Mobile Phones

We all have mobile phones. We all use them everyday. But sometimes they aren’t used for the right reasons. Sometimes it would appear that the urge to post on Social Media clouds people’s judgement of what’s right and wrong, what’s important and what isn’t.

What isn’t important, is texting a mate whilst driving. Also, holding your phone on speakerphone is not the definition of hands-free.

Is anything important enough to risk not only your life, but somebody else’s? What if you just quickly send a text but end up hitting somebody you didn’t see because your eyes weren’t on the road, they were on your phone? What if that person dies and you end up arrested for causing death by dangerous driving? Guaranteed that text you were sending at the time would appear insignificant now.

I stopped a car once because the driver was texting. She had two children in the car. She then told me that she was involved in a car crash a while ago and the driver at fault was on their phone. Ever feel like there’s no helping people?!

My other massive bug bear is when we are trying to deal with incidents, the number of mobile phones that appear. Public filming because it looks interesting, exciting, or would be fun to put on Facebook.

Those people don’t stop to think. Police, Ambulance and Fire are emergency services. If there’s numerous vehicles in one place, the chances are it’s because there’s a major incident. If all 3 services are in one place it’s really gone a bit wrong.

But it’s ok, because we can film the ‘drama’ and post a video on Facebook.

I was the first police officer on scene not that long ago to one of those ‘dramas’ that looked exciting. There were already countless ambulances and fire engines on scene.

I closed the road to let us do our job. I got told it was annoying and ‘I just need to get over there’. Well sorry but you can wait or go the long way round.

I watched Fire and Ambulance bring a 26 year old man out of a building on a stretcher because it wasn’t safe to be inside. We began working on him in the street.

And the crowds appeared, along with the phones. Who stopped to think that it is somebody’s son, brother, grandson? None of those filming.

Fire put their imaginary middle finger up at everyone and erected a screen so nobody could see. I smiled.

That man died that day. He killed himself. When it was in the news the following morning I hope those video-crazed people felt suitably shit.

Just stop and take a minute. Yes we all have phones. Yes we all post on Social Media. But just think about what it is that you’re filming on Snapchat, would you want it filmed if it involved your family? Or would you want some privacy at arguably one of the worst times of your life?

The day our feet didn’t touch the ground…

It must have been only a week or two after my first fatal (see previous blog post) when I was on a night shift. We start our nights at 2200hrs, but start rolling in about quarter to so we are ready to go.

As I was getting my radio and gas, I heard them trying to deploy lates to an injured deer. Rather than them going and being late off, me and one of my colleagues went instead.

We called up to say we were jumping in together, and off we flew. Hadn’t even had a cuppa yet – bit rude!

We both grabbed our high-vis coats on the way out, because “We’ll be straight back, it’s only a deer”. Well, famous bloody last words!

We got to the deer, called a dispatcher, and waited. Control Room called and told us that there was “what is going to become a fatal” just round the corner, and that one of us was to stay, and one of us was to go.

Well nobody wants to volunteer for a fatal, but likewise, nobody wants to stitch their crewmate. Mine left me with the nearly dead deer, and volunteered to go to the fatal. He knew I struggled with my last one. I’m grateful for this.

Obviously this all happened within about 3 seconds, and in that time we both realised we had no kit with us, apart from our high-vis! Crap!

As soon as I was done with the deer job, I hitched a lift with some PCSOs up to the fatal. It was like an extremely bad de-ja-vu. Car v pedestrian, again.

I still had no kit. We took the family home afterwards to complete some enquiries and paperwork (minus any of the forms). From here we REALLY needed to get back to the nick to get our kit. And a cuppa. And just to have five minutes.

But no. It must have been a full moon that night, because somehow, we were the closest and only free unit, to an ongoing domestic. We were 35 minutes away. Off we went….still with no kit! Colleagues from a neighbouring city came to help and thankfully offered to do the statements (they had their laptops with them!) and off we went to Custody. 30 miles away.

Done there and we REALLY REALLY need to get back to the nick. But no. We were the closest and only free unit to an ongoing domestic. 28 miles away. Off we went…still with no kit!! Colleagues freed up from another job and came to meet us. I borrowed their laptop and they went to nick the bloke on suspicion of GBH.

Eventually, we got back to the nick. It was 5am. We had 2 hours to go, and had been out since before we were meant to start that night!

No meal break, no wee break, no kit, no time to process the trauma we had been to, no time for a cup of tea. Barely time for any chit chat with my crewmate!

