Preserving Policing History – a few thoughts on some of the BTP officers who feature in books

This extract comes from a blog I wrote in 2016. Since then I have gone on to write/co-write other books with a number of former colleagues from both the West Midlands Police and British Transport Police. This has included a number of historical crime fiction books such as ‘Keep Right On’ where BTP ‘characters’ have been created.

‘I retired from the British Transport Police in 2011 and whilst I had no intention of severing my links with the police service little did I realize at that point how close and fulfilling those relationships would continue to be.

   In 2013, somewhat by accident, I started writing and since then have been fortunate enough to have worked closely with a number of former colleagues, in both the British Transport Police, and West Midlands Police, which has resulted in a number of books being accepted for publication.

   In particular both the British Transport Police History Group, and the West Midlands Police Museum Group, have played a crucial role in supporting these ventures and I remain indebted to those individuals who make these two voluntary groups the vibrant bodies that they are today.

   ‘Hunting the Hooligans’ co-written with Robert Endeacott was published in August 2015 by MILO and tells the true story of Operation Red Card which I ran as a Detective Sergeant in 1987 to address the activities of Birmingham City’s notorious hooligan element known as the Zulu Warriors. They wreaked havoc over a number of years at football grounds, in city centres, and on the transport networks, and were one of the top hooligan ‘firms’ in the country in the 80s even standing their ground against some of the most violent groups based in London. In January 1987 they simply went too far however when an off-duty police officer had a broken glass pushed into his face, resulting in wounds which required thirty two stitches. Thus the operation was born.

   The Zulus often travelled in numbers by train to away games and were well-known to the British Transport Police. The book contains accounts from BTP officers who on a weekly basis put themselves in ‘harms-way’ to confront their violent activities

   One of the recollections in the book is from ‘James’ a BTP officer who worked as one of my undercover officers on the operation and who played an important role in gathering evidence which eventually led to the arrest of sixty seven people. ‘James’ was one of the ‘pathfinders’ for this type of activity and acted as a role model for others including ‘Steve’ another BTP officer who likewise worked as part of a West Midlands Police team on an operation called ‘Growth’ – Get Rid Of Wolverhampton Town Hooligans which followed soon after and was also hugely successful. The book also contains a recollection from ‘Steve’ who survived several ‘close shaves’ only to find himself being assaulted after giving evidence after the trial of one of those arrested.

   During Operation Red Card one of the other undercover officers was forced to witness the true nature of hooligan behaviour on one occasion when, whilst travelling on a train from Birmingham New Street to Witton, for a game between Aston Villa and Birmingham City he witnessed a Villa fan with learning difficulties covered in spit by opposition fans as he sat isolated and terrified in a coach. The undercover officer was powerless to intervene without the risk of blowing his cover.

   ‘Tracking the Hooligans’ was co-written with former BTP Assistant Chief Constable Alan Pacey and was published in January 2016 by Amberley. It details more than forty years of football violence on the UKs rail networks, London Underground, and on ferries when BTP still had jurisdiction. The activities of hooligan elements attached to nearly one hundred football clubs is covered with detailed comment from nearly fifty retired BTP officers who tell it ‘how it was’ particularly in the dark years of the 70s and 80s.

   In 1972 the then BTP Chief Constable Mr Gay commented “On an average Saturday some thirty trains carried police escorts of between two to eight officers. They sometimes reached their destination with their uniforms soiled with spittle, and other filth, burnt with cigarette ends, or slashed…” This is how it was, and often still is, for a very thin blue line of officers and the book is a testament to their routine bravery.

   Due to recent problems with football hooligans the current Chief Constable has made combatting the problem the forces second highest priority after terrorism.

   ‘Police Dog Heroes’ co-written with BTPHG stalwart Bill Rogerson MBE details the intriguing history of the British Transport Police Dog Section, the oldest in the country, from its inception in 1908 through to modern day policing, and will be published in May 2016 by Amberley. It is packed with recollections from retired BTP officers, many of them dog handlers, two of whom are now in their nineties. One of the most poignant is that of retired officer PC Dave Coleman who tells the remarkable story of his explosives search dog ‘Vinnie’ and their search of Russell Square Tube Station following the terrible events of the 7/7 terrorist attacks in 2005. ‘Vinnie’ was subsequently awarded a PDSA Gold medal for his actions which was presented at a special investiture ceremony by HRH Princess Alexandra. New accounts of public order incidents, including football violence, are recounted as are cases of tracking by dogs who simply would not give up. Whilst these were working dogs, they also in many cases became part of the officer’s families and their passing was mourned in the same manner.

   ‘Birmingham’s Front Line – True Police Stories’ details my account of life in the West Midlands Police CID in the 70s and 80s, predominantly working in Birmingham City Centre. It will be published in 2016 by Amberley and details crimes of violence, robbery, murder and public order during the ‘hey days’ of skinheads, mods, rockers and bikers – and of course football hooligans. It also provides an insight into the days of ‘cottaging’ and the activities of so called ‘rent boys’ offering sex and operating in and around New Street Station. Once again previously unpublished accounts are included by former BTP officers that clearly illustrate how local police and those working with a railway environment, in the main worked closely together.

   They say that within everyone there is at least one book and I would encourage anyone who has stories in their heads to make that step and to start writing. Whilst clearly it is extremely challenging it is also exciting, and hugely satisfying.’ #wmp #btp #police #history #football #dogs #hooligans #historical #crime #fiction #birmingham #westmidlands #lovetoread #buymorebooks #onefamily