Notes From the Frontline: the iPad Thief

By Matt Delito on at

"What the fuuuuuuuuu...", Simon wails, as his torch is spinning away into the darkness, creating a rapidly changing, ghoulish shadow-play on the walls, as the light from his torch is blocked by all sorts of rubbish on the floor.

"Aaaaaaaaaah", he shouts. In the light of my own torch, I can see him grabbing his already injured arm, and I see his assailant as well; the Turk Tracy had warned us about.

I reach up to my radio and press the orange button next to my antenna.

"Right", the Skipper said, as he let his eyes glide around the small assembly of plain-clothes officers in front of him. "Jesus, you're a messy bunch", he laughed. "If you were the fashion police", he said to me, as I was the only one in full uniform, "you'd have to arrest us all!". A wave of laughter went around the stuffy room.

We were in a small, windowless office in the basement of the main police station on the borough. At some point in the last fifty years, someone must have decided that having a windowless office in the basement of a police station, with the custody suites directly above you, a central heating boiler room on one side, and the men's gym shower block on the other, was a rather depressing time to spend most of your waking life. Some bright spark had tried to flourish the place up a little. Their attempt had consisted almost exclusively of half-heartedly gaffer-taping up some holiday posters that must have looked dated before they ever made contact with the institution-pale-yellow walls that might once have been white. The effect was nearly precisely the opposite of what was presumably intended, and instead of adding a bit of cheer and vacation spirit, the palmtree-and-smiling-girls-in-bikini served instead as a contrast to the utterly grim reality of being in this office. I couldn't help but imagine the people who worked there on a day-to-day basis were envious of the prisoners held in the custody suites upstairs; at least they didn't have to stay longer than 48 hours at the most, before being released, or carted off to another facility.

For unknown reasons, the office we were in had 'Casa Cubana' written in neat handwriting on on a delicate little sign on the door. Whether that was a misspelling or a joke that may well never have been funny, nobody knew; but everybody at the station knew that Casa Cubana was the home of Clubs and Vice.

Now, I always thought Clubs and Vice was a pretty awesome name for a division. Perhaps that's how it happened; they got the coolest name but the dreadfullest office. In the Metropolitan police, that's occasionally the kind of logic that works. Clubs and Vice is the department that looks after certain sub-sections of what our borough commander adores referring to as the 'nighttime economy'. Basically, they take charge of policing Friday and Saturday nights on the borough. That's when all the weekend-revellers flock to our area to drink, snort, eat, inject or smoke their poisons of choice, then dancing like epileptic Duracell-bunnies for a few hours, before punching or fucking something or someone, and subsequently passing out in their own bed, someone else's bed, the street, or a police cell.

You'll have to forgive me if you're one of the clubbers who do know how to behave; who don't take drugs (or, if they do, don't act like absolute apes), and who don't cause any trouble. Don't get me wrong; I know you're in the majority. It's just that on the weekend, the minority has the entire borough's police presence rushed off their feet to deal with incoherent douchenozzles and their (often equally incoherent) victims.

Anyway, today wasn't a weekend; it was a pretty normal Thursday. We were on the cleverly named Operation Slate, targeting a spike in thefts in nightclubs on the borough. The raggedy group of about a dozen people surrounding me were all part of the operation.

"So, did everybody get that?" the skipper said, just as Simon walked in the door.

"Sorry I'm late boss", he said, sheepishly, holding his arm and a slightly crushed bicycle helmet up for everyone to see. "I had an argument with an ambulance on the way here".

Only Simon could get run over by an ambulance; he is by far the unluckiest person I know.

"Jesus, you okay?" the sergeant asked him.

"Yeah, yeah. So, I think I'm on this op. What are we doing?"

"Okay, it's a sting operation. Lisa and Miranda", he said, nodding towards two scantily-dressed police officers in the corner, "are the keepers of the bait."

