Taking drugs off our streets – the officers who carry out drugs warrants (Part 2)
8 Apr 2019
In the second part of our interview with Detective Sergeant Ian Holland from Humberside Police’s proactive team he talks about the reality of what officers go through ‘on the ground’ as part of their everyday work.
Q. Can you talk about what happens when you and your team first approaches a property? What do you think about?
“You have to expect the unexpected. We tend to be kitted up in protective equipment, and we’re trained in method of entry techniques (MOE), but when we put the door in you just don’t know what you’re going to find behind it.
“You will have a good idea about who might be there from intelligence but you don’t know the number of people. It could be a group or just one person.
“There’s an obvious threat of violence and risk involved. If there are firearms there then that can escalate a situation and we would need an appropriate response. We have support from our firearms officers if we need it.
“That’s thankfully very rare. But we need to be mindful to protect ourselves and also the people inside the property. And that includes children and animals.
“The first thing we need to do as quickly as we can is to make sure no one is at risk of getting hurt and there’s no risk of evidence being lost either.
“We need to try and recover drugs, cash, mobile phones or anything else that’ll give us evidence.”
Q. So, what happens to the evidence that you seize?
“The drugs are analysed to confirm what they are and disposed of and destroyed. In terms of cash and assets we use the Proceeds of Crime Act.
“We have a financial investigation unit that will look to confiscate any money, which is eventually put into partnership and national coffers.
“Money confiscated from criminals is put back into the public purse. There are lots of steps the cash has to go through.
“It’s distributed through the Government into local partnerships such as community projects, as well as policing.”
Q. What happens to the people you arrest?
“After an arrest we need to reach quite a high threshold to prove someone has committed an offence, so we need evidence. Some things can take time to prove.
“We could need further witness statements and we might need to check electronic devices for instance. There are a number of further enquiries we might have to carry out.
“Sometime we have to release people under investigation (RUI) or bail them because there is insufficient evidence to charge, but generally speaking that’s just a delay to the inevitable.
“We need to make sure we have all the evidence gathered, then the CPS can take that forward to court to prosecute the individuals. We do have a really high success rate.
“There are very few people who are RUI’d who are then released without charge when we’ve recovered drugs, money, mobile phones or weapons., as well as any evidence we’ve already amassed before we even do the warrant.”
Q. Would you say is it a dangerous job?
“We tend to go into an address in plain clothes. We do sometimes go in uniform in full kit. We assess each job as we see it but it’s possible that we can be assaulted going into an address.
“People don’t want to be arrested so they might fight! Sometimes they say they didn’t know we were police officers even though the first thing we do when we go into an address is shout ‘police’.
“We manage that risk. Officers have been punched, kicked, headbutted. We’re dealing with criminals. We’ve unfortunately had an officer who was bitten by a dog and needed treatment, another who was kicked in the head while detaining someone on the floor.
“Officers plan ahead, they’re briefed, they know what they’re facing and usually we have the edge because we’re aware of the threat. We always back each other up.”
Q. How do you physically get into a property and through a door?
“There are various ways of getting in. Some officers are trained with what we call a two-man ‘Rammit’, or a single ‘Red Key’ which can be used for lighter doors.
“Some officers are trained to cut a door open with a saw. We also use a special strengthened crowbar to prize doors open.
“Some doors take twenty goes to get in, others just one or two. An internal door will go in really easily. It all depends on the doors and locks.”
Q. What’s the best thing about the work you do?
“The best thing is about the job is not just about the amount of drugs we seize, it’s about getting people who are creating problems in an area. It’s also about arresting someone you’ve been looking for for a long time or shutting down a cell or a drugs gang.
“Previously, we have seized £15,000 worth of class A drugs from one property, which was a good result. In January we took part in a national week of action to tackle county lines gangs where we seized over £60,000 worth of drugs and made lots of arrests.
“Sometimes though we might not get anything, but we definitely get results more often than not.
“Another good thing about the job is tackling the crime that surrounds drugs. For example, a drug users might spend £20, £40, £50, even £100 a day on maybe weed or on heroin. So you’ve got to ask yourself the question, where are they getting the money from?
“Who’s funding that habit? It’s members of the public, as users often steal from shops, vehicles, houses or rob people.
“A user might sell a stolen TV to buy drugs. The person who originally bought that TV might have spent £1,000 on it out of their hard earned money, but it’s being sold on for a £100 fix. That could be every day. Possessions can be sold for a tenth of their value for just a couple of wraps.
“It all adds up. When they have a tenner rolled up in their hand to pay for drugs, I’d say it’s unlikely that they’ve grafted for that money.
“Often a user will steal or begged for that money – anything from nicking something out of their partner’s wallet or purse, a kid’s piggy bank, or sentimental items from a family member.”
Q. How do you sum up your job?
“We’re here to nip it in the bud. Drugs and crimes surrounding drugs are sadly embedded in society, not just across the country but across the world. We want to do more to protect the public and detect crimes.
“There have been so many times when we’ve busted someone for a small amount of cannabis for personal use, then after investigating further we’ve found a much bigger operation going on.
“We see bins full of drugs and golf-ball sized wraps of class A drugs which we’ve seized.
“The good thing is, is that people who use drugs tend to talk. Some dealers do too, as they’ll tell you about other dealers – their competition!
“The street value for a kilo of cocaine is about £50,000. For heroin it’s about £30,000. It can be a profitable lifestyle for dealers but there are extremely harsh consequences for them when we come knocking.
“And that’s something we’re going to carry on doing.”
If you have any information or concerns about drug crimes we want you to contact us, or if you want to remain anonymous please call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
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