‘Don’t Screw the GI’

Making the Hard Calls for the Right Reasons

I was recently speaking to a relatively senior American Military Officer who lamented to me of his senior leaders ‘If they can make a decision that screws the GI, they will…’ I was a little shocked by the candid nature of his comments. He went on to list a number of examples, particularly in the area of operational welfare, that got me thinking about the parallels to policing leadership.

I’ve worked for some genuinely impressive army leaders over the years. Men and women who instinctively knew what was fair and right when it came to their people and often with great moral courage, advocated for it without compromising the completion of the mission.

They decided that the implications of inaction far outweighed any concern for personal gain. 

I have been reflecting on this as each day passed this week during our ‘CRITICAL’ alert phase. I kept hearing what I consider to be the somewhat disingenuous statements from senior police leaders that they have deployed ‘extra police’ when we know the reality is that they have simply switched assets to 12 hours shifts, cancelled rest days and kept folk past their shift end times repeatedly to ensure police are ‘seen’; the bulk of whom can do little to counter any renewed terrorist attack in any event due to their arming state & training. 

Despite the strain on officers we appear to fail to examine the second order consequences of ‘show deployments’; of ‘increased’ unarmed patrols, unarmed officers searching at the front of police stations or sending unarmed stations to ‘confirm’ firearms related incidents. All of this required despite Op TEMPERER deployments.

At what point do senior police leaders say enough is enough? If we are unable to cope with raising our alert state to its highest level without breaking the service and its officers isn’t it time for the Association of Police Chiefs to stand up and be counted? 

Cops deserve leaders that put themselves metaphorically on the line to make hard edged operational decisions that will set our police service on the path to sustainable deployment, preferably without the use of the British Army and absolutely not at the expense of the frontline officer. 

I genuinely don’t believe any senior police officer deliberately sets out to ‘screw the cop’. They were all frontline officers themselves once and have been through the similar trials and hardships within their own context. Frankly, if any take any joy from making decisions that adversely affect officers they are no leader in any context.

Rather, I believe that distance from the frontline has caused an imbalance for some in their understanding of the concepts of ‘team, task and individual’ whereby the task is achieved at all costs, especially to the individual.

This is ‘short termism’ at its worst. Its results can be seen in attitude surveys amongst officers across the UK. By and large, with some notable exceptions, frontline officers do not trust their senior leadership to make the right decisions.  I certainly don’t expect my senior leaders to give up on the morale of their officers. I expect them to fight to improve the morale of those they lead knowing that it is a vital component of police effectiveness. I expect them to make a difference. 

I guess some would say that it’s our job to occasionally have to exceed our capabilities to deal with unexpected situations. I completely agree. It’s our commitment to service that enables us to do this. We are good at it and it’s something to be proud of. But I would expect that this is the exception not the default position. Once identified the first time, the next time a similar scenario comes around a good leader has mitigated for it. 

It is a leader’s job to correctly assess troops to task for both most likely and most dangerous scenarios. Any plan that sees us continually rely on working officers to the bone to ambiguous effect is not a good one. Tasks should be ruthlessly assessed for necessity and effect when resources are tight. 

Perhaps an additional contributing factor is the lack of a consistent and robust planning process that our ops planning teams can use to effectively assess missions and tasks and resource them accordingly. Too often the answer to the next deployment is to pull out a similar order from the last one without a detailed mission analysis & examination of the effects we are looking to achieve. We all have examples of wondering why resourcing for Christmas and New Year seems such a challenge to get right every year! It is a leader’s job to ensure planning is effective.

Our current response to enhanced threat states requires a root and branch review: Resources required, how they are tasked and how they are equipped to respond to the task. The British Army, like the Police, will do as ordered and do it well. The Army will always be there to secure the British People at home and abroad. But even Op TEMPERER hasn’t mitigated the strain on officers sufficiently.

It’s all well & good to keep saying ‘We have to have a conversation with partners & the public about what police do.’ Its past time to be taking tough decisions with regards to what drops off to deal with higher priority risks. We cannot keep resorting to directing the teams to simply work harder. 

