Mike Prouten is a Senior Administration Officer in the East and West Lincolnshire Probation Service. In this blog he tells us of the fascinating day he had in the Insights22 event, ‘Join the Metropolitan Police for a Ride-Along’.
Browsing through the Insights22 website, I spotted something that looked right up my street – a ride-along with the Metropolitan Police at Croydon Police Station. I signed up for the draw but didn’t expect to hear anything further, so when an email appeared saying ‘Congratulations Insights22 Winner!’ I actually thought it was spam!
Shortly after, I received back a document from the Metropolitan Police via the Insights Team explaining what the process and rules of a ride-along were. There were some pages that I needed to complete relating to emergency contact details, which I did expect to do if I was going to get the chance to sit in a Police car.
I did become concerned when the document stated that I might need to ‘consider the adequacy of your own accident, life or health insurance cover’ – what was I letting myself in for…?
The day of the ride-along arrived and I got up early, ensuring I had plenty of time to get there for the 1pm shift (I live in Lincolnshire so Croydon isn’t exactly around the corner).
I arrived at the station in plenty of time and sat in the waiting area.
A female officer from the ‘Fugitive and Manhunt Unit’ opened the door, so I followed her and was introduced to her Sergeant. He went to make me a cup of tea (always welcome!) whilst the female officer explained what they do – searching for people wanted on bail, recalls, suspects, that type of thing. I watched as they deciphered multiple sources of information to try and track down the different fugitives that were wanted, and the morning shift arrived back from a ‘visit’.
After sitting there for a while, the Sergeant called me over and told me that they might not be going out on a visit for a good few hours, so it would just be me sitting there watching, which wouldn’t be very interesting. He had spoken with the Inspector of the Safer Transport Team (STT), who are a group of officers tasked with keeping people safe on the transport network and dealing with traffic offenders, and she said I could join them on a joint operation with the British Transport Police (BTP) at the Croydon rail stations; stopping and searching those they suspected of carrying knives or drugs.
I got fitted with a stab vest - which is surprisingly comfy but very heavy – and boarded the Police minibus with 5 officers, the Inspector and a Sergeant, and off we rode down to East Croydon.
After struggling to get out of the minibus (because of the stab vest) I stood with the team at the entrance to the station, the back entrance being blocked to funnel all the travellers into one place.
There was an arrest – to the expected cries of disapproval from some younger members of the public - until one of the officers shouted “knife!”, which changed their minds somewhat as they realised what the officers were trying to achieve.
There was also another young man who was pinned down to the floor by officers right next to me, which is a lot scarier in real life compared to when you see it on the TV! Turned out he was going equipped to steal – why else would you have a balaclava and gloves in the sunshine?
The Police presence also seemed to make some regular fare-jumpers see the error of their ways and cough up the money to pay for their travel.
Overall, the majority of the public I spoke to were very much for what the Police and BTP were doing. I had a very enjoyable time with the Met; they work under difficult pressures in a very challenging environment, yet they do so with pride, camaraderie, enthusiasm, positivity and a great sense of humour.