Category Archives: Death

Lowering the bar

In the world of policing we have, over the last 10 years or so, been besieged by targets. You must make this many arrests each month, you must issue this many tickets for this offence and you must submit this much intelligence. We’ve also had targets that have been set for us for by us to reduce crime. We have proudly announced targets stating we will reduce burglary in an area to a certain percentage… sometimes using no evidence base whatsoever to dream up a figure.

If you haven’t read Intelligent Policing by Simon Guilfoyle then I implore you to do so. He covers all this ground and a lot more. One area he writes about is why, if we aspire to excellence, do we think reducing burglary in a area to a certain percentage is good and to be boasted about? Surely, he argues, if we are to have a target at all then it should be zero burglaries. That is what we should aspire to. Interestingly, and as a comparison, do you know about the Below 100 campaign? It seems very bizarre to me that the purpose of this group is to reduce preventable LODD’s (Line of duty deaths) to below 100 in the USA. What will they do when they reach 99? Will this be a time of celebration? One death of a police officer in the line of duty is not acceptable so why is the target to get below 100? Surely to God, however unachievable it may be, reducing LODD’s to zero must be the objective?

What some organisations, campaign groups, governments and others seem to do when setting targets like this is compromise. Instead of aspiring to a target that is the absolute 100% best outcome they settle for second best. They understand that reducing burglary to zero may never be attainable. They recognise that getting LODD’s to zero may be an impossible dream. So instead of accepting these difficulties and aiming for zero regardless, they compromise.. because let’s face it how can you ever claim to be a success if you never EVER reach your goal? Achieving a reduction is something to be pleased about. Your efforts are showing positive results and moving in the right direction but it is not the ideal outcome. Cancer Research UK have a vision;

“Our vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.”

Note how it says “all” cancers are cured. Not some or a percentage but all. They strive to cure all cancers and will not settle for something that is pleasingly achievable. Second best is not even a consideration.

 A couple of weeks ago the North West Ambulance Service announced a collaboration with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service. Firefighters, using their fire engines, will attend suspected cardiac arrests. Firefighters will be directed to these calls by the ambulance service if they are free and within 3 miles of the call. They will provide basic life support and be equipped with defibrillators to provide potentially life saving intervention until trained paramedics arrive. This in many regards is similar to the Community First Responder programmes that are already up and running around the country. Such collaborations are not new. The East Midlands Ambulance service have had a trial running with several fire services since May.

This was always going to be a difficult blog to write. Community first responders are volunteers and doing the best they can, with the kit they have to make a difference and save lives. The fire services around the country that are taking on this role are doing exactly the same. To be honest, if you or I were having a heart attack I don’t imagine for one minute that we would complain if the responder walking through the door with first aid skills and a defibrillator was in wellies, a green paramedic uniform or jeans and trainers. The whole purpose of the projects both fire and community first responders is to provide trained hands, with kit, as fast as possible that could be the difference between life and death. It has to be a win for the patient.

That is a very tough point to get past. How can I argue against a program that has a sole purpose of trying to save lives?

Consider a scenario. You are having a heart attack. Three responders arrive at the same time;

  1. A firefighter in a fire engine with 4/5 other firefighters and a defibrillator
  2. A local resident in her own car with a defibrillator acting as a community first responder
  3. A fully trained advanced life support paramedic in an ambulance and all the kit that comes with it

Who would you choose? Who is the best person to help you? You could argue that you would take all three. I’m told that an arrest needs at least four pairs of hands, preferably six to be done correctly. So maybe taking all of them is a good choice. But put that aside for one moment. I think you would all agree that option 3 is the person you need. An out and out medical professional with all the advanced skills, equipment, drugs and experience to save your life and an ambulance to then put you in and whisk you away to A&E. Whilst the other two options may well assist in saving your life and could very well succeed, the best, first choice option is the paramedic.

If we agree on that final point then we can move forward. Why do we need community first responders? Why do we need firefighters acting as ambulances? Again the argument can be raised they could be nearer and faster than the ambulance crew and therefore make a difference. Tough to argue against. However what it shows to me is a shortfall in our ambulance provision. We should have an ambulance service that has sufficient resources to respond to all the calls they receive. A service that in the case of a “Red 1” (cardiac arrests, respiratory failure etc) will not need a fire fighter or a CFR because they are nearer, will be there quicker and a far better qualified and trained to save your life.

