The murky world of 1980s policing where planting, perverting and perjury oil the wheels of justice
NOTE: I read this book over the summer and felt like my first day on duty. From my friend Jonathan Cox (@FromGreentoBlue), a retired Officer from the London Met; he shared this 1st Chapter from his book From Green to Blue. Give it a go!!
Thursday 23rd June 1983
A figure dropped from the right and appeared on the pavement fifty yards ahead of us. It was a young black lad who took one glance in our direction and was on his toes. Dawn responded instantly, throwing her hat off and sprinting after him whilst she spoke in short rapid bursts into her radio.
“Chasing suspect, Belgrade Road, towards the High Road.”
Instinctively I began to run too and in a few paces was into my stride and overtaking my instructor. As the lad neared the High Road, I knew I was closing on him.
At the junction he turned right and no more than ten seconds later, I swept round the corner without breaking stride but as I looked along the road and beyond a crowded bus stop, there was no sign of him. I slowed my pace but after a short distance knew there was no longer any point, my prey had disappeared into thin air. Not quite thirty seconds after it had started, the chase was over.
I stopped and turned around; frustrated that once again I had let my instructor down.
As I strolled back slowly there was a sudden commotion amongst the crowd at the bus stop; people had formed a rough circle around some exciting but hidden event and were jostling for position. What I heard as I drew near put urgency into my step.
“Leave him alone, he ain’t done nothing.”
“F*** off pig; he’s been here all the time.”
I pushed my way through the crowd and caught glimpses of Dawn rolling around the floor struggling with a black youth in his mid to late teens. The youth was trying to get to his feet but Dawn had wrapped herself around him and had her right arm around his chest but his jacket was slowly coming off and when it did he would be able to escape. I had to get there; this was the opportunity I’d been waiting for to prove myself.
“Get out of the way, let me through.” I growled.
Sensing freedom the youth suddenly threw his head backwards and caught Dawn on the nose with a deep, bone breaking crack. Stubbornly she refused to let go. As I was clearing the crowd, a hand grabbed the tail of my tunic and checked my forward momentum.
“F*** off.” I spat.
I swung around looking for the hand’s owner but whoever it was had wisely decided to let go. As I turned back I saw the youth had got to his feet. Dawn was on her knees, her arms now gripping around his shins in a poor imitation of a rugby tackle, her eyes were closed and blood poured from her nose and covered her face.
The youth was still looking down when my clenched fist met the underside of his jaw; there was a definite crack followed by a collective gasp from the onlookers. At first the youth went up, briefly, and then he fell like a stone, unconscious, directly on top of Dawn who groaned under his weight before quickly pushing him off.
Fifteen minutes later those of us involved in this incident were making three very different journeys; Dawn was in an ambulance on her way to the London hospital; the youth was in the rear of a police van; and I was being driven to the nick by a grey haired middle aged PC in a panda car by the most roundabout route imaginable.
I suspected I’d been deliberately separated from the youth and was worried someone else was going to claim my arrest. The delay did however give me time to think over the several matters which were troubling me. In no particular order these were; was I going to get in trouble for punching the youth? Was I going to be blamed for what had happened to Dawn? Why had I been separated from the youth? Was the youth who’d been arrested the same lad who was running away? Even if Dawn had got the right person, what had he done wrong? It was no offence to run away from police, so what had he been arrested for? Policing I decided, was a lot more complicated than I‘d anticipated.
I had never met the driver before but I needed his help.
“Listen mate. Can I have some advice?”
“Yes of course.” He replied, but before I could ask anything he volunteered his own.
“Never get separated from your prisoner son, especially not when he’s punched a WPC. At this very moment the young man will be getting a very thorough lesson on why he shouldn’t have done that. He’ll be lucky to arrive in one piece but whatever happens to him, he’ll be your prisoner.”
“But he never really assaulted Dawn, their heads just knocked together. I’m not sure it was even deliberate; he was just trying to get away. Do you think we should tell them?”
“I think that’s pretty academic son. Dawn’s face was a real mess; her colleagues will be seeking swift retribution. What’s he nicked for anyway? I heard the chase but what’s he done?”
“That’s just it you see, I’m not sure.”
“Are you serious?” The driver replied, incredulously.
“He just climbed over a wall in Belgrade Road, saw us and ran. Before I had time to think, Dawn was after him and I just joined in too.”
The driver had already heard enough and spoke into his radio.
“Golf November; can you get a unit to check for signs of a burglary near Belgrade Road and Wordsworth Road? The arresting officer says the suspect from the chase had climbed over a wall from the rear gardens.”
Before the Reserve responded, a unit called up to say he was still at the scene and would have a look and as we drove into the rear yard, the unit confirmed there appeared to have been a burglary because the back door of eighty-eight Wordsworth Road had been forced open and was now hanging by one hinge.
