Archive for the ‘Police life’ Category

Why don’t police officers in the UK have guns?   no comments

Answer by Tim Dees:

For the first 150 years or so of the U.K.’s current model of policing created by Sir Robert Peel, guns weren’t needed. Private firearms ownership in the U.K. is relatively rare as compared to the U.S. Handgun ownership is very rare. Some people own shotguns or rifles for hunting, but they’re generally kept at a hunt or gun club, not in private residences. Gun crimes were fairly rare.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the U.K. experienced an increase in gun-related crimes and a general escalation of violence. They also had to deal with “The Troubles,” e.g. guerrilla warfare fought by the Irish Republican Army and other terrorist organizations. This caused the U.K. police to rethink their position on deploying armed police officers.

Experienced officers with good performance records are screened and selected for firearms training. The vetting and training process is considerably more rigorous than police in the U.S. receive, as is the ongoing training that firearms-qualified officers receive during the rest of their careers while in that assignment.

Firearms-qualified officers do not normally carry their weapons at work, although those officers assigned to airports may be armed at all times with a fully-auto-capable rifle and handgun. Constables on regular patrol duties are assigned in pairs to armed response vehicles that carry the firearms and ammunition in a locked compartment. The firearms are deployed only on the order of a qualified commander, or on the constables’ own initiative in very restricted circumstances.

Although U.S. police can’t imagine working unarmed, many (if not most) U.K. constables have no desire to carry firearms. I saw several interviews of U.K. constables in the 1980s, when the firearms-qualified constables were first deployed. Many regular constables said they would leave the police service if required to carry firearms. It’s just contrary to the U.K. police custom and culture.

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Written by Tim Dees on June 26th, 2014

Things a Veteran Knows   no comments

Posted at 4:04 pm in Law Enforcement,Police life

This editorial originally appeared on in July 2006.

Our discussion forum continues to be a source of inspiration for me (hey, you try to think of something that appears to be clever and informative every week!) for ideas for columns. Over the past couple of weeks, contributors there have posted their own pearls of wisdom, gained from long and sometimes painful experience. Here are some of them (a few of which I actually wrote myself):

  • Keep at least one clean uniform readily available at all times.
  • Nothing works as well as Lincoln Shoe Polish.
  • Wash your hands both before and after you go to the bathroom.
  • A pack of cigarettes, no matter how old, can be of great value in getting a reluctant witness or suspect to talk to you. Smokers, especially those under stress, will often do anything for a cigarette.
  • If you investigate a wreck when it’s -20 degrees, use a pencil. The ink in your pen will freeze.
  • Carry at least two things you can write on — in separate pockets.
  • When you get to the jail, put your car keys in the locker with your gun.
  • A ninety-eight cent flashlight from Wal-Mart is better than nothing if your fancy expensive rechargeable one goes dead.
  • If your supervisor ever says, “Trust me,” you can’t.
  • If the dog in the front yard doesn’t appear to like cops, it’s a good bet the people inside won’t, either.
  • You should be able to drive an entire pursuit or prolonged emergency response, and never spill your coffee.
  • Always run cab drivers for warrants.
  • Your “war bag” should contain, among other things:
  1. Wet wipes
  2. A box of pens
  3. Shoe laces
  4. Aspirin, Tylenol, or something like it
  5. A bottle of hand sanitizer
  6. A roll of duct tape
  7. A paperback novel that you haven’t read yet
  8. Regular and Phillips screwdrivers, a pair of pliers, and an adjustable wrench
  9. A package of zip ties in various sizes
  10. An energy bar or two
  11. Spare batteries for everything you have that uses them
  12. A supply of small sealable plastic bags
  13. A jar of Vicks Vap-O-Rub® or its generic equivalent
  14. Emergency cash, some of it in coins
  • Keep your backup gun where you can reach it with either hand.
  • Always carry a knife, preferably a non-folding one.
  • Admit nothing, deny everything, and demand proof. Consider making counter-accusations.
  • Keep a spare set of car keys in your pocket.
  • An occasional pizza delivered to the radio room for no particular reason will return its cost a hundredfold.
  • A spare set of empty magazines for use at the range is an excellent investment.
  • Anyone that begins a sentence with “To tell the truth,” won’t.
  • Check to see if you are upwind before using the pepper spray.
  • Never make a threat that you are not prepared to carry out immediately.
  • The only thing that works better than making threats is carrying them out.
  • Underage drinkers will have memorized all of the information on their phony ID card, but they won’t be able to reproduce the signature without looking at it.
  • Polyester uniforms and road flares do not play nice together.
  • You will never go wrong in topping off your fuel tank before you start patrol.
  • Know what every convenience store clerk and gas station attendant on your beat looks like, and what they wear.
  • Education is nice. Experience is better.
  • Keeping a journal is a great idea. Telling someone that you’re keeping a journal is a terrible idea.
  • At the outset of every stop, every confrontation, every call where you anticipate violence, pause for a microsecond to ask for strength, ferocity, accuracy, kindness, empathy, and wisdom.
  • When an announcement for an opening in a special assignment is issued, the desirability of the special assignment varies directly with the likelihood that someone already had it locked up long before the announcement was made.
  • Hug your significant other and kids every day, as if you will never get to do it again.
  • When you can’t remember a time when you thought your job was fun, it’s time to leave.