We have busy days. But rarely do we get that spanked with jobs. We weren’t even Policing our own city for the majority of the night…talk about the wheel falling off.

We slept well that day, that’s for sure.

It’s important to be positive!

It’s so easy, with the frustrations of bureaucracy, policy, and the big bosses “say so” to feel inadequate at what we do.

We spend our day apologising, because we haven’t done something, can’t do something, or won’t do something.

If we’ve said we’ll phone somebody, more often than not that phone call starts with “I’m sorry I didn’t phone yesterday like I said I would”.

We constantly have to tell people that we have no evidence, were too late so the CCTV has been overwritten, NFA’d the job another officer said would go to Court…and wonder why we are losing public confidence.

Whilst in the usual custody queue today, I was talking to my colleague about the recent spate of Police Chiefs’ speaking out about how forces can’t meet demand and need to prioritise – sorry no, your burglary isn’t something we can deal with, because we’ve had yet another stabbing.

The public are shouting out that they are feeling let down by us, that the Police aren’t doing enough, and that the service they have received is rubbish.

And we both said – but don’t they realise, often, that even we aren’t happy with the service we give?   That’s a tough thing to admit.

If I (in Police mode) turned up at my own door (the victim) and gave the same level of service as I have to sometimes, yes I’d be pissed off with myself!

However, despite all the negativity, hard days, and constant (expected) negative press, we do make a difference, we do get good results, and we do help people.

We help those in a mental health crisis, those who’ve been assaulted, those who we have had to break awful news to.  We get jobs to Court, and we are off hours late in order to do the paperwork, we even sometimes get a good result at Court!

My job can be so rewarding, and I do still get that feeling of “I made a difference today” when I go home.  We joined the job for a reason, and under all the politics and paperwork, it’s so important to remember why we joined, and those little successes help us to do that.

It’s easy to judge what you have no idea about.

Over the last few months, especially in the last couple of weeks actually, there has been a whole load of public moaning about parking police cars, ambulances and fire engines in inconvenient places.

However to me, it’s not just parking we get moaned at. Sometimes it does genuinely feel like some members of the public will take any opportunity they can to slate us. I hope they remember their comments on the day they need us most, and we block somebody else’s driveway to help them. I’m sure that would be just fine.

Whenever I return to my car which has, let’s be honest, been dumped, and there are people around, I apologise.

If we are responding to a Grade 1 in the middle of the night, we don’t purposefully put our sirens on, because we know at 3am you’re probably asleep.

If we are in the queue at Tesco and somebody offers we go first we say “no it’s okay” despite not having eaten all shift.

We try, we really do, to respect you, as the communities we protect.

It’s a shame it doesn’t go the other way.

We get moaned at when we park inconveniently. Well I’m sorry but if someone is about to jump out of their loft with a noose around their neck, I may just have other things on my mind than the perfect parallel park.

For me though, it’s more the digs at our appearance than our inability to park that wind me up.

I’ve been told I look scruffy. I’ve overheard people muttering that we “always look a mess”.

Sorry.

That time I walked past you and my boots were covered in mud, was because I had just found a car on fire in the middle of a boggy field.

That time I walked past you and my hair was all over the show was because I was dealing with a crash in the pissing down rain, and I’m freezing cold.

That time I walked past you literally covered in dust from head to toe, was because I had just been doing CPR on a 37 year old man on a building site. He died.

That time I walked past you and looked half asleep, was because I was four hours late off but had offered to go and help my colleagues at a GBH in town.

You can judge all you like, but you will never understand. When we come to work we do really try to do our best at whatever jobs we deal with that shift. There is nothing worse than finishing that shift, feeling like all you have done is let people down.

I bet if you ask any copper, one of the most used words on a daily basis is “sorry”.

999 is it even an emergency!?

I’m certain this isn’t a problem that just the Police face, but one that all emergency services face.

999 is an emergency number. 101 is for non-emergency matters.

From Google –

emergency

noun

1 1.
a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.

 

So why, on literally a daily basis, do we get calls to 999 which just aren’t justified.  With the ever growing expectation that the Police are there to solve everybody’s problems, at a time when we are on the bones of our arses with respect to resourcing (or the lack of) we just can’t meet demand.

Wasting our time at a 999 call which isn’t serious or dangerous (See definition above) is one of my pet hates.  Being at that job, means that I can’t be at the job I need to be at.  I can’t be at the genuine emergency.  I can’t be helping my colleagues who are getting assaulted.  I can’t be looking for the high-risk missing person with dementia.  I can’t be relieving my colleague who’s been on a scene guard all shift without food or time for a wee.

