This is the third in a series of posts by our participants from the 2015 Police Now cohort where they have written about their experiences since graduating from the Police Now Summer Academy. PC Mark McKay is the Dedicated Ward Officer for Camberwell Green in Southwark, South London.
It was still dark as we exited the police van down a side road in Camberwell, South London. The outline of the officers in front of me were just visible as they hugged the looming shadow cast by the block of high-rise flats on our left. One officer, key in hand, opened the fire door into the block and we made our way inside. My Sergeant, with an enforcer in hand, stood before the flat’s green door immediately on our right. It was the same door we’d seen minutes earlier during the operation briefing. Dents and chips betrayed previous early-morning police visits. There was soon to be another.
The Sergeant drew the solid steel enforcer back and, in one fell swoop, brought it crashing down on the door. It collapsed inwards and we poured through the gap to shouts of ‘police’ and ‘stay where you are’. In that moment we had delivered every drug dealer’s nightmare – the dreaded ‘six o’clock knock’.
The first officer went in to the kitchen. ‘Clear’ he shouted. As the second officer in I followed the corridor into the living room. I fumbled for my torch in the darkness while two of my colleagues put a man and woman in handcuffs – they didn’t resist. More officers flooded in and the words ‘room clear’ echoed throughout the flat. On the lounge coffee table were syringes and equipment used to cook-up heroin – the intelligence was good.
But the story really started weeks before that damp and misty morning in Southwark. The operation was the culmination of weeks of gathering intelligence to present to magistrates who only granted the warrant after I gave evidence in court. People say hope for the best but plan for the worst. As the officer responsible for planning the warrant and its execution it sounded like a fitting maxim as I organised what would be my first drugs raid.
With colleagues I developed a tactical plan, gathered colleagues to join me, booked a specialist ‘method-of-entry’ team and made a (soon to be enacted) contingency plan in case they cancelled at the last minute. For the operation we needed 11 officers, including at least two female colleagues as one of the occupants was a woman known to conceal drugs. Reports on previous warrants executed at the address said a rear bedroom window had provided an easy escape route so I didn’t want to take any chances. If any tried to make it out this time they’d jump into the arms of my waiting colleagues. Beforehand I had visited the estate to gather information for the briefing. I also managed to obtain a copy of the floor plan as part of the planning for the operation.
At times it would be fair to say I felt a bit out of my depth. After all, I had been attested into the police just over two months before. Thanks to Police Now and the Metropolitan Police Service I’d had first-class guidance from frontline officers who delivered an incredibly intensive foundation police training programme. During our training they had told us we were part of the global top one per cent, and as such ‘to whom much had been given, much was expected’. I certainly felt the weight of expectation on my shoulders in the days before the operation. If things went wrong, it was on me. The training gave me the tools I needed to get a start as an effective and pro-active frontline officer. Perhaps more importantly, it gave me the belief I could put the theory into practice. Now I’ve settled in and my first warrant is behind me I’m confident to say that the ‘six o’clock knock’ will be coming to more doors on my ward soon.