In 1997 the West Midlands Police were facing huge challenges with rising crime and anti-social behaviour which blighted the lives of thousands of people within communities who became victims of criminality. As a national debate raged about the need to take a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to crime others argued for a problem solving approach and the preservation of the principles of policing by consent.
Radical measures were called for and in the Spring of 1997 the West Midlands Police were restructured into twenty-one Operational Command Units with the specific aim of delivering local policing to local people.
One of those command units became known as H2 and covered half of the Borough of Walsall situated in the ‘Black Country’.
The areas of Darlaston, Willenhall, Bloxwich, and Brownhills, steeped in industrial history, also faced high levels of social deprivation made growingly worse by the scourge of heroin which took control of many people’s lives and turned some of them into lifestyle criminals.
To face the challenges of drugs, routine arson attacks, violence, and anti-social behaviour just two hundred and sixty-four regular police officers formed the ‘thin blue line’ to preserve the peace in a community of 142,273 people.
This book is the story of how those police officers, supported by a small band of civilian support staff, and special constables, set about trying to improve the lives of the vast majority of law-abiding criminals and tackled the hardened criminals and hooligans head on.
Told through the eyes of two of the senior police officers responsible for bringing about drastic changes and improved performance during the first twelve months of reorganisation it provided a unique insight into the inner workings of the police.
At the heart of policing is the issue of community safety and this story measures the success of the few in trying to help the many, as they dealt with deaths, domestic violence, disputes and disorder on a daily basis.
The book also contains seventy photographs, many of which are previously unseen.
Above all this book is about hope and a philosophy that with the right support and direction small numbers of dedicated professionals can achieve great things. #Walsall #Police #History
‘The Hooligans Are Still Among Us’ explores the issues of football-related violence, past and present on the railway, as well as incidents in stadiums and city-centres during the 2015/16 seasons and Euro games – including a number of personal recollections. It was co-written with Bill Rogerson and published by Amberley. This is a book that does not seek to glamorize the subject rather it identifies new trends in violence and makes some suggestions as to how these might be combatted. There is no suggestion that the problem has returned to the levels experienced in the 70s and 80s but without doubt the figures show that there are still a substantial minority who will use the ‘beautiful game’ as a backcloth to excuse their violent behaviour. Often tribalistic in nature, sometimes fuelled by drink or drugs, or used as an excuse for racism or sectarianism there is no room for complacency. All this set against reduced police resources and changing Government priorities. The book is available on Amazon or in bookshops. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1445665883/
‘Keep Right On’ – historical crime fiction – the sequel to ‘Black Over Bill’s Mothers’
Birmingham 1976. Aston Villa and Birmingham City football clubs are in the First Division. They are blood rivals, whose hooligan ‘football firms’ are locked in a vicious struggle for supremacy. Two criminal families, The Murphy’s and the Carters, control the firms, and they hate each other. But love crosses the boundaries between them, setting off a tragic chain of events. Can it prevail over the violence?
In the background, the National Front fight on the streets, racism is on the rise, and it’s the hottest summer in living memory.
Mike Carter runs a team of hooligans with affiliations to Birmingham City Football Club. His arch-enemy is Colin Murphy who leads a like-minded group affiliated to Aston Villa Football Club.
Their stories are told against the backcloth of the 1975/6 football season, with factual accounts of many the games, when the names of stars such as Trevor Francis and Andy Gray were revered by the supporters.
Battling the violence is a third tribe – the police – and Detective Inspector Rob Docker makes a return from ‘Black Over Bill’s Mothers’ to use every means possible, whether lawful or otherwise, to destroy both groups as the ever increasing levels of violence lead to murder. Make ‘no bones about it’ Rob Docker is a ‘nasty piece of work’ and makes ‘Life On Mars’ look like a children’s story. A man on the ‘dark side’ of his profession.
On the streets of Birmingham, another struggle is being played out as the National Front try to seize the hearts and minds of some of those whose first love was the game of football. Who remembers the story of ‘Robert Relf’ who went to prison for placing a racially discriminatory sign outside his house and saw riots outside Winson Green Prison as right and left battled it out with the police sandwiched in the middle.
