Community Engagement

I’ve just read a blog about police radios by PC Stanley of West Midlands Police. A link is below;

PC Stanley’s Blog

You can follow him on Twitter at @PCStanleyWMP

Whilst as a fellow police officer it tells me little it does give an overview of the police radios and how we have come to rely on them that will be of interest to his followers.

But it got me thinking. I reminisced of the days when I started with the police as a special constable. Yes I was one too! We had Burndept radios. Slim blue jobs with 2/3 channels and not much else. Then we moved to Phillips multi channel jobs but all these radios were insecure and people could eavesdrop. Out of curiosity or with ill intent.

Eventually the TETRA network was completed across the country and forces went encrypted. New radios appeared that shut out the eavesdroppers and gave us loads more functionality. To be honest it was long overdue. Public sector technology is always years behind the private sector.

But the passing from UHF to digital did have a sad moment. At least on one sub-division I used to cover. The police are more involved now in community engagement than ever before. But how often do the communities engage with us? Now it has to be said that many do. But don’t denounce me straight away. This is a story of a community member engaging with the cops in an unusual way.

The sub-division involved was inner city housing. A myriad of streets, cul-de-sacs, flat blocks and so on. No matter how good we are at learning our patch there is always an obscure address we don’t know the location of. Whilst working slow time it’s easy. Pull the trusty A-Z out or nowadays use a force issued Sat Nav, PDA or your own phone. But what about responding to an emergency? The drive to get to the job is the primary matter. But stopping at the side of the road to flick through a map book or program a portable device is time consuming and may cost lives or the escape of offenders. Consequently even in these technologically advanced times officers will still shout up for a location to be passed by the radio operator.

Here is a true event. I had been passed a serious injury RTA involving a child pedestrian. I had about 12 miles of inner city response driving to do across two other sub-divisions to get to it. I set off with everything going. Approaching the boundary with the sub-division involved I flicked onto their channel. I knew the district of the accident but not the specific location. I shouted up, maintaing a high speed response and asked for a location. The radio operator wasn’t sure and asked me to standby. I was getting closer and there is nothing more embarrassing than driving right past your incident. Suddenly this gruff voice with a local accent sounded over the radio. This wasn’t the radio operator. It wasn’t a colleague. In fact nobody I knew spoke like this. Who was it? Imagine my surprise when the voice said;

“From Wood Road, take Briggs Avenue opposite the Red Lion. Down to the bottom and turn left. The flats are immediately on your left.”

Now here was a dilemma. Things happen and decisions are made in fractions of a second in this job. The radio operator had not come back to me yet. But this was a bogus transmission. Rare. Most people only listened. It was a different kind of person who could set up a transmit facility. But what should I do? I still didn’t know where to go. The decision was made by the arrival on my nearside of The Red Lion. I hung a right into Briggs Avenue and followed the instructions. Low and behold I arrived at the scene of the accident.

After the bump had been dealt with I spoke to local officers. Did they hear the bogus transmission giving directions? “Oh yes they said. He’s on here all the time. Nobody knows who he is so we call him John. He’s really helpful.”

With the impending arrival of TETRA nobody bothered to try and locate him. He would soon enough be unable to listen to or speak to us.

John sounded like a taxi radio operator. Either that or he had lived there all his life and knew the area like the back of his hand. But he was a great help to many officers. He never steered anyone wrong and was always there to help. Talk about helping the police!!

Eventually a date for the TETRA roll out was given and we were issued with our new radios. Over the last few days of UHF transmissions many officers took the time to thank John on their last shift before the switch. They thanked him for his assistance for what had been about 12 months.

He seemed quite touched by the thanks if his voice was anything to by. Many officers said they would miss him. He was…..

Place names changed to protect the innocent… or at least me.

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