It was June 2000. I was a sergeant at Spalding and it was just gone 7pm on a Thursday evening when I responded with other officers to a report of some drunks causing problems at The Birds pub on Halmergate.
When we got there, three very well-known, very drunken, people: Craig, Hilary and Jay; were moved on. To reduce the risk of further problems I gave all three a lift to Hilary’s home in Alexandra Road. It was just a routine incident and would have been quickly forgotten but for what happened next.
At 8.45 the same evening we received a report of a robbery at the One-Stop Shop in Matmore Gate. Other officers went quickly to the scene. Victims named one of the offenders as Craig. They didn’t know the name of the second offender, but gave a description matching Jay.
There was no time to lose, so my colleague Paul and I went straight to Hilary’s address and went to the back door. A knock on the door was answered by Hilary and I explained that I needed to speak to Craig and Jay. Hilary let us in, but there was more than we bargained for inside.
This was obviously a house that a lot of local drunks used: in addition to Craig and Jay there were three other well-known ne’er-do-wells lounging about. They were all in various stages of inebriation.
I had arrested every one of them in the past, but never all at the same.
At this time there was still only me and Paul there and I didn’t want to get in a confrontation with the larger group and risk losing evidence against Craig and Jay.
Amazingly, just as I was calming the truculent trio, Jay indicated that he wanted to speak to me away from the others.
We stepped outside and Jay said ‘I know I’m going to be arrested, but I’ll only be arrested by you ‘cos you’re the sergeant’. Well, I was only too happy to oblige, so Jay was promptly arrested for robbery and taken to our police van. So far: so good.
My good luck couldn’t last. I went back in to the living room where Craig was sat on a sofa, clutching a bottle of vodka to his chest, determined to finish the bottle, or the bottle finish him. Unfortunately he had reached the belligerent stage of inebriation and was being egged on by the others. I told Craig that he was under arrest but, in colourful words of one syllable, he refused to come with me until he finished his vodka.
Clearly I wasn’t going to leave Craig to finish the vodka. Paul and I stepped forward and took hold of Craig’s wrists. Thankfully, despite a few grumblings from the others, Craig capitulated immediately. We kept hold of his wrists and walked him to the front door where we were met by other officers that were starting to arrive. Craig was handcuffed and handed over. ‘Job done’ I thought, now just a search inside for any evidence and back to the station in time for tea and medals!
Or so I thought....
I went outside to co-ordinate the arrival of other officers and brief them for a search. There was an officer standing guard next to the police van that Craig had been placed in. Arguing vociferously with him was a woman trying to push past the officer and open the van door. As I walked up to her she was shouting that the police were bullies. It was my intention to calm her down. She very quickly told me that she owned the house where we had just made the arrests and that we had no right to be in there. She was in full flow of a tirade and wasn’t going to be calmed by my soothing tones.
I explained our legal powers but she was continually over-talking me. When she realised I wasn’t going to back down, she changed tack insisting that officers removed their shoes before entering.
Well, honestly. This was a house used by a group of people intent on spending all their money and time in seeking oblivion through alcohol. They weren’t house-proud. It was the sort of house where your shoes stuck, Velcro-like, to mysterious stains on the carpet and you would wipe your feet on the way out, so as not to dirty the pavement.
While remaining calm and polite I left the woman in no doubt that we would not be removing our footwear. Mrs Angry reached the end of her very short fuse and exploded. She started to try to push past me, demanding to speak to our prisoners. I wasn’t going to let this happen.
We were still at the very early stages of our investigation: for all I knew this woman could be an accomplice or simply deliberately trying to frustrate the purpose of our search.
At this point I was left with no option but to arrest the woman for obstructing a police officer.
Now, there is no nice way of arresting someone that doesn’t want to be arrested. In my notebook I recorded immediately afterwards ‘she was like a woman possessed’ and that just about sums it up.
While she was kicking out at my shins I took hold of the woman’s left arm and applied an arm-lock. She, too, was arrested and taken to the station.
And that would be an end to this story....but a few days later I was told to report to the Inspector’s Office. It wasn’t to be given a well done for the arrests. It was to be told that the woman had put in a formal complaint against me for being rude and for excessive use of force when I placed her in an arm-lock.
Readers who have seen ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’ may recall a scene when General Melchett (played by Stephen Fry) threatens that Blackadder should ‘be shot for being rude to a lady’. It was a bit like that.
To quote Gilbert and Sullivan: ‘A policeman’s lot is not a happy one’.....
Still, the Inspector’s office is now my office, so things have a habit of working out.