As some of you know, I work for the Police in a Divisional Control Room. My job is to monitor incidents reported by members of the public, prioritise and dispatch officers to them when required. I am also the first line of contact for police officers over the radio when they require assistance or information. But that’s enough of my job description, I’m not trying to write a CV here.

Yesterday, I got the opportunity to see things from the other side and go out on patrol with one of the officers I am usually bouncing around the place from one job to the next. Although I have worked for the police for almost 12 years and my husband is a police officer, it was still kind of thrilling to go out on a ride-along.

I started my day by going to the briefing, here’s where officers are given their duties for the day and learn of any significant incidents that occurred overnight they may need to be aware of, wanted persons, things to be on the look out for. As our particular area is a little spread out, we have a video link to two other police stations so the officers at our two other stations can join in.

Next job is to get that all important tea-break, no doughnuts I’m afraid, while the officers check their workload to see if there is anything that needs doing with their ongoing cases. Just as my driver for the day sat down with his steaming hot drink, we got turned out to an emergency call, a personal attack alarm that had gone off at a surgery.

We jumped in the car and sped off on a hairy ride to the surgery, to find that it all appeared to be locked up, not surprisingly as it was a Sunday. Checking around the back we found an open gateway and eventually managed to attract someone’s attention. The place had been undergoing some renovation and they had been moving furniture around and hit the button accidentally, unaware that the panic alarm was still linked up to the police. The were very impressed with our swift attendance and apologised profusely for wasting our time.

Back to the station then to see if that coffee was still warm and make sure we had all the gear we needed for the day. I had to collect my nice flourescent jacket with “observer” written on the back (I wanted one that said “Writer”, damnit), to show I wasn’t actually a police officer, and sign a disclaimer to say I didn’t mind being killed, maimed or seriously injured. What now? Aww, what the hell, it’s all in the name of a little team bonding.

Soon we were ready to start the day for real and headed out on a tour of the area while we waited for the jobs to roll in.

The next job was a report of a damage, nothing very exciting, but it took us a while to sort out as we could not find the caller she wasn’t where the log said she would be and she wasn’t at home, despite the large hole in the window, neither would she answer her phone. We left her a message and, having done all we could, we continued on our travels.

Calling into one of the smaller police stations to access a computer we checked the call and noticed that she had rung back with a location. So back we went to speak with her, then back to the station to do some research on the alleged suspect, whom we only had very brief details of, and generate a crime number. This whole incident probably took us about 3 hours to deal with, and that was without being able to find a suspect. It was an eye opener to see just how long it takes to input such a simple crime onto our computer system.

Back out on the streets and our next call was to a report of a young “disheveled” looking girl on her own at the train station looking in the bins and vending machines. Some of the travelling community had moved into the area and we thought it might be one of them, however we arrived to find a youngl, very clean and tidy girl, waiting patiently on the platform. While she only looked about 9 or 10 she was in fact 13 and waiting for her train home with a ticket and everything. There was nothing untoward at all but we hung around to make sure she got on her train home safely and then headed off to a call about some youths causing a disturbance at a street nearby.

We arrived at a narrow dark street with only a few houses on it and found five kids at the end of it, one of whom was throwing up in the arms of what I initially thought was her boyfriend who was kindly holding her hair back. Other than being a little worse for drink and a bit loud and boisterous, the kids, who were all around 14/15 years old, weren’t really doing any thing wrong, however we could understand why the elderly residents would be concerned at that time of night and down this dark and lonely street.

We checked them all out to ensure none of them had been reported missing and I found I knew every one of their names with the exception of the thrower-upper. I had a little laugh and a joke with the kids, who were confused about how I knew who they were even though I clearly work for the police and they clearly knew all the procedures and had been dealt with many times). It became obvious that only one of the group was male, and that one was not the hair-holding-back “boyfriend”. The other four were very out, very openly gay females. Whether they were at experimentation stage, following a fad, or had known they were gay from an early age, it certainly did me good to see the kids so confident and open about their sexuality at such a young age. Maybe we are actually moving on.

We gave them some advice, made sure they left the area and took the very drunk one home to ensure her safety, with lots of warnings about NOT throwing up in the police car. She wasn’t happy about coming with us, but became very chatty in the car.

Then it was time for meal break as the night shift were coming on and we had to hand the car over to them. These mid shifts, which cross over and fill the gap between the early shift and the night shift are really the only time when the whole team have a chance to meal together and sometimes even get their full meal break without getting turned out.

With the night shift taking over main response duties, the mid shift get tasked with more mundane jobs after their meal. We were given a van and tasked with looking for a suspect for a domestic incident and then patrolling the “borders”. This involves patrolling the more affluent areas of the division which are targets for burglaries and vehicle crime and floating around the borders of our division on the look out for criminals coming across from another area to commit crimes in our area, or going back there having committed the crimes.

First up our arrest, we had a couple of address to check, the first one was negative and the second one we found our prey. The chap was quite reasonable given the circumstances and came willingly. This big tough man who had allegedly done horrible things to his girlfriend, her children and even more heinous, the dog, became a shivering wreck, protesting he was the victim, once we had him in cuffs in the back of the van. But we were not there to judge, as much as we may wish to, just to collect him and deposit him in the cells.

The rest of the shift was spent patrolling round the border areas and all the little rat runs that our friendly local criminals like to use. There was nothing much to see and we got back to the station in time to go off duty.

Nothing is a typical day in policing, but that was my day, playing out with the big boys. Personally, I am very happy sitting behind my four monitors and controlling from the office, but I found this trip out to be very insightful. It is so easy for me to judge from my monitors when we get the same people calling again and again with what seem to me to minor things I wouldn’t really bother the police with. It is different when you see people face to face, and whatever issues they may be dealing with, and in some cases, using the police to sort out the lives they can’t sort out for themselves, they are real people with real troubles.

I very much admire the patience and professionalism with which the police deal with these people on a daily basis, and now have a greater understanding of how long it takes to deal with what may seem on the surface to be a minor incident.

It has been very useful to me both professionally and personally to see what goes on on the other side, and if you have bothered to read this, I hope you found it as interesting as I did.