Police negotiations have failed. The potential for violence has escalated. London Metropolitan Police Constable Brian Davies, a well-trained and experienced officer, discharges his firearm and rescues the victim, but the aftermath of his action seems unending. A life was saved, but some in authority doubt the propriety of PC Davies’ response. Forensic findings appear to dispute his version of the events. While the victim seeks healing from her harrowing encounter, PC Davies finds himself at the mercy of the British judicial process. This moving and suspenseful novel builds on the trauma to recovery themes embedded in The Witness and The Mission.
THE METROPOLITAN POLICE SERVICE was created in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel, Home Secretary for Great Britain. The officers were therefore affectionately – and sometimes not so affectionately – called bobbies or peelers.
Peel introduced the concept of policing by consent, in which police officers were considered “citizens in uniform” and relied on public cooperation and approval to carry out their duties, one of which was to engage in the prevention of crime. Physical force was seen as a last resort, and even then, only the minimum amount necessary to achieve the objective and keep the public safe was recommended.
Although bobbies in the nineteenth century had firearms available to them, they patrolled routinely with only a truncheon for self-defence and apprehension of criminals. In the 1880s constables were permitted, although not required, to carry revolvers, called “comforters,” during night-time patrols. In the mid-1930s this permission was revoked. Revolvers were kept locked at the station unless a constable had good reason for having one.
The first unit of armed officers was formed in December 1966. Since that time, the firearms unit has been renamed and reorganised on several occasions, one of the most recent being in April 2005, when it became known as part of Central Operations or CO19. However, the MPS is still largely an unarmed force, with more than ninety percent of its officers never having handled a firearm and not wishing to do so.
Police officers who complete an initial firearms course but who do not carry a weapon in their day-to-day duties are called Authorised Firearms Officers (AFOs). They may be called out if an incident requires the assistance of a large number of officers.
Officers who pass the Armed Response Vehicle (ARV) course as well as an advanced firearms course are full-time firearms officers and the first to arrive on a crime scene. Each ARV carries a driver, an operator, and an observer. Officers may stop and search suspects, their vehicles, and their premises. They control and contain armed incidents and handle approximately one thousand calls per month.
If an enhanced firearms capability is needed, Specialist Firearms Officers (SFOs) are deployed. These individuals are abseil and shotgun trained and have graduated from the Specialist Firearms Officers course. They also serve on a full-time basis, conducting over fifty preplanned intelligence-led operations each month, including hostage rescue scenarios and response to chemical, biological, and nuclear threats. They are held to the highest standards of accuracy. SFOs are available round the clock.
All London Metropolitan Police firearms officers have extensive kit available to them. Two types of Kevlar body armour, digital encrypted radio with handset and microphone, chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) kit with two respirators. Amphibious kit. Personal abseil harness.
Flame retardant overalls, hooded Gore-tex jacket, blue nylon bomber jacket. Combat helmet, blue baseball cap or balaclava if identity needs protecting. Britton boots, personal sleeping bag, Gore-tex bivvy bag. Telescoping (expandable) baton. CS gas, a nonlethal component of tear gas. Pressure bandages. Plasticuffs.
Weapons include Heckler and Koch 9 mm single shot semi-automatic carbine rifle, H&K G36 assault rifle, 7.62 Styr sniper rifle, and Glock semiautomatic self-loading pistol. Tasers. Ammunition.
Officers train every six weeks: To maintain the level of authorisation and familiarity with the equipment. To identify weaknesses which can then be corrected. To develop patience. To generate alternatives, particularly deescalation. To learn what to say and how to say it so that commands are clear. To weigh cover versus concealment. To decide how and where to aim and when or if to fire. How to maintain focus and accuracy whether moving, standing still, or in a compromised position. How to prioritise when there is more than one target.
Scenario after scenario, in all sorts of weather, at all times of day, whether weary or wide awake, until movement is nearly instinctive. No hesitation. Nothing but rapid, seamless, decisive action. Feelings set aside. Only the cold hard facts of a mission determine the response.
On the Job thousands of calls and hundreds of operations take place, and rarely is a round released. Hence the endless planning and training. With the hope that their expertise will be unnecessary.
“What is character but the determination of incident?
What is incident but the illustration of character?”
~ Henry James
SERGEANT SIMON CASEY, a specialist firearms officer with London’s Metropolitan Police, frowned slightly when his mobile buzzed. His wife, Jenny, rarely rang him whilst he was on duty, knowing his phone was shut off during firearms operations. Today, however, no ops were scheduled for his team. He was in a briefing room at the Leman Street base reviewing tactics for an upcoming raid. He flipped the phone open, a question on his lips, but she was already speaking, and it didn’t sound as if she were speaking to him. He waited, saying nothing.
“ – still hurts.”
He frowned again. He could hear pain in her voice. Where was she? Was she all right?
“Why did you bring me here? I don’t know you.”
He heard a muffled scream.
“Why did you hit me? Don’t you want to help me? I need a doctor!”
Covering the receiver with one hand, he strode to the door of the briefing room, simultaneously signalling silence and gesturing for the man in the corridor, Police Constable Brian Davies, to join him. Casey set his mobile carefully on the desk and muted it whilst rummaging for a notebook. He didn’t want anyone on Jenny’s end to hear noises in the room nor did he want to have any difficulty in hearing her. He wrote, Jenny. Trouble. Need to record this.
“Please call an ambulance. I need medical help. My head hurts so much I can’t sit up.”
Severe head pain, Casey wrote.
Davies, a member of Casey’s firearms team, located a tape recorder, inserted a fresh tape, and pressed the Record button. A huge bear of a man, he towered over Casey even when seated next to him.
“That lamp is so bright. And could you speak softer?”
Sensitivity to light and noise.
Both men heard a gasp and a sputter, then retching.
“Stop moving! You’re making me dizzy.”
Her voice was difficult to hear, and the other individual – or individuals – couldn’t be heard at all.
“A thrilling romp through a legal and forensic cliff-hanger! A masterfully woven tale of law enforcement challenges, anti-police sentiment, courtroom justice, impacted families, motherhood, and grace. There’s more than one hostage in this book – each facing a momentous and uncertain outcome.”
Tom Gede, Attorney-at-Law, San Francisco, CA
“The hostage rescue description is really accurate. I’ve been on similar missions during my time in police service, and my heart rate actually went up as I read it. The post incident procedure is exactly what happens. These and other realistic scenarios add to the impact of the book. And the court scenes were the best I’ve read, gripping and yet humorous.”
Ian Chadwick, Specialist Firearms Officer (Retired), London Metropolitan Police
“An emotionally engaging novel! Brian is a superbly constructed character, and he functions — alongside of Jenny — as a compelling protagonist. I absolutely loved the diary entries of Elspeth. She bridges the past, present, and future in a very powerful way, and her story is wonderful and original. Finally the representation of miscarriage and infertility — rarely tackled in literature — was a great strength of this book.”
Anna Hall-Zieger, Professor, Creative Writing, Texas A&M University
“The story begins with a crime and then proceeds to highlight the effect it has on multiple characters. As the police procedure evolved, I actually felt a part of the plot. The characterisations — major and minor — and the technical details were all absolutely spot-on. Perfect! A fine ending to an engaging trilogy!”
Bill Tillbrook, Chief Superintendent (Retired), Commander, Specialist Firearms Command, London Metropolitan Police