This is our gold standard. The service we as the public should expect and the ambulance service should aspire to. Yet we don’t. Financial reasons more than anything else are squeezing the ambulance service as much as they are the police. They are meeting increased demand with fewer resources and they cannot cope. The response, and there is much back patting going on, is to push out responsibility to volunteers and the fire service. How can that be right? These people will do the best they can and will save lives. They will also see that there was nothing they could do and the casualty was as good as dead when the call came in. The volunteers should be praised highly for their compassion and desire to make a difference. Calls to the fire service are reportedly down by 40% and these collaborations look to me like an organisation that needs to increase its workload, does not want to lose any staff/resources and is therefore looking for ways to help that will portray them in a positive light. Whichever way you look at it, (and no disrespect to the CFR’s and fire fighters) they are not the gold standard. They are second best.

These collaborations are a compromise. We cannot guarantee to put the right resource in the right place at the right time to attain the best possible outcome. Therefore we will employ volunteers or give the fire service something to do in order to “make do” until we can get the paramedic there. I’m sure in city locations the ambulance service may turn out the fire service and the paramedic still gets there first. If you live in a particularly rural area you may as well forget it. You need the CFR who lives in the village or the person from three doors down who grabs the defib from the village shop because neither the ambulance service nor the retained firefighters are going to get to you in time. Whilst in the case of the latter you will, as said above, accept whoever turns up to assist, you are accepting these responders as second best because of failings within the ambulance service.

Now before all my paramedic friends jump up and down about that last sentence. You do a great job. You work from start of shift to end of shift, often non-stop and you make a difference. You save lives and I hold you in the highest regard. The failings are down to senior mangers and government funding that means there are simply not enough of you to provide the gold standard. The standard that we should aspire to but cannot achieve. Therefore we haven’t found a solution and solved the problem. We have propped it up in the best way we can to keep the wheel on. Hardly acceptable is it?

Maybe this is a stop gap. Maybe the fire service bosses already know that with a 40% drop in calls that redundancies are inevitable. The police are in a time of transition and we cannot get away from it. The fire service need to change and adapt too but the bottom line remains. If your house is on fire you want a fire fighter. If you’re having a heart attack you want a paramedic. If you’re being attacked in your home you want a police officer.

The solution to me is quite simple. If we need more paramedics.. get more paramedics. The hard bit, if we need less firefighters then lose firefighters. Don’t give them other jobs to keep them busy where they are second best. Let’s not send them to jobs that sound like a cardiac arrest but are actually something else they are totally unprepared to deal with. Jobs that could leave them exposed to complaints, litigation or prosecution.

Firefighters are fire fighters. Paramedics are paramedics and police are the police. We can all have basic crossover skills. I have administered first aid and put small fires out but I’m not a specialist in these areas. We need specialists in times of emergency.

If we have a cardiac arrest then let’s send two ambulances and one RRV from the ambulance service. Five pairs of hands and all the skills and equipment to do everything they can to save that persons life. Let’s not send, 2 ambulances, an RRV, a fire engine and a community first responder. Maybe up to 12 pairs of hands and 5 vehicles. Hardly efficient is it?

Collaboration between the emergency services has gone on for years. I suspect it will increase in the future but it needs to be done in a smart and intelligent way. We cannot and should not be merging and

 morphing roles of specialists to make it work. A jack of all trades is a master of none. A line I have heard many times.. “If all else fails.. lower your standards”. Why settle for mediocrity when we should aspire to excellence?

We as society should expect and demand a gold standard from our emergency services. Why would you want anything less?

Let it go..

On 12th August 1966 in a street in west London, 3 police officers were gunned down; murdered. The country was appalled. This was something that simply didn’t happen. Less than two weeks prior to the incident the England football team had won the World Cup. The country was on a high and this brought everyone back down to earth with a huge bump.

