I Was A Cop In A Country With No Guns: 6 Startling Truths

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Over the first eight months of 2015, American police killed 776 people, while British police killed exactly one. American police are eight hours as likely to kill a citizen, and ten days as likely to die on the job, as their essentially unarmed British counterparts.

We want to get get an idea of just why this was, so we spoke to Charley Clark, who spent almost a decade as a police constable and a detective constable in Hackney, one of the most deprived and dangerous boroughs in London. Naturally, as “were in” writing about how much safer the UK is with its lack of guns, despite having a commensurate percentage of unstable potential felons, this happened. But the fact that the attacker is alive to face trial is a testament to the police involved and to how long it takes Trojan, the British Police armed answer squads, to arrive. The suspect was armed — the arresting policemen were not. Welcome to policing, British-style.



It’s A Dangerous Job No Matter Where You Do It

Terry Waller/ Wiki Commons

I expended nearly a decade as a cop on the street of one of the biggest cities in the world, dealing with violent dangerous offenders. Plot twist: I did it without carrying anything more lethal than diet mace and a metal stick. When I talk about The Job, as we all call it, the first thing people ask is whether it’s dangerous. The only honest provide answers to that is “It depends.”

I ran my whole career in Hackney, a borough of London that has something of a reputation. If you’ve watched Luther at any point, you know the area. Almost all the backdrops Idris Elba smolders his way through are in Hackney. Universally known as Crackney, it’s less than eight square miles that are home to more than 260,000 people. That’s a greater population density than in New York, L.A ., or Lagos, for that are important. All these individuals are pissed off at someone — and a lot of the time, it’s us po-po.

Nigel Cox
This is the England you don’t see during the royal “smile and wave all proper-like” roundabouts .

So what does it mean to police this neighborhood? Well, you get gangs, first and foremost. Cops love gangs. They devote us a nice, easily-defined foe, and they wear color-coded clothes for your convenience. Good old “us versus them, ” right? Nonsense. I’ve taken its participation in “rowdy bus, ” where we go about in groups and set hands in their pockets. For the most proportion, it aims up good-natured.

Once, in the middle of the swine influenza crisis, I was full of the cold and sneezed mid-search. The gang member whose pockets I was delving for medications and weapons giggled to himself and made a swine flu gag. I joined in the laughters, until one of his compatriots loudly proclaimed he didn’t get onto( he didn’t know that swine and swine are the same thing ). That defined the entire gang off, and we spent a happy few minutes ripping the piss out of him. Next time I insured them, it was all smiles and jokes.

Ronaldccwong/ Wiki Commons
Getting roasted is better than getting shot .

By contrast, a mate once stopped an elderly geezer, mostly to pass the time of day. He asked what the old-timer had in his shopping bag, merely to be greeted with the severed head of the old boy’s wife of 60 years. That set him off his breakfast.

I hastens to add that it’s not that every gang member is a jocular scamp, scrumping apples and whatever tiffin is.[ Ed. note: We have no notion what any of those words mean. We presume they only make sense to British people .] I was involved in the 2011 riots, and more than one occasion in Gilpin Square, or a Friday night in Shoreditch, has considered me outnumbered 200 or 300 to one, praying that the uniform and a good, commanding voice will keep them from realizing the odds. I attained it, so I guess I did something right.

Raymond Yau/ Wiki Commons
Still no firearms — this being the worst possible time to see if you’re any good at use one .

One colleague, who has now left the job, was intentionally driven into by a bandit car lately stolen by means of burglary. She made it, but it was one of the more serious injuries, because a automobile was utilized, so it required a significant stay in hospital. She was, as is right and proper, visited by senior staff. As it was, she was out of her gourd on morphine, and greeted the commander of the North East Cluster by pulling up her hospital garment and offering to show him her gash. The commander didn’t visit Hackney so much after that.


Our Training Is More Philosophical Than Tactical

Elliot Moore/ Wiki Commons

So how does it work? Unlike the U.S. model of law enforcement, we have a thing we call Policing By Consent, based on the principles of a chap called Sir Robert Peel, who came up with the Metropolitan Police in 1829. It states that constables are citizens in uniform “who are paid to give full-time attention to obligations which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.” It’s been the general principles for close to 200 years, and if I had my route, any copper over the rank of inspector would be forcibly tattooed with Peel’s Nine Principles of Policing, only to remind them.

Henry William Pickersgill
However you say “Don’t be a dick” in old-timey slang, this guy said it first, and best .

