A close friend of mine asked, ‘What are the different ways people react to police on scene?’
Seeing a police officer pull up outside your home, seeing a cop run towards a fight, or having our involvement in your life in someway will have an effect on your life in someway, it’ll generate some kind of emotional response. It all depends on the situation… and you.
To try and bring some light to this, I’ve decided to write about it from different perspectives.
You’ve called 999, you’re in need of help. You ask the operator for Police, and you’re put through to the nearest police call centre to where your phone is. You ask for help, maybe you’ve just been assaulted. Maybe your ex-partner who abused you has suddenly turned up at your house, an address you’d never told them, and you’re frightened of what they’ll do next. Maybe you’ve come home from holiday to find your house has been burgled (an old sergeant of mine referred to burglary as ‘house rape,’ something which has stuck with me).
You call the police and, depending on what’s going on, it gets assessed by the call handler. This is a civilian, not an officer, who takes your call and applies what is called ‘THRIVE’ – this is an acronym that, in a nutshell, scores what you’re saying to the handler against Threat, Harm, Risk, Investigative Opportunities, Vulnerability, and the Engagement level required. If any of these are immediate – such as the threat is now, the harm is high, the risk is high, the investigative opportunities need to be conducted in the ‘golden hour,’ there is high vulnerability, or the engagement level required is high, then you’ll get the emergency ‘Immediate’ or ‘Grade One’ response1.
From my experience, and the experience of many of my colleagues, each Victim will respond to you differently. If you’ve never called Police before, you will probably be quite an upstanding member of society, who has fallen afoul of one of the members of a sub-society that Police try to keep a lid on to stop them from spilling out into ‘normal’ society. This sub-society take up probably 90% of our time, where we try and just prevent them from bothering those who are wanting to live an otherwise decent life. Unfortunately, this 90% of our time is often spent dealing with this sub-society causing harm to their own members and then deciding they don’t want the Police to do anything about it… despite calling us to sort it out.
Say you’ve been burgled. This means that you’re probably doing alright for yourself and, thus, have things of value. Our call handler will advise you not to disturb the scene – don’t touch what’s been moved, don’t walk through where the suspect has walked. This is to preserve evidence for our SOCO / CSI (many forces have moved away from calling it CSI because of that bloody TV show). SOCO stands for Scenes of Crime Officers. A police officer will turn up and you’ll probably thank them for arriving, you’ll probably offer them a tea or coffee – depending on the state of your house, the officer will decide whether or not to accept (often, a house can be described as ‘I’d gladly accept a cuppa there,’ meaning it’s clean and tidy, or ‘You’ll want to wipe your feet on the way out,’ meaning it’s… well… a dive).
Usually, victims of burglary have never spoken to Police before, and will call us ‘Officer,’ and be quite courteous and polite. You’ll provide a statement, you’ll assist with us every step of the way, and thank us for coming.
It’s very rare that we deal with people like that.
Our main callers are those who have called us umpteen times before. They will expect us to magically sort out their lives, despite taking no steps to sort it out themselves. They’ll have been threatened via Facebook and want us to wave a magic wand and ‘get them (the offender) done,’ but refuse to provide a statement – and refuse to block the offender because ‘I want to see what they say about me!’
They may provide a statement, but then retract it, or never turn up at court. There will be hours upon hours of police time spent, day in, day out, with the same people. We’ll take a statement, we’ll put a crime report in, we’ll arrest the offender, we’ll interview them… the job will then get binned, because the Victim has decided that going to court is too much of a hassle for them.
We’ll be told that we ‘never did nothing’ last time, despite the Victim never assisting with the investigation or the case. We’ll turn up to an assault, the person will have a bloodied face, only to be told that they’re not bothered, it’s just a flesh wound, a scratch, and they don’t want us to do anything. We still have to record the crime, despite no assistance from the Victim.
A fight has just happened. Immediate response. All available units divert to the scene, an offender has made off but is being tracked by CCTV in the city centre. One unit goes to the victim who is bleeding heavily, an ambulance has been called. I’m in the unit that is going to hunt the offender, who is currently running along the streets, down alleys, popping back out on other streets. A description is passed. The cops with the victim have now said that there may be a knife involved.
I see them, my colleague pulls up to them in the car, we stop. They see us and run, I’m out. I’m giving chase – I’m wearing boots that are a kilogram each, a cumbersome stab vest with a Taser, a baton, handcuffs, two kevlar plates, gloves, torch, radio, bodyworn video camera, PAVA ‘pepper’ spray, ticket books, pocket notebook, mobile phones… the lot. The offender is wearing some Nike Airmax and a tracksuit. In short, they are going to be a lot faster than me. The best I can do is keep them in sight and hope that they go to ground (hide) and I can catch them that way. I’m giving updates via my radio as my colleague tries to cut them off using the Astra by driving ahead of them and cutting in, forcing them to turn left towards other officers who are now coming. The Firearms unit have decided it sounds fun and are on their way. CCTV is still tracking them.
Since there’s mention of a knife, Taser is in the forefront of my mind2.
They’re cornered. There’s officers on the other end of the alleyway they’ve just run down. I slow down, catch my breath. There’s no escape, and I don’t want to be scrapping with them whilst I’m out of breath. Both ends of the alley are closed off. It’s pitch black, so I activate the torch attached to my vest, meaning my hands are free but my way is illuminated. Cops on the other side start closing in, as do my colleague and I.
