A Day in the Life of a Response Officer

Written by a fan (anonymously) in the early hours one morning for his wife – as the best way for him to explain to her why his mood was so dark and unreasonable…

Read on and see if the same could be true of any Response Officer anywhere…?

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So… you wake up – full of hope – wondering what treats and surprises lay in store for you in work today?

Make your way to work with no stress and minimal traffic congestion. Arrive at work and remember that it’s a damn week day so you have to drive slowly around the car park for five minutes looking for a space – trying to figure out who all these cars belong to, before eventually losing your temper and abandoning the car and blocking in at least three other vehicles.

Walk into work and pick up a battery as you make your way to the locker room. Open the locker to the stale smell of sweat from your body armour and wish you had sprayed it with Febreeze before going off duty yesterday. Put your body armour on. Put your belt or utility vest on. Put the battery in your radio. Get frustrated as you’ve now been ordered to press and hold a button to book on; but, as usual – it doesn’t work – and your radio keeps beeping and vibrating so you end up having to contact the control room anyway because the radio simply won’t book you on when you actually do what you’re told.

Shut your locker and head down to the briefing room. Log onto the computer and realise that you can’t remember your password. Get annoyed with yourself. Stop and think about it and then remember that it finishes with an eight and not a seven as you changed it last week. You have a quick check of your emails and trawl through countless messages that have no relevance to you or your job role whatsoever. You read several messages telling you that systems you’ve never heard of were offline for an hour three days previously and your finger starts to ache from repeatedly hitting the delete button.

Finally you get to one that’s actually meant for you. It’s an email notifying you of cancelled rest days to backfill for PSU. Brilliant. It’s on a Saturday. Even more brilliant. To top it off, you’ve already promised the wife that you will both go to her parents’ house that weekend. Nevermind. Worry later about the inevitable row when you tell her. Pause for a moment and wonder if people realise or care that you’ll be working on your day off and you won’t be getting paid. Quickly move on.

Your finger keeps hammering delete. Finally you find another email sent to you. It’s a Court Warning for a PCMH in Crown Court on your second rest day. The day you had planned to spend with your kids. Quickly look away from the computer for a few seconds to stop yourself punching the screen and feel your heart pounding in your chest under the body armour.

Start briefing and try and catch up with the intelligence from the last couple of days. Find lots of useless information that you knew already. Then, in BOLD CAPS, a sh*tty message from someone in the Ivory Towers complaining that the quality of files submitted by Officers in the last hour of their Tour of Duty – when they’ve already completed three hand-on files and dealt with several calls – is not of the required standard. Except they didn’t actually account for any of that…

Next slide, people are being identified as targets in whatever terminology the latest portfolio-busting project is. Whether it’s top trumps or card suits or traffic lights – bosses are fawning over it and people are being named and shamed for forgetting to do things. Sit there sweating because you are sure you forgot to tell Mrs Jones who had her plant pot stolen that you would ring her every week for the rest of her life. Get away with it. Make a mental note to ring her later and every week for the rest of her life.

You then listen to the long list of stuff that’s been handed on by the previous shift because “it’s been bonkers.” To top it off there is a list of three people who “they upstairs” want arrested because they are Sector Targets. Oh, and of course, there are two Mispers outstanding.

Leave briefing and head to the writing room and check your workload. You have about six jobs all in the inbox with big red overdue markers next to them. You explain to your Sergeant that you urgently need to try and get round to that theft because it’s been on your workload for a week and it’s becoming a problem getting hold of the victim. You check the assault you dealt with to see if the email you sent asking for a statement to be taken has been done… and then resist the urge to scream when you see that nobody has even looked at it.

Time to turn off the computer, grab some keys and get out of the station.

Get in your battered Ford Focus and wonder how someone has managed to pick a hole in the steering wheel. Try and turn the in-car radio on to listen in to a neighbouring channel but it doesn’t work. Clunk and grind the gears until you get it in first. Go to put your water bottle in the door and wince and grimace when your hand touches whatever sticky cr*p has been left in the door pocket to fester for several days.

Drive around aimlessly for about ten minutes just trying to calm down.

You then make your way to that theft from your workload, but, as you are pulling into the street, an I-Grade (immediate) response comes out and you know everyone else is in the station or committed at other calls. You answer the call which is a possible intruder alarm in the town centre.

