Archive for the The Job – Experience category

February 26th, 2012

It’s just not fair

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

At the moment, in the control room, we are doing one day about on controlling positions. This means that one day you are the controller which means you take all the stress and the next day you assist. When you assist, you tend to spend most time updating logs, making and taking calls, while the controller has responsibility for picking up and dealing with all the logs.

Previous posts will show just how busy and stressful it can be.

I had one of those days as controller this week. We had firearms incidents, a stabbing, a high risk misper (which usually means everyone available wasting hours of times looking for people who threaten suicide but never go through with it). All in all it meant, high intensity policing with nobody available for all the other run-of-the-mill incidents.

My ‘assistant’ spent the entire night taking the piss about how busy we were.

So the next night, when I was assisting, he was the controller. Fair is fair so I expected, nay, prayed, for as busy a night as I’d had. After 5 minutes we hadn;t had a job with was pretty gutting given that I;d had at least 2 immediates in my first 5 mins. So I started doing what is all but banned in the control room; I started saying how ‘quiet’ it was. You’re not allowed to mention the word ‘quiet’. In fact, much like the ‘Scottish play’, it can only ever be referred to as the ‘Q’ word.

An hour of “it’s too QUIET in here”, “it’s bloody QUIET, isn’t it?” and as many variations as possible later, and it was still bloody quiet. We didn’t get a single knife job, no firearms incidents, not one robbery. Even the fights were over and done with before we arrived. Our potentially high risk missing person turned up 15 minutes later at a mate’s house. No heads in a bag, no dismembered torsos of a man in his late fifties, nothing, nada, bugger all.

So for the next few shifts I’m still on a mission to get my own back. If it comes to it, I’m gonna walk out of the control room for a few minutes, go into the lobby, and make a few 999 calls myself.

February 3rd, 2012

Whoops, there it goes

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

Another spell of bad weather, another opportunity for certain scumbags to get a  free car.

We’ve been having a spate of car thefts this week as people discover their windscreens frosted up. I’ve been getting up a few minutes earlier than usual, scraping the windows down and then using the heater to blast off the internal condesnsation off the windscreen, much like most drivers in the winter.

Some folk think it’s a good idea to go out to the car, turn the engine on and then go back in the house while the engine warms up the heater and the car does all the work. And some of those folk don’t have a car any more.

We’ve lost some good quality ones this week, stolen off the drive in what car thieves must think is Christmas. The hapless car owner comes out to get into a nice, warm and thoroughly defrosted car only to find there it was, gone.

Psst, it;s not a very good idea to give thieves free and easy access to your worldly goods, even if it is bloody cold.

January 22nd, 2012

See this Ad

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

I guess most readers will have seen the recent ad from the British Heart Foundation featuring ex-footballer and actor Vinnie Jones demonstrating how to do ‘hands-only’ CPR?

It seems that people have been dying because people who may have been able to keep them alive until paramedics arrived were reticent to do mouth-to-mouth, either because they didn’t really know what to do or they didn’t like the thought of giving mouth-to-mouth to someone they weren’t in the process of shagging.

I’m glad they have come up with this angle which may encourage more people to give CPR, especially in the light of  one experience I had.

One day I was at home when one of my neighbours knocked on the door saying they were concerned for another neighbour who wasn’t responding. I climbed over the garden fence and saw her slumped in her chair in the living room. I banged on the window trying to attract her attention wondering whether she was asleep, collapsed or dead. I couldn’t be sure whether or not I saw some movement in one of her hands or whether I was imagining it.

I went round to the front of the house and got my neighbour to ring 999 whilst I broke in through the front door. When I found the lady in her chair, she was clearly dead, there was no pulse but she was still warm. She was in her late 70s or early 80s and I weighed up in my mind whether I should do CPR. I convinced myself that I hadn’t seen her move at all and I didn’t really know what to do though I had done it on that Annie dummy years ago.

I waited for the ambulance and the lady was eventually taken off to the mortuary.

I felt dreadfully guilty about this for ages after. I was one of those people who this current advert is targeting. After much soul searching I booked myself on a first-aid refresher and resolved that if ever the situation presented itself again, I would take positive action.

Some years later I was sitting just outside the town centre in my patrol car. It was a regular layby next to a dual carriageway where we could sit up for any unsuspecting transgressors of the traffic laws.

My attention was grabbed by someone banging on my passenger window who told me that a man had collapsed on the path not 100 yards away. I quickly drove round to see a small crown gathered around a male who was lying on the pavement.

A man in his sixties had collapsed as he was walking back from town. I couldn’t find any pulse so I put him onto his back and took a deep breath, tilting his head up and pinching his nose I blew into his mouth. I could hear gurgling in his throat of a liquid nature. As I pulled my mouth away from his the lungful of air I had just blown down his throat came back at me faster than I expected and vomit from his airways spurted into my mouth.

