Police, Crime & 999
John Donoghue


The 3 Life Lessons from the Police

A young police officer is sitting in the front room belonging to an elderly lady, taking a statement. He’s sitting on the sofa balancing his paper on his knee, she’s sitting on an armchair across the other side of the lounge with a cup of tea. You can hear the clock on the mantlepiece tick tock during the pauses in the conversation. Then, the door nudges open, and a German Shepherd dog wanders in, looks around & then proceeds to squat down in the middle of the room and deposit a fresh steaming turd. He then potters back out from whence he has come.

The police officer looks over at the lady, but she takes a sip from her teacup & looks as if she is pretending nothing has happened. Well, it’s not my dog and not my house, and everyone has different standards, thinks the young officer, so it’s not up to me to tell the dog off, so he just goes back to taking the statement.

However, fifteen minutes later, the statement is complete, and the curiosity becomes too much for him & as he leaves, he feels compelled to ask the question.

“I know it’s your house and up to you, but when your dog did a poo in the middle of the room, why didn’t you say anything?

“MY DOG?” replies the woman… “I THOUGHT IT WAS YOUR DOG!”

Lesson 1: Fact can be Stranger than Fiction

I’m John Donoghue: a former police officer with twenty years’ service and I want to impart the three life lessons I’ve learnt from my time in the police.

I was a response officer… that is, I was the initial response to 999 incidents & other jobs that were reported.

So, was I the best cop to have ever worked the streets? No.

But did I put in 100% effort to every incident I attend? Also No.

What I did was write about the funny, interesting & bizarre jobs I went to…

I haven’t always been in the Constabulary & before joining I had spent 20 years in the military and had written my first book about my service and subsequent trip around the funny named places in Britain with my puppy.

And I thought I’d told all my tales… but I’d never come across a dog doing a poop in the middle of the room and nobody saying a word… and that’s when I knew I had to take up writing again.

It seems that in the police, fact can indeed be stranger than fiction, and over the years, I’ve arrested a bride at her own wedding, chased a naked man around the deserted streets at midnight, discovered why wearing two pairs of socks can make you a suspect, found out what happens when you die if CSI don’t like you, arrested a member of the Royal family, fought with a Bonsai Tree called Geoff…

It wasn’t what at all what I was led to expect… after all I’d seen enough TV police shows before I joined to know how the police operates:

1.     Most crimes are solved by a Chief Inspector with his Sgt sidekick.

2.     During all police investigations, it will be necessary to visit a strip club at least once.

3.     A detective, who is usually a divorced alcoholic, can only solve a case after he’s been suspended from duty.

Oh, and printers always work.

However, I soon found out someone had been telling me lies, and that’s when I discovered my next life lesson.

Lesson 2: Assume Nothing, Believe Nobody, Challenge Everything.

It’s the core lesson in policing and is something that has stood me well throughout my career, although didn’t make me very popular with the local vicar.

Along the way I also discovered some of the bizarre things that people call the emergency line for:

Someone called 999 because of a lack of hundreds & thousands on their ice cream.

An irate caller because McDonalds stopped doing breakfast at 11:00

A woman rang 999 to report a bad haircut.

Another 999 call because, “The neighbours are cutting their veg too loudly”.

There is a graveyard next door and it’s devaluing the price of my house.

All that being said, I hope I don’t come over as taking things too lightly or flippantly, as the other side of the police is some of the horrendous things we experience. They say on average a person experiences 4-8 traumatic experiences in their life, whilst a police officer can experience between 400-600.

There is a saying in the forensic world that every contact leaves a trace. A burglar may leave fingerprints, blood, traces of fibres at a scene, or minute particles of glass may be attached to an offender if they have broken a window etc.

And just as Every Contact Leaves a Trace in the forensic sense, every contact also leaves a trace on your soul; your psyche.

As a response officer, I’m first on scene at incidents and I’ve been to murders and horrendous traffic collisions, had people die in my arms and seen more dead bodies than I care to remember. And observing the worst that people do, day in day out, is bound to affect you.

So that’s why, like a lot of police officers, we turn to humour to get us through, often black humour. As someone once said “Laughter is the shock absorber that eases the blows of life”

However, despite that, it can be all too easy to lose your faith in human nature, but whenever I start to feel like that, I recall an incident I attended many years ago and it always helps me get through. It relates to one woman, who despite her own predicament, refused to believe that people were all bad. That there was still hope, and that’s my final life lesson.

Lesson 3: This is always Hope.

The tale starts one early autumnal morning & a report had come in about an alarm activation in a small post office in a sleepy village on our patch.

Armed robbers had burst into the shop, fired a warning shot into the ceiling & demanded the money from the safe. It was all over in five minutes. The helicopter had been scrambled & every unit across the county was searching for the getaway car. I was first on scene and stepping over the debris I entered the shop.

The scene was carnage. Half an hour earlier, this was a quiet & sleepy post office. Now papers were strewn across the floor, glass from the broken window scrunched underfoot, the smell of cordite hung in the air and everything was soaked as the fire sprinkler system did its worst.

The elderly post-mistress, who had been born and bred in the village had never seen anything like this. She was shaking, still in shock. “They came in with their masks on, shooting in the air, waving their shotguns about and demanding money” she told me.

I did all I could and made her a cup of tea, but despite all that had happened, and all that she had been through, I could tell that she hadn’t lost all faith in mankind’s inherent goodness and decency when she paused in her statement to muse, “I don’t know where they could have parked though, because it’s double yellow lines outside”.




John Donoghue has written five books about his service in the police & military. His latest, A Bonsai Tree Called Geoff, is out  on Amazon in May 2024.




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