Appearances Can Be Deceptive

Judge Ye Not

When I was a student I found myself doing one day of work experience with a wonderful old policeman called PC Baker. It’s not something young people are allowed to do these days.
From the moment we started walking at about 5.00 p.m. I began to enjoy my time. It seemed that everybody knew PC Baker. Shoppers as well as shopkeepers said, “Hello officer”, with a smile whenever possible. The next few hours turned into a fascinating historic tour of the area. My policeman had an amazing amount of facts and old stories stored in his head and I greatly enjoyed his company.
Gradually it got dark and PC Baker started to play with a new torch he had just received at the police station, turning it on and off many times. 

At about 10.00 in the evening a man came running down the street and said, “Constable, constable. I knew you’d be around here somewhere.”
“Calm down and tell me all about it Sid,” said PC Baker.
“There’s a chap up on the big crane at the building site on James Street. He’s going to jump.”
We quickly walked to the site and there was the huge crane plus a small crowd looking upwards. PC Baker took out his new torch and said, “Now we’ll see just how good you are my little beauty.” He clicked on the beam and I was impressed. Far, far up on the arm of the crane that sticks out to do the lifting there was the outline of a man and he seemed to have some form of light perhaps a small torch, which of course he would have needed to climb up there in the first place. Sarge shouted up to him, “Are you alright son? Can I help?” Distant, vague and garbled answers came back but nobody could understand him and we realised that up there this chap probably could not understand anyone on the ground. Eventually, PC baker got the ever growing crowd to shout, “DON’T JUMP. PLEASE COME DOWN” altogether, but this just resulted in more vague and garbled words. Eventually, PC Baker said, “I’ll have to call this in. I don’t want him to do anything hasty.”
For the first time since I had been with him he got onto his walkie-talkie and described the situation. I heard an officer reply that a police car, the fire brigade and an ambulance would soon be on the scene. True enough, about 15 minutes later, one after another they each arrived. Most crucially, the police car had come prepared. It had a big spotlight that was run by the car engine, which was left running, as well as a loud hailer. By now there was a large crowd all looking up. A few minutes later, as discussions took place on how to proceed, there was yet another arrival. A well-dressed man got out of his car to be welcomed by all three of the emergency services. It turned out he was a trained negotiator who was expert at persuading such people not to go ahead and jump. His first instruction was a question, “Can I talk to him?” In response a policeman handed him the loud hailer. However, as he spoke, the outcome was the same. Whatever was said, a vague and garbled message came back that nobody could understand. Eventually the negotiator issued an order, “Get me up there. It’s the only way I can talk him down.” I was amazed as the trained policemen produced harnesses. One was attached to the negotiator and one to an officer who was going to accompany him on the climb. The order was given that they must attach themselves to the metalwork with the clips before each careful step upwards. This would slow them down but, unless they agreed, they couldn’t go.
With nods all round they set off. It was a slow business. About every 15 minutes we could hear the negotiator try to make contact but it was obviously still too far and so all would go quiet until the next attempt. After about 90 minutes some sort of two-way conversation seemed to be taking place and we all held our breath. Then, after another 15 minutes, all three men started climbing down together and the crowd broke out into spontaneous applause as well as cheering. After a long wait our heroes were welcomed to the ground floor with pats on the back, whilst the ambulance men waited with a blanket for the poor chap. As he finally put his feet on the ground, he shrugged off the blanket and we all noticed he was wearing a harness, which seemed a little odd for a man about to commit suicide. He turned and looked at the police officers with a hard stare. He then shouted, “LOOK, DO YOU MIND IF I GO BACK UP NOW AND GET THIS CRANE FIXED. IF IT’S NOT READY BY THE MORNING I WON’T GET PAID!”
A few red faces looked at each other and people started to drift away. PC Baker looked at me and said, “Better safe than sorry. Shift’s over, it’s time for home.”

I went home thinking that appearances can be deceptive and that nobody should ever make a judgement until they know all the facts and even then we should think carefully.
I liked PC Baker but unfortunately for me that one outing was the last I ever saw of him.