The phrase ‘we’ll just get the cops to…’ just doesn’t cut it anymore. It will take leaders with significant moral courage to redress the situation. Now is the time for bold and fearless police leadership. The long term health & welfare of our officers, & the subsequent effectiveness of policing in the UK depends on it. 

I haven’t blogged for a while, as many of you know I am away at the moment working overseas with the fantastic support of my force back home. I see many parallels between military operations and leadership and how we lead cops on a day to day basis where every call is ‘operational’. I hope to reflect some of these occasionally while I am away.


Where to from here? 

The Scottish Police Federation Emergency Motion

As those who follow my twitter feed will be aware I had the fantastic opportunity to attend the Scottish Police Federation Conference as an ordinary member. I am very grateful to the General Secretary for enabling me to attend and see the proceedings first hand.

You may also be aware that just prior to the conference, in response to the London terror attack and the murder of PC Keith Palmer, the SPF tabled an emergency motion to be discussed at conference:

I was present when this motion was discussed. All of the speakers, including the General Secretary, the Vice Chair, the Assistant General Secretary and part-time delegates with vast policing experience in uniformed, firearms and public order policing between them, spoke in measured, considered terms. It would be reasonable to say the motion drew considerable consensus from the assembled delegates.

I will try to summarise the key themes, I hasten to add from my own impressions of the discussion, but which given their content I believe were highly significant:

  • There was a general recognition that the current policing model and resource/equipment provision no longer provides the protection that SPF members should expect & is unlikely to do so in the future.
  • It was recognised that current officer safety equipment was not suitable to enable protection from edged weapon attack (be it from terrorism, or as was recognised, regular policing operations).
  • Significant concerns were raised that whilst Armed Response Officers were superbly trained, they are presently not in a position to respond effectively to the requirement to protect unarmed officers faced with regular spontaneous edged weapon threat.
  • Great concern was expressed over the continued deployment of unarmed officers to general edged weapons calls.
  • It was discussed whether there needs to be a centre ground option between the unarmed officer and the highly trained ARV officer and that there was a role for the ‘ordinary’ armed police officer – however that model may evolve (my italics) in order to react to spontaneous attacks posing a lethal threat – particularly from edged weapons and incidents such as that seen in London.
  • There was a genuine desire from the SPF to open a wider dialogue with  Police Scotland, Scottish Government, other key stakeholders and the wider community about what would keep police officers and the community safe now and into the future.

Speakers understood that dialogue of this type may be difficult and it may take some time. They recognised that it was critical to bring both the wider SPF membership and crucially, the public, with them. Given the time it will take they wish to engage now.

They were supported in the above views by an informed and impressive preamble to the motion by a Police Federation of Northern Ireland Executive Member.

There was no knee jerk reaction to recent events, no ‘heart over head’ speeches, no demand to be automatically routinely armed. Just considered thoughts from the SPF Executive Members and part-time delegates whom for some, may have come to these conclusions having held very different opinions for the bulk of their policing service.

Critical to understanding the significance of this debate for me, is that for the first time on mainland UK to my knowledge, we have a Police Federation’s delegates questioning the ability for it’s members and the public to be protected from spontaneous lethal threat. This Federation represents the second largest force in the country. That’s pretty big to my mind.

So where do we go from here? A few personal thoughts:

  • The delegates were urged to engage their members in detailed discussion to further gauge their feelings, which I have no doubt they will do.
  • To progress the issue further though we will need to communicate to the public (and to many of our colleagues whom may not be fully aware) the lethal threat posed by edged weapons & our present inability to safely manage that threat unarmed – and also the regularity that officers deal with them.
  • We will need to be honest and open about the limitations of the armed response model to react to spontaneous events and the routine lethal edged weapon threat to unarmed officers.
  • We will need to look now at our ARV deployment model & how we look to immediately mitigate the risk to unarmed officers at the present time.
  • We should look to alternative models that bridge the unarmed officer to ARV capability gap that the SPF has, in my opinion, correctly identified.

