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Where the hell is Panda?

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#1 panda plodder

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Posted 01 September 2007 - 07:05 PM

A few years ago I started a journal on here called the Hitchhikers guide to be being a Special Constable, unfortunately and unusually on PS.com there was a misunderstanding and the thread was removed - not by the management I should add. I was asked a short time ago if I intended to redo it as it went into detail about joining the Specials and what life was like in the Police back in the late 1980's and early 90's. Obviously I won't be able to reproduce it in full but I will give it a go (it will be completed in stages as was the original journal entry).

A long long time ago in a Galaxy far far away (sitting comfortably? then I shall begin).

I was brought up in a small village in deepest darkest Hertfordshire, nestling on the edge of the Chiltern Hills, the village was surrounded by cornfields and woods and I would say was an idyllic place to grow up. Never any trouble and in my first nine years I saw a Policeman once.

The only real connection with the Police was one Christmas I was given an Action Man Police Motorcycle set with uniform and a Action Man RMP uniform so the stage was set.

I forget to mention that whilst at Secondary School I had a rough time being severely bullied, regularly being beaten up and once I was kicked unconscious by several lads. Didn't do my self confidence any good and I was shy to the extent I found going in shops and being served by girls awkward.

As I grew up Police TV series began to feature more and more in my life, Dixon of Dock Green was on always after Dr Who on a Saturday evening, Z Cars set in the fictional Newtown did likewise, Softly Softly and Special Branch followed, Hawaii Five O was on Friday nights, if anything 1970's TV was full of cop shows. In around 1986 a new series hit the BBC - Rockliffes Babies - which was a drama series starring Joe McGann and Brett Fancy about a Metropolitan Police Crime Squad (PC's training to be Detectives), the series had the most catchiest theme tune of any TV series based on a children's nursery rhyme. It ran for two series and I was hooked.


When I was 14, I was saddened by the death of WPC Mandy Rayner (Mandy had gone to school with one of my cousins) who was stationed at my what was to be my nick. Mandy was only 18 and had joined straight from being a full time Police Cadet, the first woman officer to die on duty, killed when a suicidal drink-driver smashed into her car in Royston, Hertfordshire, in 1982. It was only her third night on police duty.

Plodder Lane

I was really serious about joining and luckily I knew someone who was a Special Constable and he got me an application form, well more like a pamphlet called 'Be a Special Constable in your leisure time'

I filled it in, sent it and waited, and waited

Edited by panda plodder, 02 September 2007 - 05:44 PM.

#2 panda plodder

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Posted 02 September 2007 - 09:05 AM

and waited and waited and just waited.

I chased up my Specials contact to find out what was happening he said that my enquiry form was still in a tray in the specials office (not knowing anything about the recruitment process I just hoped it would be processed as fast as possible).

A few months later a proper application form appeared, very old style typed not PC printed and without a sign of a competency question! I filled this in and sent it off to Force HQ. A short while later I received a letter about attending HQ to take the entrance test (this test is still the basis of the PIRT). It must have been about summer and my 20th birthday came and went, I went and took the test afterwards I didn't think about it just expect a reject letter. Then I received a letter from Divisional HQ inviting me to attend an interview board, it was now autumn.

I also received a home visit by a Regular Sgt and then a couple of weeks later also by a Specials SDO (not knowing who he really was at the time - certainly didn't sink in that he was a SC!)

The day arrived, I arrived at the front desk of the station and I was taken by a WPC (that was what they were called then!) with a big smile up to the Divisional Commanders Office (C/Supt) and I waited in the corridor. Stevenage Police Station was built in about 1971 and looked fairly modern even though it was getting on for being 20 years old.

I was getting nervous - I was called into the office, the panel consisted of the Chief Supt, Divisional Commandant of the Specials and an Inspector (reg), to be honest I got a rough ride, the boss was trying to make me argue but I wasn't biting, it got even to the point that the C/Supt picked on the fact that I had worn my watch on my right hand ( I was so nervous getting ready I did that by mistake) and he said:

I see your left handed? I have a theory about left handed people, that they are not assertive as right handed people?

there was a brief pause.............................

I then said: "Actually I'm right handed I just chose to wear my watch on right hand"

Both the Insp and the Div Cmdt chuckled and she turned to the C/Supt and said "Well Brian that told you!" The C/Supt laughed and a big smile appeared. From then on it became more of a chat and the frostiness disappeared. I was told to expect a letter in the post.

I waited nervously, I came home from work one day absolutely shattered I had a long day and was filthy as a coal miner and needed a bath, there waiting for me was a letter saying I had passed and inviting me to start training on 18 November 1987. I was so pleased.

18 November arrived I managed to leave work early, I had to be at the Training Centre, FHQ which is located at Stanborough, Welwyn Garden City for a 7pm start. I drove down a busy A1(M) heading south, I had Chiltern Radio switched on and they were playing Alexander O'Neals 'Criticize', the station also had a thing where it did travel updates every 20 minutes, no problems for me but they kept saying if your expecting someone home on the train via Kings X then they will be delayed because of a fire (see above link) it was 6.40pm, I didn't realise the significance of what I was hearing.

