Working over Christmas to keep London safe

ELL spoke to two of the capital’s many key workers who sacrifice their own festivities to keep London in order on Christmas day.

Photo: Ian Britton

PC Hilary Sizmur, 39 a member of the Lewisham Response Team said:“The most memorable call-out was two years ago. We responded to a report of domestic violence and when we got there, found the poor gentleman sitting on the doorstep with a black eye and covered in turkey giblets.

“His partner had lost her temper and attacked him with a knife, then decided to hit him with the turkey instead. It was still half-raw and it was that which gave him the black eye. She’d also smashed a load of eggs on his head.

“As funny as it seemed at first, it could have been a lot worse. The attacker had to spend the rest of Christmas in custody, after she’d sobered up.

“The same year, we came across a drink-driving cabbie who was picking up fares even though he was three sheets to the wind. You get a lot of drink driving around Christmas.

“Everyone uses the same excuse – “But it’s Christmas…”. Even the turkey-attack lady used it. That’s fair enough if it’s just a bit of silliness – jumping over bollards on the High Street or something. But there’s no excuse for dangerous behaviour or violence.

“I’ve been a police officer in Lewisham for four years. It’s generally very quiet on Christmas Day shifts – but the calls you do get can be quite serious.

“By far the worst time to work is New Year. The number of call-outs goes off the scale. There are a lot of alcohol fuelled assaults. Not just fisticuffs, but quite serious stuff. The last New Year I worked we had to deal with three cases of GBH.

“My ideal Christmas would be two weeks in the Bahamas or the Maldives – somewhere with some sun – with my family. I’ve got three kids and the hardest thing about working Christmas is not spending time with them.

“This year I’m not working Christmas Day and I’ll get to spend the day the with them, but then it’s straight back to work on Boxing Day, waking up at 4.30am – so not too much drinking for me!

It’s hard not seeing the family as much as you want, but you take that responsibility when you join the police. It means that when I am with them, they have my full attention.”

Photo: Metropolitan Police

Sarah Sowle, 31, 999 call operator in Lambeth said:

I have three children between 3 and 5. My ideal Christmas would just be to stay at home with them, but working Christmas is part of the job.

“This year I have to work overnight, 7pm to 7am, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I’ve been in the job for nine years now. I used to be a retail manager – so there was no working Christmas Day back then.

“It is hard to have to deal with the darker side of life at Christmas, particularly for people with families.

“There’s a really good team spirit in the call room though, which definitely helps us get through and stops things getting too depressing! There’s Christmas spirit too. We put decorations up and this year we did a Secret Santa. We’ll all chip in for some little treats like sweets, chocolate, mince pies, things like that to have around the office.

“Over Christmas we tend to get a lot of calls about burglaries, a lot of drink driving and sadly a lot domestic violence.

“Occasionally we’ll also get something silly, like someone setting the fire alarm off after burning their spuds!

“Next year I’ll be one of the lucky ones not working Christmas Day – I’m looking forward to that!”

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