This is the official blog of Sgt Ellie Bloggs, a real live police sergeant on the front line of England. It's not the official opinion of my police force, but all the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't pay my salary.


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Monday, June 16, 2008

Treading Water

At 5 Grove Road is a man with a knife who's about to stab his wife. We know this, because he dialled 999 and told us so. After he stabs her, he's going to stab his son, then his daughter. And then he's going to kill the first cop who comes through the door. At the moment, that's likely to be me. I am therefore waiting at a distance that cannot possibly be misconstrued as coming through anything, waiting for units with taser to arrive and electro-shock the man to his sense.

It's Friday night in Blandmore, and while the man at Grove Road considers his options, a thirteen-year-old robber fresh out of custody climbs the stairs of a multi-storey car park and stands on the edge of the top level waiting to be noticed.

There's disorder brewing in the town centre. The 24hr newsagent has been serving out of hours again and the teenagers are gathering outside it and scuffling with each other. We've had five or six calls, but every time we go down there the kids are "fine". The inspector is deciding whether or not to shut the place down.

Three miles from where I sit drumming my fingers on the dashboard of my panda, a young wife deliberately writes out a final farewell to her husband, leaves it on the doormat and goes out without her coat or inhaler.

Finally the armed unit arrives and 5 Grove Road is surrounded, insofar as one officer can actually "surround" anything. Negotiators are called. Tactical decisions are laid out on the table. Some will result in the deaths of innocent people. Some will bring glory to a brave armed officer. Almost all of them will result in PC Bloggs sitting alone in the dark for a further nine hours.

At the car park, Kyle Rodgers gets bored of waiting to be noticed, and phones his mum to tell her he's about to jump.

In town, the kids start offering cannabis to passers-by.

The negotiators have Mr Kidson on the phone. They establish his basic needs: the deaths of everyone he knows, followed by his own.

Three miles away, a young husband comes home and begins a frantic search. He calls the police, but without knowing whether his wife is "high" or "medium" risk, the police aren't sure how quickly to attend. They set off slowly and are diverted to a report of a teenager standing on the edge of a multi-storey car park.

Mr Kidson decides that if he only had some cigarettes, he might not need to kill anyone.

The newsagent reports that two younger teenagers have just had their mobile phones snatched outside. The inspector gets on the phone to the chief inspector. If they shut down the newsagent, the press won't be good. If more kids get robbed, the press won't be good. It's a toughie. The inspector doesn't feel that there are enough police officers in Blandmore on a Friday night. The chief inspector is adamant that Something Is Being Done About It.

Hours pass. Laws are made and broken.

Mr Kidson stops cooperating with the negotiators. Armed units sneak into the house and taser him where he sits quietly in an armchair. He'd fallen asleep mid-negotiation and his knife-hand dropped to the floor as the armed officers entered, making them think he was about to slash himself.

In town, thirty teenagers slope off home and make plans to meet back there the following night. The inspector gets to the scene with closure order in hand, and wonders what all the fuss was about.

For another eight hours, officers plead with Kyle Rodgers to come down from the multi-storey.

In the meantime, somewhere by a river, a young wife slides off her shoes and slips down the bank into the dark cold depths. She doesn't tread water, and she sinks.


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'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in all good bookstores and online.

33 Comments:

Blogger Dad To Be said...

utterly true, utterly superb post and utterly tragic how we chase after the scum

16 June, 2008 01:58

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh God Ellie, that was the saddest post I have ever read. I hope that Jacqui reads it and takes notice of the fact that there are not enough officers to properly deal with the mayhem going on.

er "dad to be". Screwed up, distressed people are human beings, not "scum". Scum are paedophiles and rapists, and of course murderers. But would the guy at Grove Rd have really killed anyone? Was he not just some screwed up human, who couldn't take anymore of the obvious pain and distress he was in?

Utterly tragic that there are not enough coppers to deal with ALL the incidents adequately.

16 June, 2008 03:28

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

La propagande aide le mensonge. Interesting copyright borrowing from Channel Five's 'Interceptors' programme - generously soaped?

16 June, 2008 09:30

 
Anonymous Oi said...

Anonymous,
I believe the reference was to the scum outside the agents..........

16 June, 2008 09:57

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think sitting in your panda waiting for others is a good response? While you sit there How many people die because police officers sit and consider their options.

16 June, 2008 10:09

 
Anonymous pzgirl said...

What a brilliant post. Yet again hits the nail on the head.

16 June, 2008 10:15

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon, 10:09

I think there have been several deaths in these circumstances. However I think there would have been more if the police had just waded in without thinking. PC bloggs is not armed and getting stabbed herself would not help anyone. Sitting in a Panda and maintaining a visual containment was the best thing she could do.

16 June, 2008 10:57

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

""Do you think sitting in your panda waiting for others is a good response? While you sit there How many people die because police officers sit and consider their options.""

