Educating civilians about Police life

Shift work is tough on the body – you never get into real sleep patterns, eating, bowels movements etc.  My brother in law (Richard) left school to do a building apprenticeship and all his life worked “normal” hours.  He found my sleeping during the day hard to come to terms with.  He is a brilliant master artisan as well as a National Brass Bandsman and for those reasons I am extremely proud of him.  As an aside, he is a good husband and father but I do not want to get mushy about that stuff.


His one down side is his acerbic tongue. It always got under my skin when I was on the receiving end about being asleep when I should have been at work.  So I am challenged him to come out and spend a night shift with me and see what my world was like.


Technically the rules did not allow Police to take civilians with them, unless they connected with a crime i.e. a witness or offender.  I figured educating family was very important and therefore it was a work situation. 


Richard joined me just after the start of Saturday night shift.  The plan was to keep him away from the station so no one would know.   I also figured having him out with me on a Saturday night allowed him to recover physically before he started work on Monday.


The dog van was fully fuelled and ready for a night of action.  Police dog Cara was bored about someone in the front with the boss.  She was never sure if someone was out with us whether she was supposed to bite him if he got in the way or leave him alone.  She and the boss were the team and a bloody good team at that.  The two of us had above average statistics for catching offenders and both took a personal pride in our success.


When there is no action, the expectation was on crime prevention.  In other words driving around usual trouble hot spots and preventing anything from happening.  To the un-initiated, it is boring because the average citizen does not have very good powers of observation.  Police see anything out of the ordinary.


For two hours, we drove slowly and silently around the streets of Hamilton.  The radio made no noise, which was unusual for a Saturday night.  Police work is 90% boredom and 10% action, the opposite of television cops. 


Finally, the radio beckons us.


“Dogs, prowler   XX Naylor Street.”


The rest of the detail I picked up as the right foot goes hard on the accelerator.  Cara responds.  She jumps up in her kennel until the first corner, when she lies down in foetal position to brace herself.     It is only a couple of kilometres to the scene.  An off-duty Policeman believes someone is snooping around his house.   Offenders get to know where Police live and are not beyond terrorising family.  I had it happen to me when stationed in Lower Hutt.

Although driving fast, no flashing lights used, as I do not want any offender to know I am coming.  I also make a point of never squealing the tyres through corners.  I want all the elements of surprise on our side. 


Richard receives strict instructions to walk just behind me and in line with where I have walked.  Cara tracks the freshest human scent other than mine.  I cannot afford scene contamination.  Cara leaps out of the back of the van ready for action.  Her impatience shows at wanting to start work shows as I semi wrestle with her to put on the tracking harness.  With Richard present, I had better do things by the book.


I put Cara in the down position and go to the house to find out what happened. My colleague had had a few too many drinks, which casts doubt on the accuracy of what he is claiming he heard.  Casting Cara around where the noise came from and we find nothing.  Just my luck – our first job is a fizzer.  I put Cara back in the van and hope this is not how the night is going to pan out.  My relationship with Richard will deteriorate if he is left thinking I do nothing all night.


We went back to just driving around the streets.  I am not a great conversationalist in the van. 


Tone of voice is the first clue something is happening on the radio.  I get used to hearing my own call sign above everything else.  A lot of time, the radio is full of noise that has no interest to me.  Hence when I hear Te Awamutu Police talking in excited tones I tune in. Colin has disturbed offenders trying to break into a car at a local car yard on the main street.


I start to wind the engine up and flick on the flashing lights.  I have not been called yet, but Te Awamutu is twenty kilometres away and if any offenders make a run for it, we need to be as close as possible.  Richard is not tuned into the radio asks what is happening.  I explain what is happening down at Te Awamutu and tell him to hang on because we are about to get our first real job of the night.  Sure enough, about five minutes later the call comes through for us to attend as some of the offenders have run off into the darkness.


It is a beautiful road between Hamilton and Te Awamutu.  The big sweeping banked corners and a four-lane highway allow for safe speed.  I know the road better than the back of my hand as I live half way between the two communities.  As soon as I am out of the town outskirts, I get the van up to high speeds.  We should get down there in no time. 


My brother in law is ultra conservative and when he drives, he would rarely get up to the speed limit.  He is 100% safe from ever getting a speeding ticket.  My mind focusses on role playing possible scenarios ahead and concentrating on the radio talk I forget that he might be scared about the speed we are travelling.  I ease off as we go through Ohaupo Township and then back up to the old speed.  About a kilometre south of Ohaupo, there is the beautiful big sweeping bend and it is a pleasure to drive through it.  The problem is a car ahead.  It is weaving all over the road and the last thing needed is an accident. 


Richard writes down the registration number for me and after a few scary moments, we get past the vehicle.  I call into Operations and ask them to get a Traffic Cop out to pick this guy up for drunk driving.  As I passed, I looked in at him and it was obvious we were from different planets.


