Good sense... and a bit of luck too!

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On The Beat with Inspector Jim Tyner

Good policing is about using what you know so that you’re in the right place at the right time... and a sprinkling of luck.

There had been several vehicles broken into in Sutton Bridge. We had received several snippets of information about who was responsible and my team had been drafted in for several nights to try and catch them.

It was October and the culprit was using the darker evenings as cover. For three cold wet nights we had patrolled the back alleys and side streets. For three cold wet nights not a single vehicle had been broken into. We needed some luck.

Our fourth shift was a Saturday night. Brian and I had been on patrol for four hours and had just nipped in to the nearby McDonalds on the A17 for a warming cuppa when the dispatcher alerted us to a 999 call that had just come in.

A young man had just been disturbed breaking in to a car in Sutton Bridge. Luck was against us. Although we were only minutes away, a local cop got to the scene first and passed a description of the man.

Instead of going direct to the scene, Brian and I diverted to a nearby side street. At the end of the side street was an alleyway that ran along the rear of a row of terraced houses. Using what we knew about the area, Brian went to one side of the alleyway and I hid in the shadows on the other side.

No sooner had we hid ourselves in the shadows, when luck finally came our way. A man had just turned down the alleyway and was walking towards us. From the light of the street light at the end of the alleyway I could see that he matched the description. In the quiet of the night, I could hear that he was out of breath, as though he had been running. But luck can be fickle. Just as the man was getting close to me, my police radio squawked: the sound piercing the quiet of the night.

The man was on his toes like a robber’s dog. He dived in to the nearest back garden at the same time as I shouted to Brian. The chase was on!

The back garden was dimly lit but I could see that it bordered on to several other gardens and there were no obvious fences inbetween.

The man was running diagonally across the gardens, with Brian hot on his tail. I ran at a slightly different angle, to head the man off and promptly tripped over a low wire and landed face down in a flower bed.

To my left I could hear splashes and curses in the shadows. I got up again, smelling of garden mint (at least it wasn’t the compost heap) and this inglorious little foot-chase ended with me stepping out in front, slowing the man for a second and Brian grabbing his collar from behind. He was literally ‘collared’.

The young man’s energy was spent and it was as though he had given up. He was quickly arrested and handcuffed and we then had to get our bearings and find a way back to our police car. I noticed that the man’s legs were soaking wet and it turned out he had splashed through a garden pond. As we started to walk back to the police car the man got second wind and became increasingly belligerent.

As we stepped from the alleyway in to the parking area where we had left the police car the man suddenly started struggling violently and we ended up in a heap on the ground.

Now, a handcuffed man should be no problem for two cops to control, but for some reason this was more difficult than it should have been. As I restrained the man, face down on the floor, I paused for breath and couldn’t see Brian. I then saw that Brian had got to the police car and was sat sideways in the front passenger seat, with the door open.

He looked at me apologetically: “Shin splints!” he shouted to me: “You’re on your own.”

Shin splints is a term used to describe exercise-induced pain in the shins. It can be caused by sudden exercise without warming up and is agonizing.

So, Brian was incapacitated and I was out of breath, restraining a violent man on the floor in a stalemate: he wasn’t going anywhere, but I didn’t have enough energy to get him to the police car.

Then our luck seemed to take another turn. There was the sound of angry voices as a large man loomed in to the parking area surrounded by four or five others.

“Have you got my son?” he boomed. “You’d better let him go.” Actually the language was a lot more flowery than that, but you get the idea. He was being egged on noisily by the rest of the group.

This was not good. My heart was racing as the man stepped threateningly towards us. I could see that Brian was fighting through the pain of shin-splints and hobbling over to support me, but this was going to be an uneven fight.

Brian shone his torch on our struggling prisoner. As he did, the attitude of the angry man changed completely. There was a long pause. “Oh... that’s not my son.” Silence. He then turned to one of his sidekicks and said: “I thought you said that was Kevin.”

“Sorry, Dad,” came the reply. The man then turned to me and said: “Sorry officer, we’ll leave you to it then” and the group simply walked away, presumably looking for Kevin. Just as they did, our roller-coaster of luck changed again as other officers started to join us.

The young man was later charged with vehicle interference. The main dispute of the evening was over who should buy the cakes.

Brian said I should buy them as he got to the prisoner before me and made the arrest, but I argued that he abdicated all rights to cakes when he shouted: “Shin splints! You’re on your own.” Was I in luck? What do you think?