I finished off last weeks Blog with the comment that there is no such thing as ‘normal’, that every policing day is different. Generally everyday is different, bringing new challenges but we returned to duty this week to find that everything appeared to be normal, almost a case of Déja vu! We literally started our week off where we had finished the previous one, on some railway tracks in Stourbridge, looking for a vulnerable Mental Health patient who had run off threatening to go on to the railway line.
Railways and railway stations are policed by British Transport Police (BTP) but as with everything in policing (and indeed right across the emergency services) there are no boundaries to helping out in emergencies. We quickly set up searches, including using the Police Helicopter, of the tracks and open areas around Stourbridge and fortunately found this person before they came to any harm and got them back into treatment.
So rewind to our last Night on duty, when we got a call in the early hours of the morning about a distressed lady in a dangerous position on a local railway bridge to which we immediately responded. As it became clear that the officers would need to go on to the railway line we arranged for all the trains on that line to be stopped for their safety and that of this lady. After a little bit of difficulty she was found by the officers and ‘escorted’ to safety. That was the plan anyway but this lady didn’t really want to be escorted anywhere let alone back down a steep embankment. So the officers took the sensible decision to ‘walk’ her back along the track to the station. This ment that they would be going onto a different line so we called up the Rail Control again to request that the trains be stopped on this line too, to be met with the response “I can’t, there’s one coming through NOW. It’s too late to stop it!” This was followed almost immediately by a call (a shout actually) over the radio from the officers that “there’s a train coming, get it stopped” as they continued to struggle with a very reluctant lady on the track. We knew we couldn’t stop the train, there was nothing we could do about it, a genuinely Heart Stopping moment.
From where the Rail Control had told us this train was going though, I was happy that the officers would be safe so long as they were where I thought they were! I was satisfied that I knew where everyone was and that they were all safe and in no danger BUT what if they weren’t where I thought they were……! There was absolute silence in our Control Room (a rare feature) as the officers continued to call over the radio that the train was coming and that they were still struggling with this lady on the track. All we could do was tell them to stay exactly where they were and wait!
After what genuinely felt like minutes of silence but were just seconds the radio came back to life with the officers saying the train had gone off onto a different track and all were safe! The lady was escorted back along the remainder of the track to the station and the care of the Ambulance Service and hospital for assessment.
We get these sort of situations from time to time but the coincidence of these two coming so close together was a little bit worrying (and dangerous).
Not only is going on to the railway lines a criminal offence it is also an incredibly stupid thing to do. Trains take a long time to stop and unlike cars cannot swerve out of the way, it most cases by the time the driver sees you it will be too late for them to do anything.
Issues surrounding domestic violence seem to form a regular element of the Blog but I’m afraid that this just reflects the reality that we face daily. For years we and partners have been working hard to tackle domestic abuse. Our approach and the support available have changed dramatically over the years but there are still people out there who continue to abuse and assault their partners.
Almost immediately after officers finished dealing with the railway incident above we got a call to say that there was a women being assaulted at a local address by her partner. The same officers who a short time earlier thought they were going to be run over by a train got to this lady very quickly and arrested the offender, getting the badly injured women away to hospital and safety. It was only as things were calming down in the house that the officers noticed a very strong smell of gas. It turned out that the offender, besides abusing his partner had diverted the gas supply, by-passing the meter, to avoid payment. Trouble is he had not done it particularly well and the house was now full of leaking gas! So he was arrested for that as well as the assault.
Meanwhile the gas ‘board’ were called and everything made safe, at which point an examination of the electricity supply showed that he had done exactly the same there, so another arrest to add to his growing list!
There are serious consequences to messing around with the electricity and gas supply and not just a criminal prosecution! On reflection looking back at each of the incidents above they do all have one thing in common, they all have potentially lethal consequences (and I include Domestic Violence in that).
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