-wipe, but before I'd started work on her, one of my helpful colleagues told me that these mannequins were produced by a Dutch firm who also make dildos. I preceded my routine with the words, `You bastard` but found I very nearly couldn't blow for laughing. I quickly settled down and after proving my worth as a life saver the instructor called upon me to use the defib'. I unzipped the bag and lifted it out. For the uninitiated, it was about the size of a typical bedside radio/alarm clock. Placing it down next to the casualty, I first spotted the handle with the word "PULL" clearly marked. So I pulled. Then the darn thing talked to me, told me to remove the clothing from the casualty to expose the torso. There were more verbal instructions about peeling off the back of the palm-sized electrode pads contained within the machine and to `attach them to the casualty as shown on the diagram`. It was a doddle. Once they were attached, I simply moved back and let the technology analyse for any cardiac activity. The voice in the box then told me to stand back, press the flashing red `shock` button and, after another analysis, to re-commence chest compressions (or not if the heart of a real casualty was re-started). It was that simple, only a total mullet could get it wrong. I'm told the latest models are even smaller. I don't suppose they'll be allowed in police custody centres in case some wag alleges it was used on him to induce a confession. This morning I was up and away early with my job. During a break I read a local newspaper and the following stories jumped out at me: The cost of recovering a stolen car where a poor lady suffered the unbelievable trauma of having her car stolen, whilst her child was still in the baby seat. Not wishing to diminish the awfulness of the event, in this day of costing jobs down to the nearest penny one has to take a pragmatic view. I have to say that if my car were stolen and then found by the police and recovered by them (actually it's outsourced to a contractor who recovers the vehicle) I wouldn't expect the police or the local authority to pick up the tab, anymore than I would expect the AA to fix it or tow it to a garage for free if I'd broken down. As for the jibe about having a £40 bill to remove the fingerprint dust, do these journo's or outraged victims of car theft expect the police to valet the car for the owner, before returning it? My verdict on this piece of junior journo-lism? - puerile. A lead article in the same paper raised the thorny issue of police `bonus payments` or `special awards for exceptional work`, something that really did make my blood boil when it was introduced some years ago. The lead editorial made the expected points about how the police should be expected to do diligent and dedicated work `as a matter of course`. I quite agree. Quite how this sort of thing was allowed to pass into practice is beyond me. In my service, the only thing I can recall getting a special payment allowance for, was for fingerprinting corpses that had suffered particularly severe deterioration due to decomposition or that had been in the river, although the latter is slightly less unpleasant because the skin usually comes off quite easily so perhaps that payment was a bit excessive - sorry, the cynic is rising again. I never had the chance to claim this payment. Not that there was a massive line up of officers clamouring for the extra £1.50, it was just that the whole thing sounded so repellant to me I would have gladly paid £1.50 not to have to do it. The one payment I did try long and hard to get, was a `standby allowance` for my guys who made themselves ready, when off duty, to respond to any firearms incident that needed their expert attention. For the benefit of any non British readers, it is not a requirement of a British police officer to be trained in the use of firearms. All officers must be volunteers which, conversely, means that if they feel they have had enough then they can give up the responsibility. As a fireams trained officer I attended more incidents than I can remember, but for the first eight years neither I or my colleagues were issued with body armour, but it didn't stop us from doing the job. What caused me and many others to question why we did this particular task was the way some of us were treated when we did our duty willingly, correctly and to the best of our ability. Bonus payments? Give us credit. That was the week, that was.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Drills and automatic pilots