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The three officers, DS Christopher Head, DC David Wombwell and PC Geoffrey Fox were all shot dead. The offenders were Harry Roberts, John Duddy and John Witney.

There is a good overview of the case here by the Channel 4 news team.

1415781017557_wps_12_Police_and_members_of_theOn the day of the funerals the public turned out in their thousands and lined the streets with police officers to pay their respects. The public sentiment on that day is identical to those we experienced more recently in Manchester.

In the meantime the might of the Metropolitan Police began a manhunt. Witney was arrested within hours. Duddy fled to Scotland but was arrested within 5 days. Roberts on the other hand vanished. It took three months to locate him. He was finally brought into custody in early November. He has been behind bars ever since.

The crime was awful and described by many as the most heinous of a generation. It also led to the formation of the Police Dependants Trust.

After a 6 day trial and overwhelming evidence the three suspects were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The judge, on handing down the life sentences and a 30 year tariff said;

“I think it likely that no home secretary regarding the enormity of your crime will ever think fit to show mercy by releasing you on licence. This is one of those cases in which the sentence of imprisonment for life may well be treated as meaning exactly what it says.”

The death penalty had only been withdrawn the year before. Many called for it to be reinstated. It does appear, based on the evidence and the sentencing, that had the crime occurred when the legislation was in force, the death penalty was a very real possibility.

Either way two of the men have since died. John Duddy died in jail on 8th February 1981. John Witney was released on licence in 1991. This caused huge controversy as he was released before the expiry of his 30 year tariff but his release stood. In 1999 Witney was beaten to death with a hammer by his flat mate.

Roberts on the other hand remained in prison. He completed his 30 year tariff and up until this year (18 years later) the parole board never saw fit to release him. This is a good blog by Rachel Rogers that discusses life sentences, tariffs and whole life terms.

The news of the impending release of Roberts spread like wildfire. The response was overwhelmingly outrage. The national chair of the Police Federation said that “officers up and down the country were furious”. He said Roberts gunned down police officers in broad daylight and “quite frankly, he should never be released from prison”. He went on to make a further statement that “there will be people out there, planning to murder police officers, thinking they can get away with it”. He closed with “It’s not about rehabilitation or whether Roberts is now safe. It’s about the punishment fitting the crime”. Steve White’s comments can be watched here.

John Tully the Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation branch tweeted; “a total betrayal of policing by the criminal justice system this man should never see the light of day again, life should mean life”

As a contrast the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was asked about the release on LBC.

He, dodged the direct questions but he defended the justice system and the probation/parole system. His overall view was that we cannot allow the justice system to be run on emotions and popular opinion.

Then, most importantly, behind all the froth in the media are the families of those three officers. The families who have spent the last 48 years living without their loved one.

A few years ago a good friend of mine, a police officer, was stabbed to death on duty. On the day I wasn’t furious. I was speechless. I came home, sat on the sofa and cried. The man responsible was convicted and sent to prison. Over the following weeks and standing as guard of honour at the door of the cathedral I didn’t feel anger. I wasn’t furious. I was sad but I was also enormously proud. The offender never really crossed my mind.

In more recent years we have had the murder of Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone in Manchester. I think of them a lot and I think of their families and friends too. I don’t think of the murderer himself and I never ever name him. As I look back on those events was I furious? No. I was intensely shocked and saddened by their deaths and I also know that it is what police officers face on a daily basis.

With all the comment in the media I began to think I should be outraged. I should be angry at this man and those responsible for allowing his release. Then I stopped because I realised I wasn’t furious and I wasn’t angry.

This man took away the lives of those officers and their families lives changed that day forever. There is no getting away from that. No matter how much we discuss, debate and argue about the release of Roberts we cannot bring those men back.

When someone you love dies you don’t simply get over it. You can only learn to live without them. It has to be the same for those who lose a loved one in such tragic circumstances. They will never get over the loss but they will learn to live with it in their own way. I can only imagine it being much much harder when there is someone to blame. A person who is responsible for your loss.

We know that the death penalty still exists in the USA. We know that the family members of a victim can attend and watch a person put to death. Would observing such an act cleanse you of your pain?

We know that a person can be sent to prison for life and never be released. Would a person being in prison forever ease your pain?Would their ultimate death behind bars finally allow you to find peace?