I appreciate that, to U.S. coppers who are issued more guns than cameras, this approach likely sounds like the kind of woolly pinko nonsense that they’d expect from us tea-sipping dandies. And to be fair, it does make a lot more sense for every officer to be armed in the U.S ., since so many citizens are armed in the U.S. London, as a whole, had 114 murders and 1,662 firearm crimes last year, in its own population of 8. 63 million. It’s not even fair to compare.

In London, constables are encouraged to live in their boroughs where possible and to see themselves as part of the community, which is a good idea philosophically, but can have its consequences. For instance, two Essex officers decided to execute a warrant on a gang of importers on Christmas Eve and tore apart every single present under the tree, only to let them know who’s boss. They got followed home, and the lead detective’s home was burned down.

Littal/ iStock
“And what have we learned? “
“Be coppers , not Krampus.”

On the other hand, I was hopping the develop home the working day when a hand like a ham hock-joint landed on my shoulder with a heavily-accented grunt of “DC Clark. Do you remember me? ” In my line of work, this does not assist digestion, I assure you. I turned to meet the largest glob of Polish builder you have ever seen. Turned out I had investigated and charged him for assaulting his wife. He had spent three weeks in prison. Honestly believed I was going to die. He shook my hand and thanked me for getting him away from “that hateful bitch.” Never have I been so glad I was decent to person during interview. Oh yeah, we have interviews instead of interrogations. We’re not even allowed to lie to the suspect about the evidence we have.

KatarzynaBialasiewicz/ iStock
Truth, Justice, and the British Way .

That said, when there’s power to be had, there’s always going to be someone abusing it. Britain has had its issues such as race and racist policemen over the years. The ‘8 0s and ‘9 0s were a time of under-supervised police with a proclivity for violence, and what were known as sus laws. These meant that an officer could arrest if he had the suspicion that a person had committed an offense. A astonishingly high number of those falling under suspicion were black. In the end, the whole nick was demolished and rebuilt to try to rid the area of the stain of abuse of force. This was all long before I joined, but it was never too far away from our minds.

West Indian/ African Association
America has its own version of sus, sadly called “everyday life.”

And when it comes to crowd control and the containment of protests, lawful and otherwise, the Met has a fairly checkered history. Kettling was a perfectly accepted practice of maintaining protesters trapped in one place without food, water, lavatories, etc ., and was an arrow in the public order quivering until the sheer weight of legal challenges attained it politically untenable. It was ruled lawful in 2012, but you’ll not catch many public order commanders recommending it as a tactical option these days.


So What Equipment And Tactics Can We Use ?

Serge_Bertasius/ iStock

If we’re walking the streets without the safety blanket of a trusty firearm, surely we must have a plethora of tactical policy options and the kind of training Chuck Norris dreams of, right? Oh, you optimistic spirit. When I joined, police “academy, ” such as it was, was 16 weeks residential training at Hendon, another London borough. The poor sods starting now don’t even get that. Of those 16 weeks, we spent probably three days in total on Officer Safety Training. This was our introduction to our weapons of war — namely, an extendable metal stick called an asp and a tin of aggressive hairspray laughably worded CS as if it’s tear gas, despite it being a four-percent solution. In the States, you might recognize these as the self-defense options of a lady on her way to the country club if, and only if, the. 38 ruined the line of her handbag. That was what I was issued to police the streets of the capital city.

Dep. Garcia/ Wiki Commons
Barely a step above Taco Bell sauce in a spraying bottle .

The training was designed to teach us how to disarm suspects wielding knives, handguns, and foul language. Some of it might have been effective, if enough time was given to really hammer home the muscle memory and make it second nature. We were given a one-day refresher every six months. I think I went two years between sessions during the riots. Oddly, I didn’t will vary depending on the training that often.

The one lesson that everyone who ever became a half-decent copper did take on board was that the most important piece of officer security equipment we ever had was talk. Every single lesson hammered home deescalation and Betari’s Box, which looks more like something your hippie friend would share on Facebook than police policy 😛 TAGEND

Suffolk County Council

And all this, rather than guns and tasers, are the most common tools London police have to persuade a six-foot glob of psychotic indignation that what he truly wants is to put down the lamp post and sleep it off.

Do we want firearms? If given the option of carrying a firearm on patrol, most London cops would refuse emphatically. The last survey I recall had only 22 percentage of the rank-and-file wanting a gun[ a study in 2006 demonstrated 82 percentage of police federation members did not want policemen armed ], and my own personal reply was always a firm “No thanks.” I spent some time in the Army, so I’m no stranger to guns, but I’ve simply never needed the option of one, and most of my former colleagues feel the same way.

