On The Beat with Inspector Jim Tyner
Many people’s favourite memories of the Spalding Flower Parade are of the wonderful floats, the carnival atmosphere or simply spending time with friends or family. I have enjoyed all those aspects of parades gone by but, of course, I have also worked on very many parades as a special constable, an enquiry officer, a constable, a sergeant and an inspector.
While the majority of people used to visit Spalding to enjoy the parade, every year there would be a few locals who would spoil it for others because they had drunk too much. This is not a recent thing and was always a negative aspect to the festivities.
My favourite policing recollection of the parade was as a sergeant. My team came on duty at midday. The town was already in full swing and the parade was due to start in another hour. As soon as we booked on duty, we had to immediately deploy to Ayscoughfee Gardens where some youths were causing problems (nothing new there).
As we arrived the group was pointed out to us. Five of the six were instantly remorseful and went on their way…but there’s always one. One surly teenager decided it was cool to carry on shouting and swearing when told not to. He was very quickly arrested and removed from the park, so that others could continue to enjoy their day.
We booked our troublesome teen in to custody and went on patrol in New Road. No sooner had we got to New Road, when there was a report of a disturbance in the White Hart yard. We rushed round there and a drunk young man was quickly arrested for disorderly conduct. We booked him in and then went straight out again to our static ‘points’ for the parade itself.
My team had responsibility for Pinchbeck Road from the New Road traffic lights to the swimming pool entrance. We were evenly spread out on both sides of the road and I ended up next to the grandstand that used to be erected in what is now the B&Q delivery yard. My old friend Brian (shin-splint cop: Guardian, April 17) was stood on the pavement opposite.
It was a beautiful sunny day and now it was time to enjoy the parade for a while. Sure enough the anticipation was building up and then the beautiful floats started trundling round the corner. Our only job was to keep the road clear and make sure there were no temper flare-ups when latecomers would try to step in front of those who had been sat waiting patiently on their deck chairs for hours.
Just as the first two floats were going past me, I heard a message on the police radio. Somebody had been seriously assaulted in a ‘glassing’ incident outside a nearby pub. Other officers were already on the scene and passed a description of the culprit: he was a man in his early twenties, wearing a purple shirt and black jeans.
Just as the description was being passed, I saw a man running in between the floats: sure enough, he was in his early twenties and wearing a purple shirt and black jeans. He also had a very bloody right hand. Caught red-handed! I stepped towards the young man and Brian approached from the other side of the road.
The young man was very, very drunk. His chest was heaving with the exertion of running and he was crying uncontrollably. He was so drunk he hadn’t even seen Brian and I in our bright yellow jackets. As we got to him, I took hold of his left forearm to stop him walking further.
Now he was aware of me and started to pull away. Before he could do anything, Brian grabbed the man’s right arm. We then applied text-book arm-locks to restrain the man, placed him gently on his knees and popped on the handcuffs. I told the young man why he was under arrest, but he was too drunk to understand or care.
Now our problem was that we were meant to call for a police van to collect our prisoner, but the parade was in full swing. We decided to walk the man through the swimming pool grounds to the police station, so we stood him up and started to walk him away. As we did there was suddenly a sound of clapping as Brian and I got an ovation from the onlookers on the grandstand.
Once that young man was booked in, his bloodied clothing seized and the paperwork completed, the parade was finished. We were joined by the other members of the team for a refreshment break and then went out for a final foot patrol around the town. By this time I was starting to feel weary and didn’t really want any more arrests. So I was most annoyed when, as we walked out of the police station, there were three men in their late twenties shouting and swearing on the pavement opposite the police station.
Police officers have enormous powers of discretion: we can give someone an informal warning, a formal direction to leave the area, a fixed penalty ticket or we can make an arrest.
Most people are sensible enough to accept an informal warning and be on their way. But not these three: ‘What you gonna do about it?’, ‘Make us’ and ‘I know my human rights’ were the responses.
Normally one warning is enough, but I was willing to give a second warning. Unfortunately, that didn’t work either and it was obvious from the change in tone and body language that these guys were squaring up for a fight. I summoned my last reserves of patience and explained to the men that they were seconds away from being arrested. They carried on shouting and swearing and I took a step towards the man nearest me. At this, the man looked at me and said to his mates: ‘Watch it; I think the fat one means it!’ The fat one? Did he mean me?
There was a silence that stretched for many seconds then a snigger started from one of the cops on my right. I looked and all four cops had shaking shoulders trying to hold in a laugh, but it was too much for PC Henman who spluttered loudly with guffaws of laughter. That was it. The tense atmosphere was broken and the three men started laughing as well. I was indignant and tried to regain my dignity, explaining ‘It’s the body armour, you know’ but that just brought more laughter so, I garnered my wounded pride and walked slowly back to the police station.
The three men went on their way and I told my team that if they ever mentioned this to anyone they would be on foot patrol forever.