"Helllooooo ladies", Simon said, his face lighting up as if someone had flicked a switch in his head. "Either of you a nurse? My arm hurts something awful", he said with a wink and mock-pout. He got a groan and a disbelieving head-shake in response from both Lisa and Miranda at the same time.

"They'll be handling an iPad", the sarge said, ignoring Simon's little interlude. Lisa held up an iPad with a pink cover over the screen, as if she were a show-host showing off a prize to a contestant. "Jim and seventy-one will be in a CCTV room at the club, keeping an eye on them. These two stout-looking gentlemen", he said, pointing at two enormous officers none of us had seen before tonight, "are the safety officers. They'll be close to the girls, as they'll obviously not be able to bring any personal protection kit with them." Not a lot of space for stab-vests there, I thought.

"To get on the club, tell them you're on Miranda's Guest List; the bouncer will shuffle you to the front of the queue and let you in for free. Drinks are free at the bar if you ask the bartenders to put it on Miranda's tab", the sergeant said. "I hope you brought your credit card, Miranda", he laughed. Miranda smiled politely; it seemed as if this wasn't the first time he pulled that joke.

The sarge looked around the room again, "Soft drinks only, gents. If someone tries to steal the iPad, stay at a safe distance. We don't want to make the arrest until we're outside the club. That's where Matt and Simon will take over; they'll be the only uniformed officers we have on the patch, so let's let them handle any arrests." Simon and I gave a little wave, as if it wasn't obvious we were in uniform.

The addition of uniformed officers to ops like this was a relatively recent development. Last year, a couple of plain-clothes officers had tried to make an arrest outside a nightclub; the suspect had resisted the arrest, and the people queueing outside the nightclub thought it was a fight. Several of the suspect's friends joined the fight, and it briefly looked as if we'd have a riot on our hands, until by pure chance the BSU (Borough Support Unit) showed up. They recognised one of the officers who was getting a hoofing, and broke up the fight. Both officers were in hospital for over a week, and the BSU made half a dozen arrests for serious assaults.

"Any questions, anyone?" he concluded.


Going Clubbing

Twenty minutes later, we had installed ourselves in and outside the nightclub. Simon stayed on the normal despatch channel on the radio, to keep half an ear on things going on around the rest of the borough, and I went on the Event 2 channel that was reserved for our operation.

"Radio check from uniformed units on operation Slate", I radioed in.

"CCTV receiving", the team in the CCTV room radioed back.

"Safety receiving", the team guarding Lisa and Miranda said.

"Spotter Alpha receiving", said one of the officers who was just milling around the night club looking for known suspects and keeping an eye on things.

Then my radio beeped twice. Miranda and Lisa had a radio in one of their purses, with a pair of buttons on the inside of the purse. They could only beep, or send an urgent assistance signal. Two beeps meant "OK", so I guess they were receiving us.

Operations like this are almost invariably either incredibly busy, or completely dead. Simon and I were strolling up and down the street outside the night club, my radio silent apart from the occasional radio check.

The street around the club quarter was relatively well-patrolled; there were about six officers who were doing big loops through the bar district, and every twenty minutes or so, I'd have a chance for a quick chat to catch up on some of the gossip. It's a perk of these operations; you're working with people that aren't on the same team as you, so you get a chance to catch up and have a natter with officers you don't know as well, or haven't seen in a while.

At 1am, about three hours into the operation, my radio woke up from its slumber.

"CCTV stand by, we have some suspicious activity near the girls."

"Standing by", the safety team replied.

I whistled to Simon, who was giving decidedly detailed directions to a couple of acutely attractive blondes in hugely high heels. He waved back; said his farewell, and started walking towards the club on his side of the street. I did the same on my side.

"It's an IC1 male, around five foot tall, blue striped shirt, carrying a small backpack over one shoulder", the CCTV team transmitted. "He is sitting down at the end of the cubicle with the bag holding our package, looking around. Don't look at him."

Inside the club, there were six officers who desperately wanted to get a closer look at their suspect, but forced themselves to stare at each other instead.