I will do my best at whatever job I end up at, and I will try my best not to let my frustrations show, but for heaven’s sake just take a minute and think before you call us, please.

Police, and Ambulance for that matter (I would like to say that people don’t call Ambulances unless it is a genuine emergency, however I know for a fact that sadly, that’s not true either), are emergency services.   We are not social workers.  We are not people to call because your 8 year old child has shouted at you.  We are not a taxi service. We are not counsellors for your mate who has had 1 (or 5) too many pints.

We are however, the people who risk our lives to protect yours.  Who hold your hand when you’re scared.  Who comfort you when we’ve told you the worst news imaginable. Who protect you by arresting those who have hurt who. Who try our best to help you in whatever way we can.  No matter what you’ve done to us before, or what you may do to us in the future, we are always there when you need us most.

A Copper’s Confidence

I learnt very quickly in this job, that there is an overwhelming assumption by members of the public, that as a Police Officer, you have the answer to everything, and if you don’t, it’s your fault.

As quickly as I learnt this, I realised that actually it is perfectly reasonable to apologise and go and find the answer, rather than fumbling through pretending you know what on earth you’re talking about.

When the abuse is hurled at me because I’m “not good enough” or the response I’ve given is “not satisfactory”, I guarantee that the person shouting at me hasn’t stopped to think – is it my first day? Have I dealt with this before? Have I just come back from annual leave and been given a job which I know nothing about? Is my brain all over the shop because of the job I dealt with before this one?

In this job, we are expected to be experts in everything. But that is a physical impossibility. The reality is that we are a jack of all trades, and a master of none. However somebody thinks I can know everything about everything, ranging from theft to murder, traffic offences to drugs, wounding to child neglect, I do not know.

All I ask from the public is patience. Work with us, we will get the answers we need (maybe not the answers we want), but give us time. Funnily enough we are often aiming for the same goal.

Confidence is a massive part of our job. I’m not. I doubt so many of my decisions, because what if somebody would do it differently? What if something goes wrong? Truth is, sometimes you just have to make a decision and cross your fingers. As long as you can justify what you’ve done and why, you’ll be okay. Sometimes we have the pleasure of navigating a complaint along the way, but it’s just another hurdle to jump.

I have been incredibly lucky in that throughout my career so far, I have had the support of one individual. No matter what department I’ve worked in, or what challenge I’ve faced, I knew I had that support of one person. I was introduced to them whilst I was at University and actually ended up interviewing them as part of my dissertation (Quite the role reversal!), but since then, they have proof read every application, believed in my ability when I didn’t really believe in myself, and now has an element of “I told you so” about them, as I’ve got to where I’ve always wanted to be! But it remains a fact that I have got here because of their support, and for that I will always be grateful.

With time comes experience, and with the experience comes confidence. Until it goes wrong. With me, it did, and for a while I felt like I was back at square one (not that I told my shift that!) It was a night shift, and I was crewed with my work bestie. (You’ll remember her from the KFC incident!). We got sent to a run of the mill domestic, where an angry man was drunk and aggressive towards his family. When we arrived, we thought he had already left, but sadly that wasn’t the case. This culminated in us having a fight in the hall way, getting locked inside the address, losing a radio, and not being able to get handcuffs on. I was scared. We had back up in the form of another car, and a van for transport, but I didn’t know how they were getting in. I felt so trapped. When our colleagues arrived, they managed to get in via the back door and I have never been so relieved to see them. It all ended alright, we were battered and bruised but okay. My colleague received a sprained wrist, and I got concussion, but we (literally) bounced back.

But that job ruined my confidence for a while. My head was filled with “what ifs” and I didn’t really want to be single crewed.

I think a talent of the job is to come across confident on the outside, even if you feel like you’re drowning on the inside. We’re always there to help people through whatever it is that’s happening in their lives, and we will always put their needs before ours. It’s what we signed up to do. Protect the good and lock up the bad.

My First Fatal

When I was still in my probationary period at work, I did an attachment with the Traffic Unit.

I dealt with drink drivers, people on their mobile phones, crashes, but never a fatal.  In fact, the biggest trauma I had to deal with on that attachment was less than a broken bone.  I was lucky.  These guys & girls deal with trauma on a nearly daily basis.

But it did mean that when I was by myself, my first fatal would be just that, my first.  Nobody to hold my hand so to speak, and guide me through.  Very much in at the deep end.

It was a Sunday.  I really do remember it like it was yesterday.  The fact that so many months on, there are still flowers at the scene I think speaks volumes.  It was his birthday recently.  I didn’t know that, not until I saw the “32” balloons hung at the scene.

