Well worth a read. An intrepid insight into the life of an FLO and what made someone want to join the police.
My posts have been few and far between over the last five days or so. This is mainly because I don’t want to be posting for the sake of posting or after thinking, “quick, people will want to read something”. That isn’t my style, but equally I hope I haven’t disappointed anyone. The other reason I haven’t posted if because I have been away from work on a short break visiting family.
However, something happened today that put me on the other side – as a victim.
I had just joined the motorway into heavy congestion, due to a collision further up the carriageway. I was in the outside lane, keeping a fair distance from the vehicle in front but due to the slow speed this wasn’t very far.
As the traffic started to move in front of me, I moved forward to occupy the space before me. However (and perhaps I should have forseen this), the car on my inside dashed in front of me – cutting me up and causing me to sharply dab the brakes. Unaware if he had seen my presence, I lightly pressed my horn. Now, before all the cynics reading this assume that I was the aggressor here, I assure you that I was not. The press of the horn would ensure he knew I was there and had been pressed as he performed his manoeuvre, rather than once he had completed it.
Expect the unexpected.
I anticipated one of two things to then happen:
- a wave from the cutter upperer to acknowledge his error;
- a glare through one of his mirrors.
What happened next?
Your options are:
- the driver politely waved and all carried on with no issues;
- the driver glared through one his rear facing mirrors and no more;
- the driver gesticulated through his open window with hand gestures and expletives;
- the driver brought his car to a sudden halt, got out the car and marched towards my car.
You would be forgiven for thinking the whole reason I am writing this is because choice number 4 happened. Fortunately, it didn’t but it begs the question: “What would I do, as an ‘off-duty’ police constable, if option 4 occurred?”
My answer would be – that is a very good question. Even now, thinking about what I am writing, I don’t know what I would have done.
As it happened, option 3 did happen.
After my innocent beep, the driver launched an immediate backlash towards me. To summarise what he did – he left me feeling harassed, alarmed and distressed, even as someone who works in a conflict environment all of the time. It was more than just a few swear words. When he brought his car to a halt, I believed he was going to get out and then what would I do.
I didn’t have any uniform on, had no protective equipment, had no radio to call the rest of my gang and also had a passenger in the car. Plus, without wanting to make it sound like something off of a high-adrenalin episode of Traffic Cops, we were on a moving motorway. If he had come my way, would I have got out and confronted him, telling him he was in the wrong and that he was completely overreacting to my solemn beep? Would I take his remonstration through the open or closed window of my car? Would I produce my warrant card from my wallet and see what reaction that brought? Was he anti-police as well as anti-congestion? Would he see that as a reason to exasperate the situation?
All of this was rapidly, and subconsciously, going through my mind. Fortunately, he remained in his car, throwing expletives out of the window towards me. I was quickly reminded by my passenger that I wasn’t on duty and to just leave it. I could feel some adrenaline going through me – perhaps in case he had got out of his car.
Sorry Sir, nothing we can do now.
In hindsight, I am happy with my actions. Although now, I think I should have reported it straight away to the local constabulary rather than leaving to the middle the evening as I have just done.
Their response: “Sorry Sir, you should have reported it at the time. There is nothing we can do now. We’ll take the details and log it with our intelligence department in case he does it again.” Public order that can’t be investigated and dealt with retrospectively? First I’ve heard of it.
This is how a mildly experienced police constable felt following a road rage incident. I couldn’t begin to imagine what a purebred civilian feels like in a similar situation. He wasn’t to know that I wasn’t an elderly, or vulnerable, person who may have found the whole escapade more alarming than I did.
I have been on a run of rest days recently, so don’t really have anything exciting to write about so here’s something a bit different. I have a bit of annual leave coming up but hope to return to the first format when I return.
EDL vs UAF vs Police
Saturday saw three gangs turn up in Bristol to square up to eachother. The widely publicised English Defence League (EDL) and Unite Against Facism (UAF) stepped up against one another in the busy Westcountry city. Also well publicised was the small obstacle of around 1,000 police officers being deployed to the city. Police officers were drafted in from as far away as Yorkshire, while horses from London topped up the home force’s stable output.
So, is 1,000 cops a bit overkill?
Personally, I don’t think so. We have seen what has happened at marches where EDL and UAF have clashed in the past. In January 2010, a protest in Stoke-on-Trent saw EDL members break through the police line, injuring four officers in the process. Just a couple of months later, in Bolton, 74 people were arrested at demonstrations (most from UAF). There are more.
I’m not suggesting that previous police services have been under-prepared when deciding how to approach these demonstrations but it is proof in the pudding that a large police presence minimises disorder.
In Bristol, just sixteen people* were arrested for offences including but not exclusive to public order, going equipped, failing to leave an area when directed to do so, assault and for failing to remove face coverings (I’ll come back to this one later). The city of Bristol welcomed these groups the opportunity to put their point across and express their feelings. However, it was clearly ruined by members of both sides who were intent of getting to each other.
