“I live at work and visit my house sometimes”

As I sit here writing this post, I have just finished my 12th day of my 14 day stretch, having had one rest day 9 days ago.

Knackered doesn’t cover it.

Sometimes with this job, we sacrifice a lot. We miss our home, we don’t see our friends, we cancel our plans and we mainly function on caffeine.

I am currently into week two of a Crown Court trial. Having owned this incident since the day it happened back in September 2018, it seems slightly strange that within a matter of days it will all be over.

If I mention the victim’s name at work everyone on my team knows about it.

I know this case inside out, arguably better than I know my own life sometimes!

I have spoken to the victim and their mother every week for the last seven months.

I have gained the trust of a victim who was so terrified of being hurt again that they wouldn’t tell me the truth intially.

And I have spent the last two weeks supporting the victim and their mother through arguably the toughest two weeks yet.

Long hours, far too many early shifts (!) and a lot of coffee appears to be a good setup for now.

Hearing the defendants give their version of events. Being called a liar. Hearing them not tell the truth as we believe it to be. Listening to the barristers go over and over every little tiny detail about what happened. Watching the Jury’s reaction as they watch and listen to the evidence.

It’s emotionally exhausting. It’s sometimes impossible to listen to the detail being repeated, denied, twisted and distorted.

Seven months of supporting my victim.

Seven months of bloody hard work to get the best evidence.

Seven months of arguments with CPS.

Seven months of chasing medical evidence.

Seven months of blood, sweat and tears. I just hope for my victim we get the right result.

I really, really do.

Walk a mile in my shoes

People join “the job” for a number of reasons, from interviewing the bad guys, protecting the good guys, driving really fast and everything in between.

From the very first day of our Policing career, we lace up our shiny new boots and tackle the day ahead.  Be it during our 15 weeks of initial training when we are having law and policy rammed down our throats, or during the next 30 years of our career wherever that may take us, the reality is that our trusty pair of boots are really the only thing that understand exactly what we have been through. The stories they could tell…

Our families, our friends and the public all see and hear about investigations that the Police are carrying out, people that the Police need to speak to, and generally ludicrous sentences that are given out at Court.  The problem is, our families, our friends and the public all see what the press want them to see, in the way that the press want them to see it, and often conveniently leaving out key bits of information which, although factually correct, perhaps doesn’t make such a good headline.

I work a 9 day shift pattern. 3 earlies, 3 lates, 3 rest days. As far as shift patterns go, it really isn’t that bad. I don’t currently work night shifts which means I don’t feel and look like I’ve been hit by a nine tonne truck, and having three days off feels like a proper break at the end of our working week to re-charge our batteries and have a bit of a life!

During my six working days, I am often off late at least 50% of the time, sometimes by only an hour, sometimes by more than four.  The best way to avoid disappointment is to not make plans after earlies. Having to cancel on people is worse than not having the arrangement in the first place.

In theory I am duty for 50% of my working week, and the remaining 50% I get to progress the 24 other investigations I own currently.  In reality, I am duty for closer to 70% as there aren’t enough of us (shock) to deal with the volume of prisoners coming through, with the number of stabbings being called in, and the number of violent disorders occurring on a more than weekly basis.

So the reality is that the other 24 investigations that I own get ignored, pushed to one side and have to wait.  That’s 24 victims being failed, 24 victims with updates far later than deserved, and 24 victims left disappointed in the lack of service the Police have provided.

If you imagine a puppy running in circles chasing its tail, that’s a fairly good representation.  Although I expect I look less cute and more haggard than a playful pup. After three very needed rest days, the drive to work on the first early back generally consists of me making a mental to do list, dreading the amount of emails that have landed (especially if I’ve had mid-week rest days, as CPS have been at work…) and constructing some kind of game plan for the week ahead.

Sometimes, it’s really bloody knackering. It’s really hard. It can feel impossible and leave you questioning how on earth you’re meant to do this job.

But other times, I get a fantastic result, a decent sentence at Court, and it reminds me why I do what I do, why I love this job, and why it really is the job like no other.

