Christmas in Uniform
My first Christmas in uniform was in 1994. I honestly thought it would be like that last day of primary school term when you used to be able to take toys and games in and do no lessons. It wasn’t.
I worked a late shift and I don’t think I stopped from the second I walked through the door until way past when I should have finished.
It was an endless stream of calls. Mostly family or domestic disputes when people who didn’t often spend too long together were confined in four small walls with too much alcohol. Tongues would wag, secrets would come out, truths told and long held resentments aired. Violence would follow and my enduring memory is of rolling around in the gutter trying to pull a very angry man off his equally angry aunt.
I was horrified.
The early shift had had a constant stream of burglaries to attend and I remember wondering where the season of goodwill to all men had gone.
The following year was no better. This was back in the days before working time regulations and we used to work a double-back shift which meant working a full night shift and then coming back in at 2pm the same afternoon to work a late.
Night Christmas Eve – Late Christmas Day.
That night I arrested someone for throwing a bin through the window of Fosters menswear. I had followed him from a distance for a while sensing he might be up to something.
He was still in custody when I came back in that afternoon and with the alcohol having worn off him it was me who interviewed him. There was no reason for this act of stupidity other than alcohol.
Make no mistake – Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are busy for the police and other emergency services. Busy busy.
I’ve dealt with all sorts ranging from that criminal damage right up to and including murders.
And as for New Years Eve – well – that remains the busiest day of the year. It never fails to kick off in some way but usually not before midnight. After midnight anything goes.
One year it started a couple of minutes after the clock struck 12 with a burglary in progress where a few were arrested. Within minutes there was a serious fight at a local club which ended up with a GBH and a scene. The calls kept coming in. Then there was the rape allegation and then the fatal road collision. All before 5 am.
By the time the rave was reported I looked at my beleaguered team – and the late shift who were still on duty – did a head count of who wasn’t committed or contaminated and said “let the rave run.”
There was nothing we could do about it. That was going to be early tours mission.
Christmas is supposed to be a happy time but any officer will tell you we see a spike in incidents of suicide or attempts.
One year we had so many in one week over Christmas that I, as the Inspector, decided my team had seen enough and I went to deal with the next ones that came in.
I am sure that any officer you chose to speak to could tell you their own stories of just how unlike Christmas Christmas can be when you work for the police.
It is genuinely something that most people will never see and will possibly never comprehend.
And as I say, it’s not just the police. The ambulance service and NHS get a caning as well. The fire service too. Others will be defending our way of life on bases and in places many miles from home. All deserve our thanks and support.
It really does make you see Christmas very differently and it can stick with you forever. I can’t not think of many of the incidents I have had to deal with at this time of year.
So – my Christmas message is to ask you to think about ALL those who are working in uniform over the Festive Period. It’s going to be tough because it always is.
These folk will be providing vital public services, saving lives and doing good and protecting us whilst we are likely to be enjoying ourselves. Many kids won’t see much of mum or dad on Christmas Day. Sure, they get used to it but it’s not the point is it.
It isn’t my turn this year. I worked all over Christmas last year and it just so happens that my rest days fall on the right days this time.
So – to whoever you are and whatever shift you are working over Christmas I would like to simply say “thank you.”
I hope it passes as peacefully and without incident as it possibly can and that you can enjoy time with your nearest and dearest soon afterwards.
And finally – to you all – thank you for reading my blogs and tweets this year. Thank you for your company and friendship and I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.