"Our view is blocked", the CCTV operator said.

"I see him" one of the safety officers radioed back, barely legible over the loud music in the background.

Simon and I were on one side of the door to the nightclub each; if the thief did steal the iPad, he was probably going to try to make a quick exit, and it'd be our turn. Simon was leaned against the barrier where about twenty people were waiting to be let into the night club.

My radio suddenly spat out a fifteen-second burst of loud club music, but no recognisable words.


Something goes wrong

"Safety, are you OK?" the CCTV team transmitted, followed by a long burst of silence, during which my full concentration was on the earpiece I was wearing. I was frozen, standing there, waiting for some sort of reply.

"Safety, confirm status. Spotters, go check on them", the CCTV team transmitted, after what seemed like an absolute eternity.

I was waiting for my radio to give a meaningful response, when I heard a commotion on the other side of the club doors. Simon had turned around, and was shouting at a young man.

"Mate, shut up and listen", he shouted. "If this gentleman says you have had enough to drink, then that's his prerogative. Go home."

I sighed; it's a scene we see dozens of times on any given Friday or Saturday night; a group of young lads had been ejected from one club for being a drunken gaggle of nuisance-makers, and were trying to sneak into the next club. The bouncers use their own radios to warn each other about the worst grief-magnets, and so when they are ejected from one club, chances are they won't be doing any more drinking that night. It's a pretty good system, especially because it's a lot easier to deal with troublemakers outside a club than inside it.

The group of youths was six strong, and they distinctly disinclined to listen to Simon. I glanced at the door for a second, then reached for my radio, changed the channel to despatch, and quickly transmitted.

"Mike Delta receiving five-two-nine."

"529 go ahead."

"We're on operation Slate. I'm outside the Summer Fiesta night club, and could do with some additional help to clear away a group of six inebriated males"

"Received", the operator replied, and then proceeded to transmit a request for some extra backup. I switched back to the operation channel, and caught the tail-end of a transmission.

"... the door."

"I was on another channel", I said. "Update, please?"


An escape

"Coming, Matt! Yellow shirt!", one of the safety officers shouted down the radio. I whirled around, and spotted a man with a yellow shirt dart out of the club, clutching Lisa's bag. He didn't even pause long enough to spot me, and simply ran straight past me.

"Shit", I transmitted. "Get some guys out here, I can't leave Simon by himself", I said, and looked after the man who was sprinting down the road, still holding the bag. The shouting between Simon and the young men was getting louder.

About thirty seconds later, several of the spotters and the two safety officers came bursting out through the doors.

"What the fuck", one of them shouted. "All you had to do was to stop the toe-rag!"

I waved him off, and turned my attention to Simon, who was now physically intervening between the "ingress/egress security advisor" (that's a bouncer to you and me) and two of the lads who were causing trouble. I walked over and got involved, and half a second later, the three spotters joined us.

"Stand back", one of them called. "Police!"

The group of youth was momentarily confused. The plain-clothes officers had hauled warrant cards on lanyards out of their pockets, and donned them around their necks to identify them as police, but at the same time, two additional security guys had shown up; they were also wearing their IDs around their necks.

"Fuck you, you ain't police", one of the youngsters said to one of the bouncers, as one of his friends was dragging at his arm.

"Dude, they're totally police, let's get the fuck out of here", he said.

Slowly, the guys gathered their wits. Just when they had decided to go, a van containing half a dozen uniformed officers arrived. The drunk boys seemed to sober up very quickly at the sight of them, and executed their previously made plan of making a hasty disappearance. They started running down the road. We let them go; they had been loud and obnoxious, and perhaps shoved Simon around a little bit, but nothing they'd get prosecuted for, we had bigger fish to fry.

I turned around, and the whole operation team had come out of the night club.

"Why didn't you stop them, Delito", seventy-one's voice boomed.

"Er... Simon...", I said, vaguely.

Sargeant Thomas, who had been leading the operation, piped up.


