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!

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Author: West Coast Response

I'm a Police Sergeant here on the West Coast of Scotland. I love the job and the folk that do it. I enjoy polite debate on policing and criminal justice and am particularly interested in the practical impact of policing policy, police leadership & making the job better for frontline officers.

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