Out on the town with Romford police teams that keep party-goers safe
- Credit: Archant
Sat in a police van, officers switch their gaze up and down Romford town centre watching for any disorder.
It’s Friday night and we are positioned next to Fiction nightclub in South Street waiting for the next argument or scuffle to start.
It’s all part of the weekly weekend operation to police one of London’s largest night time economies.
The night began at the station with an updated who’s who of criminals that may be found patrolling the streets.
Once the briefing is over, teams quickly finish off their final tea and biscuit, and head to the vans for the night’s first patrol.
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The first few hours pass by without major incident and teams are keen to visit bars and clubs and warn them of anything to look out for.
But after a quick sandwich break, a call on the radio rings out for backup on a serious incident and the van speeds towards South Street with the sirens ringing out.
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Officers gather their hats and hurtle out of the van one-by-one as we reach The World’s Inn bar.
The team quickly assist staff who have apprehended a male suspected of being in posession of Class A drugs and biting a doormen.
Pc Adam Williams is one of the officers on duty.
He said: “That scenario is second nature to us and something we have played out hundreds of times.
“As soon as we got here everyone knew what they were doing, one person got hold of his arms, one person took the legs and the last had the handcuffs ready.
“In a small team like this it’s important you have confidence in the next person doing the job they need to.”
Throughout the night it becomes clear that patience is a key attribute an officer requires as club-goers enjoy slipping in the odd smart remark.
Police can quite easily be subjected to ten public order offences in one night but it depends on an individual’s discretion whether they take it further.
Sgt Ian Bargus said: “Policing these streets is a constant balancing act and judging what a situation requires.
“In our job we are not just police officers, but doctors, babysitters, mental health workers and even marriage counsellors – we wear many hats in this job.”
The earlier arrest has meant two officers in the original team of six are still at the station.
It’s a common situation, which leads to front line officers being taken from the streets.
Sgt Bargus said: “You can never have enough officers as you always need to expect the unexpected in our job.
“One serious assault could mean a whole team is wiped out for the night – it’s no doubt the biggest challenge we face as a police force.”
After midnight officers re-appear wearing high-vis jackets to provide a more visible presence.
Sgt Steve Mangham admits the use can have opposite affect on people.
He said: “Some people are happy to see us as they can walk around feeling more safe and secure.
“But others see the jackets and they feel empowered, they might start something as they know someone will jump in and stop them.”
As night turns into day and late night revellers pour out of the last remaining club in South Street, officers split up in pairs to ensure people disperse as quickly as possible.
It’s another example of officers and door staff working together to prevent incidents flaring up.
Sgt Mangham said: “People may question why we line the streets in these numbers but it’s important we try and be as preventive as possible.
“If we weren’t here then little minor scuffles can bubble up and what could have been broken up might turn into a fight and end with us arriving to someone laid out on the floor and an officer having to arrest another for GBH.”