It was more like being in ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ and not ‘The Sweeney’
The welcome was efficient, if not exactly warm. The enquiry desk officer asked me to wait. This was the start of my ride-along with Bedfordshire Police.
A few minutes later the duty sergeant came to collect me. He was cheerful, but he had bad news. The officer assigned to me had to attend a robbery. I was on time for my appointment, but too late for this shout.
That is how ride-alongs go, they are unpredictable. Your experience depends on the calls coming in. I would have to wait in the office while a replacement officer was found.
I know that a sign of getting old is that police officers seem younger, but while I was waiting I felt that I was supervising a kindergarten. Although the atmosphere was more ‘potty-mouth’ than ‘potty-training’.
A replacement officer was found, and I was introduced to Chris. Chris is a third-generation police officer, you can’t argue with nature.
Chris has two years’ experience and tonight he was supervising a student officer. The first task was to take a statement from someone alleging that she was assaulted.
Rob, the new PC, took the statement, which took a couple of hours. First he took written notes and then he dictated the notes to his laptop. For some, it might have been too easy to get distracted by something more exciting, such as a beige wall.
But as a journalist, I found the way Rob got the statement from the complainant fascinating. He was asking so many open questions (questions that didn’t force a yes or a no answer). Chris said that interview training for a PC takes a week, I would have guessed that it was at least a month.
The statement was signed, and we were back in the patrol car. Chris had a call on his radio. The blue lights were on and we sped off.
There wasn’t time for Chris to say why or where to.
Blues and twos
We arrived at a street to find two people trying to calm a young woman who had cuts and grazes on her face. She also appeared to be very drunk.
While Rob took statements from the witnesses, Chris tried to find out what happened to the young woman. He also wanted to get her to the hospital so the injuries could be checked.
He showed a lot more patience than I ever could while he tried to get the woman into the car so they could go to hospital.
She refused to get any medical help. Eventually Chris got her home address and decided to take her home.
It seemed that she was assaulted by someone known to her. Chris checked that her home was safe before she was allowed in.
Then the task of trying to find out what happened started again. All of this was recorded on the officer’s bodycams.
It is easy to see how useful these cameras are as the woman rambled on incoherently, changing the story or refusing to answer questions. It was all on record though. This was another chance for Chris to demonstrate his remarkable patience.
My four hours were now up and it was time to return to the station. Ride-alongs can be for longer if the resident has the stamina, or doesn’t need to get up early the next day.
On the way back I asked Rob what made a successful shift. He said that on the last shift he was dealing with a domestic violence victim.
The victim had opened up to him and talked about other incidences that they had never reported before. He said:
“If I have a shift where I have helped at least one person, then I feel that I had a good shift.”
Applying for a ride-along
Have you ever wondered what to would be like to patrol the streets of Bedfordshire in a marked police car? Any resident over the age of 18 can apply, and each application is assessed before approval is granted.
A police spokesperson said:
“The Ride-Along Scheme allows members of our community to experience first-hand what a police officer on patrol encounters whilst carrying out their duties.
“It provides valuable insight into what we do and how we go about protecting people, fighting crime and keeping Bedfordshire safe.”
For more information about the scheme or to register your interest, please visit www.bedfordshire.police.uk/information-and-services/About-us/Stop-and-search/Ride-along-scheme.