Monday, February 04, 2008

Targets to nowhere

There's a whole lot of target related pressure in the job at the moment, because we're coming to the end of the financial year.

This has resulted in a deluge of emails regarding attachments to various squads who have been given a bucket load of public cash by superintendents worried about their private performance bonuses, and who now need extra pairs of hands to grab every single last piece of performance indicator pie before March 31st. It isn't just happening round here either.

I treat these pleas with the disregard they deserve, and carry on each day dealing with each job as it comes. This won't have hit any performance indicators for Dorset. Neither will this for North Wales.

Neither did this job.

Alfie (obviously not his real name, but it suits him) is a teenager, and if you know what I mean looks and sounds like one. He is scrawny, has the short spiked hair with every strand gelled in just the right place, the chunky necklace, that immensely annoying london-mockney-ali G inspired (or inspiring) "accent" and a colourful use of language. He'd be the kind of kid that would be your first suspect if you found a recently tagged wall or bus window.

Except that Alfie is the only one trying to keep his family together. Dad has had enough. When it happens he turns the tv up and has another beer. He sits on the sofa staring blankly, his mind wandering back to good times, better times, any time but the present. Younger brother Carl is dealing with it in a different way. He's angry. He's controlled enough not to show it while we're around, but I can tell straight away.

Every once in a while, mum has a turn. The eldest child, the only daughter, died last year in miserable drug related circumstances and she simply can't deal with it. Most of the time she's ok and copes but every so often another little bit snaps and she loses it. This time, she lost it bad enough the ambulance guys refused to go in until we got there.

She's inside in a scarlet dressing gown. She sees us and is a shrill shrieking woman, ranting that we haven't washed our hands, and refuses to speak to us until we do. I note the broken bits of ornament missed in the quick clean up undertaken before our arrival.

An overweight labrador dog pads around wagging incessantly at all the new people in the house.

Dad is not being helpful. He tells her to shut up, daft woman, and tells me she's gone a bit mad. Really. I suggest dad goes outside for a fag and a chat with a colleague. He seems glad of the opportunity and is off.

Mum needs to go down the hospital. Its no guarantee she'll get the right help and a weekend night is not the best time to go down hoping to see a psychiatric specialist, but she can't stay here. Even an outpatient appointment would be a start.

I try talking to her but get nowhere fast, getting sworn at at full volume. Alfie starts pleading with her. I step outside the room. I'm no use, I'm just antagonising her. I hear the conversation played out at full, shouted volume.

"Please mum, she's dead. You've got me and Carl now, you gotta think about us".

After a while that feels like an eternity Alfie comes out. She'll go down the hospital. Alfie's eyes are wet but he's still holding it together. I radio my colleague to let him know, and advise him to keep himself and dad out of the way. I don't want the sight of our uniform or a comment from Dad to upend all this.

I see Alfie in the bedroom, putting some of Mum's stuff hurriedly in a bag. He's lost it now, tears flowing down cheeks as he puts various pink things in a pink holdall. What do you say to a kid barely in the second half of his teens who's the only one trying to stop his family disintegrating even more?

I kind of grab his shoulder as he goes between dresser and bed. I tell him he's doing a great job, a f###ing great job. It feels completely pathetic.

Alfie pauses, looks up.

"Thanks officer."

He manages a sort of smile before returning to packing mum's things into a pink holdall, shooing the ever curious hound out of the way.

I dart out and hide the police car round the corner. After an age Alfie appears, coaxing mum out with an arm around her shoulder. She gets into the ambulance and has second thoughts, and Alfie again goes through the shouting match. Alfie wins again, kind of by default as I hint unsubtly at the ambulance man to drive off as everyone who needs to be is in the back of the ambulance already.

We trundle down to Suburbiaville hospital behind the ambulance. By the time we get there, Mum has changed. She's calm now, laughing and joking with the crew. I don't know if they gave her anything!

There's nothing left for us to do now, and the usual weekend night nonsense is building up on the radio. Alfie comes over and shakes our hands. I tell him best of luck. He'll need it.