Do any of these scenarios reduce the pain suffered by the families? Do they make the situation better? More bearable? I don’t think they do. I’m sure that having the offender in prison gives some comfort but I don’t think it brings release from hurt.

Whether you like it or not, Roberts has been released. A 78 year old man has served 48 years  (longer than I have been alive) for the murder of police officers. What difference will this make to my life? None at all. I’m somewhat shocked at the statement by Steve White about ‘getting away with it’. We hear a lot of talk that people who are given a police caution are getting away with it. I’m really stumped at how 48 years in prison can be seen as such? If this is getting away with it what would be suitable? I’m sure the response to that will be life means life. I’d agree. I think if life imprisonment without chance of release makes legislation then so be it. Until then we have to live with the system we have, no matter how unpalatable it may be to some of us. Getting angry about the promise of legislation promised but yet to come and applying it to a 48 year old case is absurd.

The crux of this matter is that Roberts appeared before a court, was sentenced and has seen that sentence through with an additional 18 years on top. That justice system, removed from the emotion of being too close to the offence, has now deemed him fit for release and have done so. My immediate thought? So what!

The tragedy of the loss cannot be underestimated but what needs are satisfied by keeping him inside after all this time? I have only seen anger and hurt. It seems to me that in trying to hurt him we actually hurt ourselves. Revenge imprisons us.. forgiveness sets us free. How can anyone move forward whilst holding bitterness, hatred and revenge within them? A toxic mix of emotions that destroys the person you are and who you can be. It’s like having a tumour inside you and instead of treating it you hold onto it and allow it to define you.

Some may ask if I would feel the same way about the man who killed my friend. Some may ask if I would feel the same about the man who killed Nicola and Fiona. The answer is yes. Would our loved ones want us to remain static. Would they want us to remain angry, bitter and vengeful for 30, 40, 50 years or would they say.. “Move on. Be as happy as you can be. Don’t let this tragedy define who you are”. I hope and pray that nothing ever happens to me when I’m on duty but if it did… please show this to my wife. Tell her to be happy.. life is far too short.

I understand my view here is contrary to popular opinion and I do not post my thoughts with any intention to offend, upset or hurt anyone. I just feel strongly about being able to ‘Let it Go’. Free yourself.

By forgiving those who hurt us we are not letting them off the hook; we are in effect letting ourselves off the hook.

Detention Not Authorised

I was a traffic officer for 7 years. You may be able to tell by the amount of tweets I put out about drink drive, speed, phones, seat belts and others. I had dealt with every type of accident you can imagine. A fantastic job and one I miss very much but I made a decision. That decision was based around finances and my family and meant that I transferred to another force.

In a naive kind of way I expected my new force to assess my skills and put them to their most effective use. How wrong could I have been. They binned the lot of them and put me on a custody investigation team dealing with run of the mill arrests for the response teams.

After 4 months and a few weeks a brand new custody facility opened. I went from a small police station based custody suite, that was pretty awful if I’m honest, to a smart up to date unit with over 3 times as many cells. I continued to work in this role as a PC for another 8 months. During this time I passed my Pt2 Sgt exam and passed a board interview.

Nobody wanted to work in custody so I made it known that I would gladly work in custody should the opportunity arise. It did. Far quicker than I expected. In October 2006 I was promoted to Sgt and moved from the upstairs investigation office to the charge desk downstairs. I’ve been there ever since… until today.

I walked out of custody today for the last time as a full time member of the custody staff. I may well get called back in to cover on occasion. I may well get asked to do overtime. But as of today I am no longer part of that team.

What an experience it has been. I have authorised the detention of 1000’s of suspects for every offence you can possibly imagine… well maybe not all of them..  Men, women, boys and girls. There have even been a few dogs.. albeit not proper prisoners but just lodged with us in the kennels for a while. Assaults, drugs, drink drive, drunk and disorderly, public order, rape, sexual touching, indecent images, murder, conspiracy, pervert the course of justice, prison recalls, warrants, international extradition warrants, death by dangerous driving, child neglect, firearms, immigration, fraud, proceeds of crime, mental health and more. I’m really only scratching the surface. I even touched on a terrorism matter but only briefly. (fortunately.. this is a very complex area of custody business!) I’ve booked in the local drunk, the respected business person, the teacher, the social worker, the celebrity and the frequent flyers. They all come.. they all go. In one way or another.

