A couple of months before the end of my probation I was posted to Alvechurch as a rural beat bobby. I was as pleased as punch, and took it as a compliment that someone so young in service and female was being trusted to work alone with limited supervision. Rural beat hours of duty were from 8am to 12 midnight. I have very fond memories of working that beat. The 1.3 Austin Metro instead of the 1 litre as I covered 72 square miles. I was told that Alvechurch was the second largest village in the country but have since read others making the same claim. In fairness quite a bit of that area was fields. I found myself dealing with a whole new array of calls from the public, like, dogs worrying sheep, dog shot dead after worrying sheep, drink driving, firearms and shotgun licences, cows loose on the road (or horses, chickens, sheep etc.), absconders from the youth remand centre hidden away in the countryside and sadly with country lanes and de-restricted roads serious and fatal injury RTA's (Road Traffic Accidents, now more correctly defined as road traffic collisions). I had a blue Burndept personal radio and a VHS force radio in the car. To be fair there were plenty of places the personal radio didn't work, called black spots. Even at the rural office it was necessary to stand outside in the front garden on the manhole cover to get any sort of signal.
As well as Alvechurch I also covered the rural village of Hopwood. I remember having to pay a lot attention to Pestilence Lane, as it was a favourite dumping and torching place for stolen cars. I was told that Pestilence Lane, is reputed to be so named because victims of the Black Death were buried in the area. The story was taken very seriously when the M42 motorway was being planned as it cut through the lane into two. Test pits were dug and the samples were checked for traces of contagious diseases. None were found to be present throwing some doubt on the story.
My luckiest ever arrest has to be hearing a far away house alarm. The area did suffer from dwelling house burglaries as it was a very affluent area in places, like Rowney Green village. I parked up in a farm field gate way, when two men, complete with jemmy and jewellery ran straight towards me having got disorientated in the darkness and having seen my brake lights come on. Taking that as a signal they jump the fence into my eagerly awaiting arms. The real get-away car (an Austin Allegro) was parked at the next field gate way. I handcuffed my two burglars and took them into custody. They say an operational copper will catch a burglar in the act approximately every seven years, I had three years service and so ahead of the game. I had been giving two officers a lift back to Redditch at the time but was not going to ignore a house alarm on my patch. I did have to share the accolade though but it was my collar number that went down as arresting officer.
My first real moral test came shortly afterwards. I was called to a car that had been driven onto the rockery at the front of a house. On arrival, indeed there was a car perched precariously on the rock garden. The driver was identified to me by the occupant of the house, who I recognised as a local solicitor. All drivers of RTA's are breathalysed for alcohol. The female driver was really quite obviously inebriated. She was taken to the back of my panda car where I started to assemble the alcoholmeter. At this point the lady announced she was also a police officer in a neighbouring force and suggested this should be ignored. This was one of those dilemmas’s you just know one day you will be faced with at some point during your service. Do you help out a colleague, which was considered the right thing to do by the longer serving officers or do you just carry on with your job. That woman probably never forgave me for taking her to the police station for an evidential breath test that came back over the legal limit. I am not sure if she lost her job or not. Disciplinary panels on the subject of drink driving were a little foggy and depended on all the circumstances. I did feel bad for her and what the consequences of my actions would be but no different to anyone else I breathalysed. However I had been called to deal with an incident and when I took the solemn oath to be sworn in as a constable I actually meant what I said. I meant that I would serve the Queen, enforce laws, protect people and property without fear or favour, malice or ill will.
What was the very rewarding part of a rural beat was the continuity you had with jobs and the people involved. You got to know the publicans, the shop keepers, the troubled families and where to be at the right time to be most effective. For example, I did the school crossing patrol when the school crossing lady was off sick, so I got to see and speak to a lot of the children and parents. I was at the park late evenings to try and prevent the noise, minor damage and disturbance calls. It was all very like Juliet Bravo where you had the time to deal with incident right through to a conclusion and the continuity was there. I felt responsible for my area and everything that happened in it.
There are two low points for me. The rape of a young girl who I already knew, at the railway station where the offender was never identified and the death of a pensioner. I was called to a house fire which was only round the corner from the police house. I was first there out of the three emergency services as the Fire Brigade and Ambulance were coming from the nearest town, Redditch. I entered the house went upstairs and found a lady on a smouldering mattress. Smoke had been billowing out of her bedroom window. She had apparently fallen asleep smoking a cigarette in bed. With the help of the firemen we managed to get her out of the bed and downstairs. Her back was severely burnt through. The lady was not breathing so I gave her four quick breaths. The ambulance crew arrived and were unable to find a pulse so I started heart compressions. The ambulance crew asked if I would continue in the back of the ambulance to the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch. Keeping up heart compressions is exhausting. I had tried my very best and although her burns were extensive on her back and had no signs of life on arrival I felt sad that I was unable to have a successful resuscitation. I had an almighty bruise on the back of my hand from the effort. I was not in a situation again where I needed to render first aid until the Ambulance strike in 1989/1990. At Redditch Police station the army sent drivers and medics and we were police escorts, called tonto’s by our military colleagues. We also had a police transit van decked out with a green canvas stretcher, a blanket and basic first aid box. This was used once the military ambulances were all committed to jobs. We had no deaths that I can recall but that had to be more to do with luck than judgement. The army ambulances were painfully slow and ungainly on the road.
I did support the ambulance crews and gave to my Ambulance colleagues bucket collections outside the Kingfisher shopping centre, a decent amount from the overtime paid to me to cover the strike.