By the power of Satellites...

"Not to worry, lads", he said, and fished an iPhone out of his pocket. "I can track the iPad with this thing".

Apple's Find my iThing feature is a blessing and a curse -- it's great to know where your iPhone is at any given time, but if it gets stolen and ends up in a council estate somewhere -- as stolen things are wont to do as often as not -- you've got a problem: we can tell which building the device is in, but there could be dozens, if not hundreds of flats stacked on top of each other, and we wouldn't be able to bust in through every single one door looking for an iPad.

"What does this mean?" the skipper said, pointing non-specifically at the iPhone's screen.

"Can I...", I asked. I'm a bit of an Apple fanboy, and I've used the system before.

"It says it can't find the iPad", I say, after pressing various options on his iPhone screen for a while.

"Damn", the sarge said. "He must have disconnected from the WiFi"

"Uhm...", I said. "What do you mean?"

"Well, if he disconnects from the WiFi, we can't find him until he connects to a different WiFi."

"You've got to be kidding me", I said. "Is it not a 3G iPad?"

The Sergeant stared at me blankly. "What...", he said, "... do you mean?"

"You bought the iPad thing especially for these operations, right?", I said to the boss of the Clubs and Vice team.


"So, er... which iPad did you buy?"

"Don't be an idiot, Delito", he said. "This is the Metropolitan Police. You shouldn't have to ask; I bought the cheapest one, of course."

"Oh jesus", I said, rubbing my forehead with my fingertips.

"What?" demanded Simon.

"The 3G iPad has a GPS and, well, 3G built in. Like on a phone. So if you'd bought one of those, the iPad would know exactly where it was, and it would have an internet connection everywhere you have mobile phone coverage", I said. "But you bought the cheapest version, which only has WiFi, and no GPS.", I explained. "Unlike the 3G iPad, the one you bought never knows exactly where it is, it can only guess its location based on what WiFi networks it can see... And it only has a network when it is connected to WiFi."

I had nine pair of eyes staring blankly at me.

"Fer feck's sake", I said... "Do I really have to spell it out? Basically, we won't have any idea where that iPad is until our thief connects it to a WiFi network. Which, if he has any sense, he won't do. If he formats the damn thing, we're royally fucked; we won't get our iPad back, and the guy will get away with it."

"But... I have find my iPad right here", sgt Thomas said, wiggling his iPhone in the air, as the situation was dawning on him properly.

"Oh", he started.

"Well...", he said.

"Bollocks.", he concluded.

He stood still for a second, weighing his options. "Okay, Delito, you know about this geek stuff", he started ordering people around. "Simon, stick with me, and Tracy, you come with as well", he said to one of the large safety officers. "The rest of you, you're dismissed. Write up a quick MG11 about the theft", he said, referring to the standard form for a witness statement, "And email it to me before you head home. Let's see if we can't find our iPad after all", he said grimly, turning to the ones of us who had been 'lucky' enough to be chosen to stay behind.

"Bollocks to that", Tracy said. "I need a cuppa".


Continuing the hunt

The sergeant sighed. "Yeah, me too. Let's go", he said, and led the way to one of the late-night coffee bars that had popped up in the area recently. The coffee bars were apparently opened especially to cater to to stoned hipsters, hip stoners, and us.

The four of us were looking beaten over our steaming cups of coffee, and the sarge was prodding at his iPhone.

"Do you know what the kid looks like?" Simon asked, half-heartedly.

"Yes, but we were tracking the wrong guy on the CCTV for most of the evening. We had the fella in the striped shirt, he was looking well dodgy, but when we finally took him aside and talked to him after the other guy ran off with the iPad, it turns out he was just pilled off his face", Sergeant Thomas said, shaking his head. "I we did catch the little bastard on one of the cameras though. I emailed a copy of the image to my phone, hang on..."

After a couple of minutes worth of fiddling -- about a minute and fifty-seven seconds longer than it ought to have taken -- he held up his phone.

