To a police officer, the festive season tis the season to be alcoholic and violent. In the past fortnight my shift have dealt with repeated robberies, domestics and deaths - both natural and un.
Does this depress us, and turn us into a bunch of compassionless, hardened cynics? Well, in actual fact most of the young officers on my shift love this time of year. Every day another senior manager brings in a tub of Roses or Quality Street before scuttling off home to spend the holidays with their families. Every day the briefing room table is littered with sausage rolls and doughnuts. Every day inexperienced PCs get to deal with serious crime far beyond their remit, with half the number of detectives and specialists on duty to help. Stressful? They love it.
On a late or night shift on a regular Christmas Day/Boxing Day, there are no Priorities of the Day, no race hate crime targets, no Antisocial Behaviour Nominals. There are just policemen and women, doing the job they joined up to do, with the added bonus of a kitbag full of chocolate and pastry treats.
Not so in 2010. I was astonished to discover that the Senior Management Team had this year arranged daily management meetings on every one of the bank holidays. One day we had a priority of attending a report of a minor robbery where the victim had not been contactable for four days and did not even know the police had been informed. Another day it was a minor injury assault between a brother and sister who had lost their father on Boxing Day and who had withdrawn any complaint. I, er, omitted to pass on these top priorities to my shift. So forgetful...
It isn't as if we haven't got plenty of genuine serious crime to be getting on with. Which is hard enough when we have one Scenes of Crime officer per county, who is booking off at 4pm and won't stay on late for anything less than a Joanna Yeates-style murder. Not to mention the on-call DI who hasn't slept in three days, and the two CID detectives who don't have families, who have offered to work every bank holiday to cover for their colleagues.
"Snowed under" aren't the words to describe the festive season on Blandmore's front-line - however apposite a pun. "Clinging on for dear life" might be more appropriate. The only thing softening the blows, bringing in rows of volunteers to cover last minute absences and calamities, keeping the town's head above water until 4th January, is the double pay police officers get for working bank holidays.
If Sir Hugh Orde and the Association of Chief Police Officers have their way, there won't be many hands up in 2011 when the inspector puts out the call, "I need two PCs to pick up a prisoner from Scotland", "Four officers for a scene watch", "A sergeant and six to go to Bigtown for a high risk missing child". Names will be picked from hats and resignations will follow.
Here's to 2011: to more domestics, more robberies, more real police work and fair compensation for giving up a normal family life to do it well.
A very Happy New Year to my colleagues and all my readers. This blogger isn't quite done yet.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.