Posts Tagged 'pursuit'

The road is long, with many a winding turn…

Meet The BeatPC Mick Jennings, Tally Ho Training Centre, Birmingham West & Central LPU

It’s Meet The Beat time again and this time around I put some questions to Mick Jennings, one of our traffic trainers. Think ‘Road Wars’ combined with twenty eight years worth of experience and you’re somewhere close!

If you’re interested in Mick’s role and road policing in general, please check out Mick’s twitter feed on which he both gives regular updates and also encourages traffic law questions.

PC Mick Jennings

Welcome to Meet The Beat Mick, to start things off can you tell us what your role with West Midlands Police involves?

Thank you for inviting me, Richard. My job is to train officers in all things traffic.

When officers join the Force they are trained to a basic level in all areas to enable them to perform their role competently. This includes traffic, or as it is often referred to, Roads Policing. Should the officer need to develop this foundation level of knowledge, this is where I come in.

The courses I run range from authorising an officer to use a certain piece of equipment, such as the station evidential breath testing machine or a speed detection laser, right though to the investigative courses for our Traffic Department such as Family Liaison Officer or Senior Investigating Officer. Actually, as we speak, I’m just putting the finishing touches to a three week Traffic Patrol Officers’ Course for our colleagues from the Central Motorway Policing Group.

Okay, what had you been doing before joining the traffic department? Had you always wanted to be a traffic officer?

I have always wanted to be a Traffic Officer. I think people fail to understand the importance of patrolling the roads. Firstly, everyone uses them, including criminals, so stop enough of the right sorts of vehicle and you’ll be keeping the Custody Officer busy. Secondly, but probably far more importantly, over 20,000 road users are killed or seriously injured each year so enforcing the rules of the road is paramount in our drive to reduce this figure.

Like everyone, I started as shift officer and my route to the Department was varied with different roles, including a spell as Football Liaison Officer, planning policing operations at Aston Villa. And yes, I am!

And what appealed to you about joining the police in the first place? Had you had other jobs before joining?

I joined the Police Cadets straight from school and then the regulars when I was 18 ½ to the day, so no, I’ve not had any other job, something which may change in eighteen months time when I retire after 30 years service.

What appealed to me about the job? Well, my father was a Policeman, his father was a Policeman and my daughter is in the job too, so it’s a bit of a family tradition. Many people I meet say they wouldn’t want to do my job, but it’s the best job in the world! Yes it can be a bit dangerous and harrowing at times, even a bit boring on occasion, but I’ve worked with some of the most fantastic people over my career, been involved in many memorable incidents and experienced things that some people can only imagine.

So what does an average day as a traffic trainer involve, if there is any such thing as an ‘average’ day?

I must say, the pace has slowed a bit since I came into training. Whereas I used to race round, lights flashing and sirens blaring, using the steering wheel as a desk, I’ve now got an office and classroom. I never thought I’d say it, but these days I’m an eight to four, Monday to Friday, weekends off type. At least my wife now gets to enjoy weddings and parties instead of having to arrive late or leave early dependant on my shifts.

Fortunately some of my courses mean that I have to put the stab vest on and get out there, and I’m a great believer in trainers not losing touch with the real world, so occasionally I do get out there and put a shift in.

And what about the vehicles you use? Are they special in any way and what sort of equipment do traffic officers carry?

I think most people will have seen Traffic cars on the TV and how rapid they are, but the cars themselves are standard production models and are not ‘souped up’ or ‘chipped’ in any way. What makes them special is the care we give them and the skill of the Police driver.

The equipment is pretty standard in that they have forward and rear facing cameras, average speed detection equipment, Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) vehicle tracking devices etc. In the back of the car will be cones, signs, lamps, first aid kit, and a hollow spike tyre deflation system, such as Stinger.

As an experienced traffic officer, is there any advice that you’d like to give members of the public when it comes to driving? Any lessons you’ve picked up over your years on the road?

I always remember something my dad told me, “Treat every other road user like a complete idiot and expect them to do the unexpected.” From experience, I believe the majority of collisions would have been avoided had the driver recognised the potential danger at an earlier stage but was either entering the situation too fast, or was distracted.