We aren’t immune to everything

I’ve previously written about how things become routine in Policing. How we deal with the same people, the same types of crime, and have the same arguments on a nearly daily basis.

We become immune to what we see, to what we hear and to what we do. We have to. If we took every job home with us, if we took every abusive comment to heart, we would break within less than a day.

That said, sometimes things hit a nerve. We hear things that even as Cops we can’t be immune to. We see things that even as Cops we can’t help but take home with us. We are human after all.

A year ago, to the day, I attended my first ever fatal RTC. Car vs person. It would be a lie to say I don’t still think about it. No, it doesn’t affect me and I don’t lose sleep over it, but I still think about it when I drive down the road, or read about other similar incidents in the media across the Country. Killed at the age of 31.

Yesterday I took a statement from a significant witness of a serious offence. We talked for literally hours about what they saw, what they did and how they felt. “His eyes were dying”. Jesus. Killed at the age of 17.

Sometimes, there are no words for what we see and hear in this job. Sometimes, you hear something and it feels like you’ve been kicked straight in the stomach. Some people are just evil.

What can you say to somebody who has witnessed the worst things possible? Sometimes just taking a minute and saying nothing goes further than trying to make small talk I suppose.

It bothers me that often our witnesses are innocent members of the public, going about their day and they witness just pure evil. It’s hard enough for us in our job, and we see it all the time.

Those poor, poor people.

Killing Knives

Within not very long of being in the job, crime, life, death and everything in between become normal.

The “shock factor” isn’t there anymore. Things become routine, they become normal, they become repetitive. It’s not the “first” of any job. It’s the 543rd domestic, the 98th missing person and the 743rd report of a drunken buffoon.

That said, there’s some jobs that no matter how many you go to, no matter how many you investigate, no matter how many you get results on, still bother you.

Everybody is different. I expect no two Police Officers have exactly the same reasoning behind why something bothers them, but I’m fairly confident none of us can say nothing does.  We are human beneath the uniform. We have thoughts and feelings. We are not robots.

For me, it’s the knife crime.  Daily stabbings, daily murders, daily violence. Somehow society now believes that the norm is to carry a knife/blade/screwdriver or any other remotely sharp object in order to inflict a world of pain on an often innocent victim.

It isn’t a case of which day will there be a stabbing anymore, it’s a case of when in each & every shift.  In the last week alone we averaged a stabbing a day.  A person in hospital as a result of every, single one.  People in custody for some of them. People outstanding for the others.  Devastated families, victims of callous attacks.  People who have gone from minding their own business one minute, to being wired up to hospital machines the next.

In the current climate it would appear that you only need to look at somebody the wrong way to warrant getting stabbed.  It is scarily, and quickly, becoming normal.  It’s a crime that shouldn’t ever be normal, because it’s not. There’s nothing right about wielding machetes and knives in public. About inflicting the highest level of harm on innocent members of the public. About not caring about anybody else.

There’s no real deterrent anymore though.  There aren’t enough of us to deal with the crime when it happens, let alone prevent it happening in the first place. Ambulance are just as stretched, the sentences at Court are often laughable.

How is anybody expected to help stop this? The reality is, I don’t think we can, and that’s terrifying.

“Routine” Assaults on Police

It’s never been okay to assault a Police Officer. Well, it’s never been okay to assault anyone really has it.

It still shocks me that it has become routine to hear an officer on the radio calling for help. Routine to hear of a colleague hurt.  Routine to hear of weak sentences at Court.

Times have changed, they are still very much changing. The risks we take are greater, the statistics of assaults on Police are getting higher, and the Government are still suggesting that there are extra officers. It’s ridiculous.

Just today I was handed a prisoner to deal with.  Assault Police. The prisoner was too violent to be interviewed, having had a bundle with us in Custody and assaulted another colleague.

When I spoke to the officer who had been spat at in the face, they said “I’m fine I’m just getting checked at Hospital because there was blood in his spit.”

How is that a normal thing to say?  How is that acceptable? It was said so matter-of-factly.