Fuck!

I was surrounded by people who were all staring at me waiting for action, nobody else was stepping forward, I was spitting someone else’s vomit onto the pavement. I wanted to say, ‘bollocks, sorry folks, he’s dead’ and leave it at that. If I hadn;t had an audience, perhaps I might have done just that and waited for the ambo crew to try their magic.

I tipped him on his side and fingered around his throat trying to remove any debris by a combination of shaking his head and the same sort of action you have when trying to remove jelly from a bowl with your fingers.

I didn’t have one of those resuci-aids mouth masks that you can use to give you some protection so I used the next best thing. I took out my hanky, placed it over his mouth and tried again. The chest compressions seemed to dislodge more vomit and soon I was into a rythym. A couple of breaths and some chest compressions.

I have no idea how long I was doing it for. It was probably only a few minutes but it seemed like hours and boy was I knackered by the the time the ambo crew got there.

There was no coughing and spluttering from the guy followed by him sitting up, asking where he was and then wandering off home to read his paper. No Eureka moment, he was still dead when the ambo crew arrived.

They shocked him a couple of times and loaded him on board. One of the crew said they had gotten some signs of life so were going to work on him before blue lighting it to the hospital. They must have worked on him for a good 30 to 40 minutes. In all my time in the job I’ve never seen an ambo crew trying to revive someone for longer.

They got him going again and we raced off to the local A&E.

The guy died the following day.

The first thing I did when I got back to the nick was get one of those little resuci-aids mouth masks which I carried on my belt at all times.

I had occasion to use it once more before I came off the streets. How lucky was I, most officers never have to try and revive anyone, I’ve done it three times.

Maybe if I’d seen the Vinny Jones ad I’d have done it four times.

January 15th, 2012

Always frustrations

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

You know those simple everyday frustrations which people put in your way, sometimes for good reasons, which stack up to make your day more difficult than it could be?

Like phoning the local hospital to find out if a road crash victim is improving, stable or getting worse. You set up a codeword with the ICU staff so that they know it’s the police calling so when you call them, you quote the codeword, they know it’s you and give you an update on the patient’s condition.

Then you get the numpty who seems to be out of the loop on working practices and refuses to divulge any information over the phone. They tell you they won’t release any info over the phone but if you send an officer they’ll let you know (that there’s no change). So a police officer gets  to do the hospital run which diverts them from dealing with someone else who wants to be seen, has to do a round mile trip of 20 miles, just to be told there is no change.

And this is the same ICU department who dealt with a stab victim who managed to tell his mother, as he collapsed across the doorstep, that his girlfriend had stabbed him, was rushed to ICU, let  ‘his mother’ in to see him after life-saving surgery, who had a 2 minute word in his ear and walked out without enquiring with staff about his condition. When his real mother arrived she was refused access on the basis that his mother had already been, whereupon it was revealed the women who had visited first was the mother of the offender who offered a few words of wisdom to the critical victim along the lines that if he wanted to actually walk out of the hospital alive he might want to rethink what happened to him.

When staff realised that the had failed to check the ID of the first woman, and let the real mother in, she found out that her son had miraculously managed to stab himself a few millimetres from his heart and no partner was involved at all. No crime was ever recorded.

January 10th, 2012

Too much time in a pigeon hole

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

That’s where a lot of people in the police service spend their existence.

Everyone considers their department the most important. The Sexual Offences Unit is out there protecting victims of some of the most life-affecting traumas. The Domestic Violence Unit is trying to stop women being murdered by their ex-partners. The Burglary squad is trying to protect people from having their lives and houses intruded upon. The DI is trying to protect his crime figures from going  up and thus protecting his arse on the chair of his office.

All of them have a ‘stake’ in the stuff we deal with day-to-day in the control room.

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time will be fully versed with the pressures front-line officers are under to deal with all the jobs that come our way, every morning, noon and night on every day of the year. Put simply, there are not enough officers to deal with all the workload we get and every single shift every single day we tell people we are sorry but we’re not coming for maybe a few hours to a few days and longer.

When you get an allegation of a sex crime the specialist unit calls up or types on the log that they want to treat this job as a priority. When we get what might be a high-risk domestic incident which may or may not end up with a dead body (usually it doesn’t but you never know) the DV unit either calls up or writes on the logs that this job needs to be dealt with as a priority. When a burglary comes in where there is a whiff that we might be able to detect the offender, the Burglary Squad either calls up or writes on the log that they want this job treated as a priority, you get the picture.

Sometimes we get all three types of jobs at the same time and all the departments are making their demands. None of them see the overall picture and none of them accept that police officers are sometimes really really busy.

Yet when their job doesn’t get the priority they think it deserves, it’s the controller that gets it in the neck the next day when the arm-chair quarterbacks have had their five-penneth.