“There you go; arrest him for burglary and the assault on Dawn Matthews.” The driver said.
I toyed with the thought of mentioning my next problem, which was that I wasn’t at all sure we’d arrested the right man but decided against it.
As I got out, the driver undid his window and called to a tall blonde PC who was standing by the stables smoking.
“This is him Pete.”
Pete had apparently been waiting for the arresting officer and walked over to hand me a black bin liner.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“This is your prisoner’s. He dropped it when you were chasing him.”
The PC spoke slowly as if he was talking to a child.
I knew I was being helped so I took the bag and the blonde PC stubbed his cigarette out under his Doc Marten and walked off. The bag was surprisingly heavy and jangled when I shook it.
I walked up the ramp which led from the back yard and entered the charge room. The youth was sitting on a wooden bench which was bolted to the floor against one wall; his head was in his hands which were still handcuffed at the wrists. He looked up briefly as I entered and I caught sight of a badly swollen left eye which had almost completely closed up. In front of the youth at a desk sat the Sergeant, he was writing something on a large sheet of carbonated paper which was resting on a black plastic base.
“Are you the arresting officer?” The Sergeant asked.
“Circumstances of arrest please?”
I was meant to explain why the prisoner had been arrested so the Sergeant could be satisfied the arrest was lawful and that his continued detention was necessary but I faltered knowing I really couldn’t say that this youth was the same lad I’d been chasing.
“We were walking down the road …” I hesitated.
The Sergeant sensed my unease, lifted his head and looked me up and down.
“Are you on Street Duties?”
“Where’s your instructor?”
“She’s gone to hospital Sarge; she was injured during the arrest.”
The Sergeant looked at the prisoner’s face.
“That answers my next question.” He said.
“WPC Dawn Matthews Sarge.” I replied.
“I don’t want her name lad, not yet anyway.”
“Oh, I haven’t asked the prisoner yet?”
“I don’t want his name either yet, I need yours.” The Sergeant said, patiently.
“Oh sorry, PC Christopher Pritchard, four six six Sergeant.”
The Sergeant wrote this information in a box on the form.
“What offence has the prisoner been arrested for?” The Sergeant asked.
“Time of arrest?”
I glanced at my watch.
“Ten past one Sarge.”
“Thirteen ten, ok, location of arrest?”
“The High Road Sarge, at the junction with Belgrade Road.”
“And what makes you think he committed a burglary?”
“Because he climbed over a wall from a back garden in Belgrade Road and there’s been a burglary at number eighty-eight.”
I waited for the prisoner to deny climbing over the wall and to protest that he’d just been waiting for a bus, so when he didn’t, I took this as a sign we’d arrested the right person.
“What’s in the bag?”
I’d forgotten I was holding the bin liner.
“I don’t know Sarge but he dropped it when we were chasing him.”
“What’s in the bag young man?”
The youth shrugged his shoulders and sucked through his front teeth. Again I was reassured that he didn’t deny having possession of it.
“Empty the contents on the desk please.” The Sergeant instructed.
I produced an assortment of obviously stolen goods including a camera, several unspectacular watches, a clutter of cheap gold jewellery, a heavy money box in the shape of a pink pig and six packets of unopened cigarettes. The Sergeant directed his next statement at the youth.
“Stand up, and come here.”
Slowly, grudgingly, the youth did as he was told. When he took his hands away from his face I found it difficult not to stare at his damaged eye and he kept opening and closing his mouth as if he were checking whether his jaw was broken.
“You’ve heard the officer, what have you got to say?”
“I want my solicitor, Colin Stephens.”
The youth rattled off a local telephone number which he obviously knew by heart and the Sergeant scribbled it down on a notepad. I realised this was not the first time the youth had been arrested and took this as the final indication that we had arrested the right person.
The charge room door swung open and a short white man in his forties entered; I noticed straight away he smelt of alcohol. As he was wearing a suit and tie; I guessed he was a company rep who’d had a bit too much to drink over lunch with a client and been arrested for drink drive. The new prisoner sat quietly and patiently on the bench whilst the Sergeant listed the property from the bin liner.
When this process was complete, the smartly dressed gentleman stood up and tapped the youth politely on the shoulder.
“What?” The youth said aggressively, without turning round.
He tapped him again, the youth turned round this time.
“What’s your f***ing problem?”
Without any warning the new prisoner swung a haymaker so wide that both my prisoner and I had to duck to avoid it. I moved quickly behind the suited gentleman and pulled him backwards.
Although intoxicated, he was strong and pulled violently against me, so hard in fact I had to slip my arms around his chest and physically lift him off the floor to hold him back.
“PC Pritchard.” The Sergeant shouted.
“What Sarge?” I replied, as I struggled.
“Put the Chief Superintendent down, and that’s an order!”
From Green to Blue, and its two sequels, are available on Amazon now.