A Policeman’s Lot 7….The quietly spoken sergeant

I always believed that sergeants were the backbone of the Met. Police….If you had good sergeants on your relief then everything usually ran smoothly….If you had bad or incompetent sergeants then it could create havoc….Fortunately, most of the sergeants I worked with in my career were, with one or two notable exceptions, good….A few of them were quite exceptional…..This post is mostly about one such sergeant….I will just call him Pat T.

Pat was already an experienced sergeant when I arrived at West End Central….He was everything a good sergeant should be, authoritative, yet quiet and restrained, unfailingly helpful but above all completely unflappable….Pat never ever shouted or raised his voice to anyone…..I believe that before he joined the police he had been a Royal Marine….And I can very well believe it.

I first worked with Pat when I had been at the station for a little under a year….Pat was one of the sergeants on my relief but he wasn’t my immediate supervising or reporting sergeant….But I always found him friendly and good company…On this particular evening he saw me about to leave the station after my meal break and asked me where I was going…I told him that I was posted to a Soho beat and he said that he would come along with me….I always enjoyed patrolling in pairs if only because I liked having someone to chat to….Pat never hurried anywhere and as we strolled along Poland Street towards Oxford Street we both heard a car horn sound behind us….Pat saw that I was about to turn around and put his hand on my arm and said “Just keep walking”….A few seconds later the horn sounded again….A little longer this time….Again he said….”Just ignore it and keep walking”….As we walked along the road we heard a pained voice behind us…”I say….You…Officers….I just beeped you…Didn’t you hear me?

Pat stopped and slowly turned around and stood there until the driver caught up with us….”I’m so sorry, Sir….Did you say you were beeping at us?”

“Yes…Didn’t you hear me?”

“Well, Sir…I did actually hear you sounding your horn….I just assumed that you must be warning a pedestrian of your presence….I had no idea you were trying to attract our attention….Simply because that would be an unlawful use of your vehicle’s horn.”

“Well how should I have attracted your attention then?”

“In exactly the way that you are doing now….You should get out of you car, walk up to me and say “”Excuse me sergeant, I wonder if I might ask you a question?””

“Oh….I see….I’m so sorry, I wasn’t trying to be rude.”

“I’m sure you weren’t Sir. Now, what was it you wanted to know?”

By the time Pat had finished talking to him, and sent him back to his car, the man left completely unaware that he had just been given a lesson in manners….I however, was very much aware that I had just been taught a very useful lesson in how to deal with members of the public.

Pat was always the absolute epitome of calmness and self control….And he never allowed himself to be intimidated….Even by rude and arrogant senior police officers who seemed to spend their career trying to intimidate other people….One Chief Inspector found this out to his cost one early turn shift.

One of the first jobs each morning for the Chief Inspector Ops. was to go through all the station books and check that the entries were in order….This particular morning he came in and sat down at the front office table….Pat T was the station sergeant and was also busy writing in another book.

“Sergeant….Are you wearing carpet slippers?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“WHY are you wearing carpet slippers?”

“Because my feet ache Sir….And also sir because the rubber soles insulate me so that I don’t get continuous static electric shocks from this terrible nylon carpet.”

“Sergeant….You are supposed to be wearing black shoes.”

“These are black, Sir….The rules say nothing about what type of shoes we must wear….But if I have to go outside….I will change into something more suitable.”

Those of us privileged to be watching this exchange knew it wasn’t going to end there….

“Sergeant….Can you come here, please?”

“Yes, Sir, I will be with you in just a second.”

“Sergeant, I just asked you to come here!”

“Yes, Sir, I heard you….I will be with you in just a second.”

The Chief Inspector suddenly exploded….Sergeant! Do you know who the Hell you are bloody well talking to?”

As calm as anything Pat T spoke to the Communications officers….”Can somebody dial 999 and call an ambulance, please….I think the Chief Inspector has developed amnesia.”

The Chief Inspector stood up with a look of complete and utter disbelief on his face that he had just made himself look so foolish in front of a room full of PC’s….He stood up and left the room trying to retain as much dignity as he could….Possibly he was not helped by the fact that as he passed the large metal property cabinet he touched it with his hand….And the audible CRACK of the static electric shock it delivered made everyone giggle.…..Pat just quietly continued what he was doing…..And the Chief Inspector never spoke of it again.

All of this is not to say that Pat T didn’t sometimes get things wrong…. He just never let it show…..One day he was the charging sergeant when I arrested a rather awkward, loud and extremely obstreperous man for being very drunk and extremely disorderly…..I wrestled him out of the van, into the police station and eventually into the charge room where he sat in front of Sergeant Pat T….I gave my evidence of drunkenness leading up to his arrest and my prisoner remained as belligerent as he had been during our entire encounter….As we went through the various charging procedures the drunk kept on haranguing all the officers present…..Pat T sat implacably silent through the entire procedure and just kept quietly writing on the charge sheet…..The drunk suddenly realised that Pat had barely said a word to him during the whole procedure…..And then addressed himself to Pat…..”Sarge….I ain’t done nothing wrong….Honestly I ain’t….I’ve just had a few little drinks….And they’ve nicked me and assaulted me and it ain’t fair Sarge….Do you think it’s fair Sarge?…You’re a man of the World, just like me…..?”…….And the longer he went on….the louder he was getting….Eventually he realised that Pat was completely ignoring him…..”Sarge….”I’m appealing to your sense of fairness!!!….This ain’t fair!”

Suddenly Pat looked up at our drunk….”I’m sorry…were you talking to me?”

“Of course I was talking to you!?”

“Oh, I’m sorry….I have a problem with my ears….I think it’s something to do with being too close to gun fire….I just cannot hear loud noises…..In fact….I simply can’t hear people who talk to me in anything above a normal voice….If you want to talk to me….You will have to speak softer….Is that OK?”

“I’m sorry Sarge….I never realised.”

Within a minute of Pat’s intervention our drunk had calmed right down and given all his details….At the end of the procedure Pat addressed him again….”OK I think we’ve just about finished….I’m going to call the jailer and you are going to a cell to sleep off the worst of the booze….When you’ve sobered up we will let you out on bail….OK?

“Yes Sarge, and thank you very much.”

Now the jailer that day was a fairly inexperienced young officer who had come to the police from the forces….And it’s fair to say he was NOT the brightest of our officers….. And, in his defence, he had only really seen the prisoner when he was being stroppy….The drunk was now standing on his feet before Pat….”Alright jailer….Put this man down, please.”

“Yes, Sarge” replied the jailer and he duly put the man down with a crisp left hook to the chin….I winced as it connected but was able to catch the poor chap before he hit the floor.

Pat, of course, saw the whole thing unfold before him….But (as always) he spoke very quietly to the jailer….”Actually Son….That’s not quite what I had in mind”

“But Sarge….you did say…..Put him down!”

“Yes….I know and perhaps I should have made myself clearer.”

The irony was that once the drunk had sobered up he was brought out and bailed and never said a word….He was given breakfast and a cup of tea and thanked Pat for his kindness on the way out…..The young jailer decided that he was perhaps not suited for life as a police officer and resigned shortly afterwards.

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