It’s getting like you can’t go for a piss without getting someone else to make a decision these days the amount of  arse-covering going on, so if you haven’t covered your own arse as a controller and passed the buck to someone else to make any kind of decision, you better watch out.

December 27th, 2011

Just another day

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

I can remember a few years ago when Christmas Day was spent sitting in the nick, playing cards and watching TV and responding to 999 calls. We didn’t used to get many and if any did come in we took it in turns to go. We called it ‘fire brigade’ policing. This was because, generally, not much happened on Christmas day and if it did, people didn’t report it, not until at least Boxing Day or after that.

How things have changed.

Our Christmas Day was really busy. There was no sitting in the nick, no TV, no fire brigade policing. it was just like any other day. I’m not sure whether it was because more things happened or that people’s attitude to a day of peace and goodwill to all men has changed.

Of course, the people that run the police haven’t changed their attitude, so we have about 60% of control room staff on duty, 50% of the front line and about 1% of the non-front liners on duty, because Christmas means double-bubble and double-bubble means lots of cuts need to be made.

The trouble is that nobody tells the public. We had people demanding to see officers for petty car crime, (this is crime that we don’t normally attend on the other 364 days of the year), not only that but they called up at regular intervals throughout the shift wanting to know when they were going to be seen. We had almost a normal days worth of petty domestics, except instead of throwing furniture, or household items at each other when the ex turned up, they were throwing Christmas presents at each other. They were still assaulting each other and because we only had around 5 officers for the whole division (no neighbourhood or PCSOs), they had to wait all day too.

Time was when it was really unusual to ever see a Christmas Day arrest, I think we had  six or seven throughout the shift. And that wasn’t to mention the sudden death or the suicidal mother who took a relatively short couple of hours to locate in her car at the back of one of the shopping centres.

We didn’t have anyone to relieve us for our breaks which meant going single-crewed on a reasonably busy shift for a couple of hours, this goes hand- in-hand with the added stress trying to provide some kind of reasonable level of service.

Still, I expect the job saved a few quid.

 

 

December 18th, 2011

Christmas lights

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

It’s funny but whenever Christmas comes around and I see the fun and glee of people outside work, I always remember dealing with death and sadness. It always seems so much worse when people die at Christmas.

I recall the lonely old folk who just seem to give up and pass away on their own surrounded by Christmas cards, the people killed in accidents. We had to deal with a cot death a few days before Christmas last year and everyone seemed more affected than usual.

I’ve been checking out some Christmas posts over the last few years and came across this one back in 2005. It’s not a 200weeks original but it kind of summed up what some of us have had to do at Christmas while most people are tucked up safe and well at home and digging into presents and roast turkey.

Christmas 1992

It sparkled, in the distance on top of the town’s imported Norwegian Spruce, resemblant of something from a winter scene two thousand years before. Beneath, the lights glistened blue and green in the morning air, blue, green, gold and red. In the opposite direction something else glistened red. But this was not man made, nor did it appear on any Christmas tree we had ever known. It was getting bigger as we watched. How still we see thee lie, we and every one of those who stopped to stare.

While shepherds watched we stood and listened and caught short but clearly recognisable snatches of an annual message sent from on high via the speakers of the local shopping precinct.

When we joined, we were so proud long, long ago. Creases sharp as shears down our pristine shirts, we stood in our blue finery, our suits of battle ready to wage war and fight the cause. We were Sir Gawain, filled with the hopeless hopes of a quest at which only we could succeed. With heart and soul and voice we proclaimed our message throughout the land, loud and clear. We were the new centurions. How short was our reign, how tiny our empire.

Our message was lost in translation or perhaps no-one wanted to hear. Time and time again we took to the skies, our white silk scarves untainted from our many previous battles. Merrily on high we soared, dived and fired. Constantly and inevitably we were shot down and each time we bailed out or crashed and burned only to climb back into our machines once more to fly towards the sunset, only to run into snow, on snow.

As the pool of red grew cool then cold we put another blanket on. We shielded the sight and protected those who gathered from a scene not pictured on any Christmas card.

We turned people away in their hundreds. They shouted, they screamed, they protested. They just wanted to go to work. They needed to take their progeny to school. We stood in their way. Arrogant and deliberately. Nothing better to do. Good will to all men.

Close by and covered in splashes of Christmas red lay the twisted monument to freedom, inscribed with an ancient rune from another land which, loosely translated, read “Kawasaki 750″. A steed of once shining silver who’s knight had ridden his last joust. And the angel of the lord came upon him. Twenty nine years old. Plucked from his family four days before a star once more shone brightly in Bethlehem. Why did it always seem so much more tragic at this time of year? His children will still question long after the last snow has fallen crisp and even. His wife will weep as deeply when the rolling of the stone is celebrated. His mother will mourn as greatly in summer as now. At least in heaven the bells are ringing.

