This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. 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 (or didn't) pay my salary.

(All proceeds from Google Ads will be donated to the Police Roll of Honour Trust)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sending up the Balloon

As a front-line sergeant, you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.  Yes, technically it's the inspector who picks up the phone to the Duty Superintendent with the words, "Er, sorry to wake you, sir, but..."

But the sergeant has already phoned the inspector, and given him/her no choice but to make the call.  Learning when to call the inspector is what being a sergeant is all about.  In fact, it's what being a police officer is all about.  It's the words:
  • "I'm not entirely happy about this missing woman, gov."
  • "Boss, I know we've had twelve other disgruntled boyfriends text their other halfs tonight telling them that they've got a can of petrol and a lighter and are on their way round, but this one means it."
  • "I don't think we've heard the last from them tonight.  Can we get a few extra bodies from the late turn to work some overtime?" 
Believe it or not, none of the above phrases can be taught during a diversity seminar.  Nor are they found on the six-page domestic risk assessment form that gets filled in several times a shift.  They aren't contained within the threats-to-life policy, and there's no board question to which they are the answer.
    When I started Acting, my inspector had less than a little faith in me.  If I called concerned about a missing teenager, he/she was "just out on the razz with some friends".  If it was a domestic where he was on his way back to get her, they were "just tiffing".  If I turned up for work to find just three souls in the briefing room waiting for me, and made a fuss to the senior management about staffing levels, I was "showing my inexperience". 

    "Oh, bloody hell, Bloggsy, not again!"

    Looking back, perhaps my governor had a point, some of the time.  But if I've known one thing from the moment I started this job, it's that it's better to send up the balloon and be wrong, than the other way around.

    Because with the balloon, you get dogs, helicopters, PCSOs, mobile phone triangulation and Scenes of Crime call-out.  You get DSs and DIs, Underwater Search Team and transits from the west of the force.  Those are things that don't do you much good an hour after the event, when you realise that the suitcase the missing girl packed to run away with actually contains her dead body.


     "Man down."

    Of course, you might also get an email saying that perhaps APS Bloggs should check under the child's bed before dialling the number for the CRA.  Or if she could look at the CCTV for where the supposed madman with the gun was seen, she might notice that the gun bounced when it was dropped.  I've been responsible for my share of fervent, unnecessary panics, but I haven't had an email like that for a while.

    Now, I'm no longer "Acting" Sergeant, and when I send up the balloon, people tend to take note, and send me what I need.

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


    Anonymous Noggsy said...

    I don't know what the first post meant, but you sound like a good 'un to me Bloggsy and well done on getting made substantive. Anyone in a position of responsibility makes a balls of it occasionally and I totally agree that to send the balloon up and find that all is ok is practically a description of what we do.

    17 April, 2011 23:06

    Anonymous A Polis Man said...

    Congrats on the promotion.

    I await the post for when the Inspector on cover( ie NPT Insp sat in office, scared as it's dark outside and there's NO BISCUITS!!!) starts along the they're just having a tiff line, and you are thinking the other 20 odd Jeremy Kylers I've seen tonight are just a waste of space/time/my life, I'm really worried about this one!

    And you are left hoping you are wrong.

    18 April, 2011 14:50

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    If there is one thing I've learnt as an Inspector is that good sergeants are worth their weight in gold. For all the rhetoric from the senior ranks it is sergeants that run the police service and actually make things happen, something that the SMT should do well to remember when sending out their shitty emails about performance.

    18 April, 2011 16:13

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    another blog that starts- "as a".
    you're begining to come across like a Private Eye spoof.

    19 April, 2011 08:51

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Putting up the balloon....another way of being Risk averse maybe? I dealt with a medium risk misper recently and it was ramped to the hilt by a covering duty officer who told me "i always like to ramp these things up, someone else has to make the decision to ramp them down that way" Instant loss of respect from me!

    19 April, 2011 17:20

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    'picks up the phone to the Duty Superintendent with the words, "Er, sorry to wake you, sir, but..."

    Epic fail on the gender diversity front Bloggsy.

    19 April, 2011 17:46

    Blogger ginnersinner said...

    And of course the decision about wether you were right or wrong to send up the balloon will be made next morning with the benefit of knowing the outcome. We sergeants will never have that luxury.

    19 April, 2011 21:24

    Blogger PC Bloggs said...

    Gadget - we don't have any female superintendents my way!

    20 April, 2011 19:02

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    One of my favourite "ramping up" lines came when I was riding along with a very junior constable out in the back country in Australia many years back.

    He'd been sent to a "possible shots fired": it was out in the bush and as he earnestly told me "Sarge reckons 99.9% of the time it's just some farmer popping off at roos, pigs or feral dogs".

    This time it wasn't. We found a body propped against a motorbike with much of the head missing.

    The rather green looking constable got the Sergeant on the radio: "Erm, Sarge, you know how you said 99.9% of shots fired out here are nothing much, well..."

    25 April, 2011 00:13

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Phone calls this way tend to go along the lines of..."Er, sorry to wake you, sir, but were dealing with a high risk misper and I could do with telecoms/eternal career salvation...oh your not on the duty rota tonight? You changed it with Supt x? Oh sorry to wake you, I know its 4AM and i'm sir"

    06 May, 2011 14:19


    Post a Comment

    << Home


    View My Stats
    eXTReMe Tracker