Anon - you obviously don't work in a job liek the Police, where not considering your options is akin to professional suicide, when in 12 months time your decisions are micro-analysed and torn apart by barristers, solicitors and senior officers - all having the benefit of hindsight.

""While you sit there" - you don't know how many officers are sat in offices on 8-4 days seeing out their career wading through all the government legislation and statistic gathering. Don't criticise the Officers out on the streets - direct your anger towards this micro-managing, target obsessed, form filling Government

16 June, 2008 12:33

 
Blogger uniform said...

just think , its could have been an army of PCSO'S or community wardens sitting /standing there, and then we all could have been saved.

anyway back in the real world

just an outstanding bit of writing

It's time for advice from everyone's favourite shift Sgt

"hey , hey folks , be careful out there"

Sergeant Phil Esterhaus Hill St Blues

16 June, 2008 13:05

 
Blogger uncommon said...

Jeez Ellie,

I had some tough times, but that sounds like a whole lot of job you have to do nowadays, the shortage of officers seems frantic.

Keep safe.



brendan

16 June, 2008 16:29

 
OpenID inspectorgadget said...

Oh no.......... please do not expose my Hitler hair-do.

16 June, 2008 17:15

 
Anonymous XTP said...

Ellie,

IMHO, back on track, at last. This is what I got when we bought your book and I'm well-pleased to read fantastic stuff again. Thanks.

P.S. to all you civvy mugs who read this and feel that they know best - would you please £$%^ off and start your own blog or is that too much to hope? The "comment" section of this (and other Police blogs) is for "us" to empathise with each other and have the occasional rant. It's OURS, ok? As in "us against them". Thank you.

16 June, 2008 17:53

 
Blogger uncommon said...

"P.S. to all you civvy mugs who read this and feel that they know best - would you please £$%^ off and start your own blog or is that too much to hope? The "comment" section of this (and other Police blogs)"

XTP,

Does that apply to us retired from the cloth too?



brendan

16 June, 2008 18:27

 
Anonymous pc pc said...

Anon said: "Do you think sitting in your panda waiting for others is a good response?"

That was kind of the point of the post, wasn't it - that it isn't a good response but that's the position we're in.

16 June, 2008 18:28

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

xtp, the comments section is open to all, as long as there are no cheap shots (unless really witty ones). I don't even mind a bit of tasteful swearing.

16 June, 2008 18:30

 
Blogger Rachel said...

Just linked you (and blogrolled you yesterday - sorry it took so long).

Shattering post

16 June, 2008 20:27

 
Blogger Ex-RUC said...

One things for sure - the job hasn't improved any over the years, has it?

16 June, 2008 20:50

 
Blogger uncommon said...

RUC,

It looks really tough these days: and from what I read, the public are really anti.

I used to get the occasional bit of that, but honestly: most places I went, I was welcomed and provided with tea and biscuits on a waist threatening level:)



brendan

16 June, 2008 20:52

 
Anonymous Rural DS said...

"Do you think sitting in your panda waiting for others is a good response? While you sit there How many people die because police officers sit and consider their options."

I think you may lack some knowledge of the job WPC BLOGGS finds herself in. That's ok - you watch the Bill, so you know how the police works.

Meanwhile, in the police where no incident is resolved in less than an hour, units are posted on the periphery of incidents like this in case transport, diversions or the like or needed.

Do we massively over-hype the risk posed by drunken losers when the word "knife" is used ? Probably. That's the corporate response for you - once upon a time a hulking copper with hands the size of human heads would have kicked his door and punched him into oblivion. However, we have tried to professionalise the job - which inevitably means that things take a lot longer.

The whole point of WPC BLOGGS mentioning that she had waited on a cordon for so long was that she recognised how utterly futile it was.

We don't always get the option of deciding "what is a good thing", because we have lawful orders - and belong to a disciplined organisation. While almost all cops love the banter of dirty harry, any attempt to be a cop that "doesn't play by the rules" would inevitably result in being a cop that "receives his / her P45"

16 June, 2008 21:49

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to digress......

If you hate vandals watch this..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZZXslsLDLs

Kacking myself laughing !!!!

16 June, 2008 22:27

 
Blogger There and Back said...

I found that a very moving read.

16 June, 2008 22:49

 
Blogger goodbyetoallfat said...

"They establish his basic needs: the deaths of everyone he knows, followed by his own"

And I just watched on the news tonight a story about a man gassing himself and his two young children due to family separation. Apparently he was a member of "Father's for Justice".

Tragic, tragic, tragic.

16 June, 2008 23:48

 
Blogger Metcountymounty said...

Bloggsy, that post was brilliant and extremely poignant. One of the phrases we're hearing a lot more at work is 'welcome to operation Ramp-Up' we all know we should be doing other things (and want to) and that the job will more than likely turn out to be a waste of time but because someone at some point in history has made a bad call then we have no option to deal with any similar job in that way, much to the detriment of everyone else.

