After my recent post highlighting the great work our special constables do around the country I thought I would share some tales of my time as a volunteer.
I now had about 6 months service under my belt as a special and I was signed off as capable of solo patrol. It was Friday evening and I paraded for duty at 1900hrs. A friend I had been sworn in with met me. We drew radios, put our hats and coats on and headed out. It was winter so it was already dark and quite cold. To avoid disturbing the afternoon team we would work on foot until 2300hrs then come in and meet with the night group. If the Sgt was nice he would double us up on some of his pandas.
The town was quiet and we walked down the pedestrianised area checking the shops. Cars on the adjacent side streets that had been parked for some time were already showing signs of frosting over. We wandered past a pub and the sound of laughter and music spilled out of the door along with the smell of beer and cigarette smoke. We came to the main road, wandered past the magistrates courts and then looped back into the shops. Nothing much was happening. Car crime was prevalent at this time. Theft of car stereos was common and cars were regularly stolen to joy ride or left on bricks minus their wheels. There was a large bingo hall a short distance away and the car park would be full. We headed over and gave the car park the once over. Nothing. Suddenly a call came over the radio. “Any car for a possible thieves on at Win, Lose and Screw You Solicitors on Chapel Lane?”
I was still learning the area but my mate lived locally. “It’s just round the corner” he said. He shouted up and said we were attending. We both set off running. The adrenalin was flowing and the excitement of the moment took over. The uniform was heavy and we were both fit but we’d not run far before both of us were huffing and puffing. Over the years you develop a sixth sense with the radio and you automatically hear things you need and filter out the rest. Neither of us had acquired this yet.
The solicitors office backed onto rough ground at the rear of an old cinema. We ran across the pitch black space and came up against a 7ft wall that bounded the back of the property.
I began a scan along the wall for a bin to use to climb over. There was nothing. I stood still listening and managed to get my breathing under control. I could hear footsteps and noises coming from the other side of the wall. My colleague was motionless. We both automatically put gloved hands over our radios to mute any transmissions. A look of “what do we do now” crossed our faces.
The noise then increased and I could hear a banging rattling sound. They were still trying to get in. Nerves and adrenalin mixed together into a bodily concoction that left me wanting to jump over the wall and stand stone still simultaneously. The kudos and respect of regular colleagues if we locked up two burglars would be unfathomable. There was nothing for it. I faced my mate and signalled that he should give me a leg up. He duly cupped his hands and I placed my size 9 Doc Martens into them. He took the weight as I hoisted myself onto the top of the wall. I scrabbled around on the top of the wall but was hindered by my 3/4 length coat. Suddenly their was a blinding bright light in my face. I felt vulnerable and afraid. Bravado had dissipated into fear in a nano-second. Someone was there right in front of me. I realised I was vulnerable and my mate still had my foot in his hands. Shit!! The presence of this person whom I had sneaked up on gave me the biggest shock of my life. All occurring in less than 2 seconds, I couldn’t decide whether to leap at this person arms flailing or just drop back to the safe side of the wall like a sack of spuds.
“Boo!”. This didn’t register with me immediately. It was too bizarre. Boo? I was now stuck between being scared to death and feeling this burglar was taunting me. What a pile of rubbish I was as a cop. Then laughter. “lts all secure back here. Looks like a false call. Did I make you jump?”
I got a grip of myself and realised I was facing an officer from the afternoon team. In the breathless run to the scene we had both missed his transmission that he was just passing the front of the premises as the call came in. This was the first time a colleague had scared the cr*p out of me. It wasn’t the last.
Winter turned to spring and spring blossomed into early summer. A local National Trust property was hosting an Edwardian evening. We were called in to assist and patrol the perimeter walls to ensure no young miscreants gate crashed this civilised affair.
I worked with the same partner who by now was a good friend. (He was later my best man).
We attended at the RV point and met with a Sgt. He briefed us on our role and advised this was a civilised and relaxed event and to feel free to come into the gardens and mingle with the guests. We were working from a neighbouring station and didn’t know this Sgt but he had a “no nonsense” look about him.
With the briefing complete we walked out of the gardens and headed off to do a full check of the perimeter walls. This didn’t take long so walking more slowly we did a u turn and walked back. The sound of gentle conversation, laughter and delicate music was drifting over the walls from the gardens. Boredom set in quickly so after several passes we decided to take the Sgt up on his suggestion. The grounds were surrounded by a wall that was about 6ft high. We got to a midway point and scaled the wall. We landed in amongst thick rhododendrons and worked our way out to a small recessed alcove in the undergrowth. Ahead of us we could see ladies in fine dresses and hats and carrying parasols. The chaps were in striped blazers and straw boaters. Many were promenading around the gardens and the others were sat on blankets on the lawns enjoying picnics and quaffing champagne.
We stepped out of our secret spot and found the guests very amiable and all wanted to stop and chat with us. We wandered around for a little while and then decided we’d better get back on the other side of the wall. We headed for our alcove and just as we arrived a chap came to talk with us. It was a beautiful warm evening and he offered us a drink. Being police we politely refused but he was insistent. Eventually the thought of a cool refreshing drink was overwhelming and we accepted but said we would have to stay out of sight in our alcove. He offered us a beer but we laughed and said a soft drink would be fine. He duly returned with two chilled cartons, wished us well and returned to his friends.
We drained our cartons, stuffed them in our pockets and disappeared into the undergrowth and returned to the walls. We continued this mindless foot patrol for another hour before deciding to go back into the gardens. We used our same access point and emerged into the gardens like the children entering Narnia from the wardrobe.
The same chap saw us again and came over. He again insisted on providing us with refreshment. We accepted and a short time later he returned with two drink cartons. “I’ve brought you orange juice guys” he said (before deftly revealing in his other hand two small cans of beer) “or you can have these.” My initial reaction was shock. What was he trying to do to us? We were policemen. However it became apparent we were also human and somewhat weak. With a bit of effort he convinced us to take the beer and stand out of sight of the crowds in our alcove. He then wished us well and left. We backed into the bushes. I remember sliding the can up the inside of my tunic sleeve and holding it in place with the tips of my fingers.
We stood for what seemed like an eternity wondering what to do. It was a sort of nervous, reckless and giggly decision but we cracked the cans and took a slurp. Fantastic! We stood and enjoyed the cool refreshment and remarked to each other what a good idea it had been to volunteer for this duty. We were pleased with ourselves and we were being naughty and getting away with it….. at least until the Sgt walked into our alcove and asked us what the hell we thought we were doing.
My heart sank. I’d been stupid. Visions of being disgraced and thrown out of the specials crossed my mind. My opportunity to join the regulars blown out of the water before I had applied. The Sgt looked mad. He gave us a dressing down and insisted he know who had provided us with the alcohol. After much looking at our feet we pointed him at our man. His instruction was then, “Wait here and don’t move.”
We stood utterly dejected. We were in trouble big time and worse the Sgt knew who had given it to us and we had no idea what that was going to lead to. After about 5 mins but what seemed like 30 the Sgt returned. He came and stood next to us.
“I’ve had a chat with Mr Sharples. He’s a very nice chap” he said as he tugged on the ring pull of an identical can of beer. “Cheers Lads. Get the rest of it down you and then go and check that perimeter again”.
…. I’ve never been so relieved and speechless again.