Kingston Police
All that free time not being spent on a handgun scope leads to learning way cooler skills, anyway .

Don’t get me wrong — it was a reasonably common topic of dialogue, and there were always young and new-in-service gung-ho kinds who thought we needed handguns. They are usually the exact various kinds of people you don’t wishes to guns. I remember a grizzled old sweat listening to a young pup talking about how we all should be issued with Glocks at once. His only response was a long draw on a roll-up and the damning proclamation: “Son , no sensible approved firearms officer would trust you with fucking string, let alone a shooter.” So that was that for his dreaming of Hot Fuzz .

But for the most part, we’d quite like everyone to have a taser. The only situations we could all agree on for routine arming of all constables was rock-solid intelligence of a Mumbai-style atrocity. Mind you, crooks firing on coppers are a vanishing rarity, which probably sways our opinion some. Basically, it comes down to the fact that our conflicts so very rarely involve firearms that we simply don’t needed here. If I knew every drunk or crackhead I stopped to search had a disguised carry, I would be the first in the queue at the armorers.


What Does A Confrontation Look Like For Unarmed Law Enforcers ?

Metropolitan Police

Cops in the UK are held accountable for each and every action. At least half of every OST training session was devoted to legislation and law encompassing police powers and use of force. If I got my asp out and waved it in a threatening manner to make person behave, I had used force and had damn well better write some notes to justify it. I never got to use a taser, which is a damn dishonor, because they’re smashing fun. But if I described one from its holster , notes. If I pointed it — colloquially known as red-dotting — best believe I’d be writing notes. Fire the dratted thing, or use the CS, and the notes might go to eight pages.

Tomasz Iwaniec/ Flickr
Instance: This human will take longer to finish his notes than George R.R. Martin will take to finish A Song Of Ice And Fire .

So talking it out saves us some note-writing. Oh, and it saves lives, too. There’s no such thing as a “typical” confrontation, but here’s an example of one that’s representative. Back when I was on the street, I was in a panda — that’s a non-response vehicle, so no flashy illuminations. I was partnered with a colleague I’ll call Tom, who’s since left the job as well. Spot the theme.

We were going to what’s called a welfare check, meaning someone might be in a bit of difficulty and someone else wants the police to come make sure everything’s all right. These are never too much of a risk, except when they are. We weren’t more than a few minutes away, and so got there first. Tom and I walked up on a six-foot-plus guy, clearly agitated, who was watching children play football in the park as my radio chirped up with things like, “carries weapons, ” “very anti-police, ” “mental-health issues, ” and my own personal favorite, “took six officers to restrain him last time out.”

David Monniaux/ Wiki Commons
It’s like rallying the forces to take down Godzilla, merely not quite so easy .

Now, I’m 5-foot-8 in good shoes and 14 stone of mostly kebab and Guinness. The nearest division would take at least eight minutes to get to us, which is rather a long time when someone’s eating your face. This is a good time to mention that I was puppy-walking Tom, teaching him how to be a good copper, because he was pretty new. Despite backup being a routes out, retreating was not an option because the subject was so close to the children. If you can’t run big, you have to go subtle, and that was the approach I took. I put my hands in my pocket and sauntered over, calling his name. As soon as he saw the uniforms, he immediately ran from zero to 60. The chap, and I could see now he wasn’t much over 18, fell his trousers to the floor and started shouting.

Steve Punter/ Wiki Commons
For those maintaining rating: angry violent man , no pants, children nearby. And still no guns . The conversation went something like this 😛 TAGEND Him : Well go on, fucking search me, then! I know you want to. Me : Not actually, squire. I was pretty much hoping not to have to take my hands out of my pockets today. Him : You wot? Me : You got anything naughty on you? Him : Fucking search me, fed. Find out. Me : Nah, your word’s good enough for me. Got some folks here worried about you, John. Him : Ain’t you going to cuff me up? Me : Hadn’t planned to. You want to do anything that’ll require cuffing? Him : No. Me : Well then. All resolved. Let’s get you to a hospital, shall we? Jorge Royan/ Wiki Commons
Charlie wouldn’t confirm or deny whether they stopped for tea first .

And basically, that was that. No handcuffs , no shouting, and, most critically , no gun. John get therapy at the local mental health wing and was fine until the next time he went off his meds. Of course, I found out that the next time, policemen listened too closely to their radios and went big early. John transgressed one of their arms and bit a thumb virtually clean off.


So What Happens When Person Does Have A Gun ?

West Midlands Police

I’m luck enough not to have had a firearm pointed at me during my time in the police. I was shot at once in Glasgow before I joined up, but that’s another story.