These are the reasons we don't get to burglaries and assaults when we should, we're dealing with utter shit that we quite simply shouldn't be dealing with and we should be able to say "no thanks, that's shite and I shouldn't be dealing with it"

I must say that the prize for completely missing the point has to go to anon 1009, well done Sir/Madam - you're an idiot.

17 June, 2008 18:15

 
Blogger staghounds said...

Whoa. This is as good as anything I've ever seen written about policing.

Every shift is just like this one, in every Police Department, in every place on earth. It always has been and will always be that way.

The very worst thing about law enforcement work is the fact that almost everything you see all day every day is evil, failure and tragedy.

They tell you that you are there to stop and prevent it. No matter how much you stop, it's still all you see. That young wife is still gone, and those officers who were diverted will blame themselves just a little. Mr. Kidson and Kyle will never even know, and wouldn't care if they did.

The greatest risk is that optimistic, competent, hard working, cheerful people will forget in their hearts that most folks are decent, cope fine, and will never need a police officer professionally.

The greatest heartbreak is that so many become corroded by our steady diet of damage. (Which is the name of the Kosheen song I happened to be listening to when I read this. Great coincidence.)

It's never been easy being a Centurion. Thank you again Miss Bloggs- not just for what you do, but for giving us all insight.

The world is so packed with joy and beauty. Every day, try to do just one thing to keep that alive inside yourselves.

17 June, 2008 20:23

 
Blogger Virtual Supply said...

So few words to aptly describe yet another weekend...

Good writing girl.

17 June, 2008 22:04

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it not a little odd that these episodes are mostly psychiatric and dramatic - all at one time
( not counting the 'youths' one.)
Where are the mass of trivial calls that police blogs assure us is the norm.
And as a matter of interest is it all that easy to drown oneself.

18 June, 2008 08:24

 
Anonymous Shane said...

Anon 8.24:
A bloke threatening to stab his wife and children to death is not trivial, if he does it. If it's the fifth time this month he's made that threat, and he is just pissed again, I think it is. It may not feel trivial to the wife and kids, of course, though equally it may. Some people live like this. The police were quite possibly there last week because she threatened to kill him.
As an aside, hundreds of entirely bogus 'threats to kill' are made every day in this country. If they were all followed through, there'd be no-one left on some estates. Each has to be taken, to a greater or lesser extent, seriously. This sucks up thousands of police hours.
Now, officers attending a newsagents five or six times to calls of problem kids is pretty trivial.
Kyle wasting eight hours' police time in an attention seeking 'suicide bid' is trivial.
You can drown yourself by entering a cold river when you cannot swim.
The problem - brilliantly highlighted by Bloggsy's post and the comment of anon 10.09 - is that the police get called to so much utter rubbish and there are always people on the sidelines waiting to judge when something goes wrong.
If people want four (I'd guess) officers plus an ambulance tied up for eight hours because some cannabis-smoking youth says he's going to end it all (when he's only going to do the same thing next week, and the week after) fine - that's (together with all the other rubbish) why there's a very slow response to your burglary.

18 June, 2008 08:58

 
Anonymous AnneDroid said...

I used to work in a job where we knew the public hated us (they told us so often). Because of the way it was run we felt as though the management hated us too. It was demoralising and people were always leaving for other jobs (including me in the end). And yet it was a desk job. Physically safe and not confronted with death on a daily basis like you guys.

At the risk of sounding, once again, like a total sook, as we say in Scotland, I think you all are amazing for doing what you do AND THEN ALSO putting up with all the verbal abuse hurled at you from ignorant public and tabloids. Keep going, please.

Moving post, Ellie, was what I originally meant to say, before reading some of the comments.

18 June, 2008 23:02

 
Anonymous TheBinarySurfer said...

Nice post. Sad that a few of the commenters miss the point though.

18 June, 2008 23:49

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clearly fiction. You'd never get hold of a chief inspector on duty on a weekend.

21 June, 2008 15:27

 
Blogger Unresponsive said...

I worked EMS in Los Angeles for ten years and can tell you that there were dozens upon dozens of times when I too had to sit in the ambulance and wait for back-up before entering a dangerous scene.

If the rescuer gets injured or killed in the response, who will be there to effect the rescue? Who will come in and get the first responder?

It's a sad fact of life when dealing with these situations. Even in the US, an armed officer will wait for back-up before confronting a potentially deadly scene.

Ellie, keep up the good work. You stand on a line that many people out there couldn't or flat out wouldn't do.

Anyone wearing a badge these days is my hero. Thank you!

22 June, 2008 18:31

 
Anonymous Civvy Mug said...

This is a fascinating, illuminating post. Thanks. (I bought, read, and enjoyed your book, too. Please keep writing.)

24 June, 2008 06:47

 
Blogger LyleD4D said...

Congratulations!

This post got this week's Post of the Week

It also means you get to be a guest judge, if you look here. Again, congratulations!

30 June, 2008 09:47

 

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