The offender is hiding between some bins.
We see him. I draw Taser. I shout ‘POLICE WITH TASER, SHOW ME YOUR HANDS,’ he shows me his hands, he keeps them where I can see them whilst I keep my ‘red dot’ (laser) trained on him. Any sudden moves towards a pocket, and he is getting tased. My colleage moves in and handcuffs him. He is compliant, he is arrested.
That’s a safe conclusion.
Other times, the offender will put up a fight. They’ll do whatever they can to not go to custody. They’ll punch, scratch, bite, spit, kick, the lot to try and get away from us. I’ve been lifted off the ground before in a choke hold, causing me to push my emergency button. I’ve been punched. I’ve been spat at, headbutted, kicked, the lot. Usually, this is when people are on drugs or alcohol and full of bravado. Luckily, my training means that I will, nine times out of ten, be able to manage the situation by getting appropriate restraints on and bring the offender to the ground where I can control them better. The sad thing is, most times someone puts up a fight is when I’m working alone, when they think they stand a chance against me. That’s when I use baton, Taser, and PAVA. If you fight dirty, I’ll fight dirtier.
The funny thing is, the most hardened offenders will be the calmest ones. They’ll know when it’s game over, and they’ll go ‘fair one, you got me,’ and come quietly. We’ll have a chat, a joke, and ask how the kids are doing. We’ll go to custody, they’ll be no bother, they’ll ask for a cup of coffee with six sugars, a ready meal and they’ll get their head down for a bit and have a nap. Arresting hardened criminals is so much easier than arresting the lower level ones.
The bystanders can often be the worst. Shoving a phone camera in your face, screaming about police brutality. Filming things halfway through the incident, where police have got hands on, conveniently missing out where the offender has been shouting and swearing, smashing bottles, punching people, and generally doing a whole host of things that would deem them arrestable. No, it’s all about the police brutality.
The bystander will film a police officer losing a fight. They’ll post it on social media, they’ll send it to their mates on Snapchat. Will they help? No. Likes on social media are worth more. Gone are the days that Joe Public will see an officer in need and jump in and help. I can count on one hand how many times a member of the public has helped me when I needed it, I have lost count of how many times a member of the public has decided to film what’s happening instead.
More often than not, the bystander will see an offence, but refuse to help police with the investigation. The offender, due to lack of evidence, is released without charge. The victim loses faith in the justice system, they don’t report things in the future. The police get the blame.
Think – if you’ve just been robbed, would you want someone to say ‘I saw that!’ and help catch who did it? Even if that simply means giving a description to Police?
Oh my days, these can be the worst. Parents are protective of their children, that’s instinct. That’s admirable, but when their child has become a victim, or even an offender, they can be the worst.
They’ll vow to kill the offender, to sort them out, to bring them to social justice. They’ll plead that their darling offspring wouldn’t harm a fly, despite CCTV showing their beloved child committing a crime. They’ll try and dictate what you, an officer, should do. They’ll complain on behalf of their children if they feel that their child didn’t get the outcome they wanted, even though their child didn’t support police involvement.
Referring back to my blog about death. How would you feel if you had a cop turn up and start asking loads of questions about your beloved’s lifestyle, if they were having trouble with anyone, if they were on drugs, if they were this, that, and the other? You’d probably be a bit annoyed.
That’s totally understandable. I often find that I explain my involvement to the bereaved before I continue, so that they know exactly why I’m asking my questions. If you can identify the deceased, I’ll need a statement from you to that effect so that the coroner knows, legally, that they are dealing with the person who has died, as they have been positively identified.
I could go on…
… but I won’t. There’s so many different ways that people react to seeing us. Some run away, some run towards us, some shut up and don’t say anything, others tell us everything we need to know. Some fight, some come quietly. Some cry, some shout. Some hate us, some love us. Some have never spoken to us before, others we are on first name terms with. Some have fallen through the cracks of society into a nether world that only the Police see, others are company directors who think they’re above the law, others are hard working people who need our help. It all depends on your circumstances, your upbringing, your experiences with us… who you are as a person.
1 Different force areas have different ways of classifying their jobs. They are, really, all the same, but with different words. ‘Immediate,’ or ‘Grade One’ means the THRIVE has been assessed as ‘high’ and a response is needed, well, immediately. Get the blues and twos going and get there ASAP. You then have ‘Prompt,’ or ‘Grade Two,’ meaning get there within an hour, ‘Routine,’ ‘Grade Three,’ and so on. Some calls, such as Routine, may take a day for an officer to attend, or you’ll get a call back from an investigation group who will take details over the phone. If something isn’t needing an immediate investigation, you may be offered an appointment so that the investigation can be started in a timely manner to suit you.
2 Taser is still quite a controversial weapon. 50,000 volts delivered through two barbs on wires is a very, very painful way to be incapacitated. It can, in very rare circumstances, have undesired effects leading to death. Every use needs to be justified. Even drawing it from the holster needs to be justified. Mention of a knife justifies Taser as it means that I have around 20ft of effective range rather than 2ft of baton. The injuries of a Taser, effectively used, are slight – two little holes where the hooked barbs have penetrated skin. The effects of a Taser are temporary, five seconds of NMI (neuro-muscular incapacitation) and then nothing. Your muscles tense, causing you to be incapacitated, and then you’re released from it and able to move again. The injuries of a baton, effectively used, are not slight at all – broken bones, extensive bruising, even death.