It’s hard to return home, to go back to some level of normality. How does one decompress after experiencing things like the last week? I really have no idea, some on my team have voiced the same opinion, others are thinking the same but are keeping it the Q word (I still dare not say it…) I know this because I know them well, I’ve been living in such close quarters with them for days now, I couldn’t tell you how many days because I have to keep asking people what day it is! We’ve eaten together, driven round London together, we’ve all smelt shockingly bad at times, and we’ve done it all with a smile….
I have never been prouder to be a police officer!
I had my entire outlook on humanity destroyed on Saturday night in Tottenham, people I’d never met, never even spoken to were out there and they were trying to hurt me, they were trying to hurt my officers and our community. There were times when we were in nothing short for our lives, when gangs were throwing barrages of bricks at us, when there were overwhelmed numbers of people rushing at our line trying to push us back, many of whom had metal bars and sticks, swinging them wildly at us, and other members of the public.
A comment I made on Twitter seems to have received some media attention. At one point I broke my ASP, the top section was just no longer there after striking someone on the leg, metal fatigue, wear and tear, faulty product? Who knows. But I will say one thing, when that happened I was in genuine fear for my life, and for the life of my officers. To quote Common Law “If you have a genuine and honestly held belief that you or another are in imminent danger. You may use such force as is reasonable and necessary to avert danger, stop or prevent a breach of the peace or to save life”.
And I did, my genuine and honestly held belief was that these people would have done us serious damage, they would have overrun us, there were more of them than there were us and they were a lot more mobile, so yes the force I used was reasonable and I can assure you it was necessary and I am here alive now. If you want to criticise me for this then please don’t do it from the comfort of an armchair, send me a message here or on Twitter and I will happily talk to you about it and explain why.
Then seeing the wholesale looting and sacking of shops and homes across London over the next two days added further to my jaded outlook on life, how could people behave like this, how can they want to “kill a fed” just because of our job?
And then something happened to change that, something that has restored my faith in mankind. The Walthamstow Respite Centre, a group of people who wanted to do something for their community and to help those of us who were out on the streets. I can’t remember how I found out about it now, someone must have Tweeted at me, but I was in the area so I popped by (as most of you know by now I will go to pretty much any length for a cup of tea) and when I got there I was sat down and fussed over, provisioned with my first cup of tea of the day from a real cup. I chatted to someone called Kate, who I’d been chatting to since, and then I had to go. One of my team in the car didn’t quite understand what was going on, but did manage to insult the Borough Commander when she came inside and shouted “What moron has parked a blue BMW in front of my police car”, he looked quite sheepish when he came outside to move it. Even more so when he went to leave the Walthamstow Respite Centre and turned left down a one way street, only to be stopped by a PCSO on a bike “What the hell do you think yo… Evening Sir” it made us smile…
More info can be found here http://postordinandy.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/community-in-action/ or please follow them on Twitter @StMarysRespite
I’ve been back there every day since, I’ve passed the word to other officers, it’s gone out over GT and local talkgroups, I’ve seen notices all over the place. On Thursday I was at my lowest ebb, I’d been in court getting something. On my way into the Magistrates court I showed my warrant card to the three officers guarding the door and got a “good afternoon Sir”, then went inside, showed the security guard and went to walk round the metal detector, wasn’t allowed, had to take off my harness and put it along with my bag through the x ray machine, then walk through the metal detector which went off, then I was wanded which alarmed on the spare pair of cuffs in my back pocket, then I was given all my PPE back and allowed in. I am unsure why that needed to happen or what on earth the point of it was, but it annoyed me.
While I was in the court my team had to go off elsewhere so I was all alone in London, my phone was about to die and my wallet was in the car, I just wanted to sit down and do my paperwork! So I headed off to the Respite Centre, within seconds of getting there I was issued a cup that never seemed to be empty and some cake, and then some chilli, I can’t describe how amazing this made me feel, Kate and many of the other people there, it made me feel normal again.