In my previous force the solicitors were treated like the enemy. It was a culture I was born into. I knew nothing different and it was often adversarial in custody. When I came to this force it was different. I have built up a rapport with many of the local firms. There are some I don’t particularly like and wouldn’t have represent me but there are also some who I would recommend my best friend to. I have a great relationship with many of them and this is wholly conducive to a better working relationship and works in the favour of the detainee.. everyone, working together to get to the right result.

I’ve had arguments with difficult solicitors but I’ve had far more arguments with stupid drunks, intolerant people and those who simply refuse to listen. I’ve met people whom I have had compassion for and those I wouldn’t trust as far as I could throw them. I’ve sat on cell floors chatting with people who need help and someone to talk to and I’ve slammed the door on those who want to spit in my face, kick me in the groin and tell me they will hunt down where I live and rape my wife.

I’ve conducted strip searches, fought with drunks, had my hand down people’s throats, rolled around on the floor in pools of urine, cut clothing from around people’s necks, talked people out of self harming and wrestled with a naked woman with mental health problems. I’ve laughed and joked with prisoners and at times I’ve been scared to death. I’ve made some great decisions and I’ve dropped a few clangers but fortunately, I’ve not lost anyone in all my time in custody. I thank God for that!

I’ve had occasions where I’ve felt that no matter how hard I’ve tried it was, in the eyes of some, never enough. I also have some pride in the occasions where I know I have made a difference… particularly with youngsters. That is something that is massively satisfying.

I’ve made decisions that some have loved and I’ve made decisions that some have hated. I stand my ground, make bold decisions and don’t simply fall back to the default position of sending matters to CPS and letting them take the flack for a decision. This invariably means that I come into conflict with others opinions. Some have been right decisions.. some wrong. One that was deemed to be wrong I still believe was right.

I got tweeting and was then discovered and identified by my Ch Insp and Insp. I took the wrap but they were good to me. My tweets from the desk were curtailed and then stopped but it led to some positive leadership and a huge deal of support from the ACPO command that has, in my eyes, paid dividends. I am very grateful to my force for the trust I have been given.

Custody can be an awful place. Every single drunken, fighting, spitting, swearing person arrested ends up in front of me. It takes a lot of personal control to remain professional in the face of such adversity. If you don’t have a strong constitution it will soon get the better of you. The key to my length of service in custody though was the team I worked with. A great set of DO’s, a brilliant team of Sgt’s and excellent medical support. The team are the people that keep you going. The team are the people who pick you up when you’re down and make you laugh. The team are the people who make it work, keep everyone safe and get the job done. This is as true now with my custody team as it was the first day I joined my section colleagues back in the early 90’s.

As of Monday I start my new job in the control room. I’m looking forward to the challenge but it’s going to be tough. I can handle the technology with ease but getting to grips with many of the practices I’ve not had any dealings with for 7 years or even longer will take a bit of getting used to. I’m going to have to fly by the seat of my pants for a while and no doubt there will be a few mistakes along the way.

In the words of my late tutor con.. “Error is the discipline through which we all advance”... I will remember this as I get going in my new role as I have throughout my service.

My time is up. There have been good days, bad days, brilliant days and some that I try very much to forget. Overall though it has been fun and barring a torn ligament in my wrist I have come out of 7 years in custody with no other injuries or problems… if you don’t count being of a rather pale complexion and an adverse reaction to daylight.

I have decided that my twitter name will stay the same. The blog will also stay the same for now. I thought about changing to @thecommsgt and ‘The Incident Log’ but if my role changes again then the same situation arises. I will start to look for a generic name and blog title that will travel with me no matter what I do. Until then I will remain exactly the same. The service will continue, I will no doubt comment on custody matters as and when they come to my attention but will also start to look at how we manage resources against demand and control room issues. It should be fun.

I’m replacing the cell keys with a headset.

