The Police Station in Maidstone, on Palace Avenue, is a purpose built structure, and extremely ugly. It is attached to the old court-house so that prisoners could be moved directly from the Station cells to appear in court. On the top floor was what used to be bachelor quarters, but was now locker rooms, and of course, the bar. No really, on the top floor of the Police Station was the bar, which opened every day. You could pop in after work, have a few beers, drive home, awesome. The Fire Station had the same sort of arrangement, except they restricted the Fire Truck driver to one beer, everyone else was fine to get plastered.
On the bottom floor was the daily-use rooms, the parade room for briefings, the shift supervisors office, the custody area, and the report room, where you could sit in relative discomfort and hand-write a report before the days of computers.
At the time of this story there was what we would now call an ‘analogue’ answering machine, it had a tape, and a general message. Of course no-one wanted to either answer the phone, or transcribe the messages, firstly, because to get to that extension, the caller would have had to go through many layers of annoying prompts and messages, and would be extremely frustrated, and more than likely actually want to speak to someone who was off duty anyway. Secondly, no-one would want to get involved in someone else’s problem. Thirdly if you took a message, you would be responsible for making sure someone else followed up on it.
So the phone and machine were fraught with issues, if the Control Room really wanted you they would call you on the radio, if your supervisor wanted you, they would have the Control Room call you on the radio. If a colleague wanted you, they would find you. So the only people who used the phone were members of the public, and you definitely did not want to get involved in another officers case.
Later the answering machine was replaced by a ‘messaging system; where some poor peon took a message, transcribed it and you got a copy. If you did not record what action you took on the message, your supervisor would be advised to follow up, with a copy of the message, and you would get some quality time with your supervisor explaining what you had or had not done about the message.
This story takes place while the analogue answer machine was still in play. I came in one day to find the tape in the machine missing, and an evidence tag on it showing the tape had been seized in evidence in case number…….
So a quick question revealed no-one on shift with me knew why it was missing. It was not until we met with the shift taking over form us at the end of our shift did we learn the full details. Apparently someone had called in, eventually got through to the answering machine, and entertained themselves by making threats and swearing over the phone. Emlyn had overheard this, and recognized either the voice, or the person had identified himself on the message, I forget which, and so Emlyn had called him right back. A discussion ensued of the contents of the message, which became heated, and culminated with Emlyn advising the person on the other end of the line that he was under arrest…over the phone.