The expertise of our firearm officers is well-known these days; recent events have demonstrated their professionalism in extremely demanding circumstances. Much of this is down to their vigorous training but also the tutoring scheme within individual teams – the new AFOs being brought on by specially selected mentors. A particular mentor on one of the teams within a Home Counties force a few years ago, we’re call him Bryan, was particular respected – that is, everyone was secretly terrified of him; he drove that team with the kind of ruthlessness that Stalin did a Five Year Plan.
Bryan was given someone new to tutor – a nice chap who soon realised that any mistakes on his part were likely to be dissected vocally, vigorously and at length by Bryan … it didn’t take long for him to become ‘respectful’ of Bryan as well. One of the first things he was taught was the checking over of the ARVs at the beginning of every shift. These vehicles were driven at considerable speed and so were examined thoroughly – tyres, lights, other electrics, fluids – before being driven out. Having shown the new guy how to do this properly for a couple of days, Bryan – rather alarmingly for the newbie – allowed him to do it on his own one day while he went off to sort out some issue in the armoury. New Bloke, armed with his clipboard, duly checked the tyre pressures and condition – all in order – lights, siren and other electrics – no problem – full complement of equipment? – all there – and checked the oil and coolant – no issues.
“Anything else I should check?” he called out, rather reluctant to be seen in the garage unemployed in anything vital should Bryan arrive back.
“What about the brake fluid?” called someone.
Grateful for something to do New Bloke awkwardly unscrewed the brake fluid cap and peered into the reservoir … it looked alright … or did it? What was the correct level anyway? Deciding that it was probably a bad idea to get involved in this advanced stuff he hastily went to replace the cap and pretend that he hadn’t checked it in the first place. Unfortunately, in his eagerness to screw the cap back on he managed, to his alarm, to drop it to the side of the fluid reservoir and down into the guts of the engine; he let out a panicked cry. Peering down with his newly issued tactical torch he searched vainly for the screw cap. Others, realising that something was wrong, came over to help whilst the more experienced, sensing danger, kept well away, not wishing to be involved in anything that might result in an explosive Bryan.
“Stick it up on the car ramps!” suggested someone, “it’s going to have slipped down the bottom somewhere – you’ll be able to see it from underneath …”
New Bloke quickly manoeuvred the ARV around the garage, a feat in itself because of the lack of space, and reversed it onto the ramps, desperately praying that Bryan wouldn’t appear through the side door. Having positioned the car carefully he hopped out and someone helpfully pressed the Up button to raise the vehicle high off the ground so they could look underneath … and there it was – the cap was located as predicted. Clearly relieved, New Bloke eagerly walked around to the control panel to push the Down button and get the vehicle off the ramps as quickly as possible.
In fact, nothing continued to happen even when he pushed the Down button with some enthusiasm over and over again. Various AFOs, enthused by the mirth of the situation, drifted over and stood to ponder the problem with their hands in their pockets. And then, with some inevitability …
“… We’ve got a ‘Go-to’ blokes” called someone walking into the garage, zipping up his body-armour “… Boss wants us formed up at the gates …” He paused to look at the stranded Volvo “… Well, that is, everyone’s who hasn’t got an ARV stuck six foot in the air … has anyone told Bryan …?”
The more experienced present shuddered involuntarily.
“Do you know how to lower the ramp?” shouted New Bloke repeatedly pressing the Down button with something now akin to panic.
“Well, yeah, it’s easy, you just need to get the Traffic Skipper to unlock it with his key … didn’t you read that email that came around? … the tricky bit I suppose is that he’s down the coast at the moment with a broken-down bus …”
Such is the closeness and camaraderie of the team they all drove off before Bryan had a chance to get back from the armoury …