Today I’m delighted to be handing the controls of CTG HQ over to Mike Thomas. Mike’s novel ASH AND BONES is out now and, having served in the police he’s just the right person to talk about the ten phrases every cop will hear during their career. So, over to Mike …
Thirty years is a long old time to be a copper. What makes that length of service feel even longer are the stock phrases you hear day in, day out. Some of them come from your ‘customers’ (or criminals, in old money). Some will drift from the mouths of your colleagues. And a few will be heard from normal MOPs (Members of the Public) who you interact with at incidents and general patrol – if you’re not sitting in the parade room filling in interminable forms for six hours, that is – during a shift. All of them are guaranteed to make you roll your eyes and curse inwardly, and wonder why on earth you ever signed up to be a plod.
- What’s your number, I’m going to have your badge
An old favourite of villains. Usually spouted by one of them after the police have had the temerity to arrest him for violently assaulting his girlfriend, his mother, and then several MOPs who intervened, before headbutting, kicking and spitting at the arresting officer, who was forced to wrestle him to the ground and handcuff him, all the while trying not to go overboard (reasonable force, y’see) or hurt him at all. This, of course, is police brutality in his tiny little mind, and now the man wants the arresting officer’s force number so that he can have them sacked and their warrant card –‘badge’ – taken away.
- Of course I loves him/her, I f*** him don’t I?
You go to a Domestic Dispute, and find the male and female have spent the day drinking litres of Spar super strength cider in their garden – it’s not raining that much, so of course it’s okay to sit in deck chairs amongst the weeds and those rusted car wheels – before deciding to spend the evening punching one another in the face really, really hard, while calling each other some rather choice names which people living three streets away could hear. Neither party wishes to make a complaint, arguing that they love each other, and when you question this that phrase above comes out. So you attempt to arrest the male, just to get him away from the house so the fighting stops and everyone within a two mile radius can get some sleep. Then, of course, they turn on you, and start punching you in the face really, really hard.
- If you weren’t in that uniform I’d fight you right here, right now
A strange one, this. Criminals or angry drunks seem to think that if you were to quickly change into a tee shirt and jeans it would a) suddenly make you weaker than if you were in uniform and b) mean you were no longer a police officer, just because you are out of ‘the cloth’. After a few years it had got to the point that I’d offer to strip naked to see if people still wanted to carry out their threat. Oddly, not one of them did.
- I’ve just got a quick call for you, it’s on the way back to the station
Ah, the control room. Sometimes called Ops Room, or if you’re feeling fancy, The Public Service Centre. Woo. Anyway, typically a windowless hive of workstations, staffed primarily by female civvy (civilian) controllers, who spend twelve hours a day/night handling endless calls from the public, liaising with other emergency services, and dishing out incidents to police officers via the radio system. Working there is a thankless, stressful nightmare, and they all deserve a medal. But this is the one phrase that gets those cop eyes rolling – thanks to GPS and other tech gubbins, the controllers know exactly where you are, all the time. And that incident they have on their list, the one that’s been hanging around for hours because nobody wants to do it, because it’s absolute rubbish? They’re now giving it to you, because it’s at a house on your route back to the station at the end of a tour of duty. Just a quick call. Just to pop in and see if elderly Mrs. Jones is okay. Just to clear that pesky incident from the computer screen. So you go, and you find Mrs. Jones dead, and she’s been dead for a month, and your first finish on time for two weeks goes south because now you’re the OIC (Officer in the Case) for a Sudden Death which sees you dealing with grieving relatives and mountains of paperwork and a trip to the mortuary and handling the putrid remains of a human being. Oh, and working an extra six hours on top of the ten you’ve already done. But hey, at least you’re still sucking air.
- There we are then
You’ve just heard that phrase from Number 4. You don’t want to do that ‘quick call’: you have seventeen incidents to update on the Niche computer system, your notebook to write up, the sergeant to liaise with, and it’s your daughter’s fifth birthday and you are not – under any circumstances – going to a call that has been sitting on a computer terminal in Ops Room since yesterday. You are going home on time for the first time in an age, dammit. So you touch the transmit button on your personal radio and explain, a tad grumpily, and ask them to pass it on to the next shift. The terse reply: ‘There we are then.’ And you sigh, and do you know why? Take a look at the first letter of each word she just transmitted across the airwaves. See what they spell? That’s what she’s just called you.
