In the country…….

by Never Volunteer

Watched the most recent episode of Coppers on Monday night, showing some of my Scottish colleagues out in the big bad countryside. It’s a nice change of pace being out in the country, and things are done quite differently from in the similarly big and bad cities and towns.

I think every force in Scotland has a mix of urban and rural beats, unlike some of the purely metropolitan beats in some English forces. I ended up doing a few shifts out in the country a while back when I was still fairly new in service, after meeting a sergeant at a night out who knew a couple of guys I got on quite well with. After plying me with drink and using his supervisory wiles on me (I felt so dirty) I ended up going to a station that covers several thousand square miles and a number of small towns/villages with an average about eight cops.

And just like the show, about an hour and a half into the shift, we’re driving along some country road when the following exchange takes place:

Me: <fiddling with radio> ‘Damn, I think we’re gonna have to go back to the station.’

JB: ‘Why, what’s up mate?’

Me: ‘My radio is gubbed.’

JB: ‘Why do you think that?’

Me: ‘Not heard anything on it for over an hour now.’

JB: ‘Nah, that’s just normal mate.’

Normal? For a Saturday night? It’s gonna be a long shift….

Appearances, however, can be deceiving.

It wasn’t a long night as it turned out. Fate, the fickle lass that she is, had decreed that in one of the small towns we covered there was a town hall in which a birthday party was being held. Asking  the locals about said party got the information that it was a 40th or possibly a 50th. Something like that.

It wasn’t until just before kicking out time that we discovered the horrible truth – it wasn’t a 40th, or a 50th, it was an 18th. We found this out whilst the shift met up for a quick coffee before things got a bit busier. Looks of impending catastrophe were exchanged all round, and a chorus of muttered swearing was heard before we collectively headed off to the town hall in question.

No sooner had we arrived than an  angry crowd spilled out the front door with much screaming and cursing. We went in to find some pissed off folks and a few teenage girls in tears – apparently there had been a brief punch up over something and everyone had been kicked out and nobody wanted to speak to us about it. So out we went and chivvied folk on, which they did grudgingly and for a short distance. ‘Not so bad’ thinks me, ‘they’ll all hopefully get in taxis and bugger off now, after all it’s freezing and there’s no kebab shops.’

As it happened I was kind of right. It was freezing and there were no kebab shops. Unfortunately there was also only about 2 taxis on in a 50 mile radius and they had to convey people home a much longer distance than back in the big smoke. There were also no nightclubs, so the end result was 40 to 50 pissed off, drunk, and now a bit bored teenagers (with only a scattering of older folks) hanging around in a small town square looking for something to do and with nowhere better to go and no way to get to someplace better even if they had it.

So we regrouped near the wagons and I waited for some words of wisdom from the gaffer and the more experienced regulars. By this time there were about eight of us, including another Special with less service than me. There were no words of wisdom. As the crowd grew slowly more restive, I got that odd feeling you get when you know violence is imminent – a mix of the sick feeling of fear in the stomach and the ‘right, let’s get this over and done with’ feeling which almost welcomes what’s about to happen. Almost. A little voice in the back of my head – my inner geek – started wondering if the gaffer was going to start reciting Theoden’s speech from ‘Return of the King’…….

And sure enough, some drunken muppet decided that a comment from another drunken muppet was overly insulting towards his girlfriend/mum/sister/football team, whatever. Give the guy his due though, it was a proper movie style punch which caught his victim completely flatfooted. Down he went, cracking his head off the pavement with a thump, and collectively causing everyone to stop and look for a fraction of a second.

And then it kicked off big style.

Very obligingly the puncher and the punchee were only about 20 yards away from us  and in plain view, obviously completely taken in by our cunning hi-vis camouflage. So it didn’t take long for us to reach them and get hands on the assailant. At this point the tactical picture went from bad to really bad, as two of the regulars huckled the puncher and the next two had to tend to the punchee, who was now lying unconscious on the deck with a pool of blood spreading from his head and a hysterical girlfriend standing over him screaming her head off. So the odds had went from 8 vs 50 to 4 vs 47.

Oh dear.

