Friday, June 29, 2007

The drugs don't work

This post won't be the first time I'm motivated to write about mental health issues: try here or here for starters.
But once again recently I found myself reminded of the reality that is mental health care 'in the community'.
We got a call from the ambulance services. A young man- Spencer- lives with his relatives. He is supposed to take various medications, including anti-psychotics.

Spencer hasn't been taking his medication.

Spencer has smashed his room up.

Unsurprisingly the ambulance control take one look at their message screen and ping it straight across to us. One of my panda crews take the call.

I don't know why but I had alarm bells ringing with this one. The address was not known to our intel checks at all but it was one of those 'impending doom' moments. I'm the other side of town and start making my way over, blue lights and sirens going, harassing the school run traffic out of the way.

The panda crew are sage enough to wait for the ambulance crew before going in. That short delay saved them getting a pasting. As soon as Spencer sees the unfamiliar faces and uniforms he launches himself at the ambulance crew. The Pc's don't hesitate and jump in the way.

I had literally just parked up outside when the dreaded emergency activation button goes. All I can hear in the earpiece is a rage of shouts, screams, bangs and smashes. I don't actually hear whether its the crew I think it is or not but I don't wait for clarification. Myself and the other skipper (yes, there were two of us, for the first time that I can remember in a long time all supervisors were in across the district) barrel out of the car, forgetting to lock it, and sprint to the address.

There in the hallway are the two Pc's struggling on the floor with Spencer. One is desperately trying to get control of his legs and is getting several kicks for his efforts. The other is trying to get handcuffs on but Spencer is having none of it and is doing his best to bite her.

Its moments like this I am grateful I am 16 stone worth of ugly rugby forward.

With the four of us Spencer is quickly controlled- or at least, his limbs are. Go near his face and you get a faceful of spit (I later find out he has had TB. Hurrah.) Get too close and he'll do his damndest to take a chunk out of you.

I'm aware that I've got the whole of late turn running like a bat out of hell to get us. I eventually get in on the radio and cancel all but one more. To get Spencer out of the flat we will have to walk up stairs. Spencer is incapable of listening to us in his rage so I call for someone to bring down leg restraints.

I coordinate who's got what limb and we bring him out to the ambulance. 4 officers remain with him.

We are fortunate in Suburbiaville to have a hospital that is able to accomodate S136 patients, albeit only one at a time. The officers know, to their credit, that despite the assaults on them Spencer is not a well man and he is de-arrested and S136'd instead. (non-police readers, follow the link for S136 MHA explained).

I run to the hospital on blues to get there before the ambulance to forewarn them and make sure the room is free of anything that could be used as a weapon- a pen, a chair. The nurse in charge is not a happy man with the impending disorder.

4 hours later, Spencer is sectioned by the crisis team. We were lucky it is only just outside office hours and the relevant people required weren't too far away. It isn't uncommon to wait nearer 8 hours for this kind of decision.

The sedatives have finally worked, and Spencer is now in and out of sleep. The team that have been restraining him the last 4 hours are able to get up, stretch their aching ankles and knees and drink a gallon of water.

Politics and money now rear their ugly heads. Although Spencer was staying in our area, his home NHS trust is across a border. Suburbiaville NHS trust therefore won't accept him. His home NHS trust won't accept him because it happened in Suburbiaville.

Our job is now done though, and we stagger off in search of somewhere still open to have a rather late tea. I am forced to settle for a kebab. I leave the political wranglings of the NHS, and the psych doctor pulling his hair out at the bed administrators, behind for another day.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

We would like you to focus on......

Was round visiting the folks in Countytown the other day.

Countytown is a fairly decent respectable sort of place. My parents live in a decent area, happily living a much quieter existence since their offspring cleared off and got places of their own. (An aside- I am immensely grateful I was able to buy my place when I could a few years back. I couldn't afford my own place now. How anyone is supposed to buy their own place these days without fabulously wealthy parents or a lottery win is beyond me)

Their particular corner of Countytown has its own residents association. I was leafing through their newsletter when I was over. In amongst the expected articles of middle class indignation "We really don't feel it necessary for people to park with wheels on the pavement" and preparation pleas for "Countytown in bloom" an article caught my eye.

