ON THE BEAT: By Inspector Jim Tyner
‘Twas the night before Christmas.
In the distance I could hear church bells tolling midnight, but I wasn’t feeling very festive. I was lying on my back on the pavement in Holbeach High Street. On top of me was the man I had just arrested. On top of him were three or four burly cops in a tangle of arms and legs. How did I always end up on the bottom of the pile? My story starts much earlier in the evening.
Like most cops, I’ve worked for more Christmas Eves than I care to remember. Mostly I’ve been on a late shift or night shift. Looking back, this must have been difficult for my children when they were growing up, but we usually managed to keep the traditions of Christmas, working around my shifts.
I was on a late shift, due to finish at three on Christmas morning. This was OK: it would give me the chance to have a few hours sleep before the children got up to open their Christmas presents. As part of our family tradition I read one of our favourite books to my daughter: ‘Cops and Robbers’ by Janet and Alan Ahlberg. This lovely story of brave Pc Pugh saving the kids’ toys on Christmas Eve contains the memorable refrain ‘Ho Ho for the robbers, the cops and the robbers, Ho Ho’ and was always a family favourite before I went to work on Christmas Eve.
So, after the story has been read and Christmas wishes given, off I went to work. The Christmas Eve shift always starts well: people are generally good natured and cheery good wishes are offered as you pass people in the street. I spent the first half of the shift on foot patrol in Spalding town centre and there were no incidents of note. By 11:30 the streets had emptied and people had either made their way home or to the pub of their choice.
It’s funny how one simple decision can have unforeseen consequences. I had a lot of paperwork to do. This would be a sensible time to get the paperwork done: that would’ve been the sensible choice. Instead I decided to go to Holbeach to see the cops on duty there.
Just as I was arriving in Holbeach, the police radio crackled with the report of a fight that had occurred at a nearby pup. The culprit had run off and a description was passed over the radio. As I was travelling along the High Street I glanced to my left. There was a man running along the pavement. He matched the description so I drove a little ahead and got out of the police car to head him off. I was expecting a struggle, but to my surprise the man stopped at my request. He was very drunk and although he had stopped he wasn’t exactly cooperative. While keeping the man talking, I was at the same time using my police radio to try and get more information from officers who had arrived at the pub. Had there been an assault? Was the victim making a formal complaint? Were there any further details about the culprit? At this time I still couldn’t be certain that I had got the right man.
The man told me his name, but denied that he had been at the pub. As the seconds ticked by while I waited for an update, he was getting increasingly pugnacious. Then I got confirmation: the landlord had been assaulted and was making a formal complaint. The landlord had named the culprit, but that wasn’t the name of the person I had stopped. One of the cops at the pub knew the person who had been named, so he came from the pub to where I was. As the cop and his team-mates pulled up alongside us the man glanced at the police van. There was a look of dawning recognition on the man’s face. He had given me a false name and realised that he was about to be rumbled.
The man started to push past me, making his escape. I grabbed hold of his left arm but his impetus was too strong. I didn’t let go, but this meant that as he barrelled past, I fell backwards. As I was still clinging to his arm the momentum of me falling to the ground pulled the man backwards, so that he landed backwards on top of me in a most undignified heap. As I hit the ground I felt a sharp pain as I banged my elbow.
My colleagues were out of their van in seconds and dived on top of the man to prevent him getting away. And that’s how I ended up on my back on the pavement in Holbeach High Street. Lying there, as the midnight bells were tolling, I couldn’t get the refrain out of my head: ‘Ho Ho for the robbers, the cops and the robbers, Ho Ho’.
The man was arrested and taken away. I returned to Spalding Police Station to write my statement and arrest report. By the time I had finished my statement and then completed some necessary reviews of people that were in custody across three police stations, it was 5:30am. So much for getting off at 3am! By this time the pain in my elbow was getting worse.
I finished work and got home to a hushed house. Santa had visited and there were Christmas presents under the tree. Santa must have been too busy for the glass of brandy and mince pie that had been left out for him, so I helped myself and climbed jadedly in to bed.
A few short hours later I was woken by excited squeals as the kids discovered Santa had visited. I couldn’t bend my elbow and the pain was excruciating. There was only one thing for it and Christmas was put on hold while I visited the Casualty Department. I was seen really quickly and an X-Ray showed I had chipped my elbow and had a splinter of floating bone causing the painful movement. I didn’t need a cast, but did need a sling to restrict movement.
I returned home to enjoy some family time and a lovely Christmas lunch prepared by the ever-patient Mrs T. Unfortunately, I was due on duty on late shift on Christmas Day. I didn’t want to phone in sick, as this would mean that one of my inspector colleagues would have to work instead and there was no point ruining someone else’s Christmas. So I spent the shift in the office, in charge but out of harms way.
It wasn’t the greatest Christmas but, like all police families, we made the most of it and still found some festive family time.
Like many of my colleagues, I will be working again this Christmas Eve. Police families across South Holland will be having Christmas celebrations while their loved ones are working. I would like to wish all those working a safe Christmas and would like to send special Christmas wishes to all our police families.
Ho Ho for the robbers, the cops and the robbers, Ho Ho