‘Keep Right On’ tells a love story entwined with football hooliganism and has plenty of surprises along the way. It will be enjoyed by lovers of a good story, football fans, those who seek a glimpse into the underside of the hooligan world, and those fascinated by the history of the 1970’s.
“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that” – Bill Shankly.
Available on Amazon as an E Book or in paperback – 11 reviews and 4.8 stars out of a possible 5 stars. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XJV689J/ #Football #Fiction #Hooligans #Birmingham
‘Pretty Thing’ (Kindle version) is reduced from £4.99 to £1.99 from 8am on Thursday 28th November, to 11pm on Sunday 1st December. (sorry Amazon.uk only due to Amazon rules).
See the great reviews and précis by clicking this link
Find out about, or re-live the heady days of the early 70’s when ‘Ziggy’ was born and changed the world. Contains accurate historical information about Bowie’s rise to fame and recreations of what it was like at those concerts – from the point of view of a fan who has the best break of his life – becoming part of the Ziggy Stardust tour crew.
Also available as a Paperback (£12.99) which I would enhance any Kook’s Christmas morning.
The picture below is of Police Constable 118 ‘a’ Thomas Wright. His imperious pose commemorates the awarding of a certificate for bravery on the Thirteenth of February 1911. He risked his life to protect others. In this case it was a runaway horse, and not an armed terrorist, but nevertheless his heroism encapsulated the core principle of policing – that of protecting others, their lives, their property, their society. The policing values demonstrated by PC Wright remain at its heart to the present day – it’s why policing is in truth ‘The Noble Cause’.
This is a ‘warts and all’ book about policing in the 1980’s and 1990’s, written by two former police officers who did ‘the job’ collectively for more than seventy years.
Police officers see the worst of society, its inequalities, and injustice, and they sometimes have to confront pure evil and the lowest degradations of the human state. They have to face the horrors of murder, accidental death, suicide, domestic and child abuse, and sickening violence, to name just a few of the incidents described in the book.
This book tracks the course of two very different career paths in Birmingham and Walsall, one in uniform, one in the CID, until they ultimately converge.
Whether it is public-order policing, keeping a lid on the streets, working undercover, battling against drugs dealers, the reality of dealing with death and post – mortems, or the investigation of serious crimes, this book provides a unique insight into the reality of policing.
This is a book for the curious, the nostalgic, the academic, the historian and the researcher, totally factual, and demonstrating the reality rather than the dramatic conflations shown on TV and film. It contains many stunning photographs of a Birmingham no longer in existence. It currently has seven reviews with a score of 4.8 stars against a possible 5. It is available on Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01MRELU3F/
‘The Noble Cause’ highlights the opportunities that self-publishing gives to budding writers these days. Co-author Steve Burrows has developed new skills in relation to publishing and has now successfully self-published a number of books in both E Book and Paperback formats on KDP Amazon UK. Anecdotally it has been said that 95% of all books, however published, do not sell more than 1,000 copies. One only has to look around any major bookstore to understand the sheer challenges of trying to make a breakthrough in a market which is saturated by thousands upon thousands of new book titles. Traditional publishers still offer better prospects of access to established marketing routes whereas self-publishing means that anyone’s book can now be aired in public. Both publishing methods have advantages and disadvantages in terms of royalty payments but in reality writing is for those who are passionate about getting their work seen rather than making lots of money.
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.
