I was fighting with lollipop-man coats and unusually heavy tank-tops and also some kit bags, trying to make myself comfy in the back of a BMW estate ‘zone car’ as we waited for automatic gates to release us from the police compound. Kev (‘father’ - driving) looked round his headrest at me. ‘The key to tonight, mate, is to enjoy’. Steve (‘son’) nodded. ‘Like everything with policing and when you start in the Specials
, you have to remember … just enjoy it.’
I could’ve joined in here and admitted ‘actually, you know, I love a bit of chaos,’ but I decided that expounding on the pleasures of benign anarchy may be better left for a time when we were all better acquainted and not launching into 100 mile an hour sprints through 30 zones to counsel belligerent lovers, look at places where a burglar has just been, and other such demands as are made upon ‘response officers’. Now was the time to listen, observe, learn. And enjoy.
The approach to the midnight hour had seen a few of these domestic calls and the chasing of a phantom burglar, but nothing to provoke real consternation either in the officers or myself. Now another message had flashed up on the diddy little computer where the sound system is supposed to go. This time the Pcs appeared slightly concerned. ‘We’ll have this one’, said Kev, hitting the big red Nee Naw™
button. ‘This is probably a hoax, but you don’t know’. I leaned forwards to read the screen. Someone had dialed 999 giving a quite detailed description of a young man – in possession of a gun - seen walking around the town centre harassing random strangers. Before I could read further the CCTV control woman crackled over the radio, ‘apparently he has a sub-machinegun under his coat and he’s heading into the nightclubs area’.
‘The last time we were out in this car, we ended up in a commercial,’ Kev had told me earlier in the evening. The BMW had apparently enjoyed that attention, deciding to show off again by opening its boot at the peak of an intense burst of acceleration, and by the time Kev could stop ‘the bastard’, a trail of cones, bolt cutters, and general police detritus had scattered in an arc far behind us. The blue disco lights were left strobing over us as we scampered back and forth to gather everything up, losing valuable seconds in the epic race between crime and … what were we supposed to be doing again?
Steve explained that with such a mission, rather than racing directly in, we would have to make a date with other units, the idea being that the suspected gunman could then be tackled with the necessary co-ordination and minimal risk. Later, having made several orbits of the town centre, listening to the control-room woman updating us on the suspect’s worrisome actions but receiving no clear venue for the date, the officers were getting impatient. They decided something to the effect of ‘never mind the silly old rendezvous point’, and Kev brought us into a large carpark adjacent to the main shopping centre, aiming the car in the general direction of the reported suspect. We would wait and perhaps see.
On his mobile, Steve was warning a friend in town to keep away from the area (‘look, just start walking towards the train station’) when the radio crackled again at last ‘…he’s attacking someone outside Contemptible’s [nightclub]’. By the end of the word ‘attacking’, Kev was bringing us up to a fair old canter across the carpark.
‘Look, I’ve got to go’. Steve snapped his mobile shut. We ran out of carpark. Kev slowed and bumped us up onto the pavement.
‘Are you supposed to do that?’ I thought.
‘We’re not supposed to do that,’ he mentioned later, over coffee.
Now, do you know the opening titles sequence of the film Naked Gun
, where the camera’s point of view is from the roof of a police car driving through progressively more ludicrous settings? (If I recall, it emerges from between a woman’s legs and goes down the hospital corridor, disturbs guys standing at urinals, etc. That sort of nonsense).
Well, we were something like that, weaving through the (thankfully deserted) pedestrian precinct. ‘Ah, bollards’, I thought, ‘we’ll have to stop here, then,’ and ‘they’re rather close together, these bollards, I really can’t see us making it through… oh, that worked’. Kev, I never doubted you for a moment. Seconds later, we discovered men thrashing around like apes. Zooming in on the huddle of bodies as they tumbled across the ground, it looked like an extreme version of Twister™ was spontaneously being improvised by Contemptible’s door staff. A hapless, tracksuited body was becoming caught up in this, arms flailing between the bouncer legs.
The two officers flew out. I opened my door. ‘Stay in the car!’, Kev shouted. Another pair of police cars lurched in from the opposite direction with not-too
-bad timing, if I may offer my non-Met-trained opinion. Sub-machinegun wielding officers leapt from one. We hadn't been blown out after all! The bouncers hesitated and seemed to lose their confidence for a moment.
The armed officers raised their guns and edged towards the scrum, walking sideways, like crabs or something. The camp, theatrical tarts.My
officers just bundled into the melee. Co-ordination? Minimal risk? What?
Leaning forwards between the front seats, I peered through the windscreen at the writhing heap, the gun barrels closing in and taking over as the bouncers backed off. I might sound callous, but Harry Stanley
and Stockwell tube station flashed through my mind and I was just thinking ‘here we go, then… well, are they going to
It’s strange how the media can pre-cook our perceptions of events. I mean, all these TV dramas and movies with people pulling guns on each other like it’s an everyday occurrence, and now here I was, seeing it in the flesh, but sitting in the back of a car, the basic difference being that I had a windscreen in place of a widescreen TV. My eyes were fixed on that screen, unable to look away. At that moment I was resigned to seeing life shattering violence, but nothing could’ve distracted me from taking the events in.
What of the quarry - or the lucky survivor, as we could call him? There was no police shouting, no noisy threats or warnings. I don't think anyone would've heard, anyway, the only sound being the persistent, unintelligible screaming of a young man who believed that incredible unfairness was happening to him, while people he’d never met made the first preparations for the next little episode of his life.
As the police van was slammed up, Kev joined me in the car. ‘Don’t ask me what that was all about mate, ‘cause I haven’t got a fucking clue’.
End of Part 1The next episode is still in my head, but I thought posting this would help motivating me to get the hell on and write it.