You Know You Are

Every now and then, I stop to listen to what’s being said about policing in this country.

And, every now and then, it can start to sound a little like a variation on that tired old football chant:

‘You’re sh*t and you know you are…’

For some, it’s an accusation; for others a product of experience; for still others it’s a taunt.

In some instances, it’s just a lazy repetition of the noise of the crowd.

And the story becomes:

• The police are inept
• The police are racist
• The police are corrupt
• The police are untrustworthy

Well, sometimes we are – and some of us can be. Some of our failings have been catastrophic – and some of the consequences unthinkable.

Sometimes it’s an individual officer at fault; sometimes it’s the whole institution. And, either way, the responsibility for putting things right is ours and ours alone. We’ve still got a long way to go.

But it’s not the whole story. It’s not even most of the story.

There is more to be said.

In the vast majority of cases, the vast majority of the time, my experience of policing – and of the people who do this extraordinary job – bears little or no comparison with the sound coming from the terraces.

——————————-

I am a Chief Superintendent, talking to one of the officers who was first on scene at Edgware Road on 7/7.

This is just a small piece of his story.

On that desperate morning, he was part of a three-man armed team, patrolling Central London.

The calls started coming thick and fast, to a number of locations – but with no clarity or certainty about what on earth was happening. The officers put up on the radio and volunteered to respond – but their offer was declined. They were told to continue with their pre-assigned duties.

That just didn’t feel right – and something told them that they should go all the same.

They arrived at the tube station and saw a deserted ambulance – back doors wide open – parked in the middle of the road. Then, dozens of members of the public, stumbling out of the station entrance, filthy and bleeding.

Whilst his two colleagues began immediate first aid with the people in front of them, this officer went in – went down onto the platform; down into the tunnel; down into hell.

He kept going through the darkness – until he found the blown out shell of the train.

Amongst all the carnage, he could hear someone moaning – one passenger who was still alive, amongst the bodies of those who didn’t make it.

The PC went no further. Here was a life to be saved. And he did his duty – in circumstances that are beyond imagining.

He improvised bandages from torn strips of clothing and, together with others, did what he could until further help arrived.

When later asked at the Inquest why he had gone down into the tunnels that day, he replied simply,

‘Because I was there’.

I doubt you’d recognise his name – and his story won’t have been told in too many places. But he is a hero of our time.

And he is one of many.

——————————-

I’m a Chief Inspector at Hammersmith.

I’m talking to members of our Crime Squad – officers who have saved the life of a critically injured drug dealer.

Responding to a call, they find him lying in the street, bleeding heavily. He has been stabbed through the femoral artery and is in a very bad way.

But he is also a violent and dangerous man – and, unbelievably, he wants to fight with the very people who are trying to save his life.

It’s all he knows.

The officers do their duty and do it well. One of the PCs actually puts his foot right into the man’s groin in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding.

The dealer survives. He lives to fight another day.

And he never says thank you.

——————————-

I am the Borough Commander at Camden – privileged to be awarding Commendations to officers who were on duty during the London riots of 2011.

This is the story of just one of the teams – as told to me by their Inspector.

They were in a marked carrier – one of the hastily constituted ‘Reserve Serials’ being despatched across the Capital as the disorder worsened and spread. They get the call to go to Hackney.

An elderly lady has collapsed in the street – seen, I think, by the police helicopter hovering overhead. It’s all going off in the surrounding area – and she clearly needs urgent help.

Police carriers are usually lively places – full of banter and silliness. This one is silent, eyes fixed straight ahead. The instruction is passed from the Inspector to the driver:

‘Whatever you do, don’t stop moving’.

Feeling fear, but doing your duty all the same. Now that’s courage.

The old lady’s son goes out into the street to assist her – but is hit on the head by a missile thrown from who knows where.

Two innocent members of the public down.

The carrier gets through and the officers jump out to form a protective shield around the injured. Somehow – God knows how – they get the injured out of there without taking any casualties themselves.

Everyone can breathe again. Before they go again.

——————————-

I am the Borough Commander at Southwark – talking to a PC who is being awarded an Assistant Commissioner’s Commendation.

This is why…

He and his colleague take a routine call to a disturbance at an address – the type of incident that, invariably, gets resolved without a second thought – on multiple occasions, every single day.

But this one is different.

On their arrival, the suspect turns violent. Astonishingly so.

He punches my PC so hard in the face that he breaks his jaw and knocks him out cold. As he regains consciousness, he sees that his colleague is also down – and that the suspect is now standing over her.