I think Police Scotland has a unique opportunity to work with a willing staff association to explore how we can move forward together to better protect officers and the public right now and from emerging threats. I genuinely hope we grasp it.

After all, as the visiting Vice President of the Queensland Police Union said to me at the conference:

‘Every Officer has the right to go home safe to their family at the end of their shift.’

Lets lead the UK in ensuring that we do.

What’s a Uniformed Cop to Do?

Empowering Uniformed Officers to Fight Child Sexual Exploitation

I am no expert on Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). I know how to identify the signs, I know to put on intelligence reports and I know what I can and can’t do under the law to immediately protect a child at risk. But I left wondering on #CSEDay17 if it’s enough?

If you’re a parent can I ask you this? Would you expect your 14 year old to be in the company of adults you didn’t know without your express permission or knowledge? I imagine the answer is no. But what do you expect the police to do? In particular what do you expect the police to do about the three 22 year old men we find your 14 year old daughter in the company of in some random flat?

Unless there is a current offence disclosed to us or obvious on our arrival we can certainly return her home. But she can be picked up the next day in a car having texted those same men, or they having messaged her and there isn’t a lot we can do about it when you call us. Sure we can put in intelligence reports, we can repeatedly organise missing person searches or submit vulnerable person referrals. If the child is in care we can perhaps pursue subsequent harbouring / assisting charges.

But is it enough?

Shouldn’t we be putting the obligation on the adult to ensure the child in their company is there with the express permission of the parent or guardian?

We talk a good game when it comes to CSE but when it comes to laws to protect the child we haven’t really made it easy for ourselves to undertake that duty to protect.

In Scotland we rely heavily on s12 Children & Young Person’s (Scotland) Act 1937, yes that’s not a typo, 1937.

It’s not a bad charge but it contains reasonably high bars to utilise to good effect and is of very limited use in the bulk of circumstances officers here in Scotland find themselves when they come into contact with children in the presence of adults whom are not their parents or guardians. It is mostly used against parents who wilfully neglect children.

Perhaps it’s time we craft the offence differently? Make it an obligation on adults in the presence of children not their own to ensure they have the permission of parents or guardians for them to be there. Something along the lines of:

‘It is an offence for an adult to have charge or care of a (young?) child without the permission of, or reckless as to whether the parent of guardian of the child has permitted them, to have such charge or care.’

Again I am no lawyer and greater minds than I can craft a suitable statute however let me give you a couple of examples whereby a law of this type comes into it’s own:

At 0200 in the morning officers attend a noisy party to find three 24 year old males in the company of a 14 year old girl who is not related to them in any way. The girl is known to officers as vulnerable. Officers suspect that it is likely that the young girl may be subject to exploitation but have no evidence that this may be the case. None of the males are stating they know the girl well and the girl isn’t telling cops anything.

Whilst passing a care home officers note a 15 year old child known to be vulnerable and a drug user get into a car with 3 males. On stopping the vehicle it is established that the 3 males are not known to the officers and have no previous known links to the child but an intelligence check reveals that one male has a marker for CSE. The child is highly uncooperative and the males are telling the cops they were flagged down and asked by the child to drop them into town.

Any of us who work in uniform know the circumstances I have outlined above are not rare events.

In both of these cases officers can safeguard the child immediately. But where is the deterrent for the males involved? Where is the immediate follow up action that the officers can take to dig into this behaviour? At the time they have been found/stopped they have not committed any offences.

However, viewing these circumstances as a parent of guardian of the children involved here are you happy with that? Is it good enough that these men should be able to be in the company of children such as this in the circumstances outlined, knowingly or recklessly doing so without your permission?