Make your way to the scene trying not to get upset with other motorists and praying to God you don’t hit something or that something hits you. Get to the call and find that all is in order and the building is secure. Speak to the key-holder and the reporting person to offer them a bit of reassurance and then head back to the car.

As you get to the car an elderly male approaches and says; “Can I just ask your opinion on something?” and then tells you a tale of some youths who’ve been playing football near his house.

Really, honestly try to look interested while wondering what he would have done about it if he hadn’t bumped in to you. Explain that his problem is very important and that when you return to the nick you will speak to the neighbourhood team and ask them to increase patrols in his street.

You get back in the car and within five minutes of worrying about your workload, your stress and the inevitable row with your wife later – you sadly forget you ever met him.

Start making your way back to the theft on your workload. Get to the call and start taking details from the victim – having apologised for the week-long delay in contacting them. The control room decide to interrupt you looking for an update on the alarm. You inform them that all is in order at which they automatically begin passing you details of the next outstanding call. Explain that you are already taking details from a victim to be told that the call is nearly an hour old. Tell the control room you will get back to them as soon as you are clear.

Quickly take the details from the victim, scan the week-old scene for any clues or evidence. Collect the CCTV and hand over the latest Officer Contact Details Card. Squirm on the spot as the victim laughs at the idea that he’s the most important thing to us when he reports a crime. Apologise again for the delay in reaching him.

Leave the theft and tell the control room you’re available. They pass details of the outstanding call which is to do with a dispute between two neighbours who are constantly arguing. Control give you another subtle reminder about the call being over an hour old.

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Arrive at the call and completely forget who called in and what they were complaining about. Decide to just go in and find out first hand. Go to the house on the right and find yourself berated for something the previous officer promised to do but didn’t. Try and keep cool whilst you explain that you are there about what has happened today.

She explains that she has recorded her neighbour on her phone and that the footage clearly shows the neighbour being anti-social – swearing and slagging her off. Squint a lot whilst looking into the phone and try to listen to the terrible audio marred by a nearby lawnmower. Listen and watch footage of a couple of kids playing in a garden and a woman reading a magazine before the clip ends. Pause for a second in utter disbelief that someone has reported this to an Emergency Service and pray that this is all a wind up and that someone with a camera will come around the corner at any minute.

Feel your blood turn cold as it dawns on you that this is actually genuine and this person expects you to solve all of their problems. Explain to the woman that there is absolutely nothing of evidential value on the phone and that the fact that she has covertly filmed some children on her phone is straying towards her committing offences herself. Then she wants your name and number and writes it all down explaining that she’s not happy and she will be speaking to someone about this.

You know she means that she’s putting in a complaint about your attitude. So, you leave the house and head next door where a very similar – in fact, almost identical account – is given. You stand in the living room, rubbing your temples and praying that your anti-anxiety tablets will keep you from screaming blue murder at every living thing in the room. Explain that they should consider putting up CCTV cameras and tell them that you will inform the neighbourhood team and leave, cursing the air they breathe as you go.

Drive in the direction of another week-old job from your workload to be informed that you’re required to check five addresses for one of the outstanding Mispers. Visit five of the most grotty houses on the patch and speak to a number of people in their pyjamas at midday – who speak to you with disgust – having pulled them away from watching Jeremy Kyle. Wonder to yourself if they will change into their clothes and consider actually leaving the house in something other than a onesie.

This pattern of calls that are nothing to do with the Police continues all day, until…

A call of a violent shoplifter comes in from a local supermarket. You rush to the scene and speak with the staff who explain that the suspect has tried to steal a sixty pence bar of chocolate. Go through to the security room and sight an extremely calm and compliant – yet well-known face, who you’ve nicked before so the whole idea of a Fixed Penalty Ticket goes straight out of the window.

Decide it’s easier in the long run to just nick the person. Caution them, cuff them and lead them to your car. Drive to Custody, nervously looking back at the prisoner, hoping they don’t try kicking you or pulling the handbrake because there’s no-one else available to go with you. Get to the custody suite and there is the inevitable queue of people waiting to go in. Stand near the car with the prisoner who did think you were ‘sound’ but now thinks you’re “a prick” for not letting him have a fag and that “the ‘sound’ Copper” let him have one last time.

After about half an hour, you look through the door to see what’s happening in custody and you spot the Custody Sergeant sat back in his chair talking to the G4S Detention Officer – sharing a good laugh whilst eating something from a bowl.

