A POLICEMAN'S LOT

20 Years in the Greater Manchester Police

A Few Police Stories

Police Ambulance

The Police work very closely in conjunction with the other emergency services but every so often the police are required to cover for the other services during times of industrial dispute. Thus during my Police service I have found myself working alongside the army covering for the fire or ambulance service who were pursuing courses of industrial action. I feel that it is to the credit of all the services involved that all such situations have dealt with from a position of good humour and mutual understanding.

Quite a few years ago there was a national Ambulance strike and it fell to the police and the army to man the ambulances for the duration of the disputes. This led to a situation where the police and army would man an ambulance each, the police ambulance consisting of a Ford Transit van a first aid kit and a stretcher and the army ambulances normally being a green Land Rover field ambulance. Both ambulances were based at the same police station and would turn out on an alternate basis to different incidents.To perhaps give a better idea of what was involved, we would attend everything from very serious road accidents to women in labour and victims of stroke or heart attack.

At the time my involvement on the 'police ambulance' I was about 19 or 20 years old and it was a frightening experience to have such responsibility thrust upon me. Police Officers quickly become used to administering first aid and comfort to the needy but this is normally something of a stop gap measure until the arrival of a highly trained and fully equipped ambulance crew: but when you suddenly become the ambulance crew; well I suppose you can guess what it's like.

On one occasion having been turned out to a road accident and transported the casualty to hospital the army ambulance was returning to base. We were then turned out to a call regarding a 20 year old naked woman attempting to commit suicide by running in front of traffic. She had apparently already been injured. A five minute high speed journey found us arriving at the location only to find the army ambulance had just drawn up at the scene. The 20 year old woman, who was suffering a mild head injury was blonde, stark naked and weighed about 30 stone. There was a squaddy valiantly trying to subdue this vision of beauty. He shouldn't have been there but not wishing to ruin his fun I quickly radioed in that we were available and left him to it. We all knew why they'd attended and police/army relations took a turn for the worse for a couple of days until we got tired of pulling their legs.

Fire Rescue

One night whilst on patrol I was asked to go and see an old lady who was in a distressed condition. On arrival at her house I was informed by the lady that she had been unable to contact her elderly sister and was concerned regarding her welfare. She apparently lived in a block of flats about two miles away. It took only a few minutes to reach the flats and as I arrived at the flats I found that I was unable to park nearby and so decided to park on a nearby road and cut across a lawned area around the back of the flats. As I ambled across the grass I noticed a strange flickering light coming from a window of a ground floor flat. Close inspection revealed a yellow glow and hot window. It was obviously a fire.

I ran around to the communal entrance door and having already alerted the fire brigade I checked with neighbour and realised that an elderly lady lived in the flat. Still no sign of the fire service so in time honoured fashion I took an almighty kick at the front door of the flat. Several seconds passed before my hip slipped slowly back into its socket; the door hadn't moved an inch. I continued kicking at the door finding strength that is only available at times of high adrenalin and finally kicked in the door and frame quickly followed by a considerable quantity of bricks and plaster. The door had in fact stayed locked shut with numerous locks and it was the frame that had failed. Edging along the hallway I was able to shut the door to the living room where the fire had taken complete hold. Flames were seeping out of the living room door and along the hall ceiling and it was obvious that there would have been no hope for anyone who was still remaining in that room. On investigating the rest of the flat I opened a bedroom door to find the most surreal image I have ever seen. Sat up in bed , teeth in a glass at her side with smoke swirling around her, was an old lady reading a copy of the Times newspaper. Realising that I was there and obviously not recognising me as a police officer (the hat had been discarded long ago) she screamed at me to get out. If I forced her out I'd probably give her a heart attack so I dashed back out of the flat and donned my hat before re-entering the flat and leading her out.

The other old lady who I had originally been sent to see was O.K. so all ended well.

Newspaper Article
Article about the flat fire in the local newspaper.