I wasn’t there myself although now wish I had gone as a spectator. Overall, the police commanders on the day organised officers from around the country to keep each of the groups an arm’s length apart. To my knowledge, no officers were injured and any scrapes to the public were kept to a minimum.
As I write this, five people have been charged, two cautioned and two issued with fixed penalty notices in connection with the weekend’s demonstrations. Three remain on bail. This is ideal for the constabulary dealing – a low number of arrests but still taking action. The action by the police has been commended by media and locals within the city.
I just wanted to add a quick note on the power we can be given to make people remove face coverings as not many people know about it. This comes from section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. This piece of legislation was fairly influential, and controversial, when it was introduced in the mid nineties.
Four key points were brought to fruition by the act:
- The right to silence was changed; allowing for a court to draw inferences from someone’s silence;
- The taking and retention of intimate body samples;
- Legislation surrounding the provision of sites for gypsy and traveller use;
- Increased rights surrounding stop and search.
Where an Inspector or higher believes that incidents of serious violence may take place within a locality or that people may be carrying offensive weapons he or she may give authority for a section 60 to be imposed. The shortened version of this means that anybody within that locality may be stopped and searched for weapons and be required to remove any face coverings or disguises.
Top tip of the day to demonstrators – “My gang will always be bigger than your’s.”
I pick up my rucksack, put on my helmet and negotiate my mountain bike out the kitchen – flick the lights to a multitude of flashes.
It’s less than a five minute cycle to work but better than no exercise at all – and my colleagues moan if I take up a parking space.
I’m walking through the station door, fully kitted up just incase a call comes in before my ten o’clock start time. The late tour officers are finishing paperwork, telling me and anyone who cares to listen what they’ve been up to. I sound like I don’t care, but I don’t unless it’s something a bit different. A colleague tells me there’s a detainee on a double constant supervision. He’s been brought in for possessing knives in public but not before being threatened with taser. We all sit hoping we don’t have to spend all night on a constant.
Briefing with the skipper. Fairly straight forward tonight: couple of curfew checks and a domestic handover where the suspect is still outstanding.
There are six of us plus the skipper tonight but two aren’t counted in our strength. They’re the tutor unit: one experienced PC training the newbie.
Quick catch up on the sector intelligence and outstanding stolen vehicles, before kitting up the car.
First job of the night is to see if the victim of the high risk domestic is still up. My colleague has read the statement and feels we need to complete the required risk assessment sooner rather than later. We can then assess how urgent the arrest is.
The result of which was more high risk than I’d ever seen. My colleague and I both agree that this chap has to come in now.
Our call sign is echoed down the radio. We’re directed to an immediate log that’s coming in. The arrest attempt for the domestic assailant will have to wait. This incident is involving a fight in progress.
We arrive just after another unit. They are talking to the victims of what looks like a nasty assault. We’re told that two people have been assaulted. An old guy has blood coming from his face – he has taken quite a beating. We ask someone stood nearby if they saw anything. “I did”, he replies. He agrees to come with us on a tour of the town to locate the suspects. He provides quite a good description which I pass to CCTV.
Just to add, our town council CCTV have been incredible recently. The operator calls up and states she has seen two lads who match the description passed. With witness on board, we locate the two males. The witness says they are responsible.
We get out the car expecting the young’ens to about turn and bolt. They don’t. They’re quickly on the ground, arrested and handcuffed before being taken back to custody.
The witness comes back to the station to provide a statement.
My detainee is booked in and his clothing seized. It has some blood on it so we’ll be having his clothes for a while. He’s drunk so is put on a lie down to sober up and rest.
Here comes the paperwork and sorting. Statements, property records and incident reports all need completing. All of us are in the station chipping away. Shows though that an incident of a relatively small scale depletes our patrol ability. There’s noone patrolling across an area of around 265 square kilometres.
My crew mate was diverted to a burglary in progress whilst I was in custody. They’ve got one detained. Turns out he’s the chap who we were going to arrest for the earlier high risk domestic. He was trying to smash his way into his partner’s but lived there recently so no burglary.
He’s safely housed for the morning. Other sectors have brought prisoners to our custody so we’re almost full (of a mere 8 custody spaces).
With the statement that has already been taken from the victim and the damage that’s just been caused, we’d be surprised if he wasn’t charged with all or some of the offences.
I’ve been asked to go to the scene of the burglary/not a burglary to take some swabs of some blood that were in the damaged glass.
That done, quick break in the golden arches before back to the ranch to book in samples and finish up.
Quick call to an interpreter for the domestic suspect. She’s about an hour away so will wait for a call from earlies before heading to the station. Another expense of the constabulary but it’s got to be done.
Earlies are in, we’re stood down so it’s back on the bike and home to bed. Only to do it all again tonight.