Potpourri of Policing !!!
Policing has never been easy. The expression "A Bobby's Job" was extremely misleading. In the Cities and Borough Uniformed Constables had the monotony of working a fixed beat. Marched out from the station, with rest of the section, to fall out of line as they reached their beat. Up one street, down the next and returning to the point they started at. With no discretion as to where they walked. With a Sergeant, invariably, looking for the opportunity to find fault with his Constables. A life full of temptation. The kind Licensee leaving a pint on the back wall of the pub with the likelihood of dismissal if you were caught drinking.
The county Officers life was no better but different. Living on the patch till he, and his family, were moved to another part of the County; usual after 3 or so years. Ulverston or Grange over Sands to Huyton or Kirkby. The supposed idyllic life of being a village Bobby. Working duty in a split shift - turning out in the morning and then coming out again in the evening. Being available 24 hours day from their police house/station.
When John Woodford became the Chief Constable of the newly formed Lancashire County Constabulary. He knew what he expected of his men. He issued a set of "maxims" or guidelines, dealing with their personal and professional conduct. One of those maxims said "AVOID TIPPLING". In the modern era that maxim has caused some confusion as to what he meant. At the time it was written,1839, there was no clean drinkable water and as a consequence people were allowed to take a "small" amount of alcohol to work for refreshment. He was warning his men to avoid drinking more than the allowed amount. The demon drink has been the wreck of many an Officers career. Young Bobbies were all made aware of the phrase. "BEWARE THE MAN WITH THE BOTTLE".
Over half the original Bobbies of the Metropolitan Police were dismissed for being Drunk on duty
In the modern day parlance they are referred to as "The Management". In bygone times they were erroneously called Superior Officers. Over the years many Bobbies after questioning the parentage of a Sergeant/Inspector or above have wondered. Have they had a charisma bypass or have got a totally perverse sense of humour after the decisions they had made. Decisions that often affected not just the Junior Officers working life but their personal life too. As they say "IF YOU CAN'T STAND A JOKE , YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE JOINED"
In the days before the Second World War the Chief Constable of Liverpool decided he wanted his Force to be seen in the best light - A Force to be remembered. He decided as the major railway termini and the Ocean Liners all centre around the City Centre. That Officers in "A" Division should be a minimum of six foot tall. Since the 1919 Police Strike very few Officers in the Liverpool City Police were from Liverpool originally. One of the new recruits had no knowledge of the City other than the City Centre but sadly he was under 6 foot tall. He asked the Training Sergeant where would a suitable posting. The Sergeant suggested a Division so nice its alternative name was "Scotland" and the Area was so good that the nick was called "Rose Hill". For the next few years this new recruit would cut his teeth in "D" Division and the streets of Scotland Road.
It is said that humour is the best safety valve The whole range of misery that a police officer sees in the course of their duty means that humour is often used. Sometimes of the gallows type.
Amongst the acts and sections that our predecessors had to know was one that related to those suffering from mental illness in a public place. This allowed an officer to take the person suffering from mental illness, without further examination, to a lunatic asylum. Where they would be detained for seven days.
Before the Second World War a First Class Constable nearing his pension called at a mental institution one morning. He was with another man. The Officer said "THIS FELLOW KEEPS FOLLOWING ME. HE SAYS HE'S A COUNCILLOR AND I KNOW HE ISN'T". The man was detained. Later the same week the same officer called at the same premises this time it was with a woman. He said to the staff "SHE SAYS SHE'S MY WIFE. BUT I'M NOT MARRIED" After a few days the Councillor and the Officers wife were both released by the staff at the mental institution.
Within a matter of days the Head Constable was issuing instructions that in future in Liverpool the provision of the act would not be used by officers without the assistance of a Medical practitioner.
In the Second World War with blackout and lighting restrictions the number of serious and fatal Road traffic accident increased considerably. One officer decided that he had a way he could be seen without showing lights. He found an old pair of army gators and painted them white. After a couple of coats of paint they looked as if they have always been white. When he paraded for duty once he had explained his reasoning nothing more was said.
A few nights later he was stood in the doorway of a the shop in the early hours. When he felt someone grabbing his ankles. A serial milk bottle thief in the darkness had mistaken his gators for a pair of milk bottles.
After the Second World War rationing was still in place for some time. The ships that tied up in the docks were always very good to the officers who patrolled the quays. Like everything there always was those who abused the act of goodwill. There was one Sergeant who was disliked by dockers, seafarers and officers alike. He abused the hospitality that was extended to him.
One summers morning the Inspector decided to walk the docks trying find this particular Sergeant. It wasn't long before someone pointed him in the right direction. The Inspector arrived just as the Sergeant was walking down gangway of a ship. The Inspector immediately noticed that Sergeant was wearing his helmet with the chinstrap down. Chinstrap's would normally only be used in inclement weather. This particular day the sun was cracking the flags.