The Sergeant spots you and gives you a five minutes gesture. Quick-time it back to the prisoner and pray that they are still in the car. Thankfully they are. Listen to another ten minutes of how it’s not their fault and that they’re trying to get help but nobody will help them.

G4S Detention Officer says you can come in. You stand at the desk and tell the Sergeant the incident number. He b*ll*cks you for not phoning the call centre whilst waiting outside to link the correct details because it would have the his life a whole lot easier and he wouldn’t have had to click his mouse five times and type in twelve letters.

You search the prisoner again – rather than have someone else double check your search – because there are only two G4S Detention Officers on and they are both females. You justify the necessity for the arrest and feel like you’re pleading with the Sergeant to please take your prisoner as he’s making it sound like you’re the criminal. Finally get detention authorised but you’re then required to stand around for twenty minutes to listen to the prisoners life story and medical history – none of which now have any bearing on you.

Head down the hallway to the Investigation Support Team to see if anyone can assist. Explain the circumstances in full to a probationer who is on attachment in the office. He tells you that you need to obtain a victim statement, write your arrest statement, obtain the CCTV, book it into the property store, book it back OUT of the property store, complete a full file for the hand on package – and THEN, someone will assist. Recall that the theft was valued at sixty pence. Quietly despair.

Head all the way BACK to the shop and obtain the statement and the CCTV . Head back to the station. Write your statement. Book in the CCTV. Book out the CCTV. Prepare the hand on package. Take the package upstairs and speak to the same probationer who asks “So, is he ‘aving it?” You explain that you have absolutely no idea as you didn’t breach PACE. They then inform you that there’s now no-one available to deal with it as they’re all tied up with CPS advice and ‘stuff,’ so could you throw a quick interview into them? You look at your watch and see that you’re due off in forty five minutes.

You head down to custody to conduct the interview and you’re told they’ve changed their mind and are now having a Solicitor. The Solicitor will be about ten minutes so you head back to the writing room to try and update the calls that you’ve been to today. You update the Misper first and submit a referral to Social Services as you know your life won’t be worth living if you forget it. You update the neighbour dispute knowing full well that you will be in the Inspectors Office answering questions about it in the near future so you word it very carefully.

Your radio goes and the Solicitor has arrived. You lock your computer and head through to disclosure with the solicitor. This takes five minutes. Then the Solicitor briefs the prisoner which takes twenty minutes. Conduct the interview – full and frank admission. Explain this to the Sergeant who tells you to enter the charges and to come back when they’ve been processed to charge them and get rid of them.

Quickly pop upstairs for a wee and stare in the mirror at the red lines in your once white eyes. Take notice of just how grey you seem to have gone in the last couple of months. Feel sick when you suddenly have a flash of just how overdrawn your bank account is and that your dogs need worming and de-fleaing.

Head back down to Custody to charge the prisoner and you find that they are just booking someone else in. Wait patiently. Then you’re told that they’re just going to book one more in ahead of yours.

Stand there waiting, and look at your boots, remembering how you used to proudly polish them every set of rest days, but then ponder how long it actually is since they last saw a hint of polish.

Excellent. Made it to the front of the queue. You charge the prisoner and they are released. The Sergeant, however, would like them dropped home in case they trip and fall in front of a car or in case they catch a bee sting and die of anaphylactic shock on the way home.

Aware that you’re still single-crewed, you approach someone from the next shift and ask if they can take the prisoner home. They look at you with utter disdain but they haven’t really got a choice.

Before heading back you quickly call and update the shop that he’s been charged with theft of sixty pence worth of chocolate. Get back to the computer and someone has logged you out. Nevermind.

You’re only an hour past your finishing time as you hang up your body armour and utility vest. You grab your keys and head out to the car. Half way home when you remember that you didn’t update the log about the theft call. Guess it’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

Arrive home in a terrible mood and sulk most of the night. Snap at the wife a few times when she asks what’s wrong and consume more alcohol than you know is good for you on a school night.

Next day. Do it all again.

This time is slightly different though. The Inspector comes into the writing room after briefing and asks if he can have a word? Head through to his office where he closes the door and invites you to sit down. You’re already planning your response about that neighbour dispute and mentally preparing your defence. Suddenly he starts yelling the place down because he’s just come down from a meeting on the second floor and it’s been identified that you forgot to give an Officer Contact Details Card to the key-holder at the alarm call.

Nevermind.

Only twenty seven years to go.

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