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. 


Bill B said...

I'd imagine the inventors of that radio had no idea of the many uses it would ultimately have!

Interesting history on the origins of that law

On the cheap ammunition the thought of needing it and having a misfire - guess the bean counters prevailed...

Hogdayafternoon said...

BillB: Or maybe the inventors did have an idea. Stuff that's made to be used by coppers and soldiers USED to be on the robust side ;)
I should point out that the only reason he had that pistol was because he was due to work at Downing Street, one of the many armed protection posts.

TonyF said...

Ha, Storno! Well known not to be heard anywhere on the airfield, in direct line of sight, and yet the 'sniffers' the nice chaps who monitor the airwaves could pick us up over 400 miles away. At that time we were using locally grown call signs,(apparently the PTB in the radio world thought the station had closed) when the RAF went all military and all user sections were allocated call signs. I suspect they did that so we were easier to monitor, trouble was though, even after their mistake was rectified, many of us still used the old ones out of habit. Caused quite a few 'Larry the lamb' moments when a mic was keyed and the 'keyer' forgot the call signs...This is meaaaa

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

Well, you use an ASP properly, it will probably bend. Flashlights, now that we use LED SureFires and Streamlights are no longer long nor heavy enough to clock someone with. A Motorola portable plied with vigor and accuracy works well, but is NOT a recognised "Impact Weapon" in the WI Force Option Continuum.

I use FOX brand CS. At 3 million Scoville Heat Units, it gets people attention.

I keep my USP45F loaded with Winchester Silvertip hollowpoints. You never know when you might run into a werewolf.

Hogdayafternoon said...

Scott: Nice kit. In the UK, CS is illegal, classified as a prohibited weapon under the Firearms Act,ie. in the same category as handguns and fully auto's!

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

TRhey won't let THE POLICE have CS? Good Grief!

Hogdayafternoon said...

Sorry Scott, we've had CS on personal issue since around 1995. Its illegal to import, sell posess etc for Joe Public.

Hogdayafternoon said...

Taser however, is still to be fully rolled out across the UK forces.

Justthisguy said...

Sir, I do believe that Bobby Peel would have approved of you, and of what you did while on the Queen's payroll.

Unfortunately, an awful lot of folks who bear badges in my country seem either to have forgotten, or have never learned, Peel's Principles of Proper Policing.