My detention in custody is no longer authorised.

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Standing in the Pulpit

Those of you that follow and read my blog will know that in early June I fell quiet for a couple of weeks. I lost my Dad just before Fathers Day and got tied up with all those things that need to be done at such times. I poured my initial feelings into my Fathers Day blog.

I knew even then that I would probably write some more about my Dad but despite a few attempts I have failed miserably. I simply could not unlock the words I wanted to say. Yet today I was handed the keys by Chief Inspector Donna Allen when she posted a picture on twitter. Here it is.

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Let me explain.

My Dad was a massively keen walker and climber. In his younger life he climbed all the traditional mountains in this country that you would expect. When he became a family man he continued to follow his love of the mountains and hills. We didn’t have a car for many years but jumping on a train with rucksacks on a Sunday morning for a walk in the Peak District was common. I climbed Snowdon when I was 5 and came to love the hills and mountains as much as he did. I still climb as much as I can and, like my Dad, take my children with me so they can understand the pure beauty of nature. This is me with Dads old canvas rucksack in my very early walking days.

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When Dad was in his late teens/early 20’s his mum took in a lodger. A student studying at the local university. Arild was from Norway and he and Dad became lifelong friends. Dad visited Norway once at this time. A short visit as a single man. Over the years he stayed in touch with Arild and he yearned to visit again, yet with a wife, three children and a mortgage the opportunity never arose.

In his 50’s Dad was made redundant from a job he had done for nearly 40 years. He spent almost 2 years without a job before finding something. Every time I think of this new job I think of the book Mort by Terry Pratchett.

“Death comes to us all. When he came to Mort he offered him a job”

Death didn’t offer Dad a job… but an undertaker did! With some trepidation and doubts he gave it a try. He found a new vocation and spent many happy years helping people at their most difficult times. He had many funny stories of trying to negotiate 20 stone people down tight staircases at 2am in nursing homes whilst trying not to wake anyone else up. There were tough times too and carrying a small coffin in his arms for a small baby or child was heartbreaking for him. He said at the start to the owner of the firm that he was too soft and emotional for the job. The response was “My family have run this business for 4 generations. Do you think I want someone who doesn’t care?” He was right.

Dad settled into his new job and as us “kids” were now all grown up and being successes and failures in equal measure, the door to travel opened. He and Mum visited Norway twice. They were nicknamed by their friends as the “Wow” people. A reflection of a phrase they said over and over again at the stunning country Norway is.

One of Dads wishes was to climb to Pulpit Rock in Lysefjorden. On one of their trips they decided to give it a go. They set off but after a while Dad was becoming breathless and it was clear he wasn’t going to make it up and down in time. Arild pointed it out to Mum. She knew but let him climb a little further before breaking to him what he already knew.

Dad was disappointed but never really let it show. Mum knew how he really felt and so did we but we chose not to talk about it too much. They walked back down and instead took a boat up the fjord. The rocks at the base of Pulpit Rock are vertical and drop straight into the fjord. The water is very deep immediately so the boat can go right up to the cliff face and the feature towers above you. He was suitably impressed and as the boat drew closer and closer the speakers on the boat played Morning Mood from the Peer Gynt suite by Edvard Grieg.

When Dad died we all did a lot of talking about his life. We laughed and cried in equal measures. Arild saw Dad in his last weeks. He was visiting the UK and Dad was in hospital. He travelled a few hundred miles and turned up at the hospital. Mum saw him coming and chatted with him then walked onto the ward and nodded her head in the direction of the door…”You won’t believe who has come to see you”. Mum says that Dads face on seeing his old pal was priceless.

As we made plans and arrangements for Dads funeral we talked about Pulpit Rock and how he never made it. The subject of the music to be played on entering the crematorium was discussed and it was soon obvious that Peer Gynt was the piece.

