Earlier this week, British cops were being a bunch of kill-joys once again – calling for an end to our right to top up on tinnies at all hours of the night. This came after a study found that three quarters of police officers have been injured whilst handling alcohol-related crime. According to the survey, 53 percent of all police time is spent dealing with booze-related incidents. The majority of police (68 percent) blame 24-hour alcohol licensing, which was introduced in 2005, for causing alcohol-related crime. We asked a serving cop to tell us what it's like dealing with pissed-up idiots, and how drunk people affect his job. This is what he said:
If I'm on duty on a Friday night, I might be doing the half-night shift. That starts at 5PM, and goes on until about 4AM. In the old days, only the first half of the night would have been busy, but things go on so much later now. There will be so many spikes in the night – when the pubs start kicking people out, when people are queuing to get into clubs, when the clubs start kicking people out – there are so many potential flashpoints.
The trouble always starts around the kicking out times, when all the drunk people come out into the fresh air at the same time. You have the people waiting in queues for taxis, or they're at the kebab shop, and that's a tense moment.
It sounds trivial, but kebab shops or taxi queues can start major disorder.
You have 50 people trying to get into a small kebab shop, and there's limited space. Someone will order a burger, and they'll get served before someone who's already ordered their kebab or whatever, and that's enough. Literally, someone getting served ahead of somebody in a fast food shop is a very common reason for fights to start. That, or someone jumping in front of someone in a taxi queue. You can end up with a full-on brawl in the street, over a kebab.
Policing 24-hour licensing is a numbers game, and we don't have the numbers. We'll be in the town centre on a Friday night, and there are only a few of us officers, and you can be faced with 30 or 40 people mass-fighting. That's when it gets scary, because we know we don't have the capacity to get control of the situation and restore order, because we're hopelessly outnumbered.
Politicians promised this café-culture but all they've done is create binge-drinking problems. And those people with dependency issues, mental health factors, depression, the people who look to alcohol to cope with everyday life – well, what about them? There are shops near me where you can buy a litre of cider cheaper than you can buy a litre of mineral water.
You get punched a lot in our game. It's always around the end of the month, when people have been paid and they have more money for alcohol. I probably get assaulted at least once a month – that varies from being kicked or someone starting on you, to being collateral damage in a battle between other people.
About ten years ago, when I'd just started, I got my front two teeth knocked out. I was trying to break up a drunken fight, and this guy just swung at me. I had to go to the hospital to have the shattered parts of my teeth removed, because the dentist couldn't get them out. That's not actually that bad as injuries go, all things considered. It wasn't pleasant, mind.
Most of my colleagues – male and female – will have been punched, scratched, hit. Being spat at is quite common, actually. Women love spitting for some reason. I don't know where the spitting thing has come from, but it's become really common in the last few years.
I've definitely noticed more women fighting in the last ten years. You wonder if it's the way the alcohol industry markets to women – smaller bottles and fruity drinks that don't taste that alcoholic. Thing is, if two men have a pub brawl, they head-butt each other, punch each other in the face, and then they'll be buying each other drinks and shaking hands five minutes later. But when two women have a fight, it's almost to the death. Hair pulling, fingernails, everything.
I've been injured with stiletto heels more than once. Metal-bottom stiletto heels – they're the worst. They're really painful. I still have a scar actually, from this woman – we were arresting her boyfriend – and she had these lovely leather stiletto-heeled boots on. And she literally walked up to me and scraped her heel down my leg. Honestly, half the time the women can be as, if not more, violent than the men.
The verbal abuse – well, you don't even notice it. I get called pig, the F-word, everything you can think of. You become hardened to it – it's just like normal conversation to me.
The vast majority of the British public never see the police. Mr and Mrs Smith, in their nice house might see us if they're unlucky enough to get burgled, or something. But apart from that, they've got no idea what all the fuss is about. They don't see what we see.
For example, in the last 12 months there was this incident where we broke up a brawl outside a fast food restaurant. The club had just closed, and it was a brawl over nothing – someone probably jumped a queue to get served pizza or something. There were six people brawling, and we broke it up. And then one of the guys involved, he was so angry he put his whole arm straight through a shop window.
He sliced his arm literally from wrist to elbow, down the main artery. And the blood was spurting out – it was like it was coming out of a hosepipe; like a horror film or something. The bloke was still so pissed that we had to pin him down, and there were five police officers holding him down and putting pressure on the wound. We were all absolutely covered in blood, just shouting "where's the ambulance?". One of the officers took off his belt, and made a tourniquet, and the surgeons at the hospital told us later that saved his life – he'd have died from the blood loss otherwise.
You have to love a job like this, to be able to do it at all. You definitely don't do it for the money, I can tell you that. I love my job. But I'd like to be able to come home from work some days, and tell my wife about how my day was. I used to talk about the job, when I started. But now I don't talk about it, because otherwise my wife would just worry herself to death. If she knew the full story, she'd demand I left the police tomorrow.
The real test is, would I encourage my children to join the force? I wouldn't now, not for the whole world. Five years ago, I'd have said yeah, I'd have encouraged my kids to join. Our social values have degraded. The safety of officers, the way they're treated, and the way society is now – it's all different now.
I worry about what will happen when the policing cuts come in. The senior officers are going to have really difficult resourcing decisions to make. They're going to have to remove officers from other departments, to deal with alcohol-related disorder, and that obviously has a knock-on effect. You wonder – who's going to do that other police work whilst the officers are out dealing with alcohol-related crime?
As told to Sirin Kale – @thedalstonyears
More from VICE: