Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Chopper Coppers

I spy a barbeque

Mrs T and I spent last Sunday afternoon in a pleasant Surrey garden at a family gathering. So I got the chance to have another entertaining chat with her ex-cop brother.

As mentioned previously, in the late sixties he was the youngest DI in the Sweeney. But he resigned long ago, and is somewhat less than impressed with today's policing methods. In particular, he reckons many of the problems of loutish behaviour in public places could be eliminated if there was a much more visible and regular police presence:

"When I was a young PC at Holborn nick, I'd be be out on foot patrol for my whole shift. Eight hours on the beat, day and night. These days you hardly ever see a copper walking the streets, certainly not after dark. And if you do, they're in pairs- I used to be alone. Straightaway you've halved the number of patrols."

Yes, but isn't that because these days, things are jolly dangerous?

"Bollocks. We used to have some right thugs around, but they weren't allowed to run riot and terrorise the neighbourhood. We stepped in long before that. It was a deterrent."

But today's policemen do get stabbed.

"And why's that? Because there are no consequences. When I started, if you killed a copper, you knew you were going to swing..."

The next section of the conversation has been expurgated (see here).

So what do you think of these Community Support Officers? As if I couldn't guess.

"That's another load of bollocks. Those guys are people who couldn't get into the proper police. They've got no real powers, and everybody knows it. But the public are being conned into accepting them out on the streets while the real cops stay safely out of the way back at the nick, or driving round in a nice warm patrol car." (Note- we were speaking before we'd heard the very latest lunacy on Community Support Officers- Thames Valley Police hiring two 16 year olds).

At which point he was drowned out by the roar of a helicopter that had appeared directly overhead. Yes, it was another police chopper (see here). And it hovered for a couple of minutes clearly observing us (see video above).

Why on earth would they do that? Sure, we were under the flight path into Heathrow, and the barbeque could have been a missile installation. But I'm guessing there would have been loads of other Sunday barbeques in exactly the same situation. Or did they perhaps think we were the eco hippies? Or do they now check out all gatherings where ten or more OAPs are gathered together round a smoking griddle?

Brother-in-law was not amused. "That's another load of bollocks. For the cost of that thing you could have 20 or 30 coppers back on the beat" (he's right too- the Surrey Police chopper cost £3.2m to buy and another £1.2m pa to run).

And just what do they get up to in those choppers?

Well, we know they use them to pursue errant motorists who refuse to accept spot fines. We also know they use them to investigate the paranormal. Last year one was used to track a "ghostly figure" haunting the Caterham bypass- no, I'm not making it up:

"Matthew, who did not want to reveal his surname, was driving along the road at 2.30am on Thursday, April 13 with two of his work colleagues. The 36-year-old from Whyteleafe said: 'We saw a young girl's figure cross the road in front of us. The girl did not have any features on her face. It totally freaked me out.'

A spokesman from Surrey Police said: 'Officers, including a dog unit and the Metropolitan Police helicopter, searched the surrounding area but could find no trace of her'. He was aware that similar incidents had been reported over the years on that stretch of road.

The Paranormal Database records another spooky incident in the area around the A22 on July 28, 1963. It states that eight figures dressed in black cloaks were seen running and leaping around heading towards the dual carriageway."

They were probably just trying to hold a barbeque in peace.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, two more appalling murders-

Gary Newlove was beaten to death by drunken yobs outside his house.

Evren Anil was beaten to death while challenging litter louts.

There were no beat coppers around, and the choppers didn't seem to help.

PS See this blog for a reminder of how the police have failed to use their massively increased budgets to recruit more coppers. Instead, the dosh has been "wisely invested across a range of initiatives so as to maximise the return in relation to service performance." Which I think means they spent it on choppers.

PPS For some reason You Tube chopped off the bottom half of the first version of this vid. So I've redone it as the Director's Cut. Technical anorak note- You Tube clearly can't handle direct uploads from the Sanyo Xacti, which as 18DS citizen journalists will know, records in its own peculiar mpeg4 format.


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