On this Sunday, my best friend was working.  She is a Special Constable and we have never been crewed together.  We’ve worked the same shift over the years, but never been crewmates.  She text me and told me that she was coming in on the Sunday and I couldn’t wait! Loads to catch up on to make a late shift fly by.

I joked with her when she came in.  It was a Sunday, the chances are bugger all would happen and it would be a slow shift!  Well how wrong was I?!

Off we went on a tootle around the town, chatting rubbish and catching up.  I heard my colleague on the radio call up to say that Traffic were on their way to an accident, but were some distance away.   When I heard the road name I called up and said we would go, as we were literally turning into the road.

So what did we know when we were on our way?  We knew there was an accident.  That was it.  Not how many vehicles, what level of injury, na-da.

When we arrived, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure where the scene was.  There were people and vehicles bloody everywhere.  There was a bus with its hazard lights on, so we presumed it was involved, and parked up behind it.  I jumped out and got my high-vis, when somebody ran towards me and said a child had been knocked off their bike.

To this day I don’t know what they were chatting about, because there was no child or bike involved.  There was however, a man, lying face down in the middle of the road.  There was also a car, with the biggest bloody dent in the bonnet and virtually no windscreen.  The driver was stood there.

I called up and asked for Ambulance.  They were already on route, 30 minutes away. Brilliant.

I called up for an ETA for traffic. They were already on route, 20 minutes away. Brilliant.

It’s a bit of a blur, but it was at about this point where I looked at my crewmate, my best friend, and without saying much we realised that the casualty needed some serious help, now. He was barely breathing.

I felt so out of my depth. How quite I was “in charge” of this incident was beyond me. Ambulance had rung my mobile and were requesting updates as to the man’s condition and what we were doing.  Air Ambulance were also on their way.

Our colleagues had turned up and started putting cordons in place. Bollocks to any spinal injury, we rolled the man over, ripped what was left of his top open, and started CPR.

My bestie was ace.  She’d never done CPR before but you wouldn’t know. She took it all in her stride and just kept going. It’s bloody knackering but she just carried on.  She alternated with my colleagues, I was still on the phone to Ambulance and trying to find a de-fib. Nobody knew where the nearest was. Traffic still weren’t here.  Nor were Ambulance.

I knew this man was going to die.  In fact, I knew he was already dead, but we can’t pronounce death, so we carried on working on him.

Never in my life had I been so happy to see a traffic officer.  He flew up to us, literally launched me the de-fib, and ran back to his car to get the rest of his first aid kit.  They carry more than the Response cars, and quite frankly a bandage wasn’t going to cut it today.

By the time he came back, damn near the entire Traffic Team had descended, plus a couple of Ambulances, and I could see the Air Ambulance. Funny how everyone arrives at once!  We had the de-fib up and running.

Ambulance took over at this point, thankfully.  I began grabbing witness details. Names, addresses, what they saw, the usual.

A while later, talking to one of the witnesses, it hit me. All the machines that had been frantically beeping away, weren’t.  All of the Paramedics and Doctors that were passing orders and talking to each other, weren’t.  Despite the sheer number of people around, to me it was silent.  That’s when I realised, he really was dead.  How I didn’t just fall apart I couldn’t tell you.  I carried on speaking to those that needed speaking to, just “doing my job”.

Eventually, we got relieved by other officers.  They took over the scene whilst the Investigators did their thing, so that we could go back to the station.

We didn’t say much at all on the way back. I think I was concentrating on breathing & driving rather than crying to be honest.

I don’t really know what happened after that.  I know we had a shit-tonne of paperwork to do, a debrief was had with our supervisors, and some food was eaten. I don’t remember much more than that.

That was pretty much our shift done. We spent hours down at the scene. Time flew.  Just before I left, a colleague gave me a cuddle (dangerous!) and asked if I was okay. “Yeah I’m fine” I said. Not entirely true, but I didn’t know how I felt, not yet anyway.

I took my kit off, jumped in my car, and cried most of the way home.  It’s funny isn’t it, how there is such a divide, somehow, between work and home. As soon as I took my kit off, I was in home mode, and my emotions got the better of me. But I needed to cry.  We aren’t superhuman, we are just people. I think I was in shock.

I can never thank my crewmate, my best friend, enough for that day. I literally couldn’t have done it alone. Those that are with you through the best and worst times really are invaluable.  You can’t always be strong, but you can always be brave.

You can only do your best, but what if your best isn’t enough?