The story made the local press but what was never reported was that I was recommended for a commendation. A few weeks later I was seen by a very sheepish looking Chief Inspector from the Complaints and Discipline Department and served with a set of papers (police jargon for the papers served which outline a complaint). The owner of the flat, not the old lady, had made a complaint regarding the damage to the door. Having signed for the receipt of the papers they were quickly consigned to the nearest bin. I never did receive any recognition for my actions that night nor was I subjected to any disciplinary action. It had been one of the most frightening but satisfying things I was ever to do as a Police Officer.

The Big Man and a Pond

Sufferers of mental illness quite often come into contact with the police and can at times be very unpredictable and difficult to handle. One Sunday I was patrolling a very affluent area on the South side of Manchester when I received a radio message to the effect that a 7 feet 2 inch black male with dread locks had just abandoned a car,stolen a piece of clothing off a washing line and made good his escape. I was fortunate that I was working in company with a new recruit rather than working alone which was the norm. We quickly found the car which had been reported stolen from the Moss Side area of Manchester but could see no sign of the person responsible for abandoning it. A search of the area was made with a negative result.

Within the hour we where attending a call to a 7 foot 2 inch black male talking to fish in a garden pond. With comments like "Oh yeah there's a lot of 7 foot 2 inch blokes around here" (I should perhaps explain that at this time there were to my knowledge no black families living in this area and I think I could honestly say I had never seen a black person in that area) we attended the scene only to find that the description had been spot on, and there engaged in a serious conversation with several goldfish was the aforementioned man.

This is a situation were experience or a lack of it really showed. I am not repeating this in anyway to embarrass the other Officer because we have all learned from mistakes and this was to be no exception.

I approached the man ensuring that the pond was between me and him at all times but my colleague decided to try and talk to the man face to face. I tried to warn him but too late; the man had my colleague in the pond and was in with him and in a flash and had him held underwater, with arms locked at full stretch. This guy was clearly very powerful. I looked around for help but the householder who had been an interested spectator had suddenly decided that it was time to exit stage left. This was getting serious, if I jumped in the pond to help we could both end up dead. I managed to reach across and grab the man's dread locks and pull him towards the side of the pond. I then, contrary to all rules and instructions, hit him as hard as I could several times right in the middle of the head with my police issue staff/truncheon (a piece of lightweight wood about 14" long and not much use for anything apart from putting windows through. It has now been replaced with the side handled baton). The man released my colleague who popped up from under the water like a bright red cork. The man then turned on me asking,"What's with the pain man?" before stepping from the pond and making his way towards me closely followed by my colleague who, considering the circumstances, was making a remarkable recovery . Have you ever heard anybody say that their hair stood on end? I felt it start at the top of my backside and progress up my back to the top of my head. I honestly thought I was going to be killed or seriously injured. Then for no apparent reason the man stopped as if in a trance. Within seconds he was hand-cuffed, before, several seconds later,becoming absolutely wild. A later examination of this man found that he had suffered no injuries as a result of my actions.Whilst this was a very frightening situation the man was clearly ill and I must admit to feeling sorry for him.

The Miners Strike

During the early 80's coal miners throughout the land went on strike in an attempt to obtain better pay and conditions. Contrary to stories circulating in the press at the time, relations between the police and miners,with a few highly publicised exceptions, were often good.

Mining tends to be concentrated in certain regions of the country and to assist with flying pickets thousands of policemen were bussed all over the country and billeted in military camps. One such camp I was at was a typical army camp. It was immaculately maintained with white painted kerb stones,well kept grassed areas and slap bang in the middle of the camp, that hallowed ground, the parade square.

Within a few minutes of arrival several bobbies had been accosted by an obnoxious little sergeant major, complete with slashed peak on his hat, who was ranting and raving because they were standing at the edge of his parade square. There were mutters and low insults traded and everyone went off to the canteen.

Four o'clock the following morning as we left the camp en-route to the nearest pit head we drove past a parade square full of empty beer cans and other rubbish. There was hell to play but it was never discovered who was responsible and I still don't know although I have my ideas.

