Real life

Hell is dealing with police bureaucracy

I found a policeman who actually helped me deal with the theft of a saddle - amazing!

5 September 2015

9:00 AM

5 September 2015

9:00 AM

‘Yes, you can report it, but it’s going to take ten minutes to go through the process,’ said the oppressively cheerful bureaucrat at Surrey Police when I rang to tell them about my stolen saddle.

After the first 30 seconds I could see why. She kept asking me to verify that I was all right — still coping, still breathing, still pumping blood around my body — after every sentence. For example:

‘I just need to take your name and address. Is that all right? I need to open a file and log your personal details. Is that OK?’

‘Yes, fine,’ I said, before telling her my name and address, which prompted a lot of tapping.

‘If I go silent… then it’s just because… I’m typing. Is that all right? Are you OK with that?’

‘Yes,’ I said, rather testily, envisaging not ten minutes on the phone but ten hours.

‘Right, that’s good. Now… I’m just logging those details… Are you all right with that?’

‘Yes!’ I snapped, but unfortunately my exasperation only held the process up further. ‘I did explain to you, at the start of this conversation… (she was one of those young girls who put unwarranted emphases on random words)… that it would take a good ten minutes to go through this process.’

Oh it was a ‘good’ ten minutes now was it? She only admitted to ten minutes at the start.


‘And you did say you were OK with that…’ ‘Yes, I’m fine with it, really,’ I said, affecting all the ‘seeming fine-ness’ I could muster.

Mercifully, she did manage to finish taking my home address. But then she noticed it was in London and not anywhere near where there were horses and saddles. So it took another age to explain that the horses didn’t live in Balham with me, but resided at another address in Surrey which, in turn, was not an additional home address of mine.

When all that was dealt with, we proceeded to only her second question. ‘What is your ethnic origin?’ she asked, sounding pleased as punch with herself.

‘WHITE!’ I shouted.

‘All right, all right! I did tell you this process would take a while, didn’t I?’

Oh, it’s a while now is it? Not ten minutes, or a good ten minutes. A while.

I then tried to describe how the saddle had been stolen, which was genuinely complicated, as it had been taken from one of two possible places. She made absolutely no attempt even to listen to that. ‘Stolen from yard,’ she chirruped. ‘No, I didn’t say that.’ She then asked if there was CCTV evidence. When I said no to that, she concluded very cheerfully: ‘Oh well then, we can file this away immediately because there are no possible leads. So there we are. All done and filed away.’

Hopeless. But then I also had the idea to email Surrey Police’s countryside crime prevention team because the saddle had been security marked, although I couldn’t find the paperwork.

Wonder of wonders, within a day of my emailing, someone emailed back. And not just any old someone, a someone called Sergeant Luck. He was delightful: courteous to a fault and incredibly efficient. From my surname, he found the serial number of the security tag and assured me it might be traceable as they had found saddles as far away as New Zealand.

He even apologised for my loss. Could this be? Was I was truly in contact with a real, live police officer who was sympathetically and enthusiastically investigating a crime I had been a victim of?

Forgive me for going over the top, but I want to mark this occasion properly. And so I ask the question: Luck be a sergeant?… (Drum roll)…

‘They call you Sergeant Luck. But there is room for doubt. At times you have a very un-sergeant-like way of running out. You’re on this case with me. The pickins’ have been lush. And yet before the inquiry is over, you might give me the brush. You might forget your manners, you might file me away. And so the best that I can do is pray… (Trumpets)

‘Luck be a sergeant tonight! Luck be a sergeant tonight! Luck, if you’ve ever been a sergeant to begin with… Luck, be a sergeant tonight!

‘Luck, let a girl see, just how nice law and order can be. I know the way you’ve treated other crime victims you’ve been with. But Luck, be a sergeant with me.

‘A victim doesn’t need Victim Support. It isn’t fair, it isn’t nice. A victim doesn’t want to be asked her ethnic grouping. And be made to say her colour, weight and height!

‘Let’s keep this investigation polite. Never let my stolen saddle out of sight. Stick with me baby, I’m your 101-and-only (see what I did there?) Luck, be a sergeant tooniiiiiight!’

