Lyn Brown

Member of Parliament for West Ham

The Police Night Shift - Sept 2008

September has been another difficult month and also a busy one.  There has been the dreadful economic meltdown in the global financial markets.  People are extremely concerned and worried for their financial security.  My job has been made more difficult by the fact that Parliament has not been sitting.  So it can be harder to get access to Cabinet and Ministerial colleagues, to ask the questions and seek the assurances that all is being done that can be done to protect the livelihoods, homes and jobs of constituents.

The only silver lining has been the opportunity to get out and about more in the area and do things that there is often not the time for in a normal working week.  Therefore I’ve had the time to attend a demonstration at Stratford Station of how new knife arches are being used to catch people carrying knives, and visit the new bus garage at West Ham.  There is also the opportunity to attend various mid-week events, like the commemoration service to remember the borough’s civilian war dead.

One thing I do like to do in September is go out on a night shift with the local police, and this month I managed to go out twice. The shifts start at 9.00pm with a briefing about what was going on in the locality and who to look out for and why.  Officers are asked to look out for wanted individuals and warned about any violent records they had.

I was put in a car with two very pleasant and effective officers, a man and a woman.  I was genuinely impressed by the manner in which they dealt with the incidents, calmly, patiently and in an extremely courteous manner, demonstrating motivation and intelligence.  They showed respect to everyone they talked to and in return they were shown the respect they deserved.

The female officer was the driver.  She drove very quickly, but carefully and patiently. They told me that the majority of incidents on a night shift are alcohol fuelled domestic events, which are often frustrating and distressing.  The victim often just wants the other person temporarily removed, but whatever the damage, refuses to press charges.

It was absolutely fascinating for me to see the type of incidents to which we were called.  There was the punch-up outside a pub in Stratford, an allegation of domestic violence, a number of thefts of mobile phones, a couple of robberies of wallets and a report of a man wielding a samurai sword.  I must admit when that call came in I wondered what I was doing in the back of a car hurtling towards a samurai sword, rather than keeping my distance.  With this incident, as with so many, it was a false alarm, a waste of resources, tying up many officers including an armed response unit.

I was extremely concerned to witness the number of abortive calls the police have to respond to.  Residents called the police, gave sketchy information about incidents, but when we turned up, we could not find the incident and more frustratingly could not contact the ‘witness’ for further details, because they had turned off their mobile phones or simply did not answer the phone.

I would like to make a plea.  Please do report any crime or incident you are concerned about, but please give the fullest details you can.  Stay available to the police so they can call you back if they can’t find the incident or the people you have reported.  If the people have left the scene, or it has ended, please call back and tell the police.  Please don’t waste their time.  After all, there may well be another and more urgent call that they should be attending to.

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