I’ve known a few friends who’ve been fired on by suspects, and on every single occasion, the shooter was brought in alive and very unhappy with his decision. One silly son decided to evaded a search by shooting at Task Force, our plainclothes cars. He fled the scene, and both he and his mates were collared by the deeply disgruntled Task Force boys. The shooter was in custody 16 hours later, and I, being a freshly-minted probationer at the time, was given the job of guarding him. One of the officers he had shot at dropped by, and they had the kind of chat you’d expect from two geezers in the pub. I only found out later that less than a day ago, one had tried to kill the other.

william8 7/ iStock
It’s an unwritten rule that whoever threatens the life of another has to buy all the rounds .

When we have intelligence that a handgun is in play, we call in Trojan, the Met’s armed answer divisions. These boys and girls are incredibly well-trained with a firearm. Not so much with a pen, but that’s just carping[ complaining ]. Trojan comprises 5,647 approved firearms officers in the UK, with 2,800 of them in London alone. If the wheels do come off, they are exactly the people you want coming over the hill. Footage from the Lee Rigby murder shows how fast and how certain they are in a phenomenally challenging situation. For those who can’t ensure the video( and if you are able, I apologize profusely, as do all Brits, for Piers Morgan ): Trojan arrive at speed, take down both targets, and go straight to lifesaving first be used to help less than six seconds. Both killers survived to stand trial and be jailed for life.

I would take a small handful of highly-trained professionals over giving every copper a Glock and a few days training any day of the week. This system works for us, but it’s hard to imagine the Trojan vehicles ever slowing down if they were working in a country where any devoted citizens could be armed to the teeth.


We Don’t Need Guns Because The Community We Police Doesn’t Have Guns

Metropolitan Police

On occasion, there is an actual shooting, and then we have a bit more to do. But the active shooters and the mass shootings are so vanishingly rare as to be negligible. This is, I believe, wholly due to the fact that the UK had the tragedy of the Dunblane shooting, in which an unhinged shooter killed 16 “childrens and” one adult. Almost immediately, we banned all handguns in private hands and severely limited marketings, utilize, and carry. That was 20 years ago, and there hasn’t been a mass shooting since. Of course, this means our Olympic performance in the shooting events has suffered, but, do you know, I’m willing to pay that price.

PaddyBriggs/ Wiki Commons

Have I been injured? Sure, a few days. Nothing that left me with more than a few stitches or a bit of a concussion, though. Nearly get tipped over a seventh-story balcony once when our area car driver baited a very excitable chap who, as we found out, didn’t have a sense of humor.

But the vast majority of injuries on duty are from fists, feet, impacts with pavement, and, very occasionally, knives and improvised weapons. There is a certain dark pleasure in having a tussle for street police. Since no one is going to get shot, both cop and criminal can get into a good, healthy oppose, and a hell of a lot of these will not get reported as assault on police( there’s no specific crime called “resisting arrest” here ).

Terence Bunch
“You are hereby charged with first-degree hittin’-like-a-wanker.”

I love the job and think I always will, and I love the fact that I never strapped on a gun and never had to stimulate that kind of decision in the hot of the moment. Guns construct every decision binary — shoot or don’t shoot. They leave no room for doubt or other options, other points of view. Guns reduce very complicated decisions to the simplest of choices, and that is something I am eternally glad I didn’t have to be a part of.

Charley left the Met to become a novelist, and wiffles improbable nonsense on Twitter and blogs with significantly less restraint, far more profanity, and whips upon whips of British slang on police and policing at Encroaching He occasionally misses shouting at large violent humen, but a stiff drinking usually attains that feeling go away . Have a narrative to share with Cracked? Email us here . Zoroastrianism used to be one of the biggest religions in the world, but their idea of heaven had a slight spin on it: To get there you’d have to cross a bridge, sometimes rickety, sometimes broad and sturdy. If you fell off, you’d go to the House of Lies for eternity. Fun! Not scaring at all! This month, Jack, Dan, and Michael, along with comedians Casey Jane Ellison and Ramin Nazer discuss their favorite afterlife scenarios from movies, sci-fi, and lesser-known religions. Get your tickets here, and we’ll see you on the other side of the bridge ! For more insider views, check out 5 Things I Learned As A Cop( That Movies Won’t Show You ) and 5 Insane Things I Did As A Cop( They Don’t Show On TV ) . Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out Why No Cop Show On TV Is Accurate( Yes, Even ‘The Wire’ ), and other videos you won’t insure on the site !

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