They were appealing- again- for people to attend a local community meeting to meet their new neighbourhood community officer (PCSO) and tell him (or her of course, can't remember) of their concerns.

I say again, as for the last two meetings nobody had bothered to turn up.

This gave me a rueful smile. This part of Countytown is a reasonable place where people by and large work for a living, pay their taxes and probably vote in local elections. But their response to the governments grand hugely expensive scheme of neighbourhood police and "ownership" of local neighbourhood teams has fallen somewhat flat on its face in precisely the kind of area the government would want it to work (i.e. with people who vote and pay tax).

I must admit where I live there is a local residents association too. I'm not too fussed about joining it. To me it has imagines of Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet, darling) types filled with self importance and their own little empires. I of course may be quite wrong, but haven't really felt any great desire to prove myself wrong.

My views of my local police are fairly simple (I don't live and work in the same part of the force area, by the way). If I need police, then I call 999 and have a reasonable right to expect a reasonably quick response. When I don't need them, I'd trust the local lot to know for themselves what the real problems would be.

I say real problems. Back in Suburbiaville, I know of one the local SNT/NPT outfits in a nice part of town. Their "neighbourhood policing priority panel" or whatever the hell its called have set their Neighbourhood Team the priority of issuing parking tickets on the school run. When it was pointed out that actually the crime patterns indicated this that and the other, it was ignored in favour of the 15 minutes each day where the school run brigade dare to partially block Mrs Jones's driverway.

Most of the crime that happened was school kid robberies, and theft from builders vans. But because the members of the Neighbourhood Policing Panel (Hyacinth Bucket types and wannabe local politicians) weren't affected by these things which happened to other people, they didn't care. They wanted to be able to get out of their driveway unimpeded.

To me, its another example of how the practical application of a good theoretical idea (Neighbourhood Policing) simply does not work in reality.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Postings and pistols

Well I've been visited by the phantom police hater (hereon dubbed Cuddles, courtesy Busybizzie- brilliant name!) who's been doing the rounds on all the blogs with his particularly pleasant comments regarding Pc Henry.

I'm not going to delete them. I think it is better for all to see the kind of people who do exist in society. I appreciate this person is hiding behind a cloak of anonymity- being wary of hypocrisy here as I am aware that is precisely what I and 99% of police bloggers do, but at least we provide a consistent identifiable means of contact- but there are people like that in the real world who I meet who are quite prepared to tell me their true feelings. Perhaps moderated a touch as the inconvenience (not punishment or embarrasment) of a section 5 arrest may temper their language a bit.

I provide a contact email on the right too. I've been sent a couple of fairly colourful emails in the past. Perhaps I ought to publish them next time.

Moving on from the pond life I am amused by the fact that it is rare that a police blog gets updated at the weekend. This is mostly because either a) we're at work b) if we're not at work, its that rare thing of a weekend off and as such time will not be wasted sat at home computer.

Took this off someone recently- off someone who thought he'd use it to relieve someone else of any spare cash and jewellry they happened to have on them:

Well, I rephrase. I didn't take it off him. Someone with a rather large police issue sub-machine gun took it off him. How I would love to have seen his face when the armed response boys surprised him walking down the street. Not a clever criminal, as he wore quite distinctive clothing.

Its actually a type of air pistol. But would you know that if I didn't tell you?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Just a Moment

Picked up an album hadn't listened to for a while. Just had one of those moments where you get completely lost for four minutes, leaning against the doorpost, surrounded by the music to the exclusion of all else, gazing out of the window at the wind and the rain.

It was one of those moments that despite all the crap that goes on in this world, could just forget it for those few minutes and be somewhere else.

The clue to the track is in the post title, for those curious.

*sigh* I need to get ready to go to work.

I think I need to listen to more music.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Pc Henry's death is now slipping beneath the murky waters of the mainstream media level of interest. Soon to be, if not already, displaced by the big brother house, Victoria Beckham and the 453rd "investigation" into Diana's crash.