Dads old firm, albeit many miles away came to see off one of their own and conducted all the funeral arrangements. Dad would have been very proud. The company prides itself on family values and tradition. They are one of the few firms that will always carry a coffin by default. Dad used to say being pushed into church on a trolley was the final insult. At Mum and Dads tiny church we left the carry to the professionals. Later at the crematorium myself and one of my other brothers joined his old work mates and carried him in. As we got ready I could hear the music start and the delicate melody traced out by the oboe and flute. As we walked thought the doors the first crescendo (about 50s on the video) began. The music was massively powerful and so fitting that I welled up… as I do now typing. It was perfect for Dad, his love of that beautiful country and all he would have liked to have shown us as kids but never could. The music will stick with me now. I’m not sad about it. It doesn’t make me think of Dad and how I miss him. It makes me think of all the happy times, all the memories he gave me and how proud I was to be able to carry him home.

There and then I decided that I would, one day, climb to Pulpit Rock for him. Purely symbolic but it would mean something to me and that was all that mattered. The fact that I have three children, a wife and a mortgage, as he did, and simply cannot afford to get there at the moment is rather ironic!

As I said at the start. I had no idea how to start writing about Dad until I saw the picture. The picture drew me to some conclusions.

Embrace life. Get on your feet and get off the beaten track. It’s remarkable what you may find. Sometimes we set ourselves an objective and we fall short of that wish because finances, health or other complications get in the way. Yet even when disappointment crushes you there may be another perspective to view your predicament from. It might not be what you were planning but can be equally impressive and in some cases may even be better.

Finally, never assume you are always right. Your understanding may be genuine but in reality… flawed. Why? The picture above is what I always assumed was Pulpit Rock. It’s not. I’ve discovered today that it is actually Kjerag Boulder. I wasn’t far away. It’s still in Lysefjorden but a little further East. Pulpit Rock is below.

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As they are so close together maybe I will do both. What do you reckon Dad?

Better late… than never

Many years ago I was sat in my car on a road closure. Between me, my car and the live traffic was a line of cones and a large sign. Road ClosedFurther down the road was a junction controlled by traffic lights. Cones and another sign were also placed here covering half the junction. This was to prevent traffic getting through to where I was but would allow any cars coming off a side street between me and the junction to get out. The signs were fairly vague and not very easy to understand. Much like the one here.

I sat at this location whilst accident investigation (AI) officers catalogued the evidence and documented the scene of a fatal road traffic accident. The officer in the case was working with AI and my role was simply to provide a barrier between them and the public/traffic whilst they got on with their job as quickly as they could. I glanced up at the junction to see a car come onto the wrong side of the road, around the cones at the traffic lights and drive up to my location. The driver stopped at the cones. He didn’t get out. He just sat there and then flashed his lights at me and beeped his horn. I looked at him wondering what on earth he wanted. He didn’t relent and then began to pull forward to try and squeeze through the cones. I alighted my vehicle and indicated for him to stop. I believe I shouted something along the lines of “Oi! What do you think you’re doing?”

I approached the driver’s door and he wound his window down. “Is the road closed officer?” I wont publish my reply. After some discussion I established he needed to get to the train station as he was collecting a relative. He lived locally and he even identified a number of alternative routes he could take to get to his destination. Notwithstanding he sat there and argued the toss about the road closure, how inconvenient it was and that we had no right to close the road.

In another situation I stood on a road closure. Not only had I coned the road but I had also put tape across the whole road and footpaths. Road closed signs were again out and all emergency lights were flashing. A pedestrian walked along the footpath, lifted the tape and walked on. I shouted for him to stop. He didn’t. I had to go and grab hold of him. “Why are you stopping me? It’s a free country and I can go where I like.” I pointed out to him that a little further down the road was a firearms incident dealing with a man with mental health problems who reportedly had a gun. He still wanted to walk down the street because it was his right. I lost patience and frog marched him back to the tape and put him on the other side of it. He continued to protest about his freedom rights before marching off in the opposite direction.

On another occasion I was called to a narrow lane. The lane ran along side a river and it regularly broke its banks after heavy rain. The signs555_3_2 were permanently left in the hedges nearby as they were used so regularly. I closed the road with signs and cones. Job done. The signs were council owned and also a little ambiguous as this one to the right. Just to add a little clarity there was also a triangular warning sign that said “flood”.