I arrived at FHQ and sat in one of the training rooms, with about 15 others. The first night session was taken by a female Sgt who was from my Sub Division called Liz, I got to know her pretty well later on when she went back on division.

Basically training consisted of getting to grips with PACE, General Arrest Conditions and Public Order Act (Sec 4&5) there was a test on the final session five weeks later but it was basically definitions including 'Define a Police Constable'!

Christmas was coming, can't remember a lot about that and New Years Eve 1987 I was just celebrating out on a pub crawl round the village (we had a lot of pubs then!), what I didn't know was that my drinks were being spiked and a little before midnight I collapsed. My younger brother was out with us and he was really annoyed at me, I went home in a wheel barrow! and within a few days everybody in the village knew about it!

I next received a letter about being sworn in at the local Magistrates Court, we were done between Licensing and cases being referred to Crown Court, the next day I had to meet with my new Section Officer who took me down to FHQ to collect my uniform and warrant card.

I was then invited in on a Saturday evening, but this was really frustrating because I just sat around the station all night, apparently it was just to see if you could wear your uniform properly so I discovered later. Surely there was a better way of doing this then wasting a Saturday evening?

First Duty

It was soon arranged that I was to have my first patrol, I was to be out with an experienced female SC, it was a Friday evening late January 1988, as we left the Police station she turned to me and said "Oh don't go getting into any fights because I won't rescue you!" - nice I thought. We had to share the radio which was a three channel Burndept which didn't work if you stood to close to buildings.

Posted Image

Walking down into the town centre it hit me, I could see my reflection in shop windows but I just felt that everyone was looking at me, it was such a weird sensation. I was only able to do 7pm to Midnight on account I had to be at work on Saturday. Nothing happened but it gave me an idea of what life was going to be like.

Edited by panda plodder, 02 September 2007 - 09:34 AM.

#3 panda plodder

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Posted 02 September 2007 - 06:52 PM

Learning the trade of a thief taker

It didn't take me long to realise that although there susposed to be nearly 20 SC's at my nick most these hardly ever turned up for duty and one was only seen once a year at annual parade.

In fact the situation was so bad that there seemed to be only two who came on at all. I started doing regular saturdays starting at 7pm and ending at 2am, this would mean footpatrol round the town centre (the town is a well known market town and full of pubs and one nightclub which kicks out at 2am).

One thing i picked up early on was that when I was out with another SC they were always walking and staring at the ground or window shopping, meanwhile ignoring anything which went on around them, I asked a couple of times about offences but the excuse came back "oh there's a bylaw for that and I just can't seem to remember it"

They lived for the odd shop window being put in so they could go and relieve a mobile unit until the RP (Responsible Person - in other words keyholder arrived).

Luckily I then started to get out more in the mobile units Yankee 1 or 2 which was a response car (Ford Escort 1600 5 door Dark blue with an orange reflective stripe down the side and with a light box and blue beacon on top) or Golf 1 - 3 which were generally lower powered 3 door Ford Escorts with no blue lights.

Both types of vehicle were fitted with 'mainscheme' VHF radios as I joined older radios that had few channels were being replaced by multi channel sets which were capable of acting as a VHF/UHF repeater so if a PC left the vehicle he could stay in contact with the Force Ops Room (FOR), this was really out in more rural areas where the UHF personals radios didn't always work.

The regular PC's worked on a 4 week shift rotate system that was:

10pm - 6am one week Sunday to Saturday
2pm - 10pm one week Sunday to Saturday (overtime Friday & Saturday Public Order to 2am)
6am - 2pm one week Sunday to Saturday

Each shift would have a buddy shift in the Divisional Operations Room (DOR) so the same people always worked together even on radios.

At each shift change there would be a procedure know as 'Read Up' where basically the Patrol Sgt goes thorough any occurances, arrests, wanted's since the shift was last working. As an SC I would often be required to be back in the nick for 10pm read up.

I started to do extra hours on days off, starting with a Friday Late Turn (2 -10), on this particulary day I was paired up with the Town Centre Bobby, the first thing he said to me as we walked down the road towards the town centre was:

Forget about whatever anyone else has told you now your going to see real policing

What an afternoon! I had never been in some many shops and offices, we had a few thefts from offices to deal with but the afternoon shot by. The PC I was with was going off duty at 5.30pm so we headed back to the nick, then as we walked into the station yard I could see a load of CID ooficers and PC's in the Read Up room, they all turned and stared at me! I looked at the town centre PC as if to say whats wrong, he looked at me and said:

They wondering who the young Inspector is and why is he has been down town on foot patrol

Now I ought to point out Regular PC's wore blue shirts and SC's were issued with white + at the time SC's only wore patrol caps.

After a break the skipper then suggested I went out for the rest of the evening with a neighbourhood PC, then I discovered this meant riding a standard issue (old) Police bike, really difficult trying to ride and make sure your Patrol cap doesn't blow off!