Into the ensuing rammy went the four of us. As it happened those who were inclined to fight wanted to fight each other and not the polis, so it really was just a question of breaking about half a dozen scuffles and keeping them broken up. There were a few peacable types as well who thankfully started to drag some of their more belligirent mates away, obviously worried about them getting arrested by us – very little chance of that due to our low numbers. We alternated between shouting at people to back off and disappear (or words roughly to that effect) to forcibly dragging some people apart, pushing others away, and doing some arm twisting and shoving away for the more determined muppets, and doing some nodding and appreciative words to the folks who were trying to make things better.

Although I always get nervous as hell in the run up to these sorts of incidents when it all happens I tend to run on autopilot a lot. One part of me seems to just do all the pushing and moving without any thought whilst the other part looks around and thinks about ten seconds ahead to see who needs telling off next, who’s a threat, who’s not a threat, who is behind me, where are my colleagues etc. It’s a strange and yet pretty amazing feeling – a state of mind that somehow combines not being completely in control of what you’re doing and yet being hyper-aware of everything that’s going on around you and not having any fear or doubt or anger. My weakness in this state is that I don’t hear anything being said over the radio whatsoever, which is a potentially rather serious weakness but there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it – it just happens every time.

This time I missed a couple of units who by sheer luck were relatively close by shouting in that they were attending, and promptly turned up with blue lights flashing. The die-hards who were still thinking about having a full blown scrap decided that the odds were now somewhat against them and folks began dispersing, in some cases chivvied on by the newly arrived units (if I remember rightly 2 traffic cars who were obviously in a bad mood about a lack of speeding motorists to hunt down and a van with about five cops in it who were doing some kind of Community Impact operation somewhere, I never did really find out what though).

Fully dispersing the crowd took the better part of an hour. The van load of cops were in a no-nonsense kind of mood and decided to make an example of a few of the more gobby folks who persisted in hanging about, dishing out a load of FPNs. By this time I was coming down from the zen state I had been in when everything had kicked off and I was not a happy chappy. Mr Adrenaline had decided to call it a night but his leaving present had been to give me a really bad case of the shakes, which I was trying vainly to control by walking about a bit and sticking my hands in my stabby. I ended up shouting at a pissed teenage girl to ‘TURN AROUND AND WALK AWAY NOOWWW OR YOU’LL BE JOINING YOUR PAL IN THE BACK OF THE VAN’. I initially hated myself for losing the plot with her as I pride myself on being as reasonable and laid back as humanly possible, and I was almost a foot taller and more than a decade older than her. I didn’t join to be a bully after all, and even making a lot of noise in general is just not my thing. But it did the job where kinder words hadn’t achieved anything and off she trotted up the road in a sulk.

As I watched her head off the gaffer came up behind me. ‘She’s normally quite decent but when she gets a drink on her she’s a right mouthy wee cow.’ I grinned weakly and muttered something about trying to tell her nicely. The gaffer patted me on the shoulder, and gave me the first open compliment from a supervisor  I’d had since I’d joined – ‘Ahh, there’s no telling some people. Good job tonight mate. Back to the office shortly for a brew, ok?’

And we did. And the regulars completely accepted myself and the other Special, and good banter was had in the office. One of the things I noticed about working in the country is that the shifts tend to be a lot more close knit, and this was definitely the case tonight. Rural cops tend to appreciate Specials a lot more as well. The rest of the shift passed without incident, the guy who’d been one-shotted had no serious injuries and was only kept in the hospital for overnight obs and I was treated to a pretty spectacular sunrise over the countryside on the way home. And I slept like a log that night. Although the adrenalin hangover – that peculiar feeling of feeling jumpy and a bit on edge – lasted for a the rest of the weekend.

I went back to do a few more shifts out in the sticks and had a good time on each occasion.

Rural policing isn’t as easy as some folks think though. Back up is usually limited and sometimes many miles away, you have to let some things slide that would otherwise get folk jailed in a heartbeat in the towns and cities, and I don’t even want to think about some of the RTA’s. But if there are any city specials out there who’ve never experienced it, if you get the chance, give it a go.

If nothing else, the scenery is nice.