What went through your mind when you heard the last triumphant trumpet’s blast? The radiator, one of our number replied, for that is our privilege. Some believe that in order to be born another soul must die immediately before. Will you be reborn? If the messiah comes back in four days time on a motorcycle only we will know.

Our message was lost in translation or perhaps no-one wanted to hear. Perhaps we should have set it to music.

Merry Christmas, one and all, merry Christmas.

 

 

December 17th, 2011

Another one bites the dust (Christmas, that is)

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

I got reminded today by Mrs Weeks that I ought to have sorted out my Christmas shopping by now. Mt daughter remarked that actually, I didn’t have to do any shopping, not until Christmas Eve, because all i do is go to Tescos and buy some chocolate oranges for the kids and Ferrero Rocher for the wife. She is, naturally, quite correct.

Being a bloke of habit, I have, of course, done bugger all. So I’ve spent the afternoon on Play.com, as I usually do. I then spent a while on Argos.co.uk looking at laptops. (second child is off to uni next year).

I’ve placed an order at play and used their special delivery option, so I hope they come good before next weekend, and I have chosen a laptop and given the catalogue number to Mrs Weeks who has promptly popped into town and purchased said item.

What more does a man need to do at Christmas?

The job has kindly fucked up my Christmas again this year so they have changed my late shift on Christmas Eve to what is basically a night shift only I leave an hour earlier than the real night shift, and then I have to be back at work by the time the Queen opens her mouth. Consequently, we have cancelled Christmas and will be celebrating the festivities on Boxing Day.

When I retired, and knowing that I’d come back as a civvy, I had this naive  idea that it was the end of working at Christmas and Bank holidays, more time at home with the wife and kids and an end to having my shifts pushed and pulled at the whim of those working the spreadsheets. I should have known better.

Still, it’s always nice eating fresh roast turkey when everybody else is having turkey sandwiches.

December 13th, 2011

I don’t think it’s just us

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

We had an accident on one of the major roads this week, at work that is, not personally. It wasn’t particularly serious but one of the drivers sustained a head injury.

An ambulance was called. After about 20 minutes we called ambo control to find out an ETA for said ambulance to be told that they didn’t have one available.

The officer continued on with their dealing, making things safe, putting on lane closures, moving vehicles out of the carriageway, calling garages, taking details from those involved. Another 15 minutes later we rang the ambo control again, they still didn’t have a free ambulance. They rang us 10 minutes later to say they now had a free ambulance.

The ambulance arrived on scene 65 minutes after they were called. This was a head injury on one of the busiest roads in the force area and the guy had to wait 65 minutes. I’m not aware the ambulance control ever knew what the level of injury was, they don’t take many details and apart from asking of someone is conscious and breathing every bloody time you call them, I don’t think anyone knew the level of injury when they were called.

Anyway, I’ve noticed over the last few months that this is happening more and more. In my first few years in the control room it never happened. I can’t recall ever being told that there was no ambulance available. So when it happened for the first time earlier this year it was quite a shock. Then it started happening more often.

We had another case this week where someone was quite badly injured. We didn’t want to move them prior to a paramedic checking them out, again no ambulance was available and the officers took the decision to put the victim in the police car and take them to hospital themselves. Who knows what position they’d be in if their actions caused further injury or worse.

I have no idea about the internal machinations of the ambulance service. I can only presume that they are being subjected to similar cuts in service as the police. Doubtless, if they are, the ambulance senior managers are spouting forth about how they can manage without affecting front line service, at the same time as front line service is being affected. It can’t be a coincidence that we are getting more and more calls from ambo control saying they don’t have anyone to send.

December 11th, 2011

It’ll be all right when the new radio system comes in

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

The recent investigation into the Riots in the summer has found that the police Airwave radio system was found wanting when it didn’t work and officers were forced to use their own mobile phones to contact each other and the control rooms.

Prior to the introduction of the Airwave system, we had UHF and VHF systems. These had their limitations, they didn’t work sometimes and were subject to poor weather conditions, they were also insecure. I remember as a kid tuning into my local police force’s radio system and collecting all the weird and wonderful callsigns.

Airwave was the antidote to a poor radio system, secure and reliable.

In 1999 they said the system would costs something in the region of Ă‚ÂŁ2.3billion plus the cost of the equipment over the 22 years of it’s life.

We’ve been using Airwave for several years now and the findings of the riot inquiry will come as no surprise to anyone who has had to use the Airwave system. It didn’t work on the underground so BTP had problems until special equipment was put in. It doesn’t like working in buildings with a heavy metal content to the roof. Officers don’t mind this so much when they are having their breakfast in the local Tesco or Asda, as they can’t be contacted (except on their mobile phones).

