There are two stages to a night shift as a response officer at Christmas time.
First we see everyone dressed up in dodgy Christmas jumpers or fancy dress, covered in tinsel and glitter, and full of Christmas cheer as they make their way to pubs and clubs in town centres across the county.
Then there’s the second part of the evening, when it gets to closing time and everyone is a little too full of Christmas spirits.
This is the time that all officers dread.
We’re suddenly waiting for the spark that causes the assault, the affray, the grievous bodily harm, or the dreaded one punch that takes an innocent person’s life.
We’re directed to the disorder by our control room and CCTV operators.
There’s a fist fight between two elves and a group of oompa loompas (yes, that has actually happened).
Other officers are shouting down the radio for assistance – they’re out-numbered by members of the public physically assaulting them, perhaps using belts as weapons.
What is like to work for the police in the build up to Christmas? Busy!
It’s probably the most intensive time of the year not only for the police but for all the emergency services.
As you turn up to an incident there are people on the floor handcuffed, injured members of the public to deal with, and officers looking like they have just fought to save their own lives.
Once the cavalry arrives and the offenders have been escorted away, it all starts again and we go back to ensuring that members of the public go home safely.
Having been a frontline response officer for 12 years, I can confidently say I have seen it, done it and got many t-shirts when it comes to dealing with behaviour in our town centres caused by an excess of alcohol and sometimes in the influence of drugs.
For five weeks in the run up to Christmas, we work as a team to deal with all the issues relating to nightclubs, anti-social behaviour and large scale disorders across the county.
Ordinary people who would never usually stray to the wrong side of the law get carried away by the festive fun and do things under the influence of alcohol and drugs that they’d never usually dream of doing.
These nights are busy, frantic, and non-stop.
Once we are back in the station we have to complete the handovers for prisoners that have been arrested and write up statements. It’s a hive of activity as officers are desperate to finish on time, go home, and get back to their own Christmas celebrations.
But it might not end there, we may get sent out to a domestic abuse incident at 6am – again potentially as a result of a heavy night’s drinking, or responding to a road traffic collision caused by someone who thought it wise to drive home after six pints.
We’re not asking you to stay in and not have fun this Christmas, we’re simply asking you to make the right choice.
Getting too drunk can make you more vulnerable, and it also makes you more likely to commit a crime. You don’t want to spend Christmas behind bars, so pace yourself.
Taking some simple steps can help make your night a safe one as well as an enjoyable, so stick together with your friends, don’t walk home alone, keep your drink with you at all times, and avoid pre-loading too much.
Response Sergeant Nigel Gallagher