Won't ever be forgotten by most coppers I know. Anyone on response team will feel a particular resonance with his story, because in any force on any day there will be a call with parallel features. All will know, it could've been them turning up first on scene. Just last week we had a shout with a crazed male trying to force his way into his ex's house. When the officer gets there he pulls a knife from under his jacket and lunges for the officer. The officer gets out of the way without a contact, thankfully.
Crazy man is contained in a basement area (how I love police dogs straining at the lead, practically foaming at the mouth) but he only puts that knife down when the big red Tazer dot appears on his chest.

Do I think all officers should be armed? Short answer, No.

There are people who I barely trust with a driving course and a set of handcuffs, let alone the level of responsibility required for having a lethal weapon. The amount of effort required to get rid of a bad (incompetent, not criminal) copper is monumental, taking months or years to complete. A couple of occasions I've turfed people straight out of the custody suite because their arrests have been, well, completely unlawful. And I'm talking basic offences here, not a complex subsection paragraph amendment to a money laundering act. Could you trust someone with a gun who arrested someone "for S25 PACE" (pre SOCPA days here) because they had refused their details on a stop search?

I have been involved in full on scraps with people. On one occasion a colleague had his baton wrestled from him and was used against him. Every interaction with the public we would have to stand off. I would not get involved in physical contact with a gun strapped to my leg. It would require such a massive shift in the way we interact with the public, - a negative shift to my mind- requiring us to stand off, be more aggressive in giving commands, be more alienated.

Maybe armed officers who read this can enlighten me. I've never done firearms training and so am not really speaking from experience: but common sense tells me that you don't get physical with a sidearm strapped to you.

I'm not a traditionalist. I think we should police according to the requirements of the day, and not because people think that because its been done in a certain way for x years, it should remain that way. Like uniform. Daft, impractical, sweaty top hats that are only kept because they give tourists something to take photos of. "You British Bobby? Wowee!"

So I'm not against arming all police with firearms for reasons of traditionalism or sentamentalism. I simply don't think it is necessary at the moment.

However, I do think our current armed response capability is inadequate. I know of some county forces who only have had 5 trained officers available in a shift. I fail to understand why Tazers are not made more available. I fail to see why only firearms trained officers are authorised to use them. (I am sure if I posed this question to SMT officers I'd recieve a veritable thickness of SOP's detailing why force policy is not. Actually, to be fair to our current Chief of Ops, he'd say he wants more and lay the blame squarely at the doors of the home office)

My (unscientifically proven or researched) opinion, from speaking to firearms trained colleagues, is that Tazer is in several circumstances safer than CS gas. No cross contamination. No problems using it in a contained area or inside a building. It is not a corrosive agent. It does not have a 20 minute recovery time. There is not a body of people who are immune to the effects of a tazer. Tazer incapicates people and prevents them fighting on. CS sometimes infuriates people and motivates them fighting on.

I don't think every officer should be Tazer equipped. (see above re driving courses.) But their availability should be more widespread: one per division / sector / area, maybe even issued to supervisors (ha!!!) but not confined to the armed response car covering the whole force area.

The one fortunate thing about the circumstance of Pc Henry's death was the time of the morning. The lack of traffic and early time of day meant the armed response car could be there quickly. If they were tied up dealing with something else, or were 12 miles away in rush hour, then the response team PC's on scene would've had to tackle him, especially if they thought he was likely to attack anyone else.

Thats my two pennies worth. Not the best of events providing motivation for my 100th post.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Pc Henry

Apologies to all. In the post below I miswrote Pc Henry's name as Pc Terry. This has now been amended.

I had a look at the front pages of the newspapers today, to see which newspapers gave what emphasis to what.

The Sun, Mirror, Express and the Mail (for once, going up in my estimation) all ran with Pc Henry's terrible story on the front page.

Out of the broadsheets, only the Telegraph ran the story.

