Just Following Orders….

So back in the day, on patrol in Maidstone, Kent UK, one night shift when I was still fairly new, there was a bad accident, RTA’s we used to call them, Road Traffic Accident, although that did change to ‘Crash’ because the term ‘Accident’ implies no-one was at fault, which is usually incorrect. Some of them I think were “Road Traffic Purpose” because someone made a conscious decision to do something stupid, and someone got hurt. Well one night someone got hurt real bad, a Land Rover hit a Mini head on, taking the roof off, and the passengers head at the same time. Then another car came around the corner and made even more of a mess. So by the time we get there those who are still in the land of the living are just sort of standing around trying not to look at the remains in the mini, the ambulance got there first, pretty much loaded everyone still with their head on their shoulders up and off to the ER. Luck of the draw, I end up standing in the middle of the road with a big torch (flashlight) turning approaching cars around so they won’t drive into the scene.

Well it turns out that the vehicle that came onto the scene and drove into the other two was being driven by a local Detective Inspector, and he was drunk. So off went the supervisor to find him in the huddle which had been delivered to the ER, while we were left with the scene. The scene had to be reconstructed, which was pretty neat to watch, as long as you didn’t look too hard at the marks in the Mini.

Then we found out that the Detective Inspector, who was suspected to have been driving drunk, had walked out of the ER, the Officer who was meant to be keeping an eye on everyone has lost contact with him, and he had basically walked off.

So after getting one of the more easy assignments for the night, my next detail was outside of the Detective Inspectors house waiting in case he came home. I was driven there by the Duty Inspector, I don’t know if he was a buddy of the missing Detective Inspector, but he knew his wife by first name, and went inside to chat, while I found somewhere outside to stay out of the rain. Lo and behold, after I had got thoroughly cold and damp, the missing Detective Inspector showed up, I moved in behind him and obviously he saw me, and started walking off quickly. So what do I do? Go ‘hands on’ with a senior officer? I tried to block him, and at the same time get talk-through on the radio to get the Duty Inspector to come out, which he eventually does. So we all go inside the house, the duty Sargent turns up and tells me I am going to have to arrest the Detective Inspector.

So given a direct order, in the presence of the Duty Inspector, I arrest the Detective Inspector and got to put him in handcuffs and take him back to the station. Then things just got a little weird, obviously Complaints & Discipline (known over here as Internal Affairs) we informed, and a bunch of good-old-boys from C&D came out for the woodwork. It was a little unsettling to have all these guys in very nice suits, who knew all of the older and senior officers around by their first name, being ever-so very polite, but with a threat of C&D hanging behind them. Instead of writing up our reports in the Section Room as we would normally have too, we were made to go upstairs to CID write them up. Of course we were very careful about how everything was written up, because the first department to get a look at them was C&D, so everyone took their time,  and it was very light outside by the time we were done.

I must admit I was a little worried about how I would be treated for arresting ‘one of our own’, who used to serve in the same Station I was now serving in. Well it turns out that the lady inside the house was not his first wife, and she had previously been married to someone else at my police station, and the split had not been good, with the Detective Inspector who I arrested being a vital part of the split. As it turned out I ended up being congratulated by a couple of officers for arresting him, although at least one colleague did bear me some resentment for arresting a fellow officer, it was not a popular opinion to air.

A few weeks later a letter came down from C&D, apparently when I had written up my arrest record, I had implied that I had to restrain the Detective Inspector when I arrested him, which to them implied I might have been in fear of being assaulted by the Detective Inspector while I was wrestling with him. So now I was feeling put-on by the whole thing again, here I was I had been put in a situation that was very difficult, arresting a fellow officer, and now I was being asked to say if I had been in fear of him assaulting me, so of course I wrote a detailed report of how I was at no time in fear of being assaulted by the Detective Inspector.

So anyway another incident occurred recently which reminded me a lot of this. I went though a lot of the same feelings of regret I had back then.