I attended the first half of a first aid course yesterday. It was because of my job and how I can often be working in isolation, in transit between places, responsible for a `vip`. It was something of a refresher for me as I had attended quite a few such courses as a police officer and some were of quite an advanced nature during my tactical firearms years. You can never get enough of this stuff in my opinion because, unless you are a professional practitioner of life saving techniques, the times you may be called upon to get stuck in to a life-saving procedure as a first aider are few and far between. This is all the more reason why there should be regular `refresher input` in between the 3 years re-certification period, because no matter how well the training is delivered you cannot re-create the intensity of a real incident, with a real person who may be highly dependent on you doing the right thing, quickly. As human beings, we need well practised drills in such circumstances, because without drills we can so easily be sidetracked, spooked, panic or simply `freeze`. Drills were the bread and butter of my days as a tactical firearms officer. They helped us handle our weapons safely and helped us to function when under extreme stress. By the time I took over the running of the unit our training had advanced to the point where we were working with our own clinical psychologist and would, for certain exercises, build our officers up into a state of high stress-arousal before introducing them into the desired training scenario in order for them to understand the physiological aspects of the experience and to learn to work with it. As any experienced military combatant will tell you, drills are vital for you to function correctly when part of your brain starts telling you to just dig yourself a hole and jump in it, whilst your motor functions conveniently require your body to evacuate its bowel or stomach contents, or both - that's when you really need drills. Certainly, as a young parent, I could never have forgiven myself if my dependant son or daughter needed me to keep them alive and I let them down because I didn't know what to do or just flipped out because they were my nearest and dearest and I lost my nerve. Is this stuff covered in `parenting` or pre natal classes these days? If it isn't, then it should be. My recollection of how adrenaline, fear and life saving drills affected me took me back to when, as a patrol sergeant in the police, I received a call to a dwelling house in a south coast urban sprawl. There had been a garbled `999` call from a man who said his wife had collapsed in bed and had stopped breathing. The ambulance was en route but often in cases like this they will tell us as well in case one of us was nearer. Such was the case on this occasion and I arrived about 30 seconds behind my area car driver, Bob. The frantic husband was pacing up and down in a complete state of shock and Bob had already started to try and ventilate the lady. I grabbed the husband and tried to interrogate him about any medical history but he was shot away. I ordered him to the front gate and told him he was to look out for the ambulance. Bob was struggling to get any air into the lady as she was in bed. We picked her up and got her onto the floor and automatically formed into a re-sus team. I was pulse and cardio and Bob was the ventilator. There was no detectable pulse and we got to work. We were interrupted by the frantic husband who was trying to cover his poor wife's dignity (she was only wearing a short nightie, something that had not even registered with either of us). I worked around him and when I'd felt he'd done his bit I ordered him back outside to guide in the paramedics. The poor bloke. I have no idea how long we were working on her but we were going through our drills, Bob ventilating, me compressing her sternum and checking her pulse. We were sweating profusely and I was hoping the ambulance crew would hurry up. Suddenly, I got a pulse and saw her pupils twitch and I remember the excitement just like it was yesterday. I shouted out, "Fucking hell, I've got a pulse". Then a strange voice behind me said, "That's right mate, I know, stop compressions". I looked round and it was a paramedic. Again, like it was yesterday, I remember asking how he knew I'd suddenly found a pulse. He pointed to a piece of equipment, similar to a `Minuteman Resuscitator` and said that they had been monitoring us for a few minutes, pointing to electrodes that they had attached to her chest. He said we were doing just fine and so there was no need for them to intervene at that stage. Neither of us had noticed their arrival, or remembered answering their questions or had seen them attach their equipment to our casualty. We stepped back and let them intubate her, set up the ventilator, place her on a chair and carry her to the ambulance. Bob took the husband to the hospital and I locked the house up and started to contact the daughters. We heard that she had died in hospital 36 hours later. It was a cerebral haemorrhage. Two weeks later I was in the Indian restaurant opposite the police station doing a licencing enquiry and enjoying a small plate of curry with the owner. There was a group of women a couple of tables over. One of them, a young woman in her 20's, got up and came over to us. I immediately thought, `here we go, a complaint or some other inconvenience`. She said, "Are you Sergeant Hogday"? I told her I was. She said, "You tried to save my Mum the other week. The ambulance men said you were the ones who worked your socks off and got her heart started. I just wanted to tell you how grateful my family are for what you tried to do for our Mum, but the cerebral haemorrhage was massive". I told her how sorry I was. That was it. But her words of thanks, in what was ultimately a hopeless situation, stayed with me to compensate for all the other wasted words I've received at the hands of the unpleasant masses I encountered over the years. That's what drills did for me. If you told me that I was going to face the same situation tomorrow, I would be crapping myself with worry, but when it happens, it usually comes under your radar and lands in your lap and its only then you hope the drills kick in. But thankfully I didn't have to hope because I had been trained and sufficiently re-drilled. I have heard that this sort of training is being thinned out and that various departmental managers and their accountants see this and other training simply as a resource implication and a potential cost saving if they don't implicate it beyond the minimum, rather than see it as an investment. They do the minimum in order to satisfy the Health and Safety Executive and no more. I hope this isn't so.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Obey the LAW!

Its an oldie but a goody. Spotted this on TPTactical and thought I'd post it up as I haven't watched it for ages and thought some of my blogpals might enjoy the sentiments. Be POlite now...

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Dream on

It's a pissy, sleety, cold day here in northern England. On days like this I dig out some `feel good` photo's of warmer times and places. Must check the Beemer's front brakes, which were binding on because of road salt, which clearly wasn't in short supply around this here vicinity. Roll on Spring and a win on the premium bonds.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Changelings in Our Midst

