Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Historical Perspective: On the Manchester Beat

Even though my online access has, up to now, been rather spotty, I took an interest in the Greater Manchester Police's recent project to tweet twenty-four hours worth of 999 calls. Transparency isn't just good to forestall corruption or isolation from the public's needs whenever possible - it's also a way to get an understanding on how things work from the other side, and how many people abuse systems set up for emergencies.

After the Second World War, my grandfather returned to his job as a police officer on what was then the Manchester City Police, and carried its badge - and that of the subsequent Manchester and Salford Police - until retiring in 1969. He wrote down some of his experiences in his memoir, Me by Me: Memoirs of a Nobody, which I've posted wartime extracts from before. Today, I thought I'd share some of his reminiscences of his time there.

Also, if anyone out there knows what a "HORTI" is, please leave me a comment. Google just gives me a bunch of stuff about gardening.

It was nice being on regular days, especially during the winter, though I thought that the night shift was the best to be on. When on the beat at night you were on your own with none of the stupid public to bother you, especially the members of the city council. Some of them thought they were the best things to have happened to the city, and the attitudes they adopted were at times unbelievable. Those from out of town weren't as bad, but at times even they were objectionable.

One day I was on the bank patrol. In front of each bank's entrance was a no-parking area, to facilitate the loading and unloading of bullion. From the top of the street, I saw that a car was parked in front of the Bank of England. I took my time going down, hoping that the person would move off, but he didn't and a bullion van was forced to double park.

As I neared the car, I saw that it was a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce. I asked the driver why he hadn't moved for the bullion van, and I pointed out the no-parking signs. He said that his boss had told him to park there whilst she went into a bank across the street. I told him that he was causing an obstruction, and pointed out the double parked bullion van that was loading cash.

While I was taking down the driver's particulars for a summons, this blarzy woman came and asked what was going on. I told her that I was reporting the driver for causing an unnecessary obstruction of the highway. She then tried to get on her high horse, but her attitude started to bug me. I told her to get into her car and wait until I had dealt with her driver, and then I would deal with her.

She raised her voice and told me that I shouldn't be talking to her like that, for she was the Mayor of Nantwich, and was chief magistrate there. Again, I asked her to get into the car and calm down. She then did the worst thing that she could have done - she threatened me.

She said that she would report me to my chief for having the audacity to treat a mayoral visitor the way I had done. I was losing my cool rather quickly.

"Madam," I said, "please get into your car and remain silent, or I shall have to arrest you and charge you with obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duty."

Those must have been the magic words, for she jumped into the back seat and sulked. When I had finished with the driver and told him that he was being reported, he smiled and said, "It's worth it to see her put in her place. She is always like that, a real snobby bitch."

I then opened the rear door of the car to speak to the woman. I asked her if she did order her driver to park there and wait for her. When she told me that she did, I asked her for her name and address and told her that she would be reported for aiding and abetting the commission of an offence. That made her mad, and she told me to get out of her car and told the driver to move out.

A few days later, I had the occasion to see the superintendent to explain some summons cases. When we came to this woman's, he had a story to tell.

"Oh, yes, this woman rang me up and told me that I had to withdraw the complaint," he said. "No outside person tells me how to run my division. The summons will go to court to be heard."

About a month later the case came up for hearing, and while the driver turned up she didn't. As the case involved a public figure, it was heard by the stipendiary magistrate. He found the cases proved and the driver was fined ten shillings, the maximum amount. In dealing with the woman, he had some words for me.

"I was pleased to see that the officer was not intimidated by this defendant," he said. "Being a public figure, she should have known better than to act as she did." She was fined five pounds, which was a good fine for such an offence. On the way out to the office, I met the driver as he went to pay his fine.

"You know, officer," he said to me, "she asked for what she got. She is always like that, a real bitch of a woman. I'm only glad that I just have her for the term of her office, as I am a town driver."

Les Parkinson with the band contest winner's trophy, 1966

Another deal I had with a motorist happened on Deansgate one Monday morning. Deansgate was one of Manchester's main thoroughfares, and no-parking regulations were in force along the whole of its length. This was necessary, as a lot of traffic used the road.

I was on the crossing at King Street West when I spotted a car being pushed outside the Times Furniture store. Shortly afterward, another car pulled up behind the first, and about twenty minutes later I was relieved by my patrolman. I went to the two cars, looked at them and then started writing in my book.

As I was doing this, I could feel eyes on me. Looking up, I saw a man at an upstairs window. He indicated that one of the cars was his, so I signalled him to come down. It took him about fifteen minutes to come to me.

I asked him if he had put the car there, and he said yes. I then asked him for his driving licence and certificate of insurance, as I was reporting him for parking in a No Waiting area. He then told me that I was wasting my time, and that got my back up.

As I was talking to the man the second driver came down, so I told him to wait for me to deal with him. I again asked the first man for his licence and certificate, and this time he said he didn't have them with him. A driver didn't have to carry these documents with him, but when asked to produce them he could do so at any police station in Great Britain.

To facilitate this, the officer would issue a HORTI form to the driver, and he would take it with his documents to a nearby station. Meanwhile, the officer would send another HORTI to that station, upon which was recorded the details of the documents provided by the driver, which had to be done within five days.

I made out a HORTI and gave it to the driver. He laughed, and as he tore the form up he told me that I was wasting my time, since his friend the superintendent would fix things for him. With that he drove away, leaving the torn pieces of the HORTI on the pavement.

I then turned my attention to the second driver, and his character was just the opposite. In fact, he told me that the first fellow openly boasted that he had never received a summons in the city, because his friend was the divisional superintendent. He said that the fellow had already received three summons for parking, and he would continue to park behind the untouchable's car until he went to court. I told the man that I would take him to court and, if he wished, I would show him as a witness against the untouchable.

"You get him to court," he said, "and I'll give you what I get fined, plus the amount of the fine." I submitted summons reports for both men later that day.

A few days later I had to go on the usual summons parade in the boss's office. I explained the No Waiting offence and the second offence of depositing litter on the pavement - the torn-up HORTI - and pointed out the identity of the witness. I could see the boss was not happy with what I was asking, so I told him that I didn't think it right for a member of the public to make it known that my superintendent was protecting a lawbreaker.

"All right," he said, "you can have your summons," but he wasn't happy about it. Later that week I went to interview the man to ascertain why he had not produced his licence and certificate, and I told him that a third offence would be held against him.

About a month later, the case finally came up in court. The witness turned up but the untouchable didn't. Instead he sent a letter that contained many excuses. He was ultimately fined two pounds for parking, two pounds for littering and five pounds for not producing his documents, and he had to pay the witness ten shillings in witness fees besides. The witness was in turn fined two pounds for his parking offence.

After the fines were paid by the witness, he told me that I was the best bobby on the force and offered me some money. He said that he was fulfilling his promise to give me the amount of the fines. I pointed out that my taking the gift could be construed as a bribe, and that if he insisted on giving the money he could put it in the poor box on the counter. So, in front of one of the clerks, he placed about ten pounds in the poor box, and everybody was happy.

Later on, the untouchable person became touchable and, because of the number of summons he later received, he moved his office to Salford. He was no loss.

Past Perspectives:

1 comment:

  1. HORTI is actually HORT/1, Home Office Road Traffic form 1.

    Bow down before the awesome might of my Google-fu!