Monday 15 March 2010

On the beat

I'm very grateful to Inspector Gormlie and the officers of the Calton Community Policing team, who allowed me to accompany them on shift for four hours on Saturday night.

I'd asked to go along to get an insight into the issues they face, and how they deal with the problems reported to them by constituents. The team is sizable, and there are always community police officers out on patrol; as I found out though, the team use their resources wisely to ensure that the area is well-covered and they can react to changing circumstances.

I joined the team at their briefing before they headed out. Six officers were to head out in the police minibus to add to those already out on patrol. The
Sergeant ran through the impact earlier incidents that day could have on the evening's shift, relayed information on individuals who were known to be in the area with the potential to cause trouble, and officers in return shared intelligence which they felt the team should be aware of. They knew their localities well, and knew who they should be looking out for.

We headed out to the minibus, and started by going round areas where people were known to congregate to drink and cause trouble. Checks were done to see if people had been there already, and any discarded bottles removed. We went to the Calton burial ground on Abercromby Street, Tullis Street memorial gardens, and went through Glasgow Green.

On heading up the Saltmarket, the sharp-eyed
Sergeant spotted a group of teenagers hanging about a shop doorway - the van drew up, and almost instantly the officers were fining them for urinating (despite protests, the puddle around one guy's feet and the action of doing up his fly as we stopped gave him away!) and drinking in the street. A nearly empty bottle of MD 20/20 was confiscated, and the group was asked to split up and head home.

The six officers briefly split into twos to deal with a couple of other issues - a noisy group heading back into a close with a carry-out were asked to respect their neighbours, and a fight which looked like kicking off between smokers outside a pub was calmed. Two officers popped into another pub to gauge the mood and make their presence felt. Then it was back in the bus, and off to support officers in another part of the ward.

Calls came in on the radio steadily - groups of people drinking and sitting on parked cars, possible sighting of drug dealers, vandalism in closes, and a missing person spotted. Some of these were picked up locally, some the team went along to support. It makes quite an impact, especially when dealing with groups.

I'm a bit concerned by the notion that police are seen to be cracking down on groups of young people - but I also see the point of view of residents, who don't want groups of a dozen teenagers mucking about under their window or making them feel intimidated walking along the street. It's a difficult balance, and as far as I could see, the intentions of the officers I was out with were good. They wanted to keep the young people from getting into trouble; they knew from experience that fights could break out, and that some of them were likely to be putting themselves at risk. Most of the group seemed to accept the police advice, and looked to be heading home, although the police were keeping a close eye on the ringleaders.

More worrying was the group of girls who we picked up at around nine o'clock. They were under sixteen, and had been arrested many times for vandalism and violence; they had absolutely no notion of the consequences of their actions, and were instantly verbally abusive to the officers. The benefit of the doubt was quickly expended, and the police were certain that if the girls were allowed to go on their way,
malevolence would ensue. As I was dropped off at the end of my time, the girls were attempting to bite the officers supervising them on their way to the cells.

I'm still struggling to disentangle the implications of what I saw, and I'm really not sure how as a society we deal with people who refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

I do, however, feel quite reassured that if a constituent calls the police on a Saturday night, the team will do their utmost to respond.
The Community officers knew their areas well; the risks, the people, the hidey-holes. The numbers of police available meant that they were on top of the calls, and the support of the officers in the minibus added extra flexibility.

I hope to be able to join the team again at some point in the future; it was very interesting, and I can't thank them enough for letting me tag along.

No comments: