I have that nervous feeling you get while trying to drive, read a map, listen to urgent updates coming over the radio and talk to Control on the hands-free. As usual I’m on my way to a serious drama. As a PC a small percentage of the calls I attended were real dramas. Now, all the calls I attend are real dramas.
This is because there is only one uniformed Duty Inspector at a time in F Division, and we are expected to attend the serious incidents personally. F Division is so huge that there is more or less always a serious drama for me to rush to.
Dealing with the incidents does not present me with a problem. I have spent my entire career in response or specialist uniformed front-line policing of one kind or another.
One of my correspondents summed it up nicely once by saying it is like going to watch the same play each night, only with different actors.
This one is a double fatal road crash on some fast road in the North of F Division. Four more are seriously injured.
I’m using the map to see how to avoid the road closures the response teams have already put in. The Controller; he is phoning me every ten seconds with information I already know, easing the conscience of a man who can only stand by in horror by transferring the tension to someone else.
This is the worst kind of drama for us. It’s the kind where we have arrived before the other emergency services, specifically, before the paramedics. The officers from the response team are trying to save lives and calm the shattered pleas from relatives who were in the car behind and saw it all.
This has taken place outside a private school for girls. The daughters of the privileged have just returned from the ski slopes of Europe.
The snow is not as good this year in Villars-Gryon.
And now life will never be as good again because you shouldn’t see what they have just seen, and are still seeing, at 15 years of age. Or at any age.
My people work fast without speaking. They eye their Sergeant as he sweats under his armour. He nods at a car, points at a victim, puts a finger to his lips indicating a distressed witness and all the time on the radio closing roads, eyes tightly shut as he accesses his mental map of the area. They know what he means by every gesture and they respond.
I arrive. It’s my old section. I was their Sergeant once. I’m there to keep a broader perspective and to think strategically about what the Division need to do next. This lasts for as long as it takes me to see the first body.
Everyone is here now. Like some bizarre, colourful ritual; fire and rescue personnel, paramedics, an air-ambulance. The huge rumbling dual carriageway is a silent, deep red stained strip of concrete. I stand and catch my breath.
And behind me, the rich girls are weeping.