"Never seen 'im before", Simon said, after poring over the shot for a while. The rest of us repeated similar sentiments.

We stayed in the cafe for about ten more minutes, before Thomas had another look at his iPhone.

"I've got him!" he said.

Simon and I leapt up and slid around the table to look over the sergeant's shoulder, and Tracy leaned over to do the same.

"He's just off the borough", Tracy said, "But only about ten minutes away. Have we got a car?"

"Er..." the skipper replied, and looked forlorn. "Nooo; we sent them all on their way to go home. I figured we could catch a lift later", he said.

"Any units near the Coffee Bucket?", I threw myself on my radio, as Tracy walked to the counter to pay for our coffees, whilst Simon and sergeant Thomas continued looking at the little iPad icon in the middle of the map display.

"Unit calling for backup near Coffee Bucket; Mike Delta two-eight receiving"

"Two-eight; cancel cancel, we don't need backup. We just need a lift. Do you have ten minutes?"

"Yeah, of course", came the reply. "On the hurry-up?" he asked.

"Yes yes."

"Aaaalrighty-then", the driver said. Half-way through his atrocious Jim Carrey impression, we heard the sirens of the caged van whine into life over the radio. "For you? Special price. Get me a brew, will ya?"

Tracey overheard the conversation via his radio, turned around and retraced his two steps back to the counter, and ordered a cup of tea for the van driver.

One minute later, the sirens pulled to a halt outside the building, and we all climbed into the van.

"Hey, Joe", I said, recognising the driver. "Here's your tea."

"Thanks for your expedience", Thomas said. "Step on it, we need to get to Garyson Rise double-quick". He flashed his iPhone at the driver to show where we were going.

"Aye boss", Joe said, and pulled away. "Are you going to the Starbucks up there?" he laughed, "I thought you guys just had a coffee".

Tracy and I looked at each other. Garyson Rise is just off our borough, in a direction where there isn't usually a lot of trouble, so it's not an area I'm very familiar with.

"Seriously? There's a Starbucks?", I asked. "What else is there?", I asked.

"Oh, not much, really", Joe said. "Couple of pizza joints. Delivery places, mostly. One of those Internet places, and a Tesco, but I think it closes at midnight", he rambled on.

"Screw the Starbucks", I said.

"Take us to the internet place", Tracy finished my thought.

"But kill the sirens and lights before we get there", Simon completed the train of logic. Finally; for the first time all night, we were working as a team.

As we came up to Garyson Rise, Joe turned off the sirens, but he left the blues on as we pulled through a red light. Then he shut them off as well, and stopped in a bus stop a few doors down from the internet shop. The shutters covering the windows were down, but the door shutter was open, and there was light spilling out onto the pavement.

"I'll go in. You guys stop him from getting away again", Tracy said, with his eyes lingering on me a little bit longer than was necessary.

Simon and Tracy got out of the van, and Simon took up position next to the shop. The police van shocked into motion again.

"Fuck me, where did you learn to drive, Joe", I said, keeping my eyes on the shop front. Joe mumbled something about hiring a limo if I didn't like his driving. The sergeant and I climbed out of the van and approached the door from the other side.

Once were in position, Tracy nodded to Simon, before turning back and nodded. We were ready... He quickly checked to make sure none of his police paraphernalia were showing, before he casually strolled into the internet shop, his police radio on mute in his back pocket. Tracy's undercover stab-vest and other equipment in a covert vest were hidden under his oversized zippered hoodie.

He comes walking out again after a minute, sipping a can of Coke. He doesn't look at any of us, until he is out of the light cone from the door. When he's out of sight, he looks over his shoulder to see if he's been followed, before quickly unzipping his hoodie, wringing himself out of it, as he's shooting some instructions over to Simon. A second later, Simon's voice comes over the radio.

"There are two guys in there, and they're using an iPad. Tracy says it doesn't have that hideous pink cover on it, but it looks like they have a fair amount of second-hand stuff for sale behind the counter. It could be anywhere," Simon says.