The Inspector assumed that under the Sergeant helmet were items he had been given by the ship crew. The Inspector swung his signalling stick and struck side of the Sergeants helmet. The force of the blow was such that the helmet stayed on the Sergeants head but was completely askew from where it should have been. After a few moments liquid started to seep from underneath the helmet and down the Sergeant head. The liquid was clear but also had yellow bits. The event was witnessed by dockers, seafarers and officers who had no difficulty in containing their amusement. The Inspector and Sergeant walked off for a turn around dock as if nothing had happened....... A sad end to a dozen eggs.
One of our local police motorcyclists was on escort duties. Escorting the Crown Judges from the judges lodgings in Newsham Park to the Crown Court in Liverpool. When he arrived at the lodgings he saw that the judges party was starting to assemble. He then saw one of them had something dangling below his jacket. He walked over to the man and discreetly said "I'M SORRY SIR IT APPEARS YOUR BRACES HAVE FALLEN DOWN" . To which the startled individual replied "OFFICER THAT IS MY SWORD BELT".
Some years ago 2 officers of the C Division Plain Clothes Section (Vice Squad) were keeping watch on a brothel in the southend of the city. They decided that one of them should go down a side alleyway to see if they could get a better view of the premises. The officer had been in the alleyway for a few moments when he was approached by a rather large member of the local community. It was this man's intention to attack and steal from the officer
As he started his assault the man was overwhelmed and found himself on the floor unable to move. What he didn't know was the officer, his intended victim, who he was attempting to rob was a former British Army boxing champion. The man was later sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
To the police, like all the Emergency Services, Death is no stranger. Though there are some deaths that leave a sting and are hard to come to terms with. Those are Deaths involving children.
One young Bobby was asked to open up the local Mortuary and await the arrival of a body. On his arrival the premises were locked and in darkness. He opened the door and reached inside to switch on the lights. As he was doing so an EXTREMELY cold hand covered his hand as it reached the switch. With a yell he was out of the premises and off down the road like a greyhound. The owner of the cold hand was chuckling at his colleagues athleticism. But his hilarity was short lived as he heard, in the darkness, "IT'S BLOODY COLD IN HERE, INNIT". He followed his colleague down the road at a great speed and in great terror. The owner of the voice was the Sergeant who felt that this was the best way to ensure respect for the premises. Our friend with the cold hand never knew that the voice was of another human being who was still alive. The Sergeant never told him. But at least two young Bobbies had great respect for the Mortuary.
Merseyside police are unique in that they still issue Sergeants with a signalling stick. It is a tradition that goes back to formation of the Liverpool Constabulary Force. The stick is a Wooden Victorian walking cane; it measures over 3 foot long with a metal ferrel on one end. This stick is a badge of office of the rank. Many of the old Sergeants, who had worked the docks would ask the dock board carpenters if they would make a stick from lignum-vitae. This is the same material that dock gates are made of. It is an extremely hard wood.
The stories about signalling sticks could fill a book on their own. Though many are apocryphal.
In the 1980s the then Merseyside Chief Constable, Ken Oxford, suggested that the signalling stick was an anachronism and should no longer be issue. Sergeant Bert Aston chairman of the Sergeants Branch Board of the Merseyside Federation responded "IF YOU TAKE THE STICK, YOU MIGHT AS WELL TAKE THE TAPES (chevrons) AS WELL". Ken Oxford did not realise the strength opposition against's decision and relented.
For many years Liverpool was a sectarian city on the divide between orange and green, Protestant and catholic. Every July the Loyal Orange Lodge (LOL) march through the city streets. The marches are peaceful though there are instructions for the police. Do not march in-step with the band and DO NOT cross between the King (Billy) and his retinue.
On one such march the leader of band was throwing his mace high into air with gusto and then catching it. On such move he lost his footing. The mace was falling towards the head of a young policewoman. Up steps a Sergeant who swings his signalling stick striking the mace and redirecting it out of harms way.
A young Sergeant was giving his evidence in Bootle Magistrates Court in Oriel Road. It was a few weeks before the Court complex closed and moved to Merton Road. A Licensee was summoned with refusing the Sergeant access to the public house. In evidence the Sergeant said how he had banged on the door of pub with his signalling stick. Though the premises should have been closed; it was obvious from the noise that some event was taking place inside. The Licensee argued he couldn't hear the door bell or the Sergeant knocking because of the noise. The Sergeant was recalled to the Witness Box and asked to demonstrate how he knocked on the door. The Sergeant used the handle of his stick to strike the wall. "SERGEANT, SERGEANT THAT IS WOODEN PANELLING" screamed the Clerk to the Magistrates. The clerk left his desk and came to see the DAMAGE caused by the Sergeant's stick. He was mortified to see four or five dents in the panelling and went on to say that the panelling was beautiful and expensive. The Sergeant response was its just panelling and this court is moving to shortly. This just seem to provoke rather than pacify the Clerk. The Clerk went back to his desk and the Licensee was duly found guilty. As soon as the Magistrates left the Court the Clerk was at the Sergeant for Round 2.
