More than just crime: A Friday night shift with King's Lynn Police
PUBLISHED: 14:52 03 February 2018 | UPDATED: 15:16 03 February 2018
In recent years, police cuts have left many forces understaffed and overworked. But as Taz Ali found out on a night shift with King's Lynn Police, their team spirit and willingness to help those in need shows no signs of letting up.
A typical public order shift on a Friday night begins with a rove around the town to suss out what may be in store.
Working with the police are the bouncers of pubs and bars, who have shopwatch radio systems to contact police in case of any trouble.
“They work really well,” said one officer. “They can speak to other venues and let them know about anyone who has been kicked out.”
Patrolling the streets in near freezing temperatures can be draining for the officers, and so as a pick-me-up, the prisoner van makes the rounds equipped with sweets and snacks to boost morale.
After a relatively calm start to the night, partygoers start heading their way to Norfolk Street after most of the pubs close at 11pm.
As the night progresses, police are radioed in to keep the peace as drunk revellers start spilling out of the clubs.
Tonight sees officers called to a disturbance outside Mojitos in Broad Street at around 1.30am. Bouncers initially thought a fight had broken out and ejected several people from the venue.
After a loud argument ensued, those responsible were eventually calmed down by police officers and told to go home.
An officer said: “There was no formal complaint so we give people a chance to calm down and to leave town.”
And this is the approach police use in handling drunken behaviour throughout the night, as they try to make minimal arrests in an effort to nip things in the bud before they escalate.
But within an hour, police arrest two men for drunk and disorderly behaviour after they tried to head back into town after being told numerous times to leave.
“We don’t just go up to people and nick them,” said an officer. “There is always a reason for it.
“They are taken to one side and given words of advice, but when they don’t comply and start getting aggressive and physical we have to take them to the floor to control them.”
And it is not only disorderly behaviour police have to keep an eye on, sometimes they are left looking after people who are left lying on the street worse for wear.
Police constables said they have a duty of care to make sure they are okay until they find a way home or receive medical help.
At 2am, one drunk man was put into the recovery position by police before the SOS volunteers arrived. He was later taken away by the ambulance service.
Police officers said their goal in any given shift is to prevent and preempt things, particularly in cases where vulnerable people are concerned.
Sgt Rob O’Donnell is called to the town’s rail station after an elderly man is found there in a confused state.
After a friendly chat with the man, who is believed to be in his 70s, Sgt O’Donnell calls the hospital, the man’s family and the police control room before deciding to drive him to his home in Snettisham.
Once there, Sgt O’Donnell makes a final check around the man’s home to make sure he has enough food, his keys, phone and medication before leaving.
“I made assurances that he is not reported missing and tried to make contact with his family,” he said. “It is to make sure people do not slip through the cracks.
“Mental health issues are becoming more and more common, and it could be because people are becoming more aware that they call us for help.
“We try to give people the right support they need; we sometimes see people at their most troubled and most vulnerable.”
And the support they give has not gone unnoticed. Throughout the night, people have approached the police to thank them for their efforts.
“You are lovely guys,” said one person. “You don’t deserve the criticism.”
Another said: “I appreciate what you do.”