The Guardian doesn't even mention the story on the front pages, running instead a story focusing on the failings of the police following an "honour" killing conviction. The Independent feels a potential cure for hay fever is more important. I can't recall what the Times showed, but their online edition doesn't have an obvious link, also instead focusing on the same story the guardian does. The BBC have dropped the story from their news site "front page" too.

Anyone with relatives in the forces will be shrugging their shoulders by now, saying "get used to it". I seem to recall that the 150th soldier was recently killed in Iraq. Army fatalities barely get a sidebar these days.

I'm not trying to make any point here, just trying to gauge just how many people care about this kind of thing. Is it just me, or was there an awful lot more coverage for Pc Beshinivsky's equally barbaric demise? Is it because she was shot? Or because she was a she, and newspapers are generally male dominated? I don't know.

Only the Express brought up the question of arming the police. I'll post my thoughts on this another time.

Monday, June 11, 2007


I was going to update this with another rant about something I was shown over the weekend. However it can wait. It simply isn't important compared.

An officer has been stabbed to death in Luton.

PC John Charles Henry

All my thoughts are with this officer's family. At 36 he more than likely is going to be leaving young kids behind. (Update later in the day..... this is now sadly confirmed. A baby girl and a wife)

Anyone in the police, response officers in particular, will be feeling a tightening across their chest.
For as we all know- there but for the grace of God go I.

Rest in peace, colleague.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Business as usual

Well a nice couple of days off and welcomed back to Suburbiaville to the all to familiar soundtrack of the wheel coming off. What a day.

Had one of those rare and unusual things starting the day off- an ordinary member of the public prepared to intervene in something going on (note- I appreciate that most readers of this who aren't officers are decent people who would step in. But in some areas of town it is rare enough to have someone who'll call 999 let alone see a passing police car, get its attention, direct them to the suspect and hang around to give a statement) which resulted in the most deserved arrest of a domestic bully "brave" enough to give his girl (half his size) a hiding in public.

Things went a bit loopy from then on. I got the shields out of the back of the car twice. Rape kit once. There were people with knives going for officers. Going at themselves. Going at their girlfriends dog. People wandering away from supposedly secure mental health facilities.

I had a shouting match over the phone with a DC who was doing his absolute best to ensure the latest pile of grief I had the unfortunate task of being initially in charge of did not end up on his desk. Spectacular efforts to squeeze and slime their way out of something that is clearly within their quite specific remit.

Trying to find words of comfort to a young mother whose husband has just smashed bits of their door and window out trying to get inside to them. And I don't mean for heroic reasons.

At the end of the shift I was pacing up and down the old control room bouncing ideas and plans off the other skipper trying to figure out a plan to deal with yet another job- an usually convoluted and twisted one this time- one of the ones that no matter what our final plan would be someone in an office somewhere will pick up on it and say our performance was inadequate and we failed to comply with x y and z. I was talking to the next shifts skipper and I had got barely 30 seconds into when he was saying "oooh don't like that, you didn't do anything about that?". I was about to go and explain how with the information and resources -i.e. myself and one other car- we had at the time that was really not our priority. Then I thought I would just tell him to go and take a long walk off a short pier (possibly rephrased a touch), but finally I kept my temper in (it was a long, long hot day) and restrained myself to agreeing that with hindsight I might've done something different.

I'm quite glad Mrs Simon doesn't ever hear me in the locker room. I might have said a few choice words about various people in Suburbiaville and various officers who staff various offices and choose to implement their policy when it suits them.

On a different note. My thanks to those who commented on the previous post. I always appreciate people leaving comments but those ones particularly so. I'm not planning on promotion any time soon. When I did the sergeant's exam I passed with a score that would've done for the governor's too but put the exam in front of me now I reckon I'd fail it. I don't need to have it all memorised, I have reference books and legal database to hand!

But yeah I do enjoy skippering. At the end of the day above I went down a local watering hole on the way home with another couple of PC's who were late finishing. A beer never tasted so good. Had a good moan about pretty much everything you could think of, which helped let off some steam. Didn't have to burden Mrs S with quite so much of it!

But that will do. Off to bed, more of the same (I don't hope) tomorrow morning..............