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

With apologies to Frank Loesser.

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Show comments
  • Ade

    Ha, and in all probability, ha,

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  • Callan

    The police do not want to concern themselves with crime and criminals they, their university educated senior officers that is, much prefer to be a uniformed equivalent of the social services with the appropriate emphasis on political correctness. As an example look at the way shoplifters are dealt with nowadays. If they promise to pay for the goods they have been caught stealing, they are allowed to go on their way with a few kind words. No thoughts of arresting them and searching their homes for other stolen property. Preposterous. I was talking to the manager of a large department store recently I said I remembered several decades ago when stores would write off two per cent of their stock in the accounts for shoplifting. Nowadays with the aforementioned happy clappy, insane approach to shoplifting coupled with the increasing number of immigrants supplementing their welfare payments by large scale shop theft the write off is up to 8 per cent. And the law abiding public pays as prices rise accordingly.

    • Shorne

      ‘immigrants supplementing their welfare payments by large scale shop theft’
      Brian Bell, a research fellow at the London School of Economics conducted a study into the relationship between crime and immigration.Previous research by the LSE team revealed that enclaves with high numbers of immigrants experienced less crime than neighbourhoods with fewer arrivals from abroad. The research focused on neighbourhoods that had an immigrant population larger than 30%. Bell and his team found “strong and consistent evidence that enclaves have lower crime experiences than otherwise observably similar neighbourhoods that have a lower immigrant share of the population”.
      I was a Probation Officer for 30 years including 13 spent working in a prison. It was my observation that immigrants who came here with the intention of staying and working did not figure highly in the prison population. Most shoplifters were British drug addicts or ‘hoisters’ who stole to order or, increasingly people who stole because they were hungry as a result of benefit cuts. There was an exception to this, and I have to choose my words carefully here, which was persons of, shall we say, a non-sedentary lifestyle who came here to steal and then went home again. Some of this group would still be at it if Britain had never joined the EU.

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  • red2black

    It was laughs all round as the lady in question invited the young constable to shove the mobile phone back up where she’d just pulled it out from.

  • DennisHorne

    Luck. Reminds me of a stop-over in Hong Kong. My wife couldn’t find her credit cards. In response to our questioning, the shuttle driver said, “You’d be lucky to find a pickpocket around here…”

  • colchar

    Are the British police not able to do anything without CCTV? Do they not remember how they conducted investigations prior to CCTV? Can they not learn from other western police forces from countries where CCTV is not ubiquitous?

    • Ivan Ewan

      Ah, Watson. Please, sit down. I was pondering this case of the fire in Norwood, and the presumed guilt of the chief suspect. I scouted the area, questioned everyone, and even disguised myself as a tramp to discover local secrets. But no matter what, I couldn’t find any CCTV cameras at all. That poor young fellow, whom I believe has been framed, will go to the hangman. A pity that there was nothing I could do. A cup of tea?

  • trace9

    I knew the ‘Police’ was female before she said it. Here on Skye, reporting some vandalism this summer I had to phone ‘Police Scotland’ many miles away instead of the local station 1/2 a mile away, so unlike with the Locals, I couldn’t give local physical reference points. They couldn’t give me any indication of time of visit. However a representative of Police Scotland was at my door pleasingly within the hour – complete with old-fashioned baton sticking out from a holster on his left side & a new-fangled taser complementing to right. Eyeing his weaponry with some curiosity I gave my information. He was very smiling, polite & fairly efficient. And Polish.. I suppose if we quoth Police Scotland with no teeth, it would come out a bit better. In the circumstances.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    I really am sick of you pedantic Mods. I use the word h e l l and my entire contribution is suspended pending approval. Approval, my donkey.
    But when H E L L used in a headline it’s absolutely fine. What a bunch of inconsistent, hypocritical scumbags. And I say this with all due respect.
    Jack, the H E L L bent Japan Alps Brit

    • DennisHorne

      Hellsbells, Jack, life is so unfair … 🙂

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    He’ll be back.
    Quick, Mods. There’s a verboten word there.

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