Saturday night is the night we all look forward to. We get dressed in our best, spend hours on hair and make-up, make plans, and then re-plan in the group chat where the pre is gonna happen and then go out into the City, drink, dance and be merry, and at the end of the night have that compulsory take away before we head home. This has always been the Saturday night that I have experienced, until last December when during my placement with the PSNI I embarked on a Saturday night in Belfast City Centre on duty.
As it was December, Christmas celebrations were in full swing, and this goes for inside the police station where Red TSG (Tactical Support Group) are based, as when I arrived there was two fully uniformed officers singing along to Merry Christmas Everyone by Shaking Stephens, their way of ‘preing’ for the night ahead. I sat in the debrief room and listened to the Sergeant in charge running through how they planned the night to go. I was to go with the Sergeant and two Constables on City Centre duty. It was around two weeks before Christmas and therefore they knew that Christmas parties were going to add to what is normally the busiest night of the week. The PSNI were also in the midst of running their Winter Drink Driving campaign so all officers were asked to be extra vigilant with car checks when out on patrol.
We set off into the city centre around 7pm and after one spin around the town we headed up towards West Belfast when a driver hit the wing mirror of the patrol car and appeared to drive off in an erratic manner, tipping off the officers that he may be intoxicated. The driver was pulled over and breathalysed. With his result coming back fail, the man was arrested for drink driving and brought to Musgrave Custody Suite. Now, many believe that all police officers do is arrest and bring arrestees into custody, however this one person arrested meant the team lost one of his officers who had to fill out copious amounts of paperwork, and as the drunk driver was a foreign national it meant they had to wait on a translator also.
Back on duty, we set back into the city and within 10 minutes we received a call over the radio for rapid response. When we got to the scene three young men had overdosed on cocaine on the street and gone into cardiac arrest. An ambulance had arrived already and paramedics were performing CPR and administrating Adrenaline to the males which thankfully brought them all round. The street became crowded with residents of the surrounding area and passersby, and the police worked on securing the scene to protect the dignity of the young men and help out the paramedics trying to save the men’s lives. One of the police officers also helped the paramedics out as he was a first aider and the Ambulance service were stretched as it was on a busy Saturday night. The partnership between the emergency services is one that many forget and is one that helps so many in wider society.
A PSNI Facebook image of the incident
Once the men had been loaded into the ambulances and more police were able to arrive on scene, we left to go back on patrol when I noticed a man lying on the ground. We pulled over and it turned out the man was having a heart attack and had come out of his house to get help. We were aware that the ambulance service was stretched to capacity now, this being about 10.30pm so the officers used all their first aid skills they knew and waited until another crew were able to come and help the man.
At around 1am, we went into the City Centre again and in the space off two hours had handed out three tickets for public urination and stopped two fights from pub revellers.
To see a Saturday night from a different perspective gave me a lot of respect for the emergency services who under hard cuts and pressures go out and do their job with a smile and are able to have a few laughs along the way. If it hadn’t been for the emergency services three young men would have lost their lives in the middle of the road, another could have caused serious damage under the influence of alcohol and many others may not have gotten home safely. In one Saturday the three officers I shadowed dealt with at least 50 different people and were shouted at and abused. It reminded me that as I get ready for my Saturday night out, there are others who are doing the same, but to ensure our safety throughout our night.
Rosa O’Farrell is a final year student in BSc Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosa-o-farrell-2a796a23/