Essay

POLICE! DRUGS SEARCH!

There are plenty of police procedurals for you to indulge on when you fancy a bit of a cop fix. But have you ever really wondered what actually goes on when you’re arrested? I’ve written the following post to put you into the role of the person actually being arrested. A first-time offender being nabbed by an early morning house raid.

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[0600 – Briefing]

Over the past few weeks, I’ll have received intelligence in one way or another that indicates you are suspected to have committed a crime and evidence of that crime is likely to be found inside your property. In the run-up to the raid day, I’ll have organised a briefing, a number of officers with various speciality training will be required to conduct the search.

I’ll explain to everyone present what the warrant is about, where your home is, what’s in your garden, how many pets you have, who I think is going to be inside the house at the time especially if you have children. I’ll make clear what evidence I want to be lifted from your property especially, mobile phones, computers, books and written notes. Everybody will be shown photographs of you from your Facebook or your Drivers License, pictures of the inside of your house if you put them up there are available too. Your criminal history, your expected temperament, and employment are all valuable information.

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Once all the information I have is disseminated the Tactical Support Group will select their appropriate gear, the appropriate method of entry tool, typically an enforcer (red) or disruptor (black) battering ram will be used to open your door. The difference between the two is the power of tonnage. If required, specialist officers will also be organised such as drugs or ordinance dogs. Dogs can even sniff out cash.

[0650 – House Entry]

Quietly, a small convoy of Landrovers and Insignia’s has made its way down your street, parked up and secured entry and exit points and officers begin exiting, quickly moving on foot to your front door.

BANG!



In goes the door. Extra points for taking off the frame. Officers from the Lisburn Tactical Support Group make entry immediately into your home, you’re asleep upstairs and barely register the fact the door has even come through. Was it in your dream? What’s that thumping? Then you’ll hear it, various shouts and bangs of officers piling into your house yelling POLICE! Officers push every door open and call for “contact or clear” to ensure all persons in the property are accounted for.

Trailers (officers standing guard) are left behind as others quickly make their way up the staircase to the target area, the bedroom, 90% of our targets are found here. Officers begin searching through the rooms and typically find people asleep. They’ll keep an eye on most who are waking up and groggy, not quite sure what’s going on yet as suited and booted officers trawl through their house looking for people.

“All clear!”, sounds out from around the house now they are satisfied everyone present is accounted for. Usually at the same time officers are advising you to get up, get dressed and get yourself ready. A warrant is being served on either you, the address or both.

You won’t get much detail from anyone. You’ll be given a moment to throw on some clothes and be escorted down the staircase, we’ll keep you somewhere comfortable and warm. Typically the living room.

This is usually when the Detectives will enter having bravely stood by acting incredibly handsome while everyone else does the work.

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We’ll issue you with paperwork relating to the search of your property, namely a warrant signed by a lay magistrate, a copy of your rights and entitlements and by the conclusion of search you’ll receive a receipt and a search log of everything that’s been taken from the property.

We can’t talk to you about what’s going on. We can’t tell you why exactly we’re here other than the reason of the warrant. We don’t want you to talk to us either just yet. You’re going to be in a panic and this is where I’ve seen most smokers sink 10 to 15 cigarettes in 4 hours.

If during this time I’ve decided that you have one or more of the items relating to the search warrant I’ve come with or you happen to have been discovered committing other offences during the course of the search you’ll be summarily arrested for that.

Bravely, after standing around for about 3 to 4 hours I will speak to the Cordon Commander, Team Leader, Log-Keeper and Exhibit Officer’s will collate all of their information into a scene log noting the time we entered, the full operation details of every officer present.

We’ll take a note of every person present, who was removed and who was arrested. We’ll take a note of absolutely every word you say or anyone else in the property says as part of the logs and the time it was said. We’ll also take sketches of the point of entry and where the rooms of your home are situated.

We’ll then leave information about how to seek assistance to help repair the damage (if any) caused to your property when we enter then do everything we can to ensure your property is left in a secure and acceptably safe state before we leave.

