Friday, 10 August 2012

Police "re-connecting" via the Olympics - but with who?

I hear, through the very few meeja outlets that I let into my life these days, that the meeja writers and hacks now seem to think the public are `re-connecting` big time with the police who they are encountering, so positively, at the London Olympics.

Could it not be because the police and the public referred to are all at an event that the visiting public want to be at, are happy and excited to be at, have paid good money to be at, are in a holiday mood, want to support their countrymen and women atheletes, don't want to be subjected to a terrorist outrage and see the police as helping to prevent such an act? Whereas, in normal daily life there is nothing much in the way of collective good will and positive attitudes prevailing? Olympics has dominated the news. Team GB has done brilliantly. The organisation bringing us the Games has done brilliantly, London Transport has been amazing despite the hyped doom and gloom stories circulated to sell news - especially poor old G4S. Ah, but its not over yet. Hang on in there guys, just a bit longer before we can breathe easy.

We've heard precious little about crime and grime that has polluted the games - but that's because there has been none to speak of (unless there is a sinister plot to subdue the truth). It seems to me that when great sporting events with great results for our nation dominates the media, even hideous civil war in the Middle East cannot dent the feel good feeling across the nation.

Ah but just a minute. The football season is just a couple of weeks away, but somehow we know that it's not enough - its too tribal, too polarised and still too violent and narcissistic.

There's something about the `Games` that needs to be captured, bottled and introduced into the water supply. Or do we all just need a reality check? They say you shouldn't rant when you've had a few drinks. I may remove this post in the morning. Go Team GB. I am immensely proud.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

More handy than an ASP baton

Following on from the previous `Police radio procedures` post, here's a tale of the old Storno personal radio, a sturdy, multi-functional piece of British engineering.

It's 1972 and our friendly `A` Division officer is on patrol in St. James's Park having just been stood down from the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, a daily event which in the height of the season attracts crowds of 20,000 or more - a minor matter of crowd managment handled every day without fuss, by the early shift.

Our officer has decided to take the scenic route back to his next task, which is relieving the chaps on the front door of 10 Downing Street for 45 minutes, so they can massage their aching feet and select a few winners from The Sporting Life over a mug of mint tea in Cannon Row police station canteen aka The El Morrocco Tea Rooms. He strolls through the picturesque and beautifully manicured Royal Park, his truncheon concealed in the special long, thin internal pouch, just abaft his standard right hand trouser pocket and his Storno radio swinging from a clip on his leather belt. On his right hip, concealed from the unsuspecting public by the long cut of his tunic jacket, is a 9mm Walther PP* self loading pistol, loaded with seven rounds of the cheapest, Finnish in origin, ammunition money can buy - occasionally a bullet would actually come away from the brass case during the loading of magazines - that's how cheap.

He is maintaining a measured, regulation 3mph, patrol speed of about 80-100 paces per minute; steady and purposeful yet slow enough for a fit elderly person to be able to catch him up should they need assistance (it was all scientifically worked out you know). Above the bustle of tourists and gabble of wildfowl from the duck lake he catches the sound of a high pitched shriek, feminine if he isn't mistaken, with more than a tinge of fear in tone. He looks toward the origin of the distress call, gazing over the heads of office workers picnicing on the lawns and identifies the distressed damsel by her body language. He increases speed to `brisk` (running was only for urgent assistance calls) and alters course towards the suspected victim, a young woman in her late teens or early twenties, dressed in a summery blouse and mini skirt. A quick assessment of the situation is followed by a radio message passing a description of a male `flasher` and brief advice to the victim to `stay put` as he heads off in close pursuit.

The suspect is quickly spotted heading into bushes adjacent to Birdcage Walk, there is a short but energetic chase before the fleeing suspect is collared. An even shorter, but rather violent struggle ensues. Our officer is being choked by the adrenaline fuelled flasher and reaches for his radio but cannot speak so he instinctively grasps the heavy, die cast metal case of the radio and gently taps the assailant across his right ear, whereupon the struggle ceases and a string of apologies flow from the lips of the now arrested suspect.

Back at the station he denies the allegation. It seems he is an assistant manager (clients F to J) of a large bank in Victoria, a mere 5 minutes walk from the scene of the crime. The description is perfect, the victims statement even more damning and he is charged under The Vagrancy Act of 1824, of wilfully, openly, lewdly and obscenely exposing his person with intent to insult a female. Only men can commit this particular offence, created in the main because soldiers returning from the Napoleonic Wars limbless, maimed and rendered unemployable in the fields and fledgling factories, had the audacity to expose their wounds in order to gain pity and seek alms. This was upsetting genteel Victorian ladies and their menfolk who doubtless lobbied their MP's to put a stop to this unsavoury practice. In drafting the Act, I think they just threw in exposing `the person` as well, for good measure. That'll teach those dirty, wounded ex soldiers.

The next day at Bow Street Magistrates Court (yes, they really did end up in court in under 24 hours) the assistant bank manager (clients F to J) was presented to Sir Frank Milton, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate who was the epitome of wisdom, common sense and who tolerated not one ounce of bullshit. "How do you plead", said the clerk. "Guilty" said the flasher. He had two similar previous convictions to his name. Sir Frank fined him £25 and the arresting officer had one sheet of paper to fill out before returning to work.

And all thanks to that sturdy Storno radio with its die cast metal case. An Airwave plastique mobile phone just doesn't have the same arresting affect.

The `weapon of choice` was the one on the right.

* For anyone who's interested, the Walther PP we used was the 9mm short or, as any American chums might know it, the .380 ACP variant with a 7 round magazine. 

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Gossip Police Radio

During my time in The Met, I attended a 4 day (yes, that's four days) Radio Telephony (R/T) course at Wandsworth Police Stn. 
We were trained to use the mains radio and all of its 10 in-coming and out-going channels. We weren’t allowed to crew an Area car until we’d passed the course, after which we were allowed to be issued with a flat cap and a British Warm (a fab and rather snazzy greatcoat that I wish I had now).
For all the stick the force gets, Met r/t procedures were very strict and highly professional Eg. If you once said `please or thank you` you’d be mildly bollocked by Information Room (IR) for taking up airspace. If you weren’t hot enough to log the message correctly you’d eventually get referred to the IR inspector for words of advice. Of course logging the calls was the R/t operators job, yes we were double uniform crewed in those days (triple crewed if you included the plain clothes observer we would carry for dealing with prisoners, obs etc). Simple stuff.

To the day I retired I remained unimpressed by the r/t procedures of the Constabulary force  I transferred to, which was based on nothing more than `pick it up as you go along`. I always thought it sloppy and always felt for the poor old control room operators who almost always gave better than they got in return.
Rant over. Out