May 17th, 2014 | Uncategorized
Last night Kerri and I were invited to spend some time with on-duty PSNI officers near Dunmurry, South of Belfast city centre. We got picked up at 7:30pm and started the evening by getting a tour of a major PSNI police station in the Lisburn area. As all of the police stations we’ve seen over here, the place was a fortress. Fences and security gates, cameras everywhere, and as one of our escorts noted “mortar proof walls”. It was a far cry from my own neighbourhood police station. They just built a fence around it a few years back, and I still have no idea why they needed it.
Inside the station we were first taken to the booking area where offenders are brought to be processed, fingerprinted, held, and/or questioned depending on the situation. It was a pretty enlightening experience listening to the staff tell us how they operated. We repeatedly heard that the goal is to try and be as reasonable as possible, and to interact with suspects on a very human level. Personally I don’t know how they do it after hearing some of the types of verbal abuse that gets thrown at the officers. Either way, it was part of our ‘scared straight’ moment; both Kerri and I agreed we’d rather not spend a night there.
After that we went to the CCTV (closed circuit televisiion) area of the station. From here the CCTV officers can observe what is happening all over their jurisdiction both in real time and over recorded video. We saw a few highlighted examples of how the use of CCTV has directly led to arrests, and the power this one small room wields. Next time I rob a bank I’ll be sure to check for cameras first.
To finish off the night our two officers took us out to patrol their assigned area. We made a few stops along the way and actually ran into a few kids we recognized from the eHoops programs. It was interesting to read peoples expressions as we drove by, as Kerri and I continually forgot we were driving around in a cop car. The big excitement of the night was when a neighbourhood kid on an overlooking hill ran up and tossed a brick at our car. Don’t worry, we drove off without any damage being done. And though the officers said they would usually turn around and chase down the offender, in the interest of our safety they let it slide (thanks guys).
It was a very interesting night, especially because we have heard so much about the PSNI work conditions and how the public at large views and treats officers of the law. I think the most rewarding part of the night was watching the officers stop and talk to some eHoops kids who were messing about. Because they now have a personal relationship, the interaction was very civil and understanding. You could tell that these kids had relationships with the police, and respected and trusted them much more now that they would have previously.
So a big thanks to the PSNI for having us out last night. It was a great experience and my only complaint is that we didn’t do it sooner!