What should motorists do if they see an emergency services vehicle behind them trying to get past?

Firstly, don’t panic. The driver of the emergency vehicle has probably already seen you and is planning how to pass. If you suddenly hit the brakes or swerve it’s not going to help – gently reduce your speed and move to the nearside.

What would you say has been the most memorable thing you’ve done since joining the police?

It’s difficult to pick one incident from 28 years. I’ve policed strikes, riots, protests, football matches, as well as the streets of Birmingham. I’ve dealt with the death and destruction that mankind inflicts on itself, locked up all sorts of people for all manner of things, been commended and been complained about. But one thing that surpasses them all was the day I walked into the front office of Aston Police Station and set eyes on my wife for the first time.

I’ve seen clouds from both sides now…

A police car screams past your office building and moments later you hear the clatter of helicopter blades. Looking out your window you crane your neck to spot a yellow and blue machine hovering a few hundred meters above you. It slowly circles around the same spot as other marked police vehicles pass in the same direction, through the red lights and on into the distance.

What exactly is happening though? This is something I always wondered before joining the job and indeed something I still wonder when I’m off duty and see the force helicopter, ‘Alpha Oscar One‘, buzzing overhead.

The helicopter itself is based at Birmingham Airport and is a Eurocopter EC–135P2i. Nerdy plane spotters like me will be absolutely thrilled to know that it has a top speed of 160 mph, a range of around 400 miles, can fly for three and a half hours and reach a ceiling of 10,000 ft. Stats aside, what might it be doing when you see it floating above?

The first situation, and probably the most common, in which the helicopter is deployed is when we have a suspect pinned down in a certain area and need someone with a bird’s eye view to help us locate him or her. Commonly this will be when we’ve pursued someone and have a reasonable containment of an area so that we’re able to say to the officers on board the helicopter, “The offender is hiding somewhere inside these woods, can you tell where he is?”.

The helicopter crew can then use their cameras and thermal imaging gear to pick out the suspect and direct our units on the ground towards his position and make the arrest. The capability of the crew to use body heat to track someone down means that the cover of darkness is denied to a suspect and the helicopter has a thirty million candlepower searchlight to help illuminate large areas so that we can see where we need to head. Oddly enough the helicopter is also equipped with a siren, presumably so it can warn slower helicopters to move aside and let it past as it makes its way towards incidents. Probably…

Aside searching, the helicopter is also invaluable to tracking high speed pursuits involving our traffic units. The evidence collected by the high definition video camera can be taken to court to help secure a conviction and as the crew are tracking the progress of the chase, can instruct other resources in the right direction so that they can help including telling officers when they might want to pull out the stinger and bring the pursuit to a conclusion by puncturing the offending vehicle’s tires.

Having a video camera means that the helicopter can be useful in all sorts of situations where an aerial view of an event might prove useful. Images can be beamed live to the control room and help senior officers make decisions about how to police football matches, public demonstrations and the like.

The rear of the helicopter provides a cargo space that can be quickly adapted to transport casualties from the scene of an accident to the nearest hospital. This is particularly useful at night as some of the air ambulances are not equipped with the necessary kit to enable them to land in built up areas during the hours of darkness.

Working with the helicopter can be quite exciting as not only can we see it and know that it’s there to help us, we can also hear it on our radio channel with the sound of the engine prominent in the background when the crew speak to us. It is a great resource that we can rely on when we require it and the psychological impact alone is often enough to get the criminal to come out with his hands up, knowing that his body heat will betray him and that’s it’s pointless to try and run.

P.S. You can find out more about Alpha Oscar One by visiting their website and can also follow them on Twitter by visiting their regularly updated profile, @WMP_Helicopter. They’ve also got a Twitpic account on which they’re publishing some of the photos the crew have taken from the air.

My Maserati does 185, I lost my license – now I don’t drive…

I think this is a good example of the recklessness that some thieves demonstrate when they decide to take a car for a joyride. He’s put his life at risk along with those of the officers pursuing and everyone else on the road too. At least he had his hazards on…


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