And there are countless other examples of this happening, not just in London but all over the UK people are coming out and supporting the police, and one another and the message is being sent that this is not acceptable. To my eye it looks like the silent majority just got a voice, and boy are they using it…
I’ve got to go back out in a second, this entry has been an emotional one that’s taken hours to write. In the last week I have stood shoulder to shoulder with police officers from across the UK, I have met officers from as far afield as Fife, spent time talking to a PSU from Cumbria, been backed up by officers from Kent and Northampton while responding to a shout, I have felt an overwhelming level of support from ACPO ranks, the like of which I have never experienced before. To see Bernard Hogan-Howe out on the streets of Croydon, in full kit with his PPE on the news and listening to his message made me stand up a little straighter. The comments from Sir Hugh Orde and Tim Godwin have been fantastic, and other senior officers up and down the country have all been doing their bit.
On Tuesday we took the street back with an unprecedented police response there were 16000 of us out there, some of us had worked 22 hour shifts the night before, some of us longer but we were there. Members of the Special Constabulary were there, some of them had relieved permission from their employer to turn out, some of them had just walked out of work, they all answered the call. Retired police officers flocked back to us, and supported us in the station, volunteers were there doing anything they could, even if it was just making cups of tea. My phone was going wild with texts from friends in other forces updating me as to the location of their PSU’s, everyone was coming to London. But this isn’t just about those who came to London this is about those who backfilled roles in their local area to release the PSU officers to come to us, the specials hundreds of miles away who worked a 12 hour night shift and then went into their day job, got a few hours sleep only to do it all again. On some boroughs CID officers turned out in mismatched items of uniform and were out answering calls. On my way home I ran into a van being driven by a Detective Super who seemed to be having the time of his life driving round and doing, in his own words, “proper police work”…
We were on the streets, we were visible, we spoke to people and reassured them, officers from Cumbria were constantly being asked where Cumbria was, I believe they wanted to make a sign saying “It’s the Lake District”. Seeing vans with HEDDLU on out and about in Hackney was great, many of the locals had no idea what was going on. The acts of disorder that occurred in Manchester and Birmingham had us all chomping at the bit wanting to blat up there to assist colleagues in those force areas. I spoke to many officers from GMP who’d come down to help us and were concerned about their own area. I wish I could have done more for you chaps.
And then there is the unseen side of this, the partners and loved ones of us all. The ones who sit at home worrying about every knock on the door, staring at the phone willing it not to ring. Only seeing your partner for a hour a day, and most of that time they spend asleep, is one of the hardest things ever. But your support enables us all to carry on doing this job and we love every single one of you for it. We’re all very sorry that we’ve text you and said we’re fine when we’re actually in the carrier on the way to another pocket of disorder, or that we’ve not replied to your messages and calls because we were in a riot. But we all love you to bits, and we’re all going to spoil you when we get home in some way.
My views on those who have looted and caused disorder have been widely published elsewhere, the Toothbrush comment seemed to go down quite well with the team at Janes Police Review, so I won’t bore you with those. But I would remind you that so far we’ve made more than 1000 arrests, charged loads, seized more items than we’ve had evidence bags for. And our work is not yet done, we are just scratching the surface, there is hundreds more hours of CCTV for us to look at, more intelligence to follow up and more support from the public, without the help of the public a lot of the arrests to date could not have been made. We’re still coming, we won’t stop coming until this is over and justice is done.
To the Members of Parliment who have criticised us or mocked us, I say this: you disgust me, you sit safely in your palace protected by my colleagues your personal protections officers are my colleagues, we all face huge levels of danger on a daily basis and we are doing our best. Your unhelpful and frankly ill-informed criticisms and little snipes in the media sicken me, dishearten me and make my job a heck of a lot harder. If you feel compelled to pass comment on things then come out on to the streets with us, come and meet those of us who were on the front line, do not meet Chief Constables resplendent in tunics, do not wander around control rooms miles away from disorder. To you the whole world smells of paint, to me it smells of smoke and petrol!
So to all of you, police officers, special constables, police staff, volunteers, partners of police, members of the public, members of the press, every single person who has supported us, I offer you my thanks and want to remind you of this. If you need us, we will come.
I love this country, I love my job… And this is why we do it
PS: Over the week there have been a number of people who have told me I’m in the wrong job. I can confirm I will NOT be applying for the post of Commissioner of the Met, I can further confirm that I am NOT Batman. But I would be willing to be the next Doctor…