They were the ones who were licensed to carry guns, but I didn’t know that, the first time they rang my bell. I opened the door to a pair of bulky uniforms, sharp sharp fabric, fussy buttons, oppressive numbers that shone and those fluorescent waistcoats that go over the clothes, making policemen look twice their size.
In front of the two men, Laura jerked and sagged, jerked and sagged, her recently pristine jeans reduced to rags as if she’d shredded them with a blunt knife. Vertically sliced ribbons of denim danced wildly in the keen wind, batting at a few fallen leaves that flew over our low wall. Even in the thin street light I could see her knees and thighs were mottled reddish blue. She should have been freezing, but the cold must have melted before it reached the heat of her seething mind.
At this hour of the night the street was empty, but had anybody seen my calm reaction to the presence of the police, they may have been surprised. While addiction is booming, yet few people’s lives are like mine. My children had unique ways to include me in the details of their strife, and, traumatic as these incidents were, I had learnt to maintain a calm facade. This wasn’t the fist time the police had brought her home in a dislocated state, but this time they asked to come in, and Laura falteringly led the way.
We sat at the kitchen table, while the policemen introduced themselves by name, and gently said my daughter was not in trouble, but if didn’t mind, they’d like to talk to her until she felt calm, and I didn’t need to stay, by which they meant they wanted privacy, so I went through to the sitting room.
I never discovered what had happened to her. She couldn’t remember – a familiar scenario.
I never asked what they discussed, although the police gave me a those details which they knew Laura would not mind them sharing.
After that, they brought her home on several occasions. I wasn’t informed of the details of her escapades, these two policemen were discreet and kind; it was enough for me to know they had both her best interests and mine, at the forefront of their minds.
The second time they came, they explained that they were the rapid response team, so they were constantly armed, but since guns are rarely required around these parts, they worked with the regular team. I admit I was surprised; I would never have expected that such compassionate men would choose to bear arms, but thinking about it afterwards it occurred to me that they were a sensible choice; they’d be unlikely to use their skills without due care.
Her psychosis was hard to deal with, and sometimes when they brought her home in a dishevelled and confused state one or the other of them would join me in the living room for a breather, before returning to the fray.
Often, after these events, she would return to a sensible frame for a while, but sometimes nothing could change her manic state, and she would run up and down the stairs all night, laughing, weeping, screaming, demanding that I urgently find whatever item sprang to mind; a half-remembered ornament or a different roll of tape to that which she was using to wrap around a dress or a dislocated rhyme about a false memory. At 4am, broken from trauma and exhaustion, tears may be streaming from my eyes, but still she would scream at me, until, suddenly laughing with glee, she’d run out of the door, and I’d be torn between hoping that the police would bring her home, and dreading it.
One time they concluded that she needed to speak to an addict in recovery. In order to facilitate a helpful chat, they phoned a few relevant organisations, but none of them could help, so in desperation, knowing it was against the rules, they called up a woman who had “helped them with their inquiries” a few days before, and she had a long talk with Laura, after which she was in a better frame of mind.
Sometimes she was in such a bad way that those two policemen would take her to A and E, to try and get her assessed for psychiatric care. They’d wait with her, and attempt to persuade the team to see her, but she’d be refused, since psychiatrists won’t see people who are under the influence of drugs.
The police have no official authority over hospital decisions, but just once, they succeeded in talking a doctor into admitting her into a ward, using a trumped-up diagnosis, in the hope that a psychiatrist would see her the nest day. They let me know she was safe, and showed up at her bedside the next morning with a pot of her favourite yogurt. She was still refused y the mental health team, so the police brought her home to me. She was thrilled by her adventure, and for a few days life became easier.
These policemen, and others in our town, went above and beyond the call of duty for my ill, addicted daughter, at the same time giving the impression that it was all in a day’s work. There are many stories I could tell; many examples I could give of their kindness, patience, and generosity to both my son and my youngest daughter. Despite the difficulties my children wrought, rather than treating them like criminals, they recognised what they were; victims of a disease – a disease which invades our culture, and eats our children from the inside. It’s a tragedy that the mental health practitioners don’t see it this way, or perhaps they can’t afford to, since mental health is a massive issue and too little is spent on it.
Whole we hear of the rare mistakes and acts of police corruption, caring acts like these are too rarely mentioned. The majority of individuals who join the police force do so to be of service to the oppressed, and many of them recognise the disguised colours of oppression – a job which is becoming increasingly difficult since their budget was cut by a government that doesn’t lift a finger to help the dispossessed.
Seen through eyes that hold no prejudice, our local police shine.
©Jane Paterson Basil