A few minutes later, I am braking the vehicle as we arrive at the scene.  This is a dog handlers dream come true.  The car sales yard is just out in the country and the night is perfect for tracking conditions.  Colin is waiting to brief me.  He knows Richard as they went to school together, but asks no questions.  He shows me where the two offenders ran off into the darkness.  He had caught four others on his own, but lost the main offender and another. 


Blow protocol, this should be quick and easy.  I do not bother to put Cara in her harness but let her “free cast” i.e. without a tracking harness.  She ran around the spot Colin identified but would not go past the fence.  Richard asked what was happening.  I thought the offenders had doubled back once Colin left to take the other offenders to the station.


Over to the other side of the complex Cara picks up the scent and as quick as lightning she was off.  Beside the car yard a stream with banks covered in blackberry.  Cara was straight down into the stream and raced up it.  I knew the offenders had to be close by her reaction so called on them to give themselves up.  They chose not to so Cara received the command to attack.  Richard was carrying the torch.  I rarely carried it with me, as it was another weighty thing to slow me down.


Then it happened – yelps of pain and yells of call the dog off.  I guess this was the early warning signs of my pending deafness as it took me a time to comprehend what was happening.  I was not going through that blackberry for anyone – it is full of prickles.  I called Cara off and told him he had to climb the bank to me.  He would not cooperate so Cara used her persuasive powers to encourage him up the bank.  I handcuffed him and muttered about the second offender when he decided to give himself up.  He did not want the same treatment as his mate.


I put Cara on her lead and started back towards the Police vehicles with offenders walking in front of us.  Next thing I feel a tug on my jersey.  It is Richard.  He points the torch at the one Cara had caught and there is a big hole in the bum of his trousers and blood.  I say nothing. Richard is very white.


Once back at the Police Station the process of dealing with the offenders commences.  I call up Hamilton to check if everything is still quiet, which it is.  I decide to help Colin out with all these offenders.  I get the one Cara caught and am just about to take him into an interview room when the local traffic officer comes in with a drunk driver; a member of the Outcast Motorcycle gang.  The driver is the one we radioed in about when driving down to Te Awamutu.


I tell Richard to come into the interview room with us and sit in the corner.  Just as I am about to close the door, one of the Outcast members comes to the counter and demands his mate is set free.  He tells us there are about twenty of them outside and we are to hand over their mate or else.  Colin grabs him and boot marches him out the door as I stand alongside.    The Station door slammed shut and locked.


We all go back to our respective interviews.  Whack! Crash! Glass smashing against the station walls!   The Outcasts are living true to their name and traditional behaviour.


When a bottle breaks against the window frame of Colin’s office, he decides enough is enough.  A call to Hamilton reveals they are now busy and there is no back up available.  Colin rings all the local off duty Police and then the decision is we need to deal to the situation. 


Richard is on front door duty.  He is to let us out and when we come in with a prisoner, open the door let us in and locks as fast as he can.  The plan is to get the biggest one first and then work our way down based on size.  Colin is my covering baton man.  I go out and grab the biggest guy, putting him in a headlock.  For some reason he did not consider cooperation.  His mates try to come to his rescue, but Colin fends them off with his baton. On our side sobriety, and a clear-cut objective.  On their side, intoxication and no objective.  It is exhausting work dragging the gang member backwards, watching all the time for one of the others to get me.  Richard is superb on door duty.  Once through the door Colin helps by lifting the gang members feet off the ground and he is carried to the cells.  There is no time for recovery as the gang are in a feeding frenzy outside.


Same tactic and one more into the cells.  As we go out for number three, two of the Police Colin called out arrives.  Number three is bought back in quickly and easily and then two more Police arrived.  It works!  The gang members realise what is going to happen to them and jump into their cars and all leave.  Time for a cuppa.  There is a huge amount of paperwork before anyone can go home. 


I expected Richard to be bored while we processed all the prisoners, but I his adrenaline was keeping him pumping.


At 8:30 in the morning we leave the Te Awamutu Police Station for me to take Richard home.  On the way home, he turns to me.


“How do you concentrate to do all your paperwork after all of that?”


The cuppa is the secret.  Years of conditioning meant we knew how to pump up quickly, but equally how to settle down quickly.  Richard had a night to never forget and for years afterwards at the family Christmas functions I heard the story again, but not from me.


I never once heard Richard complain about me sleeping during the day and I know when stabbed later in my career, he was genuinely upset.  I have never found out whether my stabbing bought back memories of his night of education on the life of a street Policeman.


Getting someone you know on that part of your life is revealing about what you we're involved in Bruce.  Bold move that was was obviously effective for Richard.  

I'm looking forward to the next instalment Bruce. This is a really good read and very interesting. I hope there is a lot more to come. Thanks for sharing and writing a wonderful non fiction serial.