Take a walk in the shoes of PC Cairns-Johnstone

I’ve been a PC for just over two years now. I’m based at Parkside Police Station covering Cambridge City. I’m a Safer Neighbourhood Team Officer (commonly referred to as a ‘Response Officer’.

My role involves responding to 999 calls and 101 calls to service as well as conducting general patrol duties. The work I do is very varied and can see me responding to large fights or assisting the Ambulance Service to gain access to a property.

I arrive at the station at 6.30am ready to start my shift eight hour shift at 7am. I get kitted up, sign out a bodycam and get the keys to the vehicle I will use for the shift.

The shift starts with our daily briefing where we review crimes that have been raised over the last 24 hours, review domestic violence incidents so we know who is vulnerable in the city, review recent intelligence submissions so we know what is going on and can conduct targeted patrols between incidents as well as find out other information or incidents we need to be aware of. It also lets the Sergeant allocate us to specific incidents or task such as scene guards, constant observations on high risk prisoners or prisoner escorts to hospital.

Thankfully there are no scenes on in the city and no-one at hospital or requiring constant observations in the cell block.

After briefing I kit up my vehicle – I am in the cell van today – and prepare to be deployed to whatever incident comes in. I begin a statement I need to do from my previous shift however about 30 minutes into the shift information is received by the control room that a possible ‘morning after’ drink driver will be leaving an area of the city to drive home over the next couple of hours. I make my way to the area and subtly park up (or as subtle as you can be when you are in a blue and yellow van).

I complete some admin and paperwork on my tablet computer as I wait for sight of the vehicle.

About an hour elapses and I get sight of the vehicle. A stop is put in and the driver is spoken to. He blows 0 and passed the roadside breath test. If the driver was lucky this day or if it was a malicious report made we will never know – either way we will always do what we can to act on information we receive to prove or negate what is reported.

After the vehicle stop I return to the station – my van is due a weekly task. All police vehicles get ‘tasked’ on the weekend early shifts. A ‘vehicle tasking’ involves checking the vehicles lights, fluid levels (oil/washer fluid/coolant) are correct, tyre pressures are in order and the tyre tread is sufficient and the tyres are not worn or damaged. The vehicles are also washed and cleaned inside and out and all out kit its checked to ensure a) that the kit is there and b) the kit is serviceable and ready for use.

vehicle taskings.jpgAll our patrol vehicles are kitted with traffic cones, signs, shovel and brush for RTCs/road closures, a ‘stinger’, a short shield (mini-riot shield) for officer safety, first aid kit, cordon tape, evidence bags, a rescue rope as well a roadside breathalyser and general paperwork amongst other bits and pieces.

Vehicle taskings are very important as our patrol vehicles are used pretty much 24/7 between all the shifts and are driven to emergency calls so it is crucial they are serviceable and safe to drive.

As I complete my vehicle tasking, the control room requests for an officer to attend Addenbrooke’s Hospital where a woman wanted for failing to attend court is about to be released. I shout up on the radio to go to the job and attend with another officer.

The woman had drug and alcohol problems – she had been admitted to hospital after inadvertently taking an overdose of medication to help her sleep. She knew she had a warrant out for her arrest and wanted to get it sorted. She explained she missed her court date because she had to travel to the Midlands to attend court.

The woman had some previous convictions of violence towards others and police however she was sober and compliant. I suspect she may not have been as compliant should she had been drunk.

A short drive later and we arrive at Parkside custody suite.

We have to wait in the holding area for a while whilst the custody staff process other detainees. While we are waiting we start to chat about general things including what police stations we have worked at or in her case, been detained at. The woman discloses issues in her life and her struggles with drugs, namely heroin, and alcohol. She admits her problem. She had been ‘clean’ from heroin for a number of months but admits she relapsed on a few occasions and how it affects her mental health. We talk about the movie ‘Trainspotting’ and how realistic it was to her problem with heroin.

I deal with heroin and other drug users on a regular basis in the city – this can be through possession of illegal drugs, getting involved in acquisitive crime to fuel their habit or coming across them in very vulnerable positions in their lives such as rough sleeping.

It was very humbling to have someone who I have never met before be so open and candid about her issues and problems. Despite her previous convictions and what she was wanted for it is hard to not feel a degree of sympathy and empathy for her position when you look at what has gone on in her life before she ever became known to police.

I booked her into custody and after the process take her to her cell. I wish her all the best with her future and close her door. I genuinely hope she can get over her problems and addictions.

I grab some food and complete my arrest statement. It is now lunchtime – custody can be a very lengthy process when the cells are busy.

Back in the office I notice we have a guest in one of the side rooms…..Dog

This little pup was found by a colleague who was on her way into work. The dog was found running in the middle of Barnwell Road and almost got hit by a number of different cars. My colleague stopped and picked the dog up and got her microchip scanned to find and locate the dog’s owner. The little dog stayed with my colleague while she did case files until the pup was reunited with its owners.

Not long after I sit down a call comes in via CCTV Control about a drunk man who has been causing problems in the city centre. The man is then reported to have assaulted a security guard and while CCTV monitor him he is reported to have stolen food from a shop.

My colleague is dispatched on his own and two PCSOs offer to assist.

The man is known to us and has previously been violent when he has been drunk – only two days before he was arrested after punching and spitting at colleagues and being racially abusive to another security guard.

I leave my statement and leave my lunch as my colleague’s and public safety is paramount. Other officers start to make their way to the area to offer support.

I arrived on scene just after my colleague – we attempt to engage with the man however he becomes agitated and aggressive and gives off warning signals he is about to fight with us. He ignores repeated instructions to stop moving towards us and he is restrained and arrested after shouting and swearing in front of members of the public and young children.

He is handcuffed and then threatens to hit me. The best thing about bodycam is that it not only shows the whole incident but it captures his level of drunkenness and disorderly behaviour.

Being threatened at work is unfortunately not uncommon.

Information is then received confirming a theft and assault has occurred – the man is further arrested.

The man is taken into custody and booked in. A handover package is required for the offender as I can’t deal with him when he is drunk and he won’t be sober until the evening at the earliest.

Back at the station we find out the man is a suspect on yet another crime where he has been identified from CCTV by a local PCSO. I spend the next number of hours raising a handover for a colleague to deal with when the man is sober. The handover involves obtaining witness statements, writing our statements, converting our bodycam onto a disc and raising crime reports and collating all the other paperwork from the other crimes he is a suspect in. My colleague helps me raise paperwork for the file – it’s always a team effort.

At 5.55pm I complete a detailed handover and submit it to the oncoming shift Sergeants. I finally book off duty with PC Williams who had stayed on to help me – three hours after I was due to finish.

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