Death Message

In my opinion one of the worst jobs in policing is delivering death messages. Turning up at a strangers house, somebody who might not be pro-police at the best of times, and delivering bad news is bad enough but there is really very little that you can do to help once the message has been delivered.Contacting relatives or making a cup of tea is normally the sum total of help that can be offered.

One sunny afternoon I was on patrol when I received a radio call regarding a death message that was to be delivered to a man to tell him that his brother had died. Apparently the deceased was a young man and the news wasn't expected.

I arrived outside the house, mentally prepared my speech and knocked on the door. A man in his 40's opened the door and after a short conversation I was invited into his living room where I found that he had a male visitor. With all the sobriety I could muster, and with a lump rising in my throat I dutifully delivered the message.The man began to smirk and the visitor burst out laughing. The visitor was apparently his brother who was visiting having just been discharged from hospital following treatment to a lacerated thumb. Enquiries revealed that hospital records had been mixed. I felt foolish,relieved and a little annoyed as I left the house with my tail between my legs.

Blue Light

Despite an intensive training program the drivers of police cars seem to regularly find themselves involved in road accidents. This story did not happen to me but happened to a colleague I knew who was responding to an emergency call.

At the time of the incident he was driving a Ford Capri 2.8 injection traffic car and was responding to a call. As he accelerated on a long straight road the car left the carriageway ending up perched on a stone wall. There were no other vehicles involved. When asked to explain the accident he replied,"I turned on the blue light and the car went round". Obvious really isn't it!

Road Accident

Until not so long ago even the most minor of road accidents entailed a large amount of paperwork for Police Officers. It was then with mixed feelings that I witnessed perhaps one of the most bazaar of accidents as I was driving back to the Police station one day to get some breakfast. The road concerned is a busy 'A' road consisting of 4 lanes, two for northbound and two for southbound traffic. On both sides of the road there is a foot path , a shop frontage and shops with plate glass display windows.

It was a nice sunny day and all was well with the world. I was quite happily chugging along on the inside southbound lane in my Police car exactly on the speed limit and causing quite a bottleneck of traffic around me as no other motorists wanted a speeding ticket( Incidentally in nearly 20 years of service I only ever issued 2 tickets for speeding as the vehicles I drove weren't fitted with the necessary calibrated equipment).

From the pavement on my offside I saw a blue saloon car reverse from the pavement at right angles into the roadway at speed causing northbound traffic to brake to a standstill, disappearing in clouds of blue smoke, avoiding the car which, then still at considerable speed, continued in a semi- circle onto the southbound carriageways. A car several vehicles in front of me braked hard and the vehicle following ran straight into the back of it. The blue car then clipped the front wheel of a postman's bike knocking its rider, a very jolly looking postman, to the floor.

The blue vehicle then continued to complete a full 360 degrees in the road. The postman was just picking his bike up as the vehicle came around again. He leapt out of the way with a stifled yelp as the car then finished the bike off. This caused a slight deviation to the cars path and it mounted the pavement on my side of the road careering into two parked vehicles which were parked on the shop frontages before pushing them through plate glass windows of two shops. There then followed an eerie silence.

It was obvious there were no serious injuries. I broke out a new biro and started writing. The driver of the blue car was a lovely old chap in his late 80's. The most serious injury was suffered by the postman who suffered several grazes.

The report was an epic. There were vehicle inspectors reports, in excess of 20 witness statements and the necessary documents for application for prosecution. The elderly gentleman, having later failed an eyesight test, voluntarily surrendered his driving licence to the D.V.L.A. (Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency) and I was able to successfully argue that he should not be prosecuted as it would serve no real purpose (see we're not bad all the time).

Worst of all I missed my breakfast.

Community Policing

A Police Officers job is not just upholding law and order but is also to be a part of the community. I worked for many years at a small section station and every couple of weeks an old lady would come in to ask for assistance changing her hearing aid battery. I don't know how she did it but she invariably came into the station during a busy spell.