- Can I wear your hat?
If I had a pound, et cetera. Friday night? Working the dreaded ‘After Dark’ shift, where you’re drafted into a city centre to police the thousands of revellers who have flooded into its pubs and clubs? You will hear this question every half an hour. You will, when new to the Job, let them wear your hat, even pose for photographs with smiley men and women – many of them drunker than you’ve ever been – while they laugh and giggle and try on your police helmet. Then, after a few years of it, and after that one time when a young whippersnapper ran off, laughing gleefully, with your ‘lid’, something inside you will snap. And you will refuse. You will ignore the drunk-yet-polite men and women, and come across as a right miserable old bugger. And you will walk away, ignoring their pleas for a picture while they wear your Custodian helmet, and you will find a dark, drizzly corner to stand in, and you will breathe a sigh of relief while contemplating your lot, and hope nobody ever finds you again, until five minutes later when, from beside you, you will hear: ‘Can I wear your hat?’ See also: ‘Are you the strippagram? A-hahahahahaha!’
- Why don’t you catch some real criminals?
Never understood this. What is a real criminal? The kingpin of a massive drugs importation gang? A murderer, or rapist? Someone who traffics children into sexual slavery? Or perhaps someone who repeatedly – and deliberately – kicks the wing mirror off their neighbour’s car due to a long-running and terribly petty dispute over parking spaces? It’s all crime. Kicking a wing mirror off is criminal damage. Hence, you are a criminal. The police are going to arrest you for it. There is no point whatsoever saying this phrase as they are placing you into the back of a prisoner van, hands cuffed to the base of your spine. It just sounds like you’re whining, so stop it. Nobody cares.
- What’s the problem? Is it going to take long?
See those bright yellow cones, and that fluttering police tape, and the half dozen police cars and two ambulances and a fire truck inside the cordon, plus that – look, up there! – crying man sitting on top of a twelve storey office block, legs over the ledge, face ashen and eyes on the ground all that way below as he mulls over whether to jump and end it all because he’s lost his job and his wife has left him and taken the kids and he has nothing whatsoever to live for? But anyway, we’re REALLY, REALLY SORRY for closing the road while our negotiator tries to save his life and it means you have to queue for ten minutes or – heaven forfend! – find an alternative route into work.
- This is harassment, bro
A close relative to number 7, and usually followed by Number 1. Frequently uttered by career criminals and recidivists, as if in astonishment that you have arrested them – again! – for burgling another house, or hitting their partner for the third time this week, or selling yet more dodgy E tabs that sent a clubber into a coma from which they will never awaken. The police are not harassing, you, for goodness’ sake. They are doing their jobs. If you don’t like getting lifted by the Old Bill, STOP DOING CRIMEY THINGS, THEN.
- I pay your wages
Wait, you personally go into my bank each and every month, fill out a deposit slip with my name and account details, write down the requisite amount, and hand it over to the cashier so they can give me all your money? THANK YOU SO MUCH, YOU ARE VERY KIND.
A big thank you to Mike Thomas for sharing the ten phrases every cop will hear during their career with us. As you can imagine, Mike’s novel ASH AND BONES is a truly authentic police procedural, and the beginning of a new series featuring DC Will MacReady.
Here’s the blurb: “At a squalid flat near the Cardiff docks, an early morning police raid goes catastrophically wrong when the police aren’t the only unexpected guests. A plain clothes officer is shot dead at point blank range, the original suspect is left in a coma. The killer, identity unknown, slips away. Young and inexperienced, Will MacReady starts his first day on the CID. With the city in shock and the entire force reeling, he is desperate to help – but unearths truths that lead the team down an increasingly dark path …”
You can buy ASH AND BONES from Amazon here
And be sure to check out Mike’s website www.mikethomasauthor.co.uk and follow him on Twitter @ItDaFiveOh