A blogger recently posted on the number of emergency services personnel who seek advice over stress and substance abuse. Another has posted a cracking account of an assistance shout he attended where a colleague was stabbed. From reading these blogs you would imagine that it is the antisocial hours, the continual sights of blood and gore, the fighting and the physical exhaustion, that drives us to despair.
On the contrary, here is the reason I am STRESSED:
Today I spend some time "surfing" the incident control system. Superficially I am seeing what jobs needed attending, but in actual fact I am trying to decide - based on said jobs - whether I should be available or unavailable the next time the control room calls my name.
The eight unresourced incidents (not counting the thirty waiting for Monday morning) include two teenaged girls missing from a care home for the seventh time in six months, a girl who has woken to find that her boyfriend had run off with £20, a man who thought he might have been about to be attacked by a dog in the park earlier on but wasn't, a twelve-year-old who was punched in the face by a thirteen-year-old, the thirteen-year-old claiming that the twelve-year-old kicked her first, and the resident of no.4 Boxham Green reporting that once again the occupant of no.6 has parked in his parking bay.
While I am as cynical as any other young go-getting single in her twenties, I have no problem with any of the above people calling the police. Let's face it, these people have always called the police and the police have always gone to see them. Ten or twenty years ago we would have gone to each one and said, "We'll have a look for them", "we'll go and get your £20 back", "we'll keep a look out for that dog", "we'll box both the little toe-rag's ears", "we'll go and tell him to wind his neck in". Each caller would have ended happy and we would not have put pen to paper once. PC Bloggs might even have gotten to all of these callers in one day.
On scanning further through the incident reports, however, I discover that each and every one of these incidents has been allocated a "crime report number". A crime report cannot be deleted, downgraded or ignored once in existence, or a cataclysm will end the universe. If I touch any of the crime reports for a quick read, knock at any of the victims' doors (whether or not anyone is in) or update the incident log to say that I have knowledge of the person in question and the officer attending should be wary, I will become the Officer in Charge of every one of these "investigations".
This will be the trigger event for the Department of Critical Emailing to get its cogs in gear for an email-fest. It is the trigger for Supervisory Chats with PC Bloggs about her mounting paperwork tray. It is the trigger for five calls from members of public asking why PC Bloggs is still sitting at the care home filling out a form when she could be with them filling out two others. It is therefore the trigger event for PC Bloggs to make herself another cup of tea and become immediately too busy to attend any of the incidents at all.
If, in the middle of juggling five crime reports for trivial or non-existent crimes the radio should blare to life to inform me that a colleague is in need of assistance, it is almost a relief. At last something that I want to do and can do with no consideration for form-filling or reprisals. Something simple, something human, something important.
Afterwards, there will be the form-filling and reprisals. A form to say that I discharged my incapacitant. Another one to say that it didn't work. A third to say that I scratched my arm. Another to say that I am fit for duty in spite of this. A statement about what I did and didn't do. A meeting about how I managed to lose a file of paperwork that I was holding while I rushed to my colleague's aid.
Whilst the blood, the gore and the fighting is tiring and traumatic, I would rather be out there doing that than sitting in front of a computer updating those five crime reports. I am sure most of you would agree (I said "most" - there's always one).
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