Not good. Not good at all.

In spite of horrendous injuries – and levels of pain that don’t bear thinking about – he picks himself up of the floor and hurls himself at the assailant. Somehow, the two officers hang on until the help arrives.

And, talking to him now, my words are wholly inadequate in recognisingwhat the two of them did that day

——————————-

I could tell you endless stories…

And let me tell you what I see.

If you stand on the thin blue line, I’m talking to you.

You are brave and you are brilliant. You are capable and you are compassionate. You are fearless and you are funny. You are patient and you are professional. You are long-suffering and you are loyal. You are humble and you are humane. You are inspiring. You are extraordinary. You are the Everyday Heroes and Heroines who police our streets.

And I want you to know you are.

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14 thoughts on “You Know You Are

Add yours

  1. Even in the darkest moments in police history you can find examples of the actions you refer to:

    Russell Greaves was an off-duty officer from Lincolnshire and attended the 1989 football match as a spectator.

    Because of his first aid training he helped to carry Sarah onto the pitch from the overcrowded terraces where she and Vicki had been crushed.

    Mr Greaves then gave Sarah mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and helped to carry her across the pitch on a wooden advertising hoarding to get medical help.

    He told the inquests: “The situation in my mind was that this was such an horrendous event that was taking place that I as an individual wanted to do something positive and not give in.”

    But he eventually had to close Sarah’s eyes after being told by a medical team at the Hillsborough stadium that she was dead and “beyond help.”

    Through their barrister, Sarah’s parents thanked Mr Greaves for his help.

    In tears he said: “I know that just mere words cannot comfort Jenni and Trevor Hicks or remove their sense of loss, pain and utter devastation but I would like to take this opportunity to say to them that I did my very best for Sarah in the circumstances.

    “I could not have done more.

    “For the time I was with Sarah she was with someone who cared and Sarah was not alone.”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Another interesting post. I’ve been thinking about your blog. As someone based in the North of Ireland, with all its attendant grisly history (and there have been more revelations on police collusion this week), I was thinking it would be fascinating to read the experiences of a police officer in this neck of the woods. Given it’s in a period of transition, like much of policing in terms of transparency and accountability. It’s a painstaking road in building public confidence. Anyway, just some thoughts that your blog inspired.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. You’re one of the better bosses, and you’d better know that you are. If only more of your peers could find it in themselves to tell the troops how much they are appreciated……It’s surprising how far a few supportive words go.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Hi, arrived at your blog via twitter. My Great Great Grandfather Watson Baty was a Police Constable with the Durham Constabulary during the Victorian era. I wonder what it was like policing in those days.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Sir,
    I am one of your officers although we have never met. Reading the words of your blog gives me a small ray of hope that all is not completely lost in the upper ranks of our organisation. ‘Leadership’ seems to be a forgotten word in the Met and God knows we’ve never needed it more than now. Thank you for speaking for the thousands of hard-working officers on the thin blue line who dont have a voice against what seems to be a never ending barrage of negative press and public opinion. It can be a thankless task and we dont do it for the rare praise or occassional accolade but knowing that just one senior officer will speak for us, makes it that little bit easier.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. A truly wonderful post showing the recognition that, sadly, most officers will never get.

    I would like to discuss with you a book I am currently writing, I’m an ex-met officer and am looking to achieve exactly what this article has achieved, more respect for and understanding of a uniformed police officer’s role. I have interest from a major publisher and I think your contribution would be invaluable.

    Please drop me an email to wonderlandus@hotmail.com or follow me on Twitter (@policemanmusing) and we can discuss further.

    Thank you,

    Alice Vinten

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Excellent. I am writing a book with the same aim as this post – more respect and understanding of a uniformed officers role. I think your input could be invaluable. Please email me on wonderlandus@hotmail.com or follow me on Twitter @policemanmusing and I’ll send you a direct message. I’m a former met officer turned writer.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey I live in Cali and the police here yea some can be rude disrespectful but most are looking out for others I mean the police officers are my heroes and I hope that I could work with them one day

    Liked by 1 person

  9. From just one of the silent majority out here. Just to say that we really do appreciate you. Thank you for upholding our society. Even when many of the people you deal with just spit in your face – Thank you for protecting us. Even when those than govern turn corrupt – make cuts to necessary services with a stroke on piece of paper, while they give themselves pay rises – Thank you for your loyalty. THANK YOU.

    Liked by 1 person

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