In one of our divisions the worst place for radio reception is in the new police station, who’d have thought, a radio system that doesn’t work in the police station.

The signal falls in and out at will, people who have to listen to it will be familiar with the bucket of water or Dalek effect it has on speech when it decides to play up.

The masts are spread around the area but have a habit of falling over (not literally, they just pack up), this means the system won’t work at all in areas of the town and is more common than I think anyone foresaw. It results in officers being told to go back to the police station and do ‘fire brigade’ policing – only responding to emergencies – for health and safety reasons, which always strikes me as strange since it’s usually the emergency situations who pose the most risk to health and safety.

December 6th, 2011

Sad memories

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

In my 30 years, most of which was on the street, I got to deal with many road traffic accidents, quite a few of which were fatal. I used to work in a large sparsely populated area of the force which had several main roads through it. We used to get motorcyclists from all over the region come down during the summer just to race around these particular roads.

I used to arrive first before the Gucci traffic boys got there and had many a scary moment wondering if someone was going to die before help arrived.

I remember comforting a woman trapped in the passenger seat of her car telling her that her husband was doing OK and help was on the way while knowing full well he was dead right beside us.

I’ve just had a look at a new map which shows where every single fatality occurred between 1999 and 2010. 36,371 people killed on the roads of the UK.

I checked the area where I used to police and seeing all the little dots on the map brought back a memory of every single fatal I attended or knew of in my area, stuff I’d long since forgotten, like the little old lady who had a heart attack at the wheel and veered across the road into the path of an oncoming car, or the children that were killed when their vehicle overturned. Or the overpowering smell of alcohol and blood when a car left the road in the early hours of the morning and hit a tree killing the young driver instantly. His neck had been split wide open and he was just sat there in the driving seat, eyes still open.

You can check out your area at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15975720

December 2nd, 2011

Scratch 6 Burglars

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

I love it when a plan comes together.

The call came in as usual from someone who had seen 3 guys somewhere they shouldn’t have been. It’s a disused commercial premises. I’m not sure whether they went bust or just moved to India, but they left all the buildings. It’s quite a large area. From time to time it gets broken into by burglars chancing their arm that there is still stuff they can flog, metal & cable thieves who want to rip out the innards, or just semi-brave adventurers who want to photograph the dereliction and stick the shot sup on the Internet.

In a rare moment of surprise I found that I had 3 or 4 units to send to the scene. Using our mapping computer I directed people to cover the perimeter, called a dog and the chopper. Unusually, our dog was in the same county so he made and the helicopter was just 10 minutes away.

The first unit on scene hit the front gates, nothing seen. the second was around one of the side and found a hole cut in the fence. The third was sent into the grounds of a school which backed on to the complex. He could see 5 or 6 males inside with hammers, crowbars and bags. The officer hid in a bush and gave a commentary. The males walked towards another side of the site out of his view.

The helicopter and dog arrived at the same time. I love the helicopter getting to the scene before the job is over. It means I can watch the footage from their heat seeking cameras and watch the bad boys getting surrounded by the boys and girls in blue.

We’d been watching them for a good 15 minutes by the time the dog was put in. The baddies did a starburst and took it on their toes most of them heading straight towards where officers had been plotted up.

Two were quickly rounded up. Two made it over the fence and after initially running out onto the street, then broke into a jovial walk like they were out to buy a paper. You can’t tell expressions from a black and white negative image ona  screen, but I bet they changed when the firearms car pulled up beside them and promptly nicked them.

There aren’t many people can outrun an Alsatian at full pelt which made the spectacle of the chase somewhat shortened, but it looked great on screen. Especially when it took down the last of the burglars.

It might even make one of those Cop Action programmes on the TV one day. Put me in a good mood for the rest of the shift.

November 23rd, 2011

200 Weeks top tips for a happy life

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

It may seem sometimes that I whinge all the time about officers I’m controlling. I must say that these are generally the exceptions and most are reasonably hard working, decent officers.

To redress the balance I’d like to point out that I have worked with – and continue to work with – a few controllers who are nightmares too.

So here’s some of 200 Weeks top tips for a happy controlling life.

– being a police officer and dealing with muppets on the street is a difficult enough job without dealing with muppets in the control room.

– most officers do not start their day with the intention of making the controller’s life difficult, you should reciprocate.

– when the mind is occupied with digesting the details of the job you just gave them, driving like a looney and wondering what fate might meet them on arrival, it is easy to forget the address. So, when they ask for the third time what address theyre going to, just tell them. It takes twice as much effort and time to say “as already stated, 10 High Street”, or “for the third time, 10 High Street”,  as it does to say “10 High Street” and causes much less stress, to both parties.

– the job of a controller is to make police officer’s work easier, not the other way around.