I’m not saying crafting such a statute would be easy but it would open up investigative options for officers to ensure we could really drive down into the behaviour of the adults in this instance:

  • We have the option to arrest the adults on suspicion for the offence detected.
  • We could provide search options for the person and any vehicles the child is found in.
  • We could seize phones for analysis of text messages.
  • We could provide police with powers to force entry to premises and open up search options where there is a suspicion that they are used as premises where children frequent the company of adults in circumstances that you would not expect as a parent.
  • We could open up necessary and proportionate covert options to protect high-risk vulnerable children where we suspect they are being picked up by adults or attending premises where they may be exposed to exploitation.
  • We could produce guidance for prosecutors and officers as to how the law is to be interpreted.
  • We could send a clear message that if you are an adult and there is a 14 year old child in your charge or care at your flat at 0200 in the morning, you better have permission of the parent or guardian. It’s YOUR responsibility and the facts as they are know will be reported to prosecutorial services and ultimately the courts for them to decide what your intent was in having that child in your flat with your two 20 something mates…..

All of the above investigative options are already open where we have reasonable grounds to suspect that a child has been the subject of CSE. The issue is for many of our most vulnerable children, even reaching that bar is a challenge. Our hands are tied and the deterrent is insufficient.

Lets run the vehicle scenario again with these options opened to officers:

  • The males are arrested on suspicion of having charge or care of a child without the permission of a parent or guardian.
  • A search of the vehicle reveals condoms and lubricant purchased at a store two hours before the vehicle stop.
  • The males are charged and held custody and sent to court on the original offence and receive suitable bail conditions.
  • The phones of the males and the child are seized and on analysis communications are identified that enable subsequent sexual offences to be detected and prosecuted.

Of course multiple investigative strands open up to both proactively target a stop like this having used covert methods to follow up on the protection of a high-risk child and subsequently through the execution of searches where grounds have been identified post arrest. The potential to garner significant intelligence is also obvious.

As a lay-person I’m sure there are many legislative and practical issues around the introduction of such a law to ensure that officers can more proactively target CSE offenders.

If however, as a parent you feel the above circumstances are really not acceptable, and that CSE, as one of our most insidious, complex and heinous crimes needs cutting edge and aggressive tactics to counter, then perhaps the onus is on us within the Criminal Justice system to work out how to avail ourselves of such tools.

‘Black Box’ Thinking for Policing

Introducing Force-Wide Notable Incident Procedures

In Matthew Syed’s great book, Black Box Thinking, he identifies that both airlines and medical systems have well-honed procedures which allow the identification of potential safety issues and the distribution of lessons identified quickly to encourage rapid organisational learning.

My own force C3 Division has successfully introduced a really good system which is similar called a Notable Incident Process. The goal of this process is:

‘To promote an improvement culture where staff are encouraged to report adverse incidents or ‘near misses’ and introduce processes as soon as possible where these can be recorded, assessed and any improvement identified and implemented’.

This is an excellent idea, well executed. It removes the traditional blame culture ethos and ensures staff can be confident that if there are issues then they can raise them and have them acted on for the benefit of all. It’s early days for this in my force and I am sure there will be challenges, but it looks really promising.

Whilst we all have ‘near miss’ procedures in our own organisations I am not sure we are really making the best of what we could when incidents occur. Near misses are recorded inconsistently, if at all and there is little rapid sharing of information to ensure wider organisational learning.

Perhaps it’s time to roll this sort of scheme out force wide for all incidents? I could see a simplified system working as follows:

· An online portal form to allow for rapid information capture across the force.

· A daily review to assess / edit and approve dissemination of Notable Incidents that come in.

· A push email linking each notable incident to frontline supervisors in the relevant work area to ensure the learning is disseminated in a timely fashion and reaches the attention of the right people in the right timescale so they can brief their teams.

Of course there are a couple of pitfalls. We have already seen elements of the Scottish media use the Notable Report Process to try and trash the excellent work of C3 Division in this area. Frankly the quality of journalism surrounding this has been lazy and sensationalist and it requires (as we have seen from the SMT in this area) a robust force level response and the staff to be directly reassured that they are doing the right thing reporting.

It also requires some leaders to reassess their attitude towards errors in the work place and approach these with a less punitive outlook. The system falls at the first hurdle if the leaders within the job don’t get that reporting and subsequent learning is more important in making sure someone is ‘held responsible’. This direction of travel needs to come from the very top.