All the Officers who worked at the station knew her well and would launch themselves good naturedly into the same routine. She would come in shouting that the hearing aid battery needed replacing and aid and battery were then handed to the Officer on the desk for the battery replacement. The battery was duly replaced and the hearing aid handed back to the old lady with a shouted warning not to turn it up too high. Every time she fitted it to her ear and turned it on only to curse loudly as a shrill whine filed the station, the feedback from the hearing aid that was turned up far too high. There would be knowing smiles from everybody in the station and off she would go happy for another couple of weeks. Sadly she is no longer with us but that little old lady became a firm favourite of all the officers.

First Mistake of Many

Whilst still young in service and working nights I was on foot patrol outside a public house when two men came rolling out of the front door scrapping for all they were worth. Now any experienced Officer would have let them get on with it for a bit before breaking them up and picking up the bits, but I thought I could sort it out. Wandering over I split up the two combatants only to have one of then, a particularly strong and wiry young man turn on me. There then ensued a protracted wrestling match between myself and this young man which resulted in the whole pub turning out as excited and rowdy spectators and me being half pushed and half thrown through a plate glass shop window. As I went through the window I must have involuntarily clenched my toes up because a large shard of glass fell onto the toe of my boot cutting it off and leaving me with my toes hanging out. Other than a small cut on my lip I was however uninjured. What started off as a relatively minor incident ended up, thanks to my intervention, as a quite considerable disturbance. The man with whom I was fighting was subsequently fined. I learnt a valuable lesson, never rush into a situation and if necessary get help prior to intervening. This incident occurred in the late 1970's. For a Police Officer to act in such a way today would be tantamount to suicide ---- Times change.

Dignity

It's always fitting that a Police Officer should try maintain some dignity befitting of his rank but you can bet your life that the slightest thing can quickly bring you down to earth with a bump. Try directing traffic on an icy road (a very dangerous past time only to be undertaken when absolutely necessary) and staying on your feet and you can be sure you will soon attract an audience.

On evening I had cause to go and see a young man and warn him, in front of his parents , about his behaviour. I was invited into the house and invited to take a seat. I placed my helmet on the floor and launch into a stern lecture when in ran a puppy which put it's head in my helmet and promptly threw up. That was it, end of lecture. I couldn't help laughing at the youth who was trying to stay straight faced. His parents apologetically cleaned the helmet which was never the same again and was replaced a short time afterwards.

Football Duties

Fresh out of school and having only been in the Police a few months I worked my first football match at Old Trafford the home of Manchester United. The game was a 'friendly' the visiting team being Celtic. In those days many of the fans were transported to the ground by train and used to alight at Warwick Road Station (now a tram stop) before walking about three quarters of a mile to the ground.

I was one of a large group of Officers assigned to escort the fans from the station to the ground. The first train drew into the platform and a tide of green swept from the train demolishing everything and everybody in its path. There were thousands of Scots all exceedingly drunk. For something like 4 hours I was fighting running or wrestling and dodging missiles. This was in the days prior to protective equipment and riot shields etc.There were a lot of injuries and a large amount of damage. After the match the fans were baton (well small truncheons actually) charged back to the train station and onto the trains to whence they had come... and good riddance. I went home that night absolutely exhausted wondering what the hell I had got into.

Tips

In the late seventies and early eighties football hooliganism was at its height. Standing at football grounds was the norm and I frequently worked Old Trafford's football ground in the no man's land between opposing fans. We were in effect a human barrier. It became commonplace for fans to smuggle sharpened coins into the ground and throw them at each other causing some quite nasty injuries.The favourite coin because of their size was the 2 pence piece. On one occasion as the coins started to rain down one of the older Policemen began picking them up and asking the crowd if they could perhaps see their way to throwing 50 pence pieces.
I should perhaps add that the coins weren't kept but correctly disposed of as offensive weapons.