Monday, 12 April 2010

Except At Weekends

I think the Station officer had crept off for a sneaky fag by the back door so the front office counter was temporarily unattended. The night duty parade had just finished and I was the closest to respond to the shrieking and cries for help from the public area. I was faced by a hysterical young woman who between gulps of air managed to blurt out relevant bits of information. I tried to piece it together and was able to understand there was a domestic situation at a nearby address where she alleged her ex was trying to take her son. It's a possible abduction so quite complicated.

I called up central control and created a message log for a unit to attend the address on an immediate whilst I tried to extract what I needed from the woman. Eventually she calmed down and I was able to get the story. It turns out I actually knew her from several years before when my team busted her address and found loads of class A in her bedroom. She was 15 at the time, had a liking for bad boys, and was holding the gear for one of my favourite dealers. Now in her early 20's she'd had a son with another lad we'll call him the ex and was currently running with another criminal and was pregnant with his baby. She was now housed at your expense in a nice flat just off my ground.

I didn't need to run any computer checks. I'd first arrested the ex when he was 14 and he was from a family made up of really decent criminals. The criminal reputation is important, they were old fashioned blaggers and high class burglars. His old man I've never met as he's a lifer doing big time for a gangland murder. They could have been the bad guys in any episode of The Sweeney from the 70's.

All I really needed to know was who had parental responsibility. She had never married the ex so it was her. Her current beau who I'd also arrested as a kid was a petty criminal and was wanted at the time for an armed robbery and smashing up a shop where this woman worked. There was also some stuff flagged up about him having possibly a gun. Their relationship was volatile and despite the fact he was well wanted she'd been off with him for a few days and left her son with her ex's mother. It would appear they now refused to give the son back.

I left her with other officers and decided to take a stroll to the address nearby. Despite creating the message I was first on scene. A crewed vehicle did turn up about 10 minutes later, but that's just another example of how much I love the central dispatch system. I was greeted at the door and we all thought it best to put past conflicts behind us. This was family business that needed sorting and I was there to make the big decisions. It does help if you've all met before and they knew they'd get a fair hearing.

The top end criminal families have nice houses. This one was no different clean and tidy. The ex's mother was mildly defensive and gives her position several times. Her grandson is at risk and she ain't letting him go back with the mother whilst she's with the current beau who she describes as a druggie and out of control. The irony is lost on me as I'd done a job on her too a couple of years previously, when she was knocking out drugs when working at a pub. That job never came off as the operation was compromised, I suspect by another family member who I later found worked on the Division.

She already looks after her son's other child from a previous relationship. The ex was present too and was visiting from Spain where he now lives. We discussed the current beau and if he might be a threat to them. With their reputation it was a stupid question but you've got to ask it. We all agreed he was too far down the chain to mess with them. It would appear the young woman had been leaving her son with his grandmother on a regular basis as her own parent's were alcoholics and I actually agreed with their concerns. I saw the toddler, who was well cared for and we come down to decision time.

Is the child at significant risk of harm? If he went back to the mother who then meets up with the current beau who is displaying violent tendencies then he obviously is. I will have to take the child into police protection. The ex and the grandmother have no rights in this situation as the mother has parental responsibility. It's a difficult one - if the ex takes his son back to Spain then it's an abduction. The decision I make is based on what's best for the child.

I get all parties together and put some pressure on the mother to agree for the son to remain with the grandmother. She signs him away in my notebook. It's the best place for him in the circumstances. I check with Mrs StressedOutCop who is an expert in child protection legalities who confirms my options. It's agreed but I'm the one taking the risk and making a judgement call.

I'm writing all night. It's a non crime domestic, a few coming to notice "every child matters" reports including one for the unborn child. Intelligence reports re the wanted boyfriend and what he's been up to. I'm sweating all weekend as the reports don't get picked up until Monday. I ring every day to make sure the ex hasn't taken off to Spain. I really don't understand why at the time of most demand for domestic and family matters all the specialist departments are off and it's for us to cover. Even social services have just one person to sort out everything in the local authority area.

I did a follow up a few weeks later. Social services didn't get involved at all despite the woman having a social worker. To be honest things had been sorted and there's plenty of more pressing matters for them to deal with. She split with the current boyfriend and aborted the baby and last I'd heard had joined the ex in Spain for a holiday. That's almost a happy ending to a shit weekend for me.

It's about judgement calls and I imagine it's the same for social workers. If this had turned out differently I suppose I'd be classed as incompetent.


Tom said...

Bloody hell!

Rather you than me. I see clearly now where the 'stressed' comes from in your blog name.

Dandelion said...

It's about judgement calls and I imagine it's the same for social workers. If this had turned out differently I suppose I'd be classed as incompetent.

That would depend on what your "judgement call" was based on, surely?

If by "judgement call" you mean "decision", then yes, these things are all about making decisions. And if one is empowered to make decisions, then one has to be accountable for the decisions one makes, assuming one had been properly trained to be able to make the right decisions.

It's a complex situation you describe, but I suppose if people don't feel competent to make decisions like this, then maybe they should think about another career. Your reasoning looks perfectly sound to me, fwiw

Stressed Out Cop said...

Tom / Dandelion

I indeed take the money so should also take the responsibility that comes with the job.

Training ? I think not - if I'm truthful we wing it in 95% of everything we do. Sod's law dictates you will eventually come unstuck.

What is a right decision? What I think is right .. DPS or the press might think is wrong.

I'm well down the line with experience behind me - experience means I've made mistakes in the past .. some posted about on this blog.

I believe it is not skewing your perceptions that counts.

Different thread over on IG's place on a similar theme when you can see the pre-judgement.

The criminal family in this post cared for their kids - even if their values are different from the norm. You just need to be able to see it.

I remember when I dealt with the ex as a kid on one of his first arrests - an uncle really tried to spell it out not to make the same mistakes as he'd made. He didn't listen and did time for high class burglaries when he was older.

I also know a DS whose old man used to run with 60's gangsters in the East End. He is so proud of what his lad has become. So they do care - well some of them.

Blue Eyes said...

Wow. Bloody hell indeed.

But I thought coppers were just thugs who went around beating up women and throwing innocent people down stairs to extract confessions. Where does all this looking after people bit come in to the equation?

Anonymous said...

I think you did the right thing Stressed. Those who would be ready to criticise you, or blame you, if the unexpected had happened, more than likely would not even manage one day doing your job.

There are lots of them out there...
I know, they've been having a go at me for years, but they couldn't have done what I did, "for the greater good".... and I still haven't been paid for my job done. That was nice of them wasn't it?
Government eh?

Minority Report Officer