In my first week as a probationer police officer fresh out of training school, I was keen as mustard to get my first arrest. My tutor made it his mission to help me achieve this, and we spent the first ten minutes of every shift trawling through the arrest packages and warrants to find something suitable.
One the way to one such arrest enquiry, I called on the radio to inform our control room where we were going and what we were doing, just in case it went a bit bendy when we arrived. I was still getting used to talking on the radio, which is quite an alien experience at first. It should be just like talking to someone on the phone, but when I first started pressing that button and opening my mouth, I was acutely aware that everyone in the division was listening, and therefore slightly nervous. For the first few weeks, and were possible, I would mentally rehearse what I was going to say, before broadcasting it to the world.
Here is how the conversation went just prior to arriving at our destination on this wintery morning:
Me: “Control from X-ray 778 over”
Control Room: “Go ahead 778”
Me: “Thank you. Can you show us attending Boxall Road for an arrest enquiry. Suspect is Dave Smith 01/01/1970* and he’s wanted on warrant”
Control Room: “Yes, all copied. Just let us know when you’ve completed, over”
Me: “Yes, will do.”
Simple. Nothing more needed to be said. A few minutes later I got a call back from the control room:
Control Room: “X-ray 778 from control over”
Me: “778, go ahead control”
Control Room: “Could you just clarify the spelling of the road name. I’m not getting a match on the system”
I wasn’t prepared for this complicated question!
Me: “….Err, yes it’s…. Bravo, Oscar…., Lima, Lima…., Alpha, X-ray”
There was no reply on the radio. After a brief pause I looked over at my tutor in the driving seat. His shoulders were shaking and he had a massive beaming smile across his face.
“What?” I said.
Through his emerging laughter he managed to say “Think about what you just said”
I replayed the last transmission in my head, spelling out the road name. To my horror I realised my error. I could envisage every officer in the division rolling around on the floor, tears in their eyes at the thought of the newbie being such a Muppet. I also had visions of standing in front of the Superintendent, explaining my use of a profanity on the radio.
My tutor’s bellowing laugh caused him to stop the car for fear of losing control, and his bodily functions. I thought the best course of action was to correct my mistake and maintain a bit of professionalism and dignity. I reached for the transmit button, but as soon as I tried to speak a wave of hilarity overcame me.
I got the giggles and lost the power of speech. We both sat in the car doubled over with laughter and tears rolling down our faces like a couple of school girls, for at least 5 minutes. At several points I tried to compose myself and call on the radio, but inevitably the sniggering started and I wasn’t able to get my message out. It was clearly infectious as I also heard the controller try to call me back a few times, only to hear a crescendo of chuckles in my earpiece.
Eventually, with sore abdominals and aching faces, we made it to the address. Our man wasn’t there but it was certainly one of the most memorable arrest enquiries I have ever done!