I was running a basketball semi-final game, neither team playing was ‘my’ team so I took even less interest in the game than usual (hint, I don’t really follow the game). I am usually in charge of making sure everything run’s smoothly (as the Athletic Director), but since it was a semi-final, the ‘league’ was actually in-charge, and I was just helping to run things, like taking money at the door. It was one of those very close games, which got even closer as the clock ran down, and everything came down to the last basket in the last second of the game, which may or may not have been taken before or after the final buzzer. Anyway, the crowd was I think a little surprised by the referee’s decision, which was to allow the final basket, thus giving the game to the team which had been behind all the game. The referees passed me on their way out of the gym, seemingly oblivious to the crowd going wild, when the next thing I heard was two tall teens, who had been players up until their graduation last year, chasing after the referees and talking about ‘finding’ them.

Well I realized that this might not end well, just as I did when I was standing outside of the Detective Inspectors house all those years before, and suddenly in a gym packed full of people, I felt very alone, just as I was back then, no-one else had heard those rather angry looking teens, and before I could explain what I feared would happen to anyone else, they would have found the classroom I put the referees in to change, which I was sure was where they had gone back too.

So leaving the money box in good hands, I quickly got to the referees changing room, before the tall youths, since I knew where it was, and positioned myself solidly in front of the door. The two teens were quickly joined by a couple of agitated adults, who I would under any other circumstances would as my friends, yet in the here-and-now, were a problem. My fear was that the situation would escalate out of control, and some people who I would like to count as friends, would, if unchecked,  say things, perhaps do things, which we would all regret later. So I just stood there in front of the door and said they could not go in. One thing I was always told, back then, was never to get into arguments with people, and now I was able to use my ignorance of the game to my advantage. I could not comment on the final play of the game, I pretended no expertise about the game, so as a distraction I told them to go appeal to the League General Secretary, who was in the gym, and if he agreed I would let them speak to the referees, which I did not think was going to happen, but it gave them someone in a position of authority to complain too, which would distract them for a while.

So after warning the next two referees for the next game that there was going to be a reception committee, I stayed outside the door, until the loosing team had left, . Of course I offered to escort the two referees from the first game to their vehicles, but apparently they had all traveled down together, and these two wanted to enjoy the concession stand and perhaps watch some of the second semi-final. So after making sure the loosing team bus had left, I let them out.

Of course that was not the end of it, the League Secretary got wind of it, and wanted to know my side of things, so I explained to him why a group had come looking to appeal the ending of the game, and various other people had tried to calm the crowd as they left, with varying degrees of success. Then I received a written apology from one of the people involved, to which I replied in kind. But that’s never the end of it, and this is what ties the two incidents together in my mind, I am forever mulling it over in my mind, is there something else I could have done, not for the original accident, that was beyond by scope, but for the Detective Inspector, I could have let him run off, I could have taken him to the ground when he tried to walk away. Then in the gym, was I assuming the worst of people who I would prefer to call my friends? I did not know the Detective Inspector before the crash, but I knew the people at the basketball game, and now the way I see them is totally changed. But what really hurts is that both incidents were something which came my way because of roles I volunteered for, first as a Police Officer, now as Athletic Director, but no-one tells you, and no-one could possibly tell you,  when you take these jobs, what sort of things you will have to deal with. I have seen a lot of pretty ‘nasty’ stuff, the result of either stupidity or evil, but that was never personal. When I put on the police uniform, it was like putting on a role, my wife can attest, I became a different person, because I protected myself, I knew bad things were going to happen, and I distanced my emotions so they would not be affected. But now, I had no such protection, the incident involved people who I was emotionally involved as friends, people I used to admire greatly, but now that is gone, and no apology can change that.

So the moral of this story? Everyone get’s put into situations they may or may not be prepared for, it is how they deal with them which shows character, good or bad. And while I would forgive others as I myself would like to be forgiven, seeing a good friend react badly is like sharing a secret, no-one wants to acknowledge it, but it changes everything.

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About limey6

Father of four, husband of one, Ex-pat ex cop Englishman living in rural Maine
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