Finally it requires a relationship with our Police Investigations &  Review Commissioner (PIRC) that endorses and understands what the intention of the force is. This may be the toughest nut to crack. You’d like to think however that this is somehing that the PIRC would encourage and actively support. 

Aspiring to generate fast learning across the Force has to be a no-brainer. We can use the example of our own C3 Division as a model for the rest of us to continually get better at the job.

We take millions of calls a year and make tens of millions of decisions around those calls on top of that. By and large we get them right. But when we don’t a Notable Incident Process gives us a valuable opportunity to identify issues and trends from these calls & improve how we look after both the public and ourselves. 

‘It’s Only a Knife’

You really wouldn’t think you’d need to explain to control room supervisors why a knife presents a lethal threat to officers and that the requests made in response to the above scenario are reasonable and reasoned.

I have to wonder as to the motive of the individual who failed to authorise suitable resources to deal with it.

I can however perhaps give a pass to members of the public I have engaged with over the last week or so via private messaging on Twitter who don’t understand my position that edged weapon threats (knife, axe, machete etc) require an armed response to safely deal with them. Again rather than try and explain piecemeal tweet by tweet let me outline the reasons.

Edged Weapons Characteristics

Lets first deal with why edged weapons are so lethal:

  • They require no training to kill. As demonstrated by the numerous youth deaths across the country, you need no special skill to kill with a knife. Swing, stab and slash wildly and often enough and you’ll hit something critical.
  • They can be used in a continuous attack that is virtually impossible to defend against. Attacking from all angles, fast and repeated strikes mean that knives are a highly efficient means of attacking someone. Edged weapon attacks are never just a single strike like you see in the movies. Youtube knife attacks to see how frighteningly dynamic and fast they are. The risk of death doesn’t stop till the threat is effectively neutralised.

Unarmed Officer Vulnerability

Why are unarmed cops vulnerable to lethal edged weapon threat?

  • Their armour covers some vital organs but even at a quick count, at least 6 arteries are on show as targets for the edged weapon attacker (2 each of the carotid, brachial and femoral).
  • They receive NO training as to how to disarm a knife attacker, and even if they did, they couldn’t possibly become proficient with the techniques in the time that they get to practice operational safety. As a young lad I spent a number of years teaching soldiers how to undertake last resort disarms of knife attackers as part of an unarmed combat program. They are LOW percentage techniques even for the trained individual.

Defensive Equipment Capability

Why can’t our normal issued defensive equipment deal with it?

  • Empty Hand Tactics. I have covered this above, youtube knife attacks and tell me that an officer with a day’s refresher or so every year where they practice 50 plus techniques for a couple of minutes each has any hope of stopping a determined edged weapon attacker.
  • Baton. It’s too short, requires us to be within the fighting arc of the edged weapon, exposes the vital officer target areas listed above and it’s effectiveness, even on unarmed offenders, depends heavily on the capability of the officer (remember, one training session a year, for a few minutes a technique).
  • Irritant Spray. Again requires us to be under 2 metres from the attacker, way too close to the edged weapon and even if the offender is partially affected by the spray, they remain just as dangerous wildly swinging and stabbing out at the officer. Spray is also unreliable as an incapacitant.
  • Taser. The MAXIMUM range of the Taser is 21 feet, though the effective range is practically less than that. Again, youtube Tueller’s 21 feet rule to see how quickly an edged weapon attacker can cover this distance. As we have seen recently with the terrible hammer attack on officers, Taser can and does fail. When it does what is an officer to escalate to in order to protect themselves and members of the public from lethal attack?

I just completed my annual refresher in operational safety. Our own force experts, and I bet yours, make it clear that edged weapons present a lethal threat to officers. The only tactic taught to us is a baton flick technique designed to buy us some distance in order to allow us to RUN AWAY.