[1000 – Arrest Procedure]

Once I’ve had my chat with the Cordon Commander and ensured logs are complete I’ll give you a copy of our log and the warrant (if you haven’t already asked for it) then I’ll inform you as a result of what has or hasn’t been found that you’re under arrest, I’ll say something like,

“I am arresting you on the suspicion of (offence committed), you do not have to say anything when questioned but it may later harm your defence if you do not mention now something which you may later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”

Then, depending on whether or not I like you or I see you as an immediate flight risk and having made an immediate risk assessment as to your immediate well-being including thoughts on your co-operativeness I’ll possibly put you in handcuffs and bring you to a waiting police vehicle. Usually a Landrover Discovery SUV. Grey and sexy with ballistic gel injected windows to annoy the IRA Sniper nearby.

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The next decision to be made is what custody suite we’re going to take you to. The PSNI has gone down the centralisation route these days to try and make life easier for everybody (ha) but frankly, you’re taken to the nearest available custody suite with a bookable and free interview facility. Some interviews for certain crimes require video recording instead of just voice recording. In this instance, we’ll just stick with a tape recorded interview.

You’ll be taken to a suitable custody suite, mostly in silence, because again we can’t really talk to you yet. I want you to talk to me with a tape recorder; not with an opportunity to deny what you’ve said. Eventually, we’ll arrive at a suitable and available custody suite and you’ll be booked in.

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[1100 – Police Custody Suite (let’s just say it’s not busy!)]

Upon arrival at custody, you’ll be presented to the on duty custody Sergeant, their remit is your protection and wellbeing whilst in custody.

The custody sergeant will ask you whether or not  you understand where you are and why you are there. This does not necessarily mean do you understand the crime, but simply asking do you understand we believe you are responsible for something and wish to talk to you about it.

The custody sergeant will then begin by taking you through a custody wellbeing questionnaire which consists of a few dozen questions about your current state of mind, past and historical convictions. You’ll be asked if you’ve been arrested by police before, have you ever tried to harm yourself, do you want to harm yourself right now. Do you have faith requirements, dietary requirements, are you ill or do you require medical assistance?

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Questions that are important to ensure your welfare is adhered to fully during your stay in custody. You’ll also be advised of your right to a solicitor and to notify a third-party of your current situation. Contrary to popular belief this isn’t terrible private. If you phone someone and ask them to start discarding things you’ll get yourself into serious trouble.

You’ll be personally searched during this time a lot more intense than when you were first searched upon your arrest at home. All of your personal property (keys/mobile phone if not seized/wallet) will be kept in a little individual safe exclusively for YOUR property until you leave.

In our very unbusy custody suite, we’ve decided to take this opportunity to process your personal identification information for custody. This can happen with a delay depending on how busy the suite is however in this instance it’s immediate. You’ll be sat down on a stool and a custody officer will take your photograph on a computer. They’ll take it from the front, both profiles and if you’ve got significant markings on the back of your head (bald with a tattoo) they’ll do that as well.

This is that lovely white background teary eyed shot you often see in the news when someone does a runner. You’ll then have your DNA taken from you. A small cotton-bud like swab will be taken inside your cheek and placed into a container. You’ll then, if lucky and it’s working, have your fingerprints taken effortlessly and cleanly on a machine we call Live-Scan. We take your palm print, the side of your hand, your entire fingers and thumb for both hands.

I find that it comes as a shock to most people when we ask for their fingerprints and their DNA but for some years now, anyone who enters custody is to comply with this no matter the seriousness of the offence. This is a controversial area at the moment.

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If you’re unlucky, as if often the case, and the machine is not working or the queue is too big out comes the roller and some ink. You’ll be giving paper copies of your prints the good old fashioned way and I promise you no matter what we tell you about it washing off in the sink it takes ages to come out. We take a big roller and splash it up and down your hand getting your palm nice and inky!

A custody officer, who is technically a civilian police officer but it’s really too complicated to explain, will then escort you to a cell and in most circumstances will seek to take anything ropey or choke-your-selfy from your clothing. If you’re wearing track pants just go into the cell in your underpants or boxers in the cell, it’s warm enough and you get a blanket. I promise this is easier, it’s a nightmare threading the laces back into track pants.