I left the area and got on with my job. An hour or so later I was called back to a stranded motorist. I got to the lane and the driver in a Vauxhall Nova (yes that long ago) had driven into deep water, stalled the engine and was now stuck in a raging torrent of swollen river. I was in a Range Rover and even I wouldn’t have driven through it. Police officers don’t have an option in such circumstances though. You can imagine the headlines. “Police Officer Stands By and Watches as Woman Drowns”. I had to do something. I collected the strap from the boot, drove into the water as far as I deemed safe then went on foot. I clipped the strap to the Range Rover then waded up to my knees in river water pulled the strap through the towing eye and doubled it back onto the Jeep (we always called the Range Rover “the jeep”). I then returned to the car instructed the driver on what to do then pulled the car slowly and carefully back to safety. The lady was not apologetic. She complained that the road always flooded and it was a liability. “I always walk my dog down here every evening and the council should fix this so the river doesn’t flood.” she said. It would be fair to say that standing in the cold, sopping wet and throughly p**sed off that a thank you would have gone a long way. No such luck. Just a ranting tirade of how she had been inconvenienced. She got a short sharp dressing down and told to go home.

Every police officer in the country will be able to recant anecdotal tales similar to all of the above. It is so common it is infuriating. There is a section of the public who believe we close roads just for the hell of it and then sit around the corner sniggering at those who are delayed. They refuse to abide by lawfully placed signs, ignore warnings and put themselves and others at risk.

There has been a huge backlash recently to the most selfish and narcissistic piece of journalism I have read this year. An article by the conceited Daily Mail hack Richard Littlejohn. You can read it for yourself HERE.

Mr Littlejohn has come for some criticism both from the public and police. Nathan Constable wrote a blog HERE and @_sLserenda an officer who deals daily with fatal accidents blogged HERE. Both of these blogs are excellent in their own right but sadly they are both police officers. Why is this a negative? Basically because the cynics of this world will say “Well you would say that wouldn’t you”. You only have to read through some of the sickening comments on the Mail article to see what we are up against. From an evidence perspective their view is hardly independent is it?

So in steps Mr Mike Rawlins who in his role as photographer was on a bridge overlooking the tragic accident scene on Christmas Day. His blog HERE blows a great big hole in everything Mr Littlejohn has to say and has been tweeted far and wide today.

Any human being with even an ounce of compassion and decency will understand what the police did on Christmas Day. I suspect the majority of those delayed on the motorway for hours on end were frustrated and upset but I would put money on the fact that most of them were thanking their lucky stars they weren’t involved.

There were even people drawing comparisons to the coach stopped this year after a terrorist alert that led to a motorway closure and large incident. Ultimately it came to nothing. Yet I can’t help but think what the headlines and criticism would be if Staffs Police ignored the threat, batted it off and the bus got all the way to London and exploded killing and seriously injuring many people.

So do we take too long to deal with road accidents? Could we be more efficient? Well it goes without saying that we could simply clear the road and let everyone carry on but that doesn’t serve justice and it doesn’t serve the requirements of HM Coroner. The bottom line is that we do all that we can, based on the circumstances, to secure all the evidence we can from the road, the vehicles, the victims and the witnesses. It takes time. Depending on the circumstances one accident may take much longer to deal with than another. How would the public feel if we dealt with a murder by collecting the body, mopping up the blood stains and clearing off without any investigation and forensics?

Maybe Mr Littlejohn is a minority. If some of the comments on his article are anything to go by then he has many who agree with him. Maybe the minority are all collected in one place? Whichever way I look at it I take my hat off to the motorway police officers, ambulance, fire, highways agency and recovery teams who dealt with what was no doubt a traumatic incident with professionalism and care.

Mr Littlejohn and his cohorts can rant all they like about road closures and how ridiculous they see them as being. Until of course perhaps it’s one of their relatives and the police show the lack of interest they advocate.

As my mum said to me as a kid.. “Its better to arrive late than not at all”

In the grand scheme of things in comparison to the poor family grieving over their tragic loss a late Christmas dinner is infinitesimally insignificant and Mr Littlejohn should know when to shut up. However, the bigger problem is not how the police investigate matters but the selfish and inconsiderate minority who don’t give a toss at all for their fellow mankind.

Shame on you.