Likelihood Versus Impact – Assessing the Risk

Coming back to the motivation of the control room supervisor in the tweet at the top of the blog…

When we assess risk we generally measure likelihood of an event versus it’s impact. It’s often argued that knife attacks on officers are rare, and that may be the case. However it’s just as reasonable to suggest that the impact of these attacks can be catastrophic – we recall the axe attack on the UK officer last year that caused her serious injury – only being saved by a member of the public dragging her into his flat.

This imbalance would be guaranteed to require mitigation to lower the risk to an acceptable level. I would respectfully submit that asking officers to simply acknowledge a ‘stay safe’ message fails to effectively mitigate the risk.

So given the all of the above, and the fact that UK Police Operational Safety Experts are teaching edged weapons as being lethal threats, why do we continue to send unarmed officers to deal with them?

I can come up with three possible explanations off the top of my head, but am happy to be corrected:

  1. Supervisors are ignorant to the real threat – in that case send them this blog.
  2. Forces have failed to ensure there is sufficient resource to deal with the number of these calls and so are forced to send unarmed officers.
  3. Supervisors would rather risk an unarmed officer get cut or stabbed than risk the deployment of the correct resource and the impact of a knife offender being shot for continuing to prosecute their attack.

I am sure the truth is somewhere in the middle…..


The Edged Weapon Blind Spot

How we are putting unarmed cops at risk

Over the past few days I’ve enjoyed some great twitter exchanges with folk about routine arming of officers and of late, specifically the use of unarmed officers to deal with edged weapon threats.

I was saddened, but not surprised to learn in a twitter poll I published that 88% of the 450 odd officers that had voted had been required to arrest an offender when it was known they were in possession of edged weapons. Some may have no issue with this, I very much do (having done it a number of times myself).

I have conveyed my views piecemeal over 147 characters but today want to lay out clearly why I feel as I do. So best start with my premise and work from there:

Armed officers should attend any call where there is an edged weapon suspected to ensure the safety of officers attending.

Let me outline my rationale for this as succinctly as I can:

  • Edged weapons pose a lethal threat to officers.
  • There is presently no authorised tactic for an unarmed officer to arrest an offender armed with an edged weapon.
  • Unarmed officers are not equipped with any option to stand off outside the reactionary arc of an armed offender yet retain control of the situation, whether the edged weapon threat is active or passive at the time of officer contact.

I don’t think the above rationale is particularly controversial but very happy to be challenged on it. Yet despite the above we consistently send officers to these calls.

How did we get to a situation so at odds with the rest of the Western world when it comes to dealing with edged weapons as a threat? And let’s be clear, we are definitely swimming against the officer safety tide on this one in my experience.

If you only have a hammer every problem looks like a nail….

When you only have officers armed with spray and baton then who else are you going to send to edged weapon calls? The paucity of armed coverage across the wider UK is well documented. Added to this we have allowed the armed policing debate to revolve around a firearm threat, completely ignoring that arguably the greater threat to officers comes from edged weapons.

Dangerously, we are now allowing public opinion to form that issuing Taser alone to officers would be a solution to edged weapon threats. This needs to be challenged. Taser is certainly an option to attempt to resolve an edged weapon incident (as are excellent public order tactics when time / circumstances allow) but if it fails it must be supported by firearms, less the officers involved are exposed to a lethal threat.

Additionally, despite having the best trained armed officers available to deploy to these incidents (UK training for AFO / ARV exceeds the bulk of international routinely armed training), we trust them the least to deploy and actually do their  job. This mystifies me. We are highly reluctant to send armed officers to calls initially, preferring to send unarmed officers to ‘confirm’ the presence of weapons.

In employing this model we are saying that risking an unarmed officer is more acceptable than having a highly trained armed officer, equipped to deal from the outset, attend and get the job done, or stand down immediately on assuring it is safe to do so. To my mind there can be no justification for this.

I am always cognisant that when the control room asks me to acknowledge a ‘Stay Safe’ message it shouldn’t be an unarmed officer call.

What to do?

You’ll probably not be surprised to know I am a supporter of routine arming (I will cover my thoughts on this in a following blog).