During this time, I’ll have arranged for your solicitor of choice or the duty solicitor to bring themselves to the station immediately so as to conduct an interview. If at any stage during the pre-custody questionnaire it’s determined you are vulnerable through disability or age we’ll also send for an appropriate adult.

I’ll be collecting all the logs from the scene to assess what has been found and gathering up relevant information as well collecting the intelligence information that I had already used to obtain the warrant in the first place, ready to put to you in the interview.

The station has a doctor present at all times, a GP on hand 24/7 at every custody suite.When they’re ready for you a custody officer will take you into their office. They’ll give you a health questionnaire. Ensure that if you require medicines you’re given them at that point if you haven’t brought them with you from your home. The doctor will assess you to ensure you are actually competent for the interview. If it is determined you are too ill, for example, say we raided your home and you’re in the middle of the flu, the doctor might not let us proceed.

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He/she has the power to prevent us from continuing any further at the point and on the odd occasion they will gladly exercise it. It can be very frustrating from a policing standpoint but as I’ve said your welfare comes first. If assessed as competent and ready for the interview the doctor will give you an all clear and you’ll go back to your cell to wait until your solicitor, appropriate adult or both arrive.

During your time in the cell you can use a page button, this will bring a custody officer who can provide you with water to drink or take you round to the bathroom should nature’s call be required. Most people nap, exhausted from their emotional morning. Only to wake up to a message on the ceiling about Crimestoppers and quietly realise their still in trouble.

[1230 – Interview]

Your cell door will open and you’ll be called forward, we’ll take you to a private consultancy room or an empty interview suite depending on what’s available at the time where you can speak privately with your solicitor and if applicable, appropriate adult. We have no way to hear or see what occurs during this time. This is an entirely confidential moment with your solicitor and/or appropriate adult.

When everyone is situated and ready, we’ll have a quick briefing with your solicitor as to what the situation is and make some disclosure. Then we’ll go around to the interview room. The room is typically small and enclosed in insulation to minimise noise. Chairs are often locked in place to stop wobblers being thrown. They are often quite comfortable and with a library atmosphere bar a big cassette recorder sitting right there. Sometimes there’s a television with a DVD/Tape player for showing footage. We have got to be the biggest maintainer of tape cassette manufacturing in the world. I have no idea how many tapes we must burn through a year. There’s an FOI idea for you.

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There are three tapes in every pack, one for your solicitor, one for us and a master copy. Each tape is sealed by manufacturer, opened in front of you and you’re asked to confirm by signing each box of tapes used that you saw them open as new and leave as new before being sealed. This is to prevent any suggestion of tampering. The master copy is kept in evidence independently of the investigating officer to ensure neither party can pull tricks.

The tapes go into the recorder and a satisfyingly sexy nnnghhhhhhhh noise will play to count us in. When it finishes, I’ll begin by saying,

“I am Detective [Rank] Don Yeeoo presently attached to Yeeoo Station, it is currently 1230pm on Monday the 1st of Jelember 2016, present in the room is (name of secondary investigating officer) and the suspect (you then say your name and date of birth) and the suspects solicitor (Solicitor name, Practice).” Something to this effect, along with the reason I have arrested you and what warrant was served on you. You’ll then be cautioned again like when you were arrested.

What happens next is up to you really. You can lie and hope for the best, you can concoct a story or you can come right out and admit the charges put against you are true. People, no matter how many times they come through the ringer, forget that I am paid to be here. I don’t care how long you take or how much you dither. Your solicitor is the one who is hating you for every moment you waste. I get paid to be here and I adore custody interviews.

Custody interviews can take about half an hour to 10 hours to days depending on your offence. You can be bailed to return at a later date if further evidence is required or we have to perform an electronic examination of computers. When you come back you’ll go through the same process all over again. In this instance, we’ll say it lasts six hours. 3 hours each side of a break .

During the interview, you can at any time ask to speak to your solicitor in private. Your solicitor can also at any time request a break or request consultation. This is where a lot of first timers fall flat. They watch TV and don’t understand quite how the system works. Unlike Television solicitors aren’t actually here to get you off your crime you have clearly committed.

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Solicitors exist to ensure you are given every possible legal protection. It is imperative a solicitor believes you are telling the truth so as not to be compromised. Even if they know you’re talking bollocks they will find the element of truth to your tale and fight tooth and nail for you. Sometimes this makes us want to slap each other but only in a professional loving capacity.

