Tuesday 4 September 2012

Coppers' Choppers

It is not a pleasant experience to be woken from a deep sleep at 1 in the morning by the appalling din of a helicopter, so loud and so close it seems to be about to attempt a soft landing on your bed. It's even less pleasant when you're trying to sleep off a 'cold', as I was last night. Almost certainly it was the police again - the chopper seemed to be roving around quite a lot, as if following something going on down below, among us mere ground-dwelling citizens. But, for ten minutes and more, it kept coming back my way, before eventually moving away to wake the sleeping population elsewhere.
  This is becoming an increasingly frequent nuisance, by day and night - and it's not as if I live in South Central LA. It seems those coppers just love getting their choppers out. No doubt there are good reasons for this phenomenally expensive and intrusive aerial activity, but I can't help suspecting that there's an element of macho thrills-and-spills enjoyment about it - I mean, it must be pretty exciting to get up there, whizzing around, using all that high-tech kit, chasing the crims from above, just as they do in the endless emergency services documentaries on the telly. It sure beats patrolling the streets on foot (the thought!) or sitting around in a panda car. It also, like so many recent developments in policing, sets the force apart from - indeed, literally, above - the citizenry it is supposed to be serving. It seems to me that our police forces, back when I was young, were much more firmly part of the community, much less a specialised elite operating mostly apart from it. It's certainly been noticeable how far the police's stock has fallen with the law-abiding middle (and upward) classes in recent decades. Being woken up in the middle of the night by their helicopters can't have helped.


  1. I live in a city just a little south of your spiritual home in Wirksworth, Mr Nigeness. It's a large town really - hardly the Bronx. There were a few broken windows during the urban riots of last year but social criminality here has always been a little half-hearted. Example: as he approached his car a few years ago, a teacher friend of ours was confronted by a youth with a gun who demanded he hand over the keys. It was the end of a long day of pupil insubordination and my friend had had, as he reported later, just about all he could take. 'No, I bloody won't,' he said. The gangsta blinked a bit. He repeated the instruction, a little uncertainly, and when he was again refused, cut his losses and ran off. I think he might have even thrown away the gun (later revealed to be a toy, of course) as he scarpered. But when the crime was reported a few minutes later, the full monty of high-tech policing swung into action, including noisy helicopters. You might have thought our friend’s effective dispatch of the mobster would have given some hint of the quality of criminal they were up against. I’m glad they got the lad (about 30 minutes later) but we all wondered whether a few bobbies in a panda car might not have done just as well. Given this context, it is infuriating that the night-time helicopter is a frequent interrupter of my sleep too. What are they doing up there? Mind you, apparently this city is a centre of terrorist planning in the UK. Perhaps that is something to do with it.

    We might not be the epicentre of hard-core thuggery, but what we do suffer from is the kind of dispiriting vandalism that besets urban life everywhere. Helicopters are no good at sorting that out.

  2. Well said, Mary.
    And another case in point - the time I saw an unfortunate chap getting his foot run over on a high-street pedestrian crossing. We helped him to a bench and someone rang 999, but instead of an ambulance - which might have been handy - a total of 13 coppers in several cars descended and set about closing the entire street to traffic. They then wasted my time and that of several other witnesses by taking statements in an attempt to identify the guilty driver - who was sitting in his car a few yards down the road. A shame the police can't be charged with wasting police time.

  3. In London Sud we are tormented almost daily by these pests - tho' some are, I understand, air ambulances - and, as you suggest Nige, the lingering feeling in these supposedly austere times is - are they really necessary? I looked it up about a year ago, and the capital cost is between £3M and £4M, and they cost (all up) about £1, 500.00 an hour to keep up there. Let's put it this way - they are not designed to make many friends, particularly at that time in the morning...

  4. I wonder when they'll be replaced by drones? I believe they are not as noisy.

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