Thanks to the forum members that helped with this list, even though you didn’t know that’s what you were doing. Thanks to the old hands that passed down this wisdom to me and the people that chose this path with me. Thanks to the people that have and will come after us, and who will learn that some truths are universal.

Written by Tim Dees on June 28th, 2013

The Yard   no comments

Posted at 11:02 pm in Law Enforcement,Police life

This article first appeared in the November 1988 issue of POLICE Magazine

You arrive at the station feeling a little less than real–no one is altogether alive at a time when everyone else is going to bed. Depending on the part of the country you’re in, it’s called midwatch, first watch, last out, night shift, nightwork, dog watch, graveyard, or simply, “the yard.”

You have enough seniority to get on one of the other shifts, but you stay here anyway. There is less traffic, fewer brass, and a greater share of hot calls that keep you interested.

You also get to go to court in (what is for you) the middle of the night, almost never get more than four consecutive hours of sleep, and live in a perpetual Twilight Zone that only experienced nocturnals can understand. You are pale from seeing the sun for only an hour or so before going home, droopy-eyed from fatigue, and malnourished from trying to subsist on a steady diet of coffee and breakfast food.

Opening your locker, you begin to assemble the array of clothing and tools of the trade that it contains:

  • Polypropylene thermal underwear–tops and bottoms
  • Wraparound Kevlar body armor
  • .38 Special five-shot revolver and holster, sewn into the body armor under your left armpit
  • Turtleneck shirt
  • Wool uniform trousers and shirt with shoulder patches
  • Nametag
  • Weapons qualification badge
  • Notebook, three pens, traffic template, Miranda warning, implied consent and field interview cards in your shirt pockets
  • High-top work shoes with steel-toe inserts
  • Black leather trouser belt
  • Black leather Sam Browne belt with holster, key ring and keys, two handcuff cases and handcuffs (one standard size, one extra-large hinged Peerless), portable radio case, flashlight holder, baton ring, and two magazine pouches.
  • Four belt keepers
  • .45 ACP double-action pistol, with rubber grips and three magazines, each loaded with eight Silvertip hollow-point rounds, plus one more in the chamber of the gun
  • Uniform cap and cap badge
  • Straight wooden baton (the chief thinks that sidehandle batons look offensive)
  • Halogen-bulb rechargeable flashlight with aluminum case
  • Winter uniform parka with shoulder patches

Only astronauts and deep-sea divers take longer to get ready for work. By the time you finish dressing, you weigh 27 pounds more than when you started. The building is overheated to keep the day shift secretaries content, and you begin to sweat underneath all of the clothing and equipment. When you go outside into the Arctic air, the moisture chills you.

You remove the seven-point insignia of office from your wallet and thread its pin through the badge holder tab on your parka. You lock the pin into place and note the numerals on the bottom that change you from a private citizen to a soldier of the law. People never seem interested in your name, they only rasp “What’s your badge number?” when you do them some real or imagined wrong.

You get a cup of coffee from the vending machine and are thankful that you aren’t completely awake, because then you would be able to taste it. By the time you get to the bottom of the cup you wonder why you pay a quarter for the privilege of drinking something that would gag a hungry dog. Still, the coffee is warm, its caffeine stimulating, and you have grown accustomed to using it as a surrogate for sleep.

You walk into the briefing room and sit among other dressed as you are. Some are close friends, most are merely acquaintances, and there are a few that you dislike intensely. But, no matter how you feel about them personally, you would crawl a mile over broken glass, if necessary, to get to them if they needed help. Such is the Blue Creed.

The sergeant drones out the night’s assignments and items of special interest. You ignore the bulletin from the Podunk Police Department, half a continent away, describing their first vehicle theft in three years, and try to note the ones that are headed “officer safety information.” Briefing closes with a cheery note from the FBI about some poor bastard that got blown up last week while doing exactly what you will be doing for the next ten hours. You remember that those bulletins seem to come far too often. You pick up a portable radio and shotgun from the armory, gather up your notebooks and report forms, and go outside to check out a car.

The car is filthy, and the floor is cluttered with candy wrappers, soda bottles and coffee cups left from its previous occupant, who eats approximately every fifteen minutes. You wearily dredge out the debris, check between the seat cushions for knives, narcotics, and dead pygmies, and lock the loaded shotgun into the dashboard rack. You automatically drive toward the gas pumps because cops that don’t clean out their cars don’t fill them with gas, either.

Picking up the radio microphone, you log on and hear the only friendly voice that you are likely to encounter all night. End of watch, and sleep, are a hundred slow miles and too many reports away. You put the car in gear and drive off to seek the perils of the night. There are calls to answer.

Written by Tim Dees on March 29th, 2012