Policing Southmead 1970s – 2000s

By Geoff Williams, retired Constable and Sergeant

Part 1

I thought I would begin in this first episode by giving readers who do not know me, a quick rough guide, and outline about myself. I am Geoffrey Williams, retired, Southmead Police Constable and Sergeant. I attended Sefton Park Infant, Junior and Senior School from 5 to 13 years of age. I then went to Bristol Secondary Technical School, Engineering Department, Boot Lane, Bedminster from 13 to 16 years of age. Upon leaving school, I served an apprenticeship, at Bristol Siddeley Engines, (now Rolls-Royce Engines). I was a doorman, at various dance venues and discos in Bristol and surrounding areas. I joined Bristol City Constabulary, in February 1973, aged 26, as a Constable and retired in January 2002 aged 55 as a Sergeant. When I first joined the police, I was stationed at Kings Weston Police Station from where Southmead was policed, prior to the opening of Southmead Police Station. In those bygone days Southmead, was for policing purposes, split in two: the top half being the new estate, the bottom half being the old estate, with Greystoke Avenue being the great divide. As a dedicated officer, I policed both, as I felt this was the only way to get to know the whole of the community of Southmead. During my 28 years 11 months, I probably knew the estate as well as any resident. In the next instalments I will go in to more detail about my experiences of policing the Southmead Community. (First published in The Mead, August 2016)

Part 2

During the 1970s Southmead Estate was policed from Kingsweston Police Station, Napier Miles Road. I had just finished my refreshment break one day when the phone rang. As there was no one else in the office I answered and the conversation went like this: Me: ‘’Good morning, Bristol Police. PC Williams speaking.’’ Him: ‘’Is that Geoff?’’ Me: ‘’Yes.’’ Him: ‘’I wants to report the robbery of me gas and electric meters.’’ (In those olden days people had meters that you had to feed with 10p coins). Me: ‘’Look, I know you have stolen that money yourself’’. Him: ‘’How did you know that?’’ Me: ‘’Cos I’m the Police and I am paid to know things like this.’’ Him: ‘’OK what do I do now?’’ Me: ‘’I will come and pick you up, bring you to the Police Station and talk to you about the theft from the meters.’’ Him: ‘’I am guilty; will I get bail?’’ Me: ‘’Depending on your previous, more than likely, but I cannot promise you bail until the matter is fully investigated.’’ I pick him up, go to Kingsweston Police Station, where I interview him, he admits everything and says ‘’I still cannot work out how you knew it was I.’’ I just smiled and said ‘’It is my job to know these things.’’ He was bailed to a court date. From picking him up to charging him and bailing him took an hour and 20 minutes and believe it or not he thanked me for sorting it all out so quickly and being picked up and taken home. That is just one example of numerous unbelievable things people will say or do. I will tell more of Policing Southmead in the 70’s and 80’s in the next episode. (First published in The Mead, December 2016)

Part 3

My last 13 months as a Police Sergeant was spent as the Custody Sergeant in Southmead Police Station. It had taken the Police Service 28 years to catch up with me and get me off the streets!  I will now list what I thought were incidents worth a mention.

One young man asked me about his Human Rights, to which I asked him about the Human Rights of the people he had made victims of his crimes.  He was unable to answer, especially as I told him I was in charge and I would decide what rights he was lawfully entitled to have. Another young man when asked his name replied, “Mickey Mouse”.  When asked where he lived – Euro Disney Paris or Disney Land Florida, he suddenly realised I was bringing him back to the real world, broke down in tears, and was ever so sorry for being stupid. I used to explain that there was only going to be one winner in the Custody Unit and it was never going to be them.  Slowly but surely the message got through by their experiences and by word of mouth in their world!

I was due to retire upon reaching the ripe old age of 55.  Due to Police regulations at that time I could not stay on. With knowing my retirement date, I arranged to finish at 2pm on Christmas Eve 2001 as I was owed Annual Leave and other bits of time. At 10am on Christmas Eve, the person in charge of the Custody Rotas for the whole of the Avon & Somerset Policing area telephoned me and asked if I could do a Custody Duty at Taunton on Christmas Day!  I explained I had sorted out my retirement date and was finishing at 2pm later that day. He had obviously done his homework and knew I officially retired on 12th January 2002.  I told him there was NO way I was going to Taunton and threatened to do something I had never previously done – I would go sick.  I did say if he could find a Custody Unit closer to Bristol I would think about it. He put the ‘phone down so I thought that was the end of the matter.  He rang back at 11.30am and told me I could go to sunny Weston-Super-Mare. He offered me one hour’s travel each way plus, as it was Christmas Day, it would be double time. This equaled half a week’s pay so I gratefully took the money and ran. I did my duty and retired at 3pm Christmas Day 2001.

When I had been retired for about 2 months I felt I could still offer my lifetime experiences so I started to look for work. I obtained work as a Development Officer for Lawrence Weston Drug & Alcohol Project.  There was then a reconfiguration of Drug Services in Bristol so I was transferred (no transfer fee or signing on fee!) to the Bristol Drugs Project, where I worked until November 2013 when I became full-time retired.  Since retiring I wonder how I ever had time to go to work in the first place!

I am currently a Trustee of the Southmead Development Trust, Honorary president of Southmead Rugby Club, Chairman of the Bristol Branch for Guide Dogs for the Blind, and I am a member of the Bristol IAG; IAG means Independent Advisory Group to the local North Bristol Police.  I am also a member of the SIAG which is the Strategic Independent Advisory Group to the entire Avon & Somerset Constabulary; IAG’s are a critical friend to the Police. With my expertise I do sometimes cause the Police a little bit of alarm and despondency due to my insider knowledge, and also my knowledge of the community of Southmead.

I feel I am an Honorary ‘MEADER’’ and very proud and thankful I was allowed to Police Southmead my way (NOT necessarily the ‘Police Book’ way! That is my final installment on the policing of Southmead during the 70s 80s 90s and early 00s. My very best wishes to the whole of Southmead and my thanks to you all for having me. Geoff Williams (Well and truly Retired). (First published in The Mead, July 2017)

The Mead would like to thank Geoff for his three brilliant and entertaining installments about his career.  Thank you Geoff, you’re a Southmead Star!