If you follow me on Twitter then you’ll know that last Friday night I did a shift as a Community Reporter with Greater Manchester Police.
This involved going out with an officer & tweeting my experiences en-route.
I was really excited to hit the road and see exactly what GMP City Centre get up to – especially at the weekend, and wanted to share a few things I learned on the night.
I arrived at Bootle Street and was greeted by Inspector Phil Spurgeon at 9:45pm – just in time to be introduced to my buddy for the night – Sergeant Phil Marsh – and to catch the briefing, as well as have a quick chat about the type of calls that are dealt with by the City Centre department.
Everything from a domestic to road rage to a customer refusing to leave a restaurant – all within the space of an hour.
My route with Sergeant Marsh took me around the NQ, through Piccadilly Gardens & the Village, down Deansgate Locks & through Castlefield, past Granada Studios & through Spinningfield, up Deansgate, round the Cathedral then back past the Printworks to the NQ before heading home.
I must admit that I had some poorly informed preconceptions about what Manchester would be like between 10pm and 3am on a Friday night – and whilst some of them were close, most of my assumptions about what the Police deal with were wrong.
I obviously can’t speak for every day or every officer’s shift, but mine was nothing like The Bill or Sherlock – which was a relief.
Sergeant Marsh filled me in on his history in the force and I discovered that he used to work in Vagrancy, which turned out to be jolly useful on our shift, as that is the majority of what we dealt with.
Our first run-in was with a lady who we suspected to be begging outside of Debenhams, but the language barrier proved to cause some difficulty in unveiling the truth – but she did quickly move on.
This wasn’t typical of the rest of the “vagrants” we chatted with – they were all laughing, chatty and overall pleasant – not the bile-spitting, almost-possessed non-people that you see on the telly.
I hadn’t been naive enough to think that any rough sleeper would automatically be unpleasant to chat with, but I was still surprised with the friendly rapport between them and “the law”.
From the moment we set foot in the NQ we were faced with a group of Roma traders – the sellers of roses & flashing bunny ears – and I was advised they are generally stopped and asked for their license to trade – which sadly the majority of traders we stopped that night failed to provide.
I have to be honest – I hadn’t even thought about the legality of selling items on the street before that night, only that its bloomin’ annoying having a rose rammed in your face when you’re having a meal.
Sergeant Marsh quickly filled me in – its legal, as long as they have the license.
We bumped into a few more traders down in the Village and along Deansgate Locks – which both were otherwise tranquil, aside from the odd whiff of weed – the source of which proved impossible to detect.
Castlefield and Spinningfield – by the time we got there at around 1.30am were silent – and really rather nice.
Walking up Deansgate towards the Printworks saw a few more beggars who were moved along, and a couple of girls who had lost mobile phones in Nightclubs.
This raised another point of discussion – things do go missing, and phones/purses/bags/keys etc do find their way out of pockets and handbags – by accident or by nimble fingers – and we saw many, many people out being careless with their valuables.
I learned a thing or two about keeping my stuff safe, too, just by the sheer “eek” factor of what I saw others doing.
Our final trip through the NQ saw another speight of vagrants and rough sleepers (there is a difference, if you didn’t know) – and again I was warmed by the rapport between Sergeant Marsh and the “criminals” .
As he said to me, we’re all people.
He certainly lived by this belief – chatting with everyone we had to stop – and there wasn’t an unkind word exchanged (either way) all night.
So… what did I learn?
It turns out I’d been pretty naive about what The Police do and what they’re like.
We didn’t deal with any dramatic or dangerous situations, but that’s because we were off the usual call loop – but I learned that GMP deal with things as dramatic as you can imagine – or as trivial as a couple of lads unable to get into a nightclub because of their trainers.
I learned that if you wear a neon yellow Police jacket you catch far less people misbehaving (obviously) and I learned that our City Centre guys can be massively stretched – probably like any other force or area.
I also learned that I’d quite like to be City Centre officer.
I had a wonderful time!
Thanks, Phil & Phil!