A MAN lies on a dirty mattress in the airless basement of a building near The Level in Brighton.
He’s 50, looks much older than his age and – although he doesn’t know it yet – is about to lose a leg.
What’s unusual about the room he lives in isn’t the filth or the ambulance crew, the banks of medical supplies and the four police officers trying to administer ketamine into his left arm to kill him. calm.
It’s not even the fact that every time they try to talk to him – “Come on, man, we just need to get this across to you…we’re just trying to help you” – he calls them “c***s” and orders them to “f***off”.
No, what’s unusual about the room he lives in is the smell. Not a bad smell, not an unpleasant smell that wafts through a windowless basement room that can be extinguished with a cheap spray can, but a smell that can only be described as a putrefying, obnoxious, heartbreaking stench.
“That,” says PC Annie Lees, lowering a mask from her face and finally taking a breath of fresh air on the sidewalk of Grand Parade five minutes later, “is the smell of a rotting body. At best, he will have his leg amputated tomorrow.
As part of National Response Week, Sussex Police invited the Argus for what is colloquially known as a ‘ridealong’, the opportunity for the media to see what the police are up to, and teamed us up for the day with PC Lees and Sergeant Mark Robinson of Department of Brighton and Hove. It is, of course, a public relations exercise, but it is also a sobering experience that lays bare the growing mental health crisis in the city.
Just 30 minutes from their shift, PC Lees – a newcomer with two years on the force – and Sgt Robinson – 13 years into his policing career – showed nimble negotiating skills that a diplomat would envy.
Ten minutes before confronting the man in the flat, they were confronted by an angry cyclist and an equally belligerent motorist who collided in Edward Street and now blame each other; although the officers do not know it yet, in less than an hour they will come face to face with a middle-aged woman on the top floor of a Hove flat so drunk she can only scream in their faces while her six-year-old niece in the dining room downstairs innocently tells them, “That’s exactly what my aunt does.” Do you like my t-shirt? »
The only question anyone can really ask at this point is…why the hell would you do a job like this?
For Sgt Robinson, the answer is quite simple. He thinks for a moment, then replies that the best part of being a policeman is “catching criminals”.
For PC Lees, the answer takes longer to surface.
In the police vehicle on the way back to Brighton Police Station after speaking to the six-year-old, she says she never really wanted to be in the force but dreamed of being a paramedic . “My whole family is in the civil service,” she explains.
Once back at the station, she picks up the question and slowly begins to recount how she recently answered a call about a man on top of a building in Brighton who had had enough. Fed up with the way his life had turned out, all he wanted was to end it; jump from a high rise building and take whatever comes next.
“At this point, you’re just trying to get them to talk,” she explains. “Everything you say, everything you do has a consequence on the outcome.”
In a situation like this, there is something, she explains, just as pervasive.
“It’s the fact that for all you know, you might just be the last human being that person talks to. If they have a family, they’ll – rightly – want to know what you said and did. during their last seconds.
“So to answer your question,” she said, looking towards Brighton on one of the hottest days of the year, an early evening when thousands of people were having the time of their lives on the beach and the cafes in town and the struggling people of this world just trying to get through the next 24 hours, “it’s for times like this that I do this job.”
The man did not jump.
Regardless of any “ridealong,” or PR exercise, that’s a pretty compelling answer to going to work every day.
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This notice was published: 2022-06-22 04:51:00