– is it more important to stick slavishly to protocol and decline to do something which might take you 30 seconds rather than refuse and take a unit off the road for twenty?

– officers don’t generally call up to make your life a misery. Before you answer them try not to say “oh what the fuck does he want now?” because after the twentieth time it gets a bit wearing on the other controllers who have to put up with it all day.

– if someone asks a stupid question, it’s probably best just to answer it than to speak in a manner which makes you sound superior and cleverer than they are.

– we all moan and whinge from time to time but doing it non-stop from the start of the shift until the end just pisses your colleagues off.

– if you say to an officer you’ll do something, then try to do it rather than just say ‘oh bollocks, I’m not doing that’ and leave the officer with the impression it’s being done.

– if you make a mistake or forget something, just admit it and say sorry, bullshit rarely succeeds.

– try to get into work at least 5 minutes before the hour because the people you’re reliving did a minimum of that and probably double that, and the people who relieve you will do it also, if that means getting in and taking over before making your cup of tea then bloody-well wait for the tea!

So there we have it, some top tips to some of my control room colleagues. Most of us might do one of the above from time to time but some controllers have made an art of doing them all, at the same time, and it’s a bloody nightmare working with them.

If any readers would like to add a few more (and get your own back) feel free.

 

November 22nd, 2011

There’s always one

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

A police officer with attitude, that is. One of those ones you think if he talks to me like that, and I’m a colleague, how does he talk to members of the public?

PC Samms is just one such officer. He talks down to you, he demands things that others politely request. He speaks like the world owes him a favour and you should be lucky that he even graces the airwaves with his response.

Everyone is entitled to a bad day, there are things which go on in everyone’s lives which might cause us to be a little short with one another. By that example PC Samms must get divorced, have a relative die and be told he has cancer every day.

I’ve never met the bloke. From what I’ve heard so far I don’t want to. He starts the conversation the same way an exasperated teacher might when they’ve explained what 1+1 equals a hundred times and the child is still getting the answer wrong.

I think he may have been turned down for firearms or traffic or something and has been taken off his shift and given a role he really hates, at least that’s the way it sounds any time you have to send him to a job.

He’s not on my shift so I don’t talk to him very often, which is just as well since he’s one of the few people I’ve ever been short on the radio to, as in a ‘will you just shut up and do what you’re told’ kind of short.

Apparently it’s not just me he winds up. Within 15 minutes of our little on air tete-a-tete I had 3 phone calls saying it was about time someone spoke to him like that. Trouble was that it didn’t feel all that good, to be honest. I kind of like having the reputation of being laid back and calm, and I am, generally. My radio partner took a call from an officer last week and they were discussing who was the controller on the next night shift. I heard her tell the officer it was going to be 200, then she said, ‘Oh, I’ll tell him that’. When the call ended she said to me that the officer had said she really liked it when I was on the radio because I never flustered and it made them feel much calmer about the jobs they were involved in.

Then an officer called up and just said: ‘Will you get someone down here now, I need a bit of assistance’. It wasn’t one of those calls where an officer is in trouble, you tend to know when someone is shouting for help, but rather the sound of an impatient man who was frustrated with whatever he was dealing with and wanted to let everyone know.

I looked at the radio console to see who was calling and didn’t recognise the number which was that of a special constable. I enquired where he was and what it was he was dealing with so that I knew who to send, how many to send and to where I had to send them. I got an exasperated reply with the street name only. It turned out he was doing a drugs search on a car full of lads and wanted another pair of hands to assist. But I didn’t find that out until I’d asked another two times.

Now I imagine this works at both ends of the radio, officers about us and us about officers, but when the on air transmissions finished, I sat back and said to nobody in particular “What an arse.”

My colleague turned to me and said: “You know who that was, don’t you?” I should have twigged but didn’t. It was PC Samms using someone else’s radio.

I might have known. That was the rest of my shift spoiled.

November 16th, 2011

Sleepy bo-bo’s

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

When I joined the job we used to work a four week/seven-day shift pattern. In other words we worked for seven days on lates, then two days off, seven earlies, three days off and seven nights, two days off.

We worked 8 hour shifts. I did this for many years. we got one weekend every 4 weeks but the beauty was that we finished work at 2pm on the Thursday and weren’t back until 10pm on the Monday.

Now we work a pattern of 5 week/3 & 4 day pattern. We work longer hours but we only work three or four days at a time. We get two weekends off every five but they are much shorter. Our short weekend starts at 4pm on the Friday and ends at 10pm on the Monday, while our long weekend starts at 7am on Friday straight after night shift then back at midday on Monday. It means we lose most of the Friday off because we have to sleep after nights. It completely mucks up your sleep pattern for your weekend.

The consequence is that I spend my entire life tired. They used to reckon doing the 7 day shift pattern for 25 years took 5 years off the average life expectancy, God knows what the current pattern does, but I can’t see it is much of an improvement.