Dear Blog, forgive me but it has been 6 days since I last posted anything. I wish to confess a few things. Of late, I've been a bit fed up. I have had a sort of cold/gut rumble bug thing that won't seem to get on with it and either lay me low or bugger off and leave me be. I have actually applied for a new job. It is in the realm of `community safety`, something more akin to my previous trade or calling which I was glad to walk away from, but now, after more than a few years rest, I feel I can take another dip into this malarkey again albeit in a far less intense role. In fact it is such a peripheral role I wonder if it counts at all as I won't actually deal with bad people, muggers, buggerers, bushwackers, hornswagglers or even methodists. I studied the job description and person spec and I could tick all boxes several times over with knobs on. I am actually a little concerned that I am far more qualified than the person who heads the department. Perhaps the fact that it is only a 12 months contract will be sufficient not to make that person think I might be after their precious job, because I'm not. Anyway, the application has been submitted and I will now wait to hear if I get an interview. The beauty of my situation is that I already have a full time job which I quite enjoy and so even if I'm offered this one, I can still politely decline it if, during the interview (assuming I get one) I smell anything I don't like and that wasn't mentioned in the job spec. What I do like, however, is the fact that it is only 22 hours a week for the same pay I get now. What the employer will get, if they select me, is someone whose actual worth they couldn't afford anyway,but who would be quite content with the salary on offer. The other bonus is that I won't care too much if someone else gets it. That is a very fortunate position to be in and I am very aware of how lucky that makes me. As for the rest of my week, well it was very quiet as my work diary was very light indeed. Mrs H and I went to the cinema and saw Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin in, "It's Complicated", a lighthearted rom-com. That Streep woman is a piece of work. Before the film, Mrs H and I had a light lunch in a Pizza Express, taking advantage of one of their frequent 2 for 1 voucher offers. Go to their website and register at once if you have one of their establishments near you. I'm becoming a right miser. Sitting at a table behind us was a young couple with whom I presumed was their young child. The tot was probably less than a year old, a pretty little thing sat in a high chair and tucking into what looked like dough balls or thin strips of pizza margherita. The couple were probably in their late teens and were pre-occupied with their own conversation which seemed to be conducted in an aggressive phraseology, but for the main part was simply background noise. But when Mrs H and I weren't chatting, we both realised that we'd each picked up on a tone and cadence in the gutteral grunts and staccato sentences behind us that we'd both recognised from our `previous lives`. There was no happiness passing between this couple. The baby girl wasn't being engaged in their conversation at all. She was happily chomping at her doughy pizza bits and occasionally letting out a little squeal or a shout, as kiddies of that age do. The reaction of both parents was, for the bulk of the time, almost complete indifference to the baby's presence. The only time they engaged in communicating with her was to deliver an unnecessarily aggressive rebuke from him or a `ssshh` from her. The kiddie was in no way excessively noisy or disruptive, she was doing really well and just being herself. The couple continued to grunt away at each other but again this was mere background noise, except when baby tried to communicate, at which point the male would again intervene with a few choice phrases that would have got him into trouble if he took that tone with an adult. I paid our bill as Mrs H was in the washroom. It was at this point, as I was punching in my PIN to the billing handset, that I heard teen dad bark the following remark to the baby, "Right, you've got two minutes to finish off that food". On hearing this our server looked up, caught my eye and rolled his. He had also realised that this kiddie was so young as to have no concept of time. He handed me my receipt and moved away. I half turned just as robodad repeated his warning, only this time it was "You have one minute to finish the pizza". A blank expression from tot was then followed by him moving his acne`d face right up to her ear and hissing "Do you want a smacking"? At that moment the little tot's expression immediately turned to one of seriousness and contrition and she instantly bowed her head. She knew what that tone of voice and that one word meant. Their life was none of my business, but had a smacking seemed imminent, I know I would have intervened. I reiterate, she was barely a year old. We enjoyed "It's Complicated" very much, but then we always enjoy anything we do together on our days off. Back at home that evening we watched a DVD we'd been meaning to see for a long time. "Changeling" starring Angelina Jolie, not my favourite actress at all, in fact I find her a bit scary, but she done good in this one. It was a dark and dismal true tale of child abduction and police corruption and hamfistedness that scandalised Los Angeles in 1928. It was a fascinating story and we were both impressed with how Clint Eastwood crafted it , but I cannot say I enjoyed the experience of watching it. In my police career I dealt with very few cases of child abuse, because they were always handled by detectives, but I encountered lots of abused children, many of whom were in hopelessly inadequate and violent families. Mrs H, however, spent five years on specialist investigations that included paedophiles, vice, child protection and domestic abuse. We had tears before bedtime on a number of occasions, which is why we normally avoid watching documentaries on the subject. Perhaps we should avoid watching films like `Changeling` too. We did have some good news this week. In conversation with a former colleague, Mrs H learnt that one of the extremely violent, bullying, wife beating, controlling thugs she managed to get put away a few years back, topped himself recently. We drew some comfort from that, knowing that there will be no more victims at the hands of what was a dangerous psychopath. But of all the events of last week, the one thing that got to me the most was seeing that baby hang its head in shame on hearing the harsh, ugly words hissed into her ear. It really upset me.