Tracy grabs the radio from Simon, ignoring the one he has sticking out of his back pocket. "I recognise the other guy, he's a nasty piece of work. I don't think he clocked me, but I nicked him for running a prostitution racket a few year years back. Turkish bloke, in a blue shirt. He put up quite a fight last time I nicked him, so be careful".

"Should we go in now or wait", the shipper says.

"Now. Let's get the little fucker", Tracy says.

"Let's do it", the skipper says, reaching for his torch. I do the same, and I see Simon producing one as well.


Going in...

Simon is first in though the door.

"Police, don't move", he shouts, and points his torch straight in the face of the guy with the yellow shirt.

I train my torch straight into the eyes of the second man, who is seated behind the table. He drops the iPad in front of him, leaps to his feet, and dives out of sight to the left of us. Tracy has leapt forward and grabbed hold of our yellow-shirted scoundrel, and before I even have time to move forward to wonder where the other guy went, he's got him bent over the desk with a set of handcuffs keeping his arms behind his back.

Simon and I edge forward, trying to listen forward, ignoring the racket being caused by Tracy trying to search his prisoner and sergeant Thomas radioing in a status report. The man seems to have vanished in thin air. I stick my head carefully around the corner, and spot a stairway going down.

"He's gone down the stairs", I call. I turn around to see whether Simon is still following me, and catch a face-full of his ludicrously bright LED torch, losing whatever night vision I might have had up to that point.

"Sorry mate", he mumbles.

"Let's see if we can find him", I say, and start walking down the stairs, my torch piercing the darkness. I hear a clicking sound next to my head; it's Simon, trying a light switch. Nothing.

We continue down the creaking stair, descending into darkness. At the bottom of the stairs, there's a small, narrow hallway going left and right. We stop and listen, and I take a step to the right, letting Simon step off the stairs with a step to the left. We can't hear anything.

Simon swings his torch around, and takes a couple of steps down the corridor. I hear an almighty crash, and a shout.

"Whattafuuuuuuuuu...", Simon wails, as his torch is spinning away into the dark corridor, creating a rapidly changing, ghoulish shadow-play on the walls, as the light from his torch is blocked by all sorts of rubbish on the floor.

"Aaaaaaaaaah", he shouts. In the light of my own torch, I can see him grabbing his already injured arm, and I see his assailant as well; it's the Turk Tracy had warned us about before we entered the shop.

I reach up to my radio and press the orange button next to my antenna.

"Urgent assistance required", I shout. "Basement of the internet shop, 33 Garyson Rise, we're under attack from a man with a stick". I pause briefly to think whether there's anything else I need to say. "Get us an ambulance as well, Mike Delta two-eight-eight got whacked", I add, before turning my torch off.

There are few things police officers care about more than boots and torches. You'll invariably lose your torch eventually, but that didn't stop me from investing some serious cash into a top-quality light source; you use the damn thing nearly every night shift, so it makes sense to get a proper one. Some officers choose to use Maglite style torches so they can double as nightsticks; but I never quite saw the point. I have a police-issue Asp -- or a gravity friction-lock baton as it's officially called -- which is manufactured specifically for slapping people about, so I have no idea why you'd choose to carry a heavy flashlight. No; my torch is a Night-Ops Gladius; a tactical flashlight that was apparently made for mounting on an assault rifle or a pistol. Since the Met hasn't deigned to provide me with a lead-redistribution device, I'm using the torch on its own. I chose it for several reasons: it's solid as can be; it's the right size to be used as a Kubotan (a small hand-to-hand combat weapon), but mostly, it has a rapid strobe mode that has saved my bacon more than once. With a quick twist of the rear cap of the torch, you can prepare the strobe mode. Point it at someone's eyes and press the back of the cap to activate it. If you're at the receiving end of that treatment, it's extremely disorienting; the only thing they see is the strobing light, and the person behind the light becomes completely invisible.