The rest days after weekend nights are even worse; you finish at 7am Monday morning and go to bed, get up Monday afternoon and spend the rest of the day knackered because you had to get up early so you could sleep Monday night, then you spend Tuesday knackered trying to recover before going to work at 8am on the Wednesday for a day in the lecture room listening to pointless powerpoint shows while people with monotonous voices read what’s on the screen.

No wonder half the people fall asleep during training days, as I did this week. (not for the first time!)

Now they’re talking about changing our shift pattern again. I can’t wait.

November 14th, 2011

This week we have been mostly…

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

…acting as a taxi service for social workers who can’t be arsed.

Kiera is fifteen and in care. She’s in care because she doesn’t like being told what to do. She’s living in one of those care homes where staff are employed to live in for two weeks at a time and where the teenage residents get to do whatever the fuck they want without consequences. It’s an ordinary house in an ordinary street just like the one you don’t want next door to you.

When they put her in care the social workers decided to move her to a different town, twenty miles from her friends. This is so she can start afresh and not be subject to the bad influences which ’caused’ her to go off the rails. You know, those influences like never having any consequences.

Kiera doesn’t like being told what to do, so when they tell her to be back at the home by 9.30, she isn’t. Most nights.

Her carers all appear to be ethnic minority ladies with names like Honesty, Charity and Lovely.

Their role appears to be to call the police whenever Kiera doesn’t want to come home and then go to bed.

Everyone knows where Kiera is when she’s not at the home. She is back in her home town 20 miles away with her old mates. When she gets bored or when the alcohol has worn off her friends and they’ve gone home, Kiera calls 999 and says she’s a missing person and is standing by the railway station waiting for police.

Because it is the police’s fault if anything happens, the daily battle of wills between the two divisions involved, that where she lives and that where she frequents, ensues until it is decided whether one division will pop down the road, collect her and bring her all the way across the county to her home, or whether the division where she lives will send someone half way across the county to collect her. Or whether one will collect and meet the other half way and pass her on.

One thing is certain, Lovely will not get out of bed and drive across, neither will any of her colleagues in the out of hours emergency social services department (which seems to consist of someone on the end of the phone who gets woken up by the police several times a night but doesn’t actually do anything). Neither will Lovely employ the services of a taxi to collect her.

So this week we’ve been having a lottery each night for the time the Kiera call will come in. One night I got within three minutes and won first pick from the chocolates brought up by the front line shift a few days ago. So far we have collected her twice, the other division has collected her once, we’ve met half way once and spent one night telling the care home that as we know where she is, she isn’t missing and they should collect her themselves. This went on for over 4 hours between calls from the home, to the home, from Kiera and to Kiera and it all looked like it was going good and we had declined to have anything to do with collecting her until someone caved in and we collected her, again.

November 1st, 2011

Trick or treat?

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

Well I came back down to earth with a bump this week.

A lovely well-earned break from work with my family, relaxing, drinking, walking, pleasant surroundings, friendly people and much fun, and then get to work on Halloween and spend ten hours fire-fighting jobs we can’t attend.

A couple of  Halloweens ago, they decided to have a specific anti-social behaviour channel. Muggins got the gig which meant dealing with all the antisocial behaviour jobs across 50% of the whole force. The big idea was instead of having all the extra jobs you get at Halloween – and there are hundreds & hundreds – spread across 6 or 7 divisions, they lump them on to one radio controller and an assistant.

It was probably the most stressful shift in the control room I’ve ever had, and I’ve had many, many fatal RTCs, rapes and murders & serious assaults to deal with. I was run completely ragged. It was not aided by the fact that my ‘assistant’ was someone from the antisocial behaviour team who didn’t have much experience of radio work, didn’t have access to all the functions of the command and control system and was pretty much out of their depth.

It was absolutely non-stop and having to keep a handle on hundreds of jobs across half the force area was completely impossible. The supervisors had a handle on it though, when one of the divisions had a serious incident to deal with, the supervisors thought it best to keep the resources dealing with that job on the local divisional channel and send all the other units in that division onto the antisocial behaviour channel to carry out all their normal jobs. When the supervisor came over to tell me this is what they’d done my response was a simple “you’re having a fucking laugh”. Apparently they weren’t but as it happened none of them could get on the radio anyway because the airwaves were pretty much being used 100% of the evening.

Fortunately, this year I didn’t get the ASB radio channel and was on a normal division. It didn’t make the divisional channel any less busy, when I finished the shift we had over 150% more jobs on the system than we normally do.

It meant that coming in the day after Halloween we were so backed up with old jobs and all the usual stuff coming in that by the end of play we still had more jobs on the system than we did at the same time on Halloween and the last 2 hours of the shift were spent telling people why we hadn’t been able to see them, again.

