Normally when one says they were in a police car for around 8 hours, you would think they would have been arrested for some sort of crime. I had not committed any offence (as of yet) but was in a police car for work experience. As I am looking to study criminology at university, I wanted to get first hand experience in the world of crime and justice. What better way to encounter crime itself than to undertake a police night shift like in the movies. After arranging back and forth with a fellow police sergeant via email and various phone calls, the timings were arranged for the night shift from 10pm until 6am.
At 22:00 on Saturday evening the 15th of June 2018, I was dropped off at Kentish Police Town station by my very anxious mother. I was introduced to Sergeant Lorimer who showed me around the police station. After practically signing my life away on some papers, I was taken into the police briefing room where there were around 20 police officers. Sergeant Lorimer then began the briefing about safety procedures and what to look for that night. It mainly revolved around gang members and knife crime. I was handed a stab proof and bullet proof vest which intimidated me slightly. The officers were polite towards me and outgoing, considering they had a 5ft 2 scared teenager newly recruited into their troop. The atmosphere reminded me of the beginning of a school assembly before the headteacher entered, where everyone was chatting and laughing. It was clear to me the officers got along well with each other. This comforted and reassured me knowing it wouldn’t be the most serious night. I also was informed that the Chief Superintendent occasionally buys the officers a big pack of doughnuts to reward them for their hard work. Not only does this remind me of the police stereotype like in the Simpsons (due to a large amount of doughnut intake), but this also showed me that there is emotional support given to the officers and potentially free food later for me that evening (spoiler alert, there wasn’t but I’m hoping next time we can stop of at Krispy Kremes) .
After a motivational speech by Sergeant Lorimer, the officers immediately got up and headed towards the police cars and vans in what seemed like slow motion in my mind. It was just like the movies, and I felt a little like James Bond. There I was, put into a group with two male officers in a police car. In case my parents read this, this was the first time I had been in a police car and it was surprisingly comfortable. Little did I know this car had the option of red and blue lights. Red lights are turned on when signifying there is an immediate emergency whereas blue lights are used on the cars to alert the presence of the police. Calls would come through from the main police station (Kentish Town) where they would tell us the location of the incident and what it revolved around. As soon as they received a call , depending on the urgency of the situation, the red lights and siren were put on and we sped through Camden and Kentish town. With my mother’s overcautious driving I was used to going practically half the speed we were going at in the police car. The officer even warned me that if I was feeling nauseous to let him know. Luckily I was fine – I was used to this speed of driving because I have become used to my dad’s driving! Looking at the blurry dashboard I think we were driving at at least 80mph .
Of all the incidents we attended, the most vivid one was at student accommodation in central London. Due to confidentiality reasons I cannot disclose the name of the university accommodation. It all started at around 2am. We got a call from the student accommodation manager to say that there was an individual on the roof, smashing alcoholic bottles around. So we immediately sped through the red lights and in under 10 minutes we were there. Just like the James Bond, the officers ran up the stairs and just like Johnny English, I ran up heavily breathing due to my lack of fitness. They burst into the individual’s room to which we could see him outside on the roof. There was glass everywhere on the floor from the window but also a pungent smell of blood. If you looked around everywhere was covered by blood and I was alarmed. Before I knew it, firefighters had been called and so had the paramedics. One of the officers climbed through the window and tried to calm down the individual, however in doing so he got glass in his eyes and hands. They successfully retrieved the individual back to safety thanks to the help of the firefighters and the paramedics. He was taken in an ambulance to a hospital nearby, escorted by police. By the time this ended it was almost 4 in the morning. Practically the length of the Skyfall (James Bond film). After each incident was resolved, I always had a strong feeling of comfort and reassurance .
It’s fascinating how many times your body goes into fight or flight during a police shift. I learnt that you have to be prepared for anything and everything. Sometimes the person at the police station only has little information and you have to wait to see for yourself what has really happened. The wait can be quite agitating but the job as a whole is rewarding. It definitely takes a lot of mental and physical capacity out of you.
I really enjoyed my ride along with the police at Kentish Town station and it has massively inspired me further to pursue a career in the criminal justice field. Before this experience, I took for granted how much work the police do but also the mental strain of the job. I was only there for 8 hours yet so much happened. Though it was quite overwhelming, the rush of adrenaline I felt throughout the night is still indescribable .