But for now perhaps its time to rapidly revise our views on this and provide specific guidance for our control rooms and Tactical Firearms Commanders that changes our deployment model. We should ensure that the safety of officers and members of the public come before concerns about the potential outcome or image of sending firearms officers to edged weapons calls. Armed officers should be the default resource  considered to attend edged weapon incidents.

I trust our exceptional AFOs to make the right decisions on arrival knowing they will keep my officers and I safe at these calls, standing down when suitable and allowing us to get on with the job.

Who knows? Perhaps UK policing is right on this and the rest of the Western world wrong when it comes to edged weapon threat? From my experience both before this job and now within it, we are sitting on the wrong side of the ledger.

Nobody Gets the Jail at Christmas….

Christmas is a pretty different time in a police office.

The conflicting sensory experience of Christmas decorations and custody sounds for one make it unique. But that’s not the only thing.

Its busy… I mean really busy! Cops work hard all year round but the week towards Christmas can be quite exhausting. Not necessarily with big things, but just a lot of anti-social behaviour and alcohol related violence to deal with.

All those office tensions from the year and romantic triangles bubbling up at the end of the office Christmas party resulting in people not normally coming to the attention of police standing face to face with a sober, unimpressed police officer (and getting indignant with us at the circumstances of them having come to be there).

Invariably throughout all this though there are cops whose Christmas spirit is unbreakable! In my own shift I have a probationer who since the 1st of December (the generally acceptable time for these things) has not stopped singing Christmas Songs in the car, the writing room and the corridor – and singing loudly! What makes it even more special is that her tutor is the biggest Grinch on the shift. (He loves it really….).

Shift nights out that have been planned and paid for for months will happen all over, secret Santa’s will be conducted and Christmas jumpers will make an appearance over uniforms (and snapchat / whatsapp groups)

Christmas Day in itself is quite special. Some might be surprised to hear that there aren’t a lot of cops on duty, with many forces looking to balance the minimum number needed to manage call volume to ensure overtime costs remain under control. This can make for a ‘calm before the storm’ feeling. 

Like many, I have worked more of these days than I have had off in the cops and I will make a confession here… I don’t mind working them. There is a genuine camaraderie about it which I enjoy.

Oh and the Food!!

Everyone brings in more food than you can imagine. Christmas songs are put on the TV in the piece (break) room and, where we can manage it post the Christmas Eve handover work, we engage in what we cheekily refer to as ‘Fire Fighter Policing’ ie we only go out when called to respond (with apologies to the amazing folk at Scottish Fire and Rescue Service… we love you really, well, not as much as the Scottish Ambulance Service but you get the sentiment… Merry Christmas to you too!).

When we do attend calls cops around the country will dash off in patrol cars (and yes sometimes wearing Santa hats), restore order and convey in various shapes and forms a message to the parties along the lines of: “It’s Christmas, nobody wants to get arrested huh? Can’t we maybe all get along?’.

Nobody gets the jail at Christmas…

Except, unfortunately sometimes they do. As the day goes on and alcohol flows the calls do start to come in.  By the time late shift comes on we are back in full flow. The resilience of cops during these times is something to be proud of. Out, take call, deal with call, back, eat more, out again and repeat! All the while doing their best to retain a cheery outlook.

Sadly sometimes the calls are serious. I’m not sure anything could be worse for a family than having a tragedy befall them on Christmas Day. When this happens we see cops at their absolute best. Providing comfort and support to those that need it at what should be the happiest of times.

Despite all of this at the end of their shift cops will head off into the night or early morning with smiles on their faces wishing each other a great Christmas with families, or what’s left of it! They’ll be tired but happy and no doubt fall asleep on a sofa somewhere after a few drinks and swapping of presents – oh and eating more food of course!

For me? I have one more shift left before I actually take time off for Christmas this year, enjoying Christmas Day with my brother (also a cop) who just happens to have the day off too, and the rest of our family.

For those of you who are going to be working over the time (and especially my own shift) I wish you all a safe, happy and restful Christmas with your own team members and loved ones. Merry Christmas to you all!