Solicitors don’t interrupt police unless absolutely necessary. They certainly don’t answer questions on your behalf. This is something I see on TV that makes me laugh. I’ve never in my career had a solicitor interrupt or interject on behalf of a client whereby a question wasn’t inappropriate. They simply advise their client to say “No Comment” or prepare a written statement. They will never obstruct us unless we’re behaving like absolute bastards.

10% of no comment interviews are successful in my opinion. You don’t make it to the end without giving something away by your expression, or saying something. Humans love to chat. We love to talk and tell people. We especially love to defend ourselves. And the problem with silence is a commonly held belief that we have the right to maintain that silence.

The problem is, especially in Northern Ireland, the power of “inference” in law. The law here isn’t quite like it is in TV Land or America. Circumstantial evidence and common sense are permitted. More likely than unlikely is the test not a definitive. One of the biggest legal problems you’ll encounter by giving a no comment interview is, if you go to a jury trial you’ll be slaughtered by the prosecution for it.

“Why oh why if you were innocent of the crime put to you, have you not said a word in your defence?” What reasonable answer can you give? And the jury can rightfully make their own mind up about that one. I’ve seen more people damned by a no comment interview than actual evidence in a trial.

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When everyone is tired, we’ll go for a break. You’ll be taken back to your cell for about 45 minutes to an hour and someone will bring you food. If the canteen is open you’ll be treated to some of the tastiest pie and mashed potatoes you can find. If not you’re getting a microwave curry! Sometimes if you’re dead on we go all out and throw in a five-alive & Spelga yogurt for desert. You might even get a copy of last fortnights Sunday Life, which coincidentally, you’re likely to be in at the weekend…

After a feed, you’re now tired and warm and slightly more vulnerable. Before you return to custody interviews you might end up chatting with the Duty Inspector. It’s the Inspectors job to ensure persons in custody are being looked after. It is, after all, their remit to ensure all persons in every station, employee and otherwise, in their jurisdiction is safe and cared for. Usually, this is a phone call, you’ll have a quick chat and be asked a few questions about how you’re doing, are you okay etc.

[1800 – Interview over, charge & bail.]

We then go back to interview, I’ll conclude and bring you right to the end a few hours later and when all questions have been asked and we’ve exhausted all lines of inquiry possible at that particular moment in time we come to the decision to charge you, bail you or release you.

In this instance, because I’m brilliant, you’ve confessed to me after a meal that you’re responsible for the crime. While you’re brought back to your cell I’ll then go and chat with the custody sergeant and a specialist contact within the PPS.

I put to them what the evidence is I have obtained from you, what I believe it is capable of gaining in terms of charges and how to proceed further. The PPS will then agree, change or suggest entirely different charges (sometimes not even on the same planet) and with that decision, in this instance to charge, I’ll have you brought round to the charging room.

An officer will then inform you that you are being charged with the following offences, they’ll list of those with which I believe you have committed and ask you to reply to each charge. It’s this moment that I get some corkers for the Christmas letter.

You’ll be issued a charge sheet, taken to the custody desk and bail is decided. It’s up to me to convince the custody sergeant one way or the other about whether to release or detain you in custody to be put before the magistrates the next available session.

In this instance I’ve asked for your bail, I don’t believe you to be a risk to people, yourself or at risk of flight. The sergeant has agreed with me and I give you bail conditions. You’re to come back to the police station once a week and ‘sign on’ to say hey I’m still here and haven’t fled to Spain.

There are a number of conditions I can apply to you, violation of these conditions results in the revocation of your bail, a further offence being committed and you’re being remanded to the magistrates immediately.

Once all is sorted with this regard, your property is returned to you and you’re escorted to the front of the police station. You’ll exchange some words with your solicitor, get a bit more advice and then be left to your own devices.

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On the journey home, you’re probably wondering what the hell you’re going to do now. I can’t imagine what it’s like, I don’t want to either. But you’ve undergone a life-changing experience few people get to experience. It is in this moment that I find people will either change your life for the better or become bitter and blame the police for everything.

More often than not, people choose the later.

Don.

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