I then visited one of our call centres which was well staffed to meet what we knew would be a huge increase in the normal volume of calls. Then on to the force control room at Claytonbrook which controls the radio channels for the force; again well-staffed with everyone ready for a busy night shift. My next visit was to the custody office at North Manchester which would take most of the prisoners arrested in the City Centre. I had a general chat with the staff about the number of people being arrested with mental health issues and the way that the pressures on the health service are impacting on GMP. Increasingly we also feel that police cells are not suitable to look after drunk people, which at the end of the day is a medical issue and a concrete room is not always the best place to monitor someone who in effect has poisoned themselves.
Then it was off for foot patrol in the City Centre from 11pm till 4.30 am. We had a lot of officers on duty and it was good to see that the Chief Superintendent in charge of the City centre, Russ Jackson, was also out and about. The first part of the night was largely about the celebrations in front of the Town Hall to welcome in the New Year complete with £20,000 of fireworks. It was good to see so many families there and the atmosphere was happy and relaxed. The traffic had to come a standstill such was the size of the crowd. Our main task was to take alcohol from a small number of people who did not realise that there is a by law prohibiting public consumption.
After these crowds had cleared the night was completely taken up by the activities of those who had drunk to excess. We spent some time at Burger King where a window had been smashed gaining access to the CCTV pictures of the incident. We came across an altercation in Corporation Street and gave a direction to leave notice to one individual who seemed to have been at the centre of it and had been drinking. At Deansgate Locks various people had be ejected from premises by the bouncers and one drunken female was particularly abusive. Around the corner a woman was shouting screaming and hitting a man who turned out to be her boyfriend. Again she was very drunk and incoherent and just wanted to sit on the pavement. After initially wanting to have nothing to do with the boyfriend she then became distressed that he was leaving and eventually we got them both into a cab.
Further along a young man approached us and complained he had been hit by a bouncer but had no sign of injury and again had clearly been drinking heavily. When we tried to get some sense out of him he became abusive and ran to the other side of the road to abuse us from there. He later returned and had to be restrained and warned regarding his behaviour. He was firmly told to contact us when he was sober to report the alleged assault.
This issue of complaints about bouncers or door staff can be a difficult area. These security staff have to be properly trained and accredited and do a difficult job when faced with large groups of people, having to enforce dress codes and to deal with people who have been drinking. If someone refuses to leave a premises then they can physically eject them using reasonable force but this force in itself is likely to lead to allegations of assault. Given the huge numbers of people In the City Centre and the huge number of premises it is not surprising that allegations of assault against door staff become the most common incident reported. It is a difficult message but if you chose to go into private premises to drink you have to abide by the house rules and the door staff can ask you to leave if you break those rules in the same way that you can ask a guest in your own house to leave and physically eject them if they refuse. We do monitor closely however the number of incidents and reports at individual premises and will call in the licensee where there is a pattern or where serious incidents occur. If appropriate the conditions of the license can be challenged. We do investigate complaints of assault against door staff but on the other hand we cannot take action on allegations from people who are drunk.
It is important to say that the overwhelming majority of people who go into our town and city centres have a good time, behave reasonably and hold their drink. We are talking about a tiny number of people who become violent or abusive when having drunk too much, and we need to deal with those, but such individuals can take up a great deal of time precisely because they are drunk and unreasonable.
During New Year’s Eve we came across a number of people who were so drunk they had put themselves at great risk. You try and help them but often they don't want help. You try and find friends they are with to look after them or some other help but taxis will not take drunk people who do not have someone with them. Officers know the Ambulance Service are also incredibly busy on a night like New Year’s Eve and that our custody centres will also not particularly welcome them so they are left in a dilemma. Normally some friend will turn up to take them away.
Lots of people came up to us to wish us Happy New Year and to thank us for what we were doing. Some wanted to have their photo taken with us particularly the visitors from overseas. Many people when told to quieten down or to move on do precisely that. It is great that Manchester has such a vibrant night life and so many want to visit the City. We want to see it prosper and will do all we can to make sure it does not have a reputation for violence and drunkenness but rather that people can have a good time safely.
So we are now in 2013. I know that we will see more challenges and more changes and that the number of staff we employ will be fewer by the end of the year. We will still be out there on the streets dealing with the reality of our society 24 hours a day protecting the public and being alongside them at the worst moment in their lives. There are many commentators and pundits, many who like to sit in judgement but we have to deal with people as they are not how we would like them to be.
All of us in GMP wish those we serve a Happy New Year and we will do all we can to make it a peaceful one.
Sir Peter Fahy
Greater Manchester Police