As we left the Neighbourhood PC turned to me and said:

Forget about whatever anyone else has told you now your going to see real policing

We spent the evening going round to houses where there had been some breaks/attempted breaks, and I started to learn about OMOE (Offenders Method Of Entry).

The following week there were no SC's on and I was stuck as all the cars were double crewed so the Skipper took pity on me and took me down into town, with the comment about seeing real policing in action :whistle:, Really good evening I was learning loads, how to duck out of sight and watch, how to sneak up and make your presence felt, what to check on buildings in the town centre, likely trouble spots, spotting known offenders/ those likely to get into trouble, being aware your surroundings, I could feel i was getting that coppers intution and things started to happen....

Edited by panda plodder, 03 September 2007 - 10:38 AM.

#4 panda plodder

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Posted 03 September 2007 - 02:59 PM

The way to war..

I was lucky enough to be paired up regularly with a response PC who had not long came onto section from Traffic (Our Nick was also Home to one of three Traffic Bases in the county so there were always Black Rats about), he was really helpful, showed me how to use the repeater function on the radios properly, and how to use the coded generators.

He gave the chance to get as much experience of vehicle stops as possible and soon I had a flow of NIP's going in at a great rate of knots (It wasn't until 1990 that SC's where issued with Non Endorsable FPN's)

#5 panda plodder

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Posted 06 September 2007 - 12:40 PM

Attached File  BE540_20top_Car_radio.jpg   14.71KB   8 downloads Attached File  BE_20540_Car_radio.jpg   13.21KB   10 downloads

VHF Main scheme Radio sets, the unit on the left is fitted in the boot and contains electronics for the relay/repeater function. The unit on the right is fitted under the dashboard and the coded tone generator would be fitted underneath, this consists of buttons/ thumbwheels where the operator can up date the vehicles status without calling up control (Code:XX Status:XX)

MOP playing up

One Friday night I was in the Public Order Van (a white high topped LWB Sherpa), we were sent to a fight in the street of a nearby town, as it was good 7-8 miles away, we went on blues, we were going at speed when we came to a mini roundabout and went straight across, as we did so the wheels of the van on one side left the ground and for a brief few seconds were traveling on two wheels, as this happened we were all jolted in our seats and a young WPC sitting opposite was catapulted into me.

Although the van came to rest on all four wheels again, it was reported as a safety issue and the van was never used for public order again and was converted to a Dog carrier.

Very soon a new Ford Transit appeared, this was a 3 litre version developed by Ford in conjunction with HertsPol and NorthRhine Westfalen Police in Germany, looking at it it looked like a normal high topped transit van with built in blue lights, however its appearance was deceptive as it was designed for Public Order work having an armoured base and strengthened sides to protect the the occupants from thrown projectiles.

On one occasion we passed a group of Young men who were walking away from a pub, one was recognised as being wanted on warrant so the van turned around and we drew up alongside. The Skipper and another PC went to arrest the wanted person but others in the group then started to interfere (they were drunk) with the arrest, I placed myself between the ongoing arrest which had turned into a struggle and the rest of the group and made them step back out of the way, as i did so one said to me , "Don't make me hit you!" and i replied move or you get arrested to which he just squared up to me, the air was full of two tones and sirens with police vehicles arriving from all over the place ( I hadn't heard the assistance shout go out), all of a sudden the man who was squaring up to hit me, was grabbed by some more PC's who had arrived.

When we got back to the nick and the prisoners had been processed, the skipper walked past me and said that I had done a good job tonight, always nice to get such comments.

Pub Brawls

Alcohol related trouble is nothing new just the intensity has got worse, my first pub brawl occurred as i walking literally past the place, I waited until the first car arrived, then went in, The pub had started to clear but there were still fights ongoing and people slugging it out, I managed to knock over a chair as went forward, then I was lucky to see a bottle being thrown which came flying at me, I ducked and it hit the wall behind. As we putting those arrested another group decided to kick off and as I spun round someone slashed a broken beer bottle across my jacket ripping it to shreds, other PC's saw this happen and the offender disappeared underneath a load of bobbies! Luckily I had process books in the pockets as these took the brunt of the attack and I didn't even get so much as a scratch.

My attacker was fined and got a suspended sentence.

Edited by panda plodder, 06 September 2007 - 05:57 PM.

#6 panda plodder

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Posted 06 September 2007 - 06:13 PM

My first drunk driver

One evening I was down in the town centre after mid night and walking down a narrow street, there was hardly anybody about, I heard a car approach and as it came to the junction attempted a right turn towards me, in doing so the car drove over the corner of the pavement, I signaled for the car to stop and went to speak to the driver, I could tell he had been drinking so I told him my suspicions and that I needed a breath test from him, with a little reluctance he blew into the bag, the result was positive and i called up for transport to take the driver to the nick where he blew over the legal limit on the Lion Intoximeter.

Attached File  Alcotest_1.jpg   28.49KB   19 downloads

The infamous breath test kit

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