Urgent Assistance

“Urgent Assistance”.

Two highly emotive words – instantly recognisable to police officers everywhere.

It’s a distress call.

It’s the distress call.

The one radio transmission guaranteed to cut through the relentless background noise – to prompt any Copper within travelling distance (and some much further away) to drop whatever they’re doing and get to a colleague in trouble as fast as they can.

It’s a powerful thing.

I think the first time I had to make the call was as a Sergeant in Peckham.

We’re going back a while…


It’s another Late Turn in South East London.

I’m out on patrol with my Inspector, when we respond to reports of some sort of disturbance on the Queens Road. Up towards the Lewisham end. We’re the only unit available – everyone else is tucked up with prisoners and other calls.

It’s dark.

We arrive on scene, get out of the car and find the address up on the left hand side. It’s one of those big old South London townhouses – set back from the road and converted into flats.

There’s a young white man standing on the front steps – about 25 metres away from me. Slim and dressed in scruffs, he’s illuminated by a combination of street lamps and the lights on in the building behind him.

He’s got a knife in his right hand… Looks like some sort of kitchen knife.

And he is sawing it backwards and forwards on his own head – a curtain of blood running down his face and soaking his clothes. It looks like that still image from the Stephen King film ‘Carrie’.

Reality more troubling than fiction.

That’s when I put it up on the radio: ‘Urgent Assistance’.

Give the location. Suspect armed with a knife…

The reassurance of knowing that units are running.

But time slows down between the call and the help getting to you.

I’m a mixture of adrenalin and caution. I draw my baton. Not sure what use it will be if he comes at me – but, somehow, I’ve got a feeling he isn’t going to. Anyway, it’s all I’ve got.

I keep it behind me – don’t want to antagonise him – and venture onto the frontage of the house.

Keeping my distance.

I try to talk to him. I get his name and attempt to calm him down – but he’s highly agitated. Something about breaking up with his girlfriend.

And, from what I can tell, she’s somewhere inside the building – together with their young baby. Condition of both unknown.

I’m giving updates on the radio…

The knife is still going backwards and forwards on his head and neck. Blood and more blood.

Just keep talking.

He makes no movement towards me and, initially at least, seems to be responding to what I’m saying.

But he flat refuses to put the knife down.

And the problem is his evident and worsening condition. That – and not knowing where his partner and baby are. Or how they are doing.

Just keep talking.

They should be here any minute.

The cavalry arrive just as the man ducks back inside the front door – still holding the damn knife. No time to mess around. The firearms officers are straight in after him. No thought for their own safety. Concerned only for mother and baby – and for my mess of a man.

It all ends OK. At least, as OK as these things ever do. The man’s girlfriend and baby are unharmed (in the physical sense at least) and he is safely in custody. No telling quite what their longer term prospects are though – what kind of a world that child is going to be growing up in.

I see the knifeman down in the cells the next day. Cleaned up a bit and in his right mind, he remembers me from the night before.

I’m certainly not going to forget him.


Blood and distress; weapons and violence; heartbreak and trauma; unspeakable wickedness and unimaginable harm; helpless innocents and deeply troubled souls; the frayed edges of society… All daily realities for frontline police officers.

Where can you find a Copper these days?

Mostly likely in the hurting places…

In amongst the broken and the breaking; heading straight towards the very situations that everyone else is trying desperately to get away from – venturing where most wouldn’t dare and not holding back: helping the good people; nicking the bad people; watching one another’s backs; choosing, on occasions, to put themselves in harm’s way.

Because that’s what courage means.

Because that’s what duty demands.

Because that’s the Job.


11 thoughts on “Urgent Assistance

Add yours

  1. As an ordinary member of the public reading this brought a lump to my throat. A world I know little of but a world all too common to so many brave Officers who regularly have to deal with the traumas of life. Knowing Police men and women are walking the streets, albeit many are driving (less today), makes life safer for me and I am eternally grateful in that knowledge. My neighbourhood is relatively safe but for how much longer is anyone’s guess! The daily bravery and valour of so many Officers goes unknown to the majority of the public but we know because of a dysfunctional society these occurrences are on the rise. Our police Force is the best there is and hopefully this will be recognised before too long. All are heroes, Thank You.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. We appreciate all that you do, and this applies to everywhere! Our Isle of Man Police Force are fantastic and do a great job as you all do. Stay safe, and look after each other. Always have a good word for ALL Police Officers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Police officers choose to do this job and MOST do a magnificent job but, sadly, not all police officers are fantastic. Some go out of their way to try to provoke a reaction from good, law-abiding people and I have seen this with my own eyes. Let’s not forget that paramedics and firemen also go into unknown dangerous situations and cope with whatever horror is thrown at them. Respect where respect is due.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As a not long ago retired officer of 30+ years this brings back personal memories and my greatest respect and admiration for the brave boys and girls out there doing the job today. I know what they are are having to deal with and society is certainly not getting any easier or safer. Keep up the brave, brilliant work and well written Lynne Owens.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Unlike you I cant find remember the first time I heard ‘officer requires urgent assistance’ but I do remember the time I had to ‘press the button’ and I pressed and I pressed it again just to make sure….they called me on the radio but I couldn’t reply without taking my eyes of the 4 youths in front of me…..it was Back Lane just off Holland Park and my colleague Lee was already unconscious on the floor beside me (after being headbutted) but then I heard the most glorious sound of the ‘cavalry’ coming – sirens left right and center …. and as you said time appeared to slow…..Thankfully everyone was ok…although the custody officer at NH was having a quiet evening and decided to jump in a car and come to our aid to but had a POLAC on the way….he was ok too….but I do remember him saying “First time I’ve been allowed out for months and all I achieved was a car crash”

    Keep up the blog Mister 😉


    Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s a nice little ditty John, however would only ever have been a ” can I have a few more units” call, never an urgent assistance unless the lad was coming at you. To many urgent assistance calls have watered down the urgency, gone have the days of meals left in Peckham canteen and trying to squeeze 6 people into a metro, horn blasting no matter for personal safety, units running from all over London. The poxy panic button has a lot to answer for I’m afraid.

    Liked by 1 person

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