October 12th, 2011

Of rosters and spreadsheets

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

I hate shift changes.

I like to be ordered, I like things the way I like them, things in their place (not that it helps me to remember where they are you understand, ask my wife). I like to know that in 6 weeks or 3 months time on a Friday I’ll be working this shift and the following fortnight I’ll be working that shift. It creates some semblance of order and harmony in my life, a working life of which has been throughly filled with disorder and disharmony.

So it really pisses me off when they send me an email saying in 3 month’s time my shifts have been changed to something really crappy, like another late turn. It pisses me off because I’m being mucked around and it pisses me off because the people that run the show ought really to be able to staff the control room without pissing on every other person’s chips. They ought to be able to staff it fully at all times to cover such amazingly surprising and shocking abstractions as annual leave, the occasional period of sickness and public holidays which we’ve have the temerity to sneak up on us every year like an Afghanistan IED at the side of the road.

Oh wait a minute, they’ve cut down the staff to the bone to save a few quid and have to  fuck about more and more people with increasing regularity.

They changed some staff on my shift last week, instead of working a late turn they were told to work an early turn, they did this with three months’ notice because with three months notice it doesn’t cost them anything, it just fucks our lives about. As they got a bit closer they realised the late shift were going to be short, so they changed some people from nights to lates. call me stupid but might it have made sense for the night turn to cover the early turn and then you just fuck off one set of people rather than two?

October 1st, 2011

Take another layer off

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

Sometimes working in the control room is like working in a submarine – it’s full of people who sooner or later smell – no (actually it is in some people’s regard), it’s like working in a little box, like a nuclear bunker. You leave the joys of the outside world and go into a room where most of the blinds are pulled down to keep unwanted light off the computer screens and people’s eyes, breathing what some architect somewhere euphemistically calls ‘air-conditioned air, then you emerge 10 hours later into the light and fresh air.

It’s been like that this week. The hottest days of the year, in bloody autumn for goodness sake – why can’t it have been like on my summer holiday? – I’ve walked into the control room and come at the end of the shift with no conception of what the weather’s been like.

Sometimes the only time you realise it’s pouring down with rain is when you notice it on the town centre CCTV.

We work in a strange atmosphere, it is usually the opposite of whatever you want it to be, and can be so at the same time for different people. I have never worn anything more than a shirt in the whole time I have been there, not once, ever, yet I sit next to people have been known to wear two fleeces on top of a jumper or cardi and we’re only a few feet apart.

It seems to have its very own micro-climates, which is very strange since I thought the whole idea of having an air conditioning system was that it was the same everywhere.

It really is a place where you can’t please everyone, and don’t the ones who can’t be pleased make it known?

September 29th, 2011

This week I have mostly…

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

…been  sending officers to offer a personal, tax-funded parenting taxi service for recalcitrant teenage girls who can’t be arsed to do what they’re told.

I can’t believe we have to put up with this shit, day in, day out.

What happens is Ms Single-Parent calls the old bill when little 15-year-old Chelsea decides she doesn’t need to follow the rules and wants to spend the night drinking fruit-flavoured vodka whilst being fingered on the swings by however many similarly recalcitrant spotty oiks happen to be out that night.

Mum usually says something along the lines of: “I want to report my daughter missing, again, they said if it happened again you’d go and collect her and bring her home.”

Of course the reply from the calltaker should be something like, “fuck off, who do you think we are, a free parenting taxi service, get off your arse, switch off the Sky box and go and get her yourself, you lazy cow.”

To which the reply will be either, “I’ve had a bit to drink” – funny how many parents are drinking the night their kids go AWOL – or, “I can’t leave the house ‘cos I’ve got six babies asleep.”

Whereupon the old bill turns round, lifts up it’s corporate trousers and shouts “take me roughly and don’t bother about the lube.” In other words, they create a log entitled “Missing Person.”

We then spend the rest of the shift driving round the town looking for Chelsea, knocking on all the addresses she’s been found before and generally doing stuff that a particular group in society should be doing, they’re called ‘parents’.

We sometimes do this several days running, and it’s not unusual to do it several times in the same shift. I’ve lost count of the times we’ve had a call from Ms (or, to be fair it is sometimes Mrs or Mr) Single-Parent (though it’s not exclusively single parents) saying, “As soon as the police left, Chelsea ran out the back door again.

We do this time and time again, meanwhile all the people who have been burgled and have been waiting 8 hours to see an officer get a phone call at 11 or 12 at night from their local constabulary saying, “Sorry we’ve had nobody free, are you available tomorrow?”, again.

The reason we do it is because nobody has the bottle to say to parents, sorry, that’s your job. And the reason nobody has the bottle to say this is because if Chelsea ends up face down in a ditch or the lads on the swings go too far, it will be the fault of the police.