In the early 70s as a nineteen year-old BTP officer stationed at Birmingham Saturdays had a set routine for officers. Those posted to an early turn worked 6am to 6pm to deal with home fans and incoming away fans onto New Street Station and other smaller railway stations in the region. Those on nights came on duty at 6pm to work a twelve hour shift until 6am next morning to cover for the fact that there was no afternoon shift. The afternoon shift was posted to work as ‘travelling football serials’ – one sergeant and four PCs generally policing so-called ‘football trains’ carrying up to 500 supporters with nothing but a wooden truncheon in a hidden trouser pocket for protection. Whilst the vast majority of fans would be well-behaved there was always generally a significant minority who wanted to challenge the police and were relishing a day spent hunting the opposition. With limited means of communication and no immediate prospects of getting assistance whilst on trains travelling at speed, and over long distances, we learnt the art of communication, and came to know the identities of our opponents quickly – once the shroud of anonymity is removed people tend to behave more! Back home the routine was again familiar as at 5pm on a Saturday away fans would return to catch trains and home fans would circle the station like sharks waiting for their moment to attack. One tribe defending its territory whilst other tribes sought to make their presence felt. Violence was routine and in the days of Stanley knives, knuckle dusters and ‘calling cards’ people got hurt. It was our job to stop the violence and in so doing the officers routinely became the focus of attack instead. Anyone who has worked on a railway station will know that sound is naturally amplified within the enclosed spaces – whenever the sound of a charge, usually a roar followed shouts and screams went up it could be simply electrifying. Anyone who has seen the film ‘Zulu’ and witnessed the scenes where thousands of Zulu Warriors chanted ‘Zulu’ in unison will get the idea.
‘Tracking The Hooligans’ has twenty reviews with an overall score of 4.1 stars out of 5. It is available in bookshops and on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1445651807/
‘Birmingham’s Front Line’ deals with my experiences as a detective in the West Midlands Police between 1976 and 1989. Much of that period covers my time spent working at police stations in and around Birmingham City Centre, in particular at Steelhouse Lane. The book is written in a chronological ‘diary-like’ manner and is entirely factual. Policing is in no way glorified but what shines through some of the more mundane elements of daily life is that officers routinely have to work in extremely challenging environments whilst at all times maintaining the highest standards in terms of ethics and integrity. The book also contains a number of fascinating recollections from other retired officers who tell it just how it was, sometimes serious but often tinged with humour. During these years I went from being a young fresh-faced attached CID officer, with long -side-burns, who had to learn quickly, to becoming an established CID supervisor. I learnt the art of getting a ‘cough’ from the guilty, how to survive in the twilight and high-risk world of working with informants, and how to live with risk, adrenalin, sadness, violence, hope and no hope in equal measures. I invariably spent more time at work in the company of colleagues and criminals during those years than I did at home – family came second. Police bars, pubs, clubs, cigarette smoke, mortuary’s, post-mortems, hospitals, courts, interview rooms, HM Prisons, paperwork, cells, front doors closed and front doors removed from their hinges became common features of my life! Crime was relentless and the ‘war’ on it was also relentless. This was also a great period of social history and the police had to ‘up their game’ to meet the challenges of a changing society. When I reflect back on these years I feel a huge sense of pride for what was achieved – it was a great time to be a police officer – the job was full of democrats, autocrats, ‘blag artists’, adventurers, the not-so adventurous, steady pairs of hands, and those who stepped into danger fearlessly and did not falter when it came to confronting evil and violent behaviour. We were a family with all our faults but kept each other safe. ‘Birmingham’s Front Line’ deals with a number of serious crime investigations – not all of which were textbook in terms of outcomes. It was published by Amberley Publishers and is available in bookshops or on Amazon. It has six reviews with a score of 4.4 stars from a maximum of 5. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1445657872/ #Birmingham #WMP #Police #History