We frequently say there aren’t enough Police to protect the public.  There aren’t enough Police to catch the bad guys.  There aren’t enough Police to deploy to all the 999 calls.  But that means that there also aren’t enough Police to protect ourselves, to protect each other. Our colleagues. Our friends. Our work family.

When one of us gets hurt, we all feel it, it’s part of who we are.

The Reality of Policing

I don’t think even what us Cops consider to be normal is realistic anymore.

Our definition of “normal” has always been slightly different from that of the general public.  We expect more drunks, more violence, more idiots, more deaths, but I think even we are shocked by what appears to now be “normal”.

Some of my busiest shifts lately have been a mid-week early turn.  When we’re gearing up for a Saturday late shift (especially if it’s just been payday!) we expect a degree of chaos.  When I walk in at 0700hrs on a Tuesday to over 30 prisoners, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.  I should point out that I am on a team of what should be about 30 of us.  The reality is that we are a team of about 12.  Police cuts are just fabulous.

And it’s not just 30 prisoners.  It’s the live jobs that require monitoring, the handover from the previous shift and the delightful line “sorry ran out of time, there’s 3 Albanian’s in for PWITS, interpreter booked for 0900hrs”. Result! That’s the reality.

The other week, in about an hour, in the one area of one City that I work, we had the following:

  1. A house shot at.
  2. 7 prisoners in for PWITS
  3. Another house shot at (no, not linked)
  4. A machete weilding maniac
  5. A robbery
  6. A potential hostage situation.

That’s the reality of Policing in 2019.

Violence is on another level.  Assaults on Police are through the roof.  Back up is never “just round the corner” (no, it’s not The Bill). The number of Priority 999 calls that can’t be responded to because there actually aren’t any officers left is scary.

On my radio channel, every day, are open shouts for anybody at all to leave the job they’re at because something more serious has come in.  On my radio channel, every day, the controller is met with silence. That’s the reality of Policing.

Those officers aren’t dealing with a theft.  They’re dealing with a man with a weapon, a violent domestic, a sudden death, a shooting, a stabbing, they’re trying to save somebody’s life, and they’re being asked to leave to go to something else.  That’s not okay, not on any level. But that’s the reality.

We aren’t even half way through January yet.  We have already seen children killed, too many armed robberies to count, too many Police Officers no longer with us, too many shouts for assistance with nobody free to help.

That’s the reality of Policing.  It’s going to be a busy year.

And that was 2018…

As the year draws to a close, it seemed only appropriate to try and somehow sum up the past 12 months.

In both my personal and my professional life, this year has seen some enormous changes. From a wedding and a house move, to a change in Force and department, it sure has been a busy year!

The thought of leaving the team, the role & the Force I knew terrified me. Walking into the unknown, being the newbie and honestly being totally clueless was really not the most appealing of situations. We really are creatures of habit. However as they say, often the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.  Fast forward nearly six months now, and I am happy to report I have zero regrets!

Settled in my role, (nearly) knowing what I’m doing, and having a far better home life. Being home every night and not having to drive a 250 mile round trip each set has certainly made the world of difference to me!

As I write this, I realise it isn’t as easy to summarise my year as I thought! Having spent the first half of the year on response, going from job to job, contending with night shifts, dealing with scene guards and getting in fights, it is hard to remember specific jobs off the top of my head.

I remember the jobs I have had since working in Investigations far more easily.  Blood, sweat and (literally) tears go into some of our investigations, they take over our lives and there are a lot of hours put in to trying to get a result.

Since being on the team since July I have charged people with a range of offences, from Theft to False Imprisonment, Burglary to Wounding, Drugs Offences to Robbery. Hopefully when these cases go to Court in the coming months I can give you some updates and some good results.

Remanding the most dangerous offenders, getting charges for the most violent offences, protecting the most vulnerable people. That’s why we do our job, and being able to do that on a daily basis really is rewarding.

To those working over the next few days, be safe. To those of you at home, have fun! To all of you, thank you for your support, and have a Happy New Year x