Once again he inspected the panelling and then started to mutter. He approached the Sergeant and was using the words theatrical, reckless and intent. The Sergeant started to worry about his own position. The Sergeant took the names of the prosecutor, Defence Solicitor and also started sweet talking to the Licensee; all of whom he could use as witnesses in his own defence.
The matter was left open with some concern for the Sergeant about discipline or worst still prosecution.
Then a week or so later two teenagers with a petrol can and a match climbed onto the roof of the court. The whole issue became mute as the Court and the panelling was destroyed by fire.
Merseyside has carried on traditions from Liverpool City. The Chevrons on Sergeants tunics are broad silver braid. The inspectors's caps still have silver braid as opposed to the National black. Thankfully the trouser are np longer marked on the inside pocket with the year of issue and the type of issue Summer or Winter. It was not unusual for a Liverpool city officer to be asked to drop his trousers so that Sergeants/Inspector could ensure he was wearing the correct issue. Another tradition of the Liverpool city police was the wearing of white gloves during daylight hours every Sunday.
Nearly all the old Bridewells within the Liverpool city area were over 100 years old. Many of them having been transferred from Lancashire Constabulary as the Liverpool extended boundaries over the years. As the history of the premises were obscure to say the least myths started to surface suggesting these places may be haunted. The stories would be regaled particularly when a young officer from another section was required to work that particular Bridewell on his own. Funny what tricks can be played with a reel of cotton!
Some of the stations/bridewells that featured in such jolly japes were the Dog & Gun, Garston and Prescot. Though there is one other former Bridewell where the nocturnal activities were fully documented by the Liverpool Echo and that is the old Woolton Bridewell in Quarry Street, Woolton. At this particular former Bridewell it is known that a Sergeant was killed in the side yard of the premises when he was thrown from the top of a horse drawn Black Maria as the wheel struck a bollard.
Another piece of equipment to suffer the demise is the Cape. The cape could be rolled up and carried over the left shoulder until it was needed. Different forces had different types of cape. Liverpool city had a lap collar with cape chains that was a star with crown and Liver bird. A pocket went around the whole cape. Whereas Lancashire had a mandarin collar; the usual Lionshead cape chain and a small pocket on the right. The pocket could normally be used to carry gloves and a torch. But often other things found their way into pockets like the odd bottle of beer or a bag of chips.
When Walton Bridewell (Rice Lane) was being closed. Amongst the artefacts that were found were a number of the old-fashioned bull's-eyes lamps. One cold night one of the young Bobbies decided one way to keep warm to carry one of the bulls-eye lamps under his cape. It was only when he came back for refreshments that he found that these lamps smoked. To his horror he found there was a huge soot mark under his chin and his shirt was covered in soot.
The Grand National Horse Race is known throughout the world. What is not commonly known is police activities surrounding the meeting. When Aintree was under Lancashire Constabulary jurisdiction a fortnight before the race the course was under police control. Six uniformed officers would patrol the course on foot in pairs on nights. This was due to the concerns regarding many animal rights groups. The Officers with the largest area to cover were those south of the Melling Road or as the BBC's Commentator would call it "the country".
It was suggested to 2 officers that they should get into on the BBC commentary boxes. The boxes were empty of equipment and gave full panorama of the Course. The only problem was access to the boxes was by two full-sized ladders, as boxes were over 30 foot above ground. The only stipulation was Sergeant should not catch them.
After a couple of hours, from their eyrie, they saw the headlights of the van that contained the Sergeant. They had to get to the ground pretty quickly. March is a very cold month particularly in the early hours of the morning. The standard dress of Lancashire Constabulary was, at that time, greatcoat and cape. As they exited the box they threw off their capes and greatcoats as they'd scurried down the two ladders to the ground. The van was getting ever closer to them. As they got to the ground they found their greatcoats but their capes were nowhere to be seen. As they looked up they saw their capes being carried away by the wind like a loose sail.
The van stopped the constable driver was on his own. He couldn't move any further as he was laughing uncontrollably as watched the antics of his younger colleagues jumping up and running up the ladders and then jumping off as they attempted to recover their capes from the hands of nature. As the wind subsided so finally the capes landed back on terra firma.
Shaun R. ROTHWELL BA (Hons) PGDip
Inspector Merseyside Police (Ret'd)