‘Black Over Bill’s Mother’s – A Storm Is Coming’ – what on earth does that title mean? In fact its a perfect introduction to a book which has Birmingham at its very heart. The version of the saying which co-author Steve Burrows and I choose to use is that ‘Bill’s Mother’ was in fact William Shakespeare’s mother with the obvious connection to Stratford Upon Avon. In years gone by Brummies’ used to look across in the direction of Stratford and if rain clouds were gathering they would utter the phrase. This is the first historical crime fiction book written by Steve and myself. It is a book to which we are both emotionally attached and in which we have 100% belief in the depth of the story lines. We were both born in Birmingham, and worked in the police in Birmingham – our roots are imbedded in the UKs second city and we are proud of our heritage. Most books are about 80,000 words but this is a big book spanning a period of time between 1943 and 2004 and over 140,000 words. When we were planning the characters we settled on three main figures – the Docker twins and Patrick Quinn. In his teenage years Steve was an enthusiastic biker and it was only natural that he would take on Patrick Quinn – a hardened biker who was also an IRA assassin and a born survivor who ultimately had no choice but to tread a path of violence. For my part I wanted to develop the character of Rob Docker – a white twin who went on to become the epitome of corruption within the police service. Not to be confused with ‘noble cause corruption’ there is nothing about Rob Dockers character that could offer redemption and there are absolutely no depths to which he will not go in pursuit of his personal agenda. He is a character that readers can dislike with a passion but if he were real he would in fact care less. That left us to deal with Joe Docker the black twin. In this case Steve and I decided to share the development of his character. The reality is that in many ways he never stood a chance as a he faced sexual exploitation and racism at every turn. A man who was a victim as well as a deadly killer and gangster figure, and yet retained so much dignity and decency within his soul which still at times fought its way to the surface.There are more murders in ‘Black Over Bill’s Mothers’ than fingers on two hands and this is not a book for those searching for a relaxing read. It is not meant to be violently gratuitous in terms of the style of writing but it is deliberately tough and uncompromising. Steve and I both believe that the journey these characters embark upon would make a brilliant TV series or feature-length film – another generation of the Peaky Blinders concept – and we remain hopeful that one day someone will give it a rightful home in pictures. By 2020 ‘Black Over Bill’s Mothers’ will form part of a four-book series – who is still standing by the end of the last book will be for readers to discover!
‘Black Over Bill’s Mothers’ is available on Amazon in either paperback or as an E Book and currently has fifty-seven great reviews, many from female readers, with a massive score of 4.9 stars out of a maximum of 5. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01HQN8Q2W/
I was never a dog handler, having been a career detective for most of my police career. Having co-authored ‘Police Dog Heroes’ with Bill Rogerson I can’t help feeling that somehow I missed out on something unique. I have been involved in co-writing a number of books and they are all slightly different in terms of how the relationship works. It sounds complicated but really its just about having a plan, and trust in your colleague is the main thing. I hadn’t written with Bill before but he is an officer who spent his entire service with the British Transport Police and possesses a huge amount of pride in the Force so I knew that he would do a great job. Also as a key member of the British Transport History Group he has a huge number of contacts. For my part I started my police career at the age of 16 years as a Cadet with BTP before moving on to other Forces and returning to them for my last six years. I have great pride in all of my police postings but will always be thankful to the BTP for acting as a ‘gateway’ to the police service after I was rejected by Birmingham City Police as being too thin! That is no longer a problem these days!
‘Police Dog Heroes’ is the history of the British Transport Police Dog Section from its inception in 1908 at Hull Docks to 2015. It is in fact the oldest police dog section in the UK and for more than a century now they have played a key rail in protecting the nations infrastructure and adding a key layer of protection in the field of counter-terrorism. The book contains some forty recollections from retired police dog handlers, two at least who unfortunately now are no longer with us (RIP). There are some huge characters among them and what shines through the book is the absolute bond that existed between handler a dog – a working relationship but without doubt in many ways also a love story between man and dog.
The book contains a number of historical photographs. It would be fair to say that in the course of putting the book together we struggled a bit to get sufficient photos together. Since 2015 retired officers like Mike Joyce have in fact amassed a huge amount of additional photos from other sources and shared them on social media. Some of them are priceless and its a clear example of how we must not lose our collective history. The BTP have also recently set up a charitable Trust to support BTP dogs in their retirement so there has been a lot of focus on their work.
What I think is beyond question is that during those decades there would have been countless occasions during which the mere presence of a police dog prevented injury, or worse, to countless police officers and members of the public. They are simply priceless.
The book is available in bookshops and on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1445655470/ – it currently has 14 reviews and scores 4.2 stars out of 5 on Amazon. #Dogs #BTP #Police #History