“I want him out of here”, the woman screeches, as she’s reaching over my shoulder, fingers curled into a claw, and her impressively long nails slashing, musketeer-style, through the air in the direction of her partner.
“Shut it, you fucking whore”, he barks back, and makes a break for it, trying to get at her with his hands balled into red-knuckled fists.
Based on the trickle of blood coming from the man’s face, she’s managed to land a couple of those scratches before we made it into the flat. Her face tells a tale as well, as her eye is practically swelling up as we’re standing there, from where he must have gotten a couple of blows in as well.
Seven minutes earlier, we received a call over the radio. “Domestic in progress, graded I, India”.
Our calls are graded in three levels of urgency. E-grade is basically whenever we can find the time to rock up. Court warnings, routine appointments, and simple followups tend to be graded E. The next step up is an S-grade (or Sierra), where we are meant to make it to the caller within the hour. Dealing with shoplifters, looking for suspicious persons, anything not super urgent gets a Sierra grade.
Then, we have the most urgent calls, graded I, or India. I-graded calls have to be responded to within 12 minutes, so that’s when my advanced driving gets put to the test. The flashing lights go on, the sirens are dusted off and put to good use, and my engine and brakes get a good work-out.
This time, the address that shows up on the MDT (Mobile Data Terminal) as relayed by the CAD operator made my heart sink; I know the address well. It’s one of those couples that “love each other” so much that they seem to celebrate their passion for one another largely through beating seven bells out of each other after consuming a drink or eight.
We attend the address at least a couple of times per month. The training school at Hendon loves to remind us that ‘domestic violence intervention is murder prevention‘, but I’ve thought more than once that perhaps we should just leave this particular couple to it. For as long as I have been a copper in this borough, they seem to have been completely hell-bent on putting new dents into each other, and it’s a pitiful mess every time.
“Take him away! I don’t want him here”, she squeals, as I walk in through the front door.
I am the second car on scene, which is just as well, because I’m single-crewed. The car that beat me there was triple-crewed, curiously enough. I was glad to see Tim there; he knows the couple well. In addition, there is a probationer, and a Special Constable. The solidly-built Special is doing his best to keep the man from getting to his lady-love. Tim is trying to reason with the woman, in the hope she’ll come down from being a squeaky, hyperventilating ball of fury.
“Oi”, I call out. “Can we all just shut up for ten seconds, I can’t hear myself think in this racket”. Weirdly (and unusually), they listen to me. As the flat falls quiet for a couple of seconds, the man is breathing heavily. The woman collapses on a kitchen chair, sobbing with all the coherence of a 2-month old, and all six of us are just staring back and forth at each other for a second.
“Right”. I say, taking control of the situation in the brief moment of silence before the hurricane. “You”, pointing at the man. “Let’s go to the living room and have a chat”. Tim starts leading the woman out of the kitchen and into the bedroom. Good thinking. Kitchens are the most dangerous rooms in the house when there’s a chance a fight will break out. Heavy pans, plenty of knives, boiling water – it never ends well.
I wave the Special over to me, and after we’ve had a brief chat with the king of this particularly squalid castle, we explain to him that he needs to be arrested so we can interview him properly. I let the Special get the body (police slang for ‘making the arrest’), mostly for my own amusement. He ruins my entertainment by knowing what he’s doing, and the arrest goes pretty smoothly.
Well. I say smoothly… It was going well until the man suddenly changes his mind. Immediately after the Special applies one hand-cuff to him, decides he doesn’t want to get arrested after all. He starts struggling half-heartedly, but then suddenly finds some strength and a burst of uninhibited inspiration for mayhem. He boots the Special in the shins, and manages to swipe my legs from under me. I hit the floor with an almighty crash, landing the back of my head against the side of a table. Pain shoots through me briefly, but then fades away again.
“For christ’s sake”, I shout, and the probationer comes running to come help us out. The three of us end up in an all-out fight with the man in their living room. The TV is kicked – I have no idea by who – and crashes into the wall. Chairs are knocked over, a series of pictures that were balanced on a shelf go flying across the living room, covering the floor in shards of glass, and the table I already landed on once ends up in several pieces on the floor. It’s a scene of absolute carnage.
Just as we get a glimmer of hope of starting to get the situation under control, the probationer screams “SPRAY, SPRAY”, and sends the whole thing into a new wave of disarray. He has taken his CS spray out of its holder, and is applying a generous dose of the noxious liquid to the man’s face.
The man calms down rapidly, but I catch some of the CS splashback, and my eyes fill with tears and a burning sensation I haven’t felt since The Stag Do That Must Not Be Mentioned. I react terribly to CS, and generally, I prefer people don’t use the stuff. In the Probationer’s defence, I suppose it was rather effective in this case.
We finally manage to get the man in both cuffs, and as he is lying on the floor with the Special constable sitting on his legs, the probationer holding the handcuffs, and he is reeling off a vituperation of obscenities… Let’s just say that the things he was opining about our mothers would have made a docker blush.
As we’re in a pile of disarray on the floor, tears streaming and noses running from the CS, we allow ourselves to relax. It’s all over, right?
No such luck; charging out of the bedroom comes the man’s girlfriend, holding (I kid you not…) a rather large box-set of the TV series Friends.
“Leave him alone, he hasn’t done anything to you”, she shouts, before lifting the box set above her head, and bringing it down on the Special.
Tim comes running into the living room after her, and tries to grab her, but she elbows him in the face (probably by accident) sending him to the floor. She yowls like a doom-wraith as she hits the Special with the box set again, this time with enough force that it disintegrates. There is a flurry of CDs, booklets, and bits of torn box flying everywhere.
Between the four of us we wrestle her to the floor as well, and start dragging the man out of the flat, where a caged police van has just arrived with further reinforcements and a way of transporting the fine specimen of gentlemanry to a night in the cells. As we haul the man off, the woman is roaring from underneath Tim and the probationer. “I LOVE YOU”, she calls to her partner, before directing her anger at us. “You are hurting him, I love him, leave him alone!” she half-sobs, half-shouts, conveniently forgetting her insistence that we take him away not ten minutes before.
We arrange another van to have her taken away as well, and they both spend the entire night in separate cells, shouting across the hallway between the cells, declaring their mutual undying love approximately sixty-eight thousand times, much to the chagrin of the sleep-deprived custody Sergeant.
The next day, he wakes up to yet another ABH (Actual Bodily Harm) charge for beating up his girlfriend for the hundredth time. She is awarded with an assault charge for her valiant rescue attempt where she smashed the Special across the head with the DVD box set.
I should probably add that the following didn’t come as a surprise to any of the attending officers: it didn’t take long before they were back in the flat, continuing on their previous path of loving each other to death.
Matt Delito is a pseudonym for a policeman working for the Metropolitan Police. All stories from the frontline are not entirely “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” due to the sensitive nature of the business, but are all based on actual events.