A Policeman’s Lot 16….”It all seemed to start off so well!”

I have already written in this series about the annual reports that are prepared annually by the supervisory ranks on serving constables….Usually these reports are routine and unspectacular…..Just one more annual task that has to be completed….Occasionally though they are far from routine and the fall out from one of those interviews can be far reaching.

It was Autumn 1982, I had been at West End Central for approaching 10 years….I was now married with two young children. My life seemed settled and I had no particular wish for a change…..But all that was about to change.

My supervising sergeant had already completed his annual report on my past years efforts and his report basically recorded that I was “steady and reliable”….The next step was for me to be interviewed by my inspector….She was a woman with whom I got on reasonably well and I was expecting the usual “Well done, keep it up, sign here and close the door on your way out.” Type of Interview…..But, I was wrong.

Our meeting began well enough….She began by calling me Bob….She smiled and described me using words like “Long serving, experienced, steady, reliable and incredibly useful”….So far so good!……Then she asked me if I had any comments to make…..I said that overall I was very pleased with the way things were going…..but I did mention that some of my recent monthly postings had been rather leaning towards the more mundane aspects of policing….I had been posted to jobs like communications, jailer and front counter. On occasions when I had been posted to a beat patrol, it was usually one of the quieter Mayfair beats….And I DID mention that I had not had a posting to the Area Car (Charlie One) for quite some time….. I Immediately noticed that the smile which had been on her face at the start of the interview had now disappeared….She explained that in her opinion the Area Car was a useful posting for probationers because it increased their experience….I countered that whilst that was undoubtedly the case….Posting only probationers onto the Area Car meant that officers such as myself were left doing mostly the boring run of the mill jobs……That was about as much as she wanted to hear from me.

“Thankyou, I think I’ve heard quite enough….You said that you are very happy working here but from what you’ve just said it is now clear to me that you are not very happy at all!….. A notice has come out this week that all divisions must recommend suitable officers to do go to Buckingham Palace to improve the security there….I will be putting your name forward for that posting….That will be all!”

In the Summer of 1982 a man named Michael Fagan managed to gain entry to Buckingham Palace and entered the Queen’s bedroom….Unsurprisingly a public furore resulted and  it was decided (Surprise surprise!) that the security at the Palace was not all that it should be….One of the first reactions by New Scotland Yard was to drastically increase the perimeter patrols of the walls surrounding the palace….This would necessitate a large number of PC’s spending their time staring at the outer walls of the Palace until such a time ast the internal security could be proven to be reliable……I had spoken to several officers who had been sent to Buckingham Palace and they had informed me that the work was mind numbingly tedious….Yet, it seemed that I was destined to join their ranks.

In those days each relief at West End Central had two inspectors and on any given day at least one of them was usually on duty….On the day of my interview, they were both working….As I left the canteen after my refreshment break I met the ‘other’ relief inspector….He ushered me into an empty room. “What the Hell have you done to upset the Old Lady? I’ve just been speaking to her and she is hopping mad with you. Do you know she is going to send you to the Palace?”

“Apparently so…Everything seemed OK then she just got really annoyed with me.”

“Have you got a Plan B?”

“Not really….Is there a possible alternative?”

“Well, I would think just about anything will be better than walking around The Palace for eight hours every day….But if you are going to get out of it, you will need to put in an application today.”

My only thought was that I might try to apply for a posting to the Diplomatic Protection Group….I had already competed year’s attachment to the DPG a couple of years before and although the job entailed a lot of standing on fixed posts outside Diplomatic premises, it was well organised and the biggest bonus of all was that, because they required volunteers, the posting was sweetened by it being highly lucrative due to the overtime that was routinely available….My thinking (being married with kids and usually broke) was “If I am going to stand around looking at walls….I might as well be well paid for the privilege.”

I immediately typed out my application form….A definite plus in my favour was that I was already an authorised Firearms officer and that was a requirement for being accepted onto the DPG as most of the fixed posts were deemed to be ‘Armed Posts’…..In those days armed officers were routinely issued with Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolvers loaded with six rounds of .38 ammunition with a further six rounds, just in case…..Happily, I never had to draw it.”

I handed the completed application to my ‘other’ inspector, he minuted it and my application was duly submitted…..Shortly after that I was called for an interview and a few weeks after that I was accepted for the DPG….In early 1983 I found myself posted to ‘A’ base (Tottenham Court Road) one of the three DPG bases in Central London….Although ‘A’ Base was only about a mile geographically away from West End Central….It was light years away from it culturally. West End Central was very much seen as a ‘Young officers posting’ and most of the officers there would be in their twenties….On the DPG there were very few (if any) officers in their twenties.

My career in the Metropolitan Police was about change course for the first time.

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