I flick my Gladius into the strobe mode and move it to my left hand, as I draw and rack my Asp with my right. I see the man with the bat hiding next to the half-opened door, as Simon is yelping pathetically on the floor, pushing himself towards me with his legs.

"You OK?" I ask him, knowing the answer.

"Do I fucking sound all right?", he barks, "He twatted me in the fucking arm, didn't he?"

"Hey! You!", I call out to the man. "You saw us, you know we've got two more officers upstairs, and we've got a vanload more coppers coming. Put down the bat, you can't win."

An uninterruptible malediction ruptures from behind the door, but as he is swearing at me, I can see him move against the silhouette from Simon's light, which has come to rest pointing at the back wall behind the man. Perfect.

"I'll give you five seconds", I say. "Then I'm coming for you".

I can see him make a firmer grip of his aluminium baseball bat as he tenses in anticipation of his counter-attack, but I also hear a faint creaking on the stairs next to me. They must have loaded our other prisoner into the back of the van, because both Tracy and sgt Thomas are on the stairs, batons drawn, ready to spring into action.

"Five..." I say. Simon staggered to his feet next to the stairs, and leaned against the walls.

"Four..." I call about five seconds later. I lean over to Simon, whispering. "Take my torch. When I say One, lean as far forward as you can..."

"Three...", "...and hold the button on the back pressed in. Whatever happens, keep it aimed at his eyes".

"Two...", "Got that?" I whisper, and grab Simon's un-injured arm, sliding my torch into his hand, double-checking he has a firm grip of the torch before I let go.

"ONE!" I call, and I drop to the floor with all the grace and finesse of a dead cow tumbling out of a skyscraper.

I crawl as fast as I can, on all fours like a dog along the floor. Simon shouts a battle-cry that would make a banshee sob with envy, as he pressed the button on the back of the torch. It starts strobing rapidly, catching the man square in the face.

On the first few strobes, I can see his wide-open eyes. The next few strobe flashes illuminates his whole face as he moves out of his hiding place, taking a firmer grip of his bat, and trying to shrink away from the bright light being beamed at him.

I can see the expression on his face change for each pulse of light. It shows his gritted teeth, and a face that's making a decision to fight for his life. He raises his bat, and then suddenly realises something is wrong; the source of the strobing light and the manic cry isn't coming closer.

Just as the penny drops and he grasps exactly what has happened, my baton connects with the side of his left shin. The man screams, but I don't waste any time. I've leapt forward to a position behind him. He is holding his bat with his right hand, as his other goes down to his shin. I whirl around and put my whole weight behind my baton, aiming for the side of his upper arm. To the sound of a nausea-inducing, wet, snapping sound, the baton thumps into his arm, less than a second after it reduced the nerves in his lower leg to a perfectly harmonised concerto of agony. From the sound, I'm pretty certain I've broken his arm.

I grab my cuffs out of their holder, but before I get close enough to apply to the now-squealing man, another set of hands reach out of the dark, grabs him, and hauls him to the ground. In one fluid movement, his face is pressed against the dusty floor. Tracy's torch clicks on, and suddenly the whole messy scene is well lit. The sergeant isn't one for wasting time; Simon's attacker is in handcuffs before he has time to take another breath.

I'm sitting on the floor, my back to a wall, panting. As the adrenaline of our sneak attack wears off, I can feel my knees hurting. I look. I'm bleeding from my right knee, my left is badly scraped as well, but somehow isn't leaking, and the trouser legs on both knees are torn.

"Extra points for creativity", Simon said drily, and limps his way up the stairs, muttering something about ambulances


Matt Delito is a pseudonym for a policeman working for the Metropolitan Police. All Notes 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. These days, he’s on Facebook and Twitter as well.

Matt has a book based on his Notes from the Front Line column out now - you can get it from Amazon, in paperback or on Kindle.

If you missed his previous columns on Giz UK, check them out over here.

Image credit: Police image from Shutterstock.