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Filmed across Britain, from inner cities to country beats, Coppers reveals what the police are up against every day of their working lives

About the Show

Filmed across Britain, from inner cities to country beats, Coppers reveals what the police are up against every day of their working lives

Series 2 Summary

Against a backdrop of rising crime and the shocking civil unrest of 2011, the acclaimed documentary series Coppers returns to lift the lid on what it's really like to police 21st-century Britain and its increasingly disorderly population.

  • Coppers

    Episode 1 - Coppers

    Detectives from Mansfield CID are tackling a burglary epidemic, with over 6000 homes in Nottingham targeted in 2010.

    But even when suspects are arrested - some crying crocodile tears - they are so familiar with the inside of a police station that interrogation holds no fears.

    Meanwhile, the officers launch a manhunt that ends with the discovery of a dead body in a wood, and arrest a convicted paedophile after the attempted rape of a young boy.

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    Episode 2 - Coppers

    Coppers captures shocking scenes as Nottingham's frontline officers find themselves in the middle of some of the worst anti-police violence in a generation, with police cars and stations under attack from bricks and petrol bombs.

    Filmed during the summer of 2011 when the shooting of Mark Duggan by police in London sparked the biggest civil unrest for decades, this high-octane episode offers a unique insight into the riots across England, through the eyes of police as the 'thin blue line' is stretched to breaking point.

    In the weeks preceding the unrest the programme gets under the skin of life for some of Nottingham's emergency response officers, who face a constant stream of abuse and hostility from a section of society who - for whatever reason - hate the police.

    From knife-wielding gangs in the city centre to explosive family feuds, police are engaged in a seemingly endless fight against crime: a 'game of Cops and Robbers'.

    But as the summer disturbances in London spread across the country, police in Nottingham found themselves under serious attack, with two police stations firebombed and cars pelted with bricks by an angry mob.

    In the summer of 2011 the force were faced with some of the worst violence on the streets in a generation.

    The programme hears direct - and with incredible candour - what officers on the front line really think about the job they do and the events of the summer.

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    Episode 3 - Coppers

    This episode meets beat bobbies tackling shoplifters, burglars, drunks, anti-social behaviour and intractable disputes between neighbours in Worksop, Nottinghamshire.

    The police find themselves dealing with the same people time and again.

    Like most officers, straight-talking Inspector Steve Cartwright is fed up with career criminals with no respect for the police or society and is sick of dealing with neighbourly disputes. 'Since when has dog poo outside your house been a police matter? We all joined to be cops, not social workers.'

    But upbeat PC Steve Porter, who came to policing after a career as a factory manager, feels he has found his calling dealing with people's problems: 'We spend our time sorting people's lives out and if I can make a difference, it's a job well done to me.'

    No-nonsense PC Christian Hurley has been on the beat team for three years and admits it was a culture shock when he first joined: 'Seeing needles and spoons with heroin in people's houses used to be shocking, but you get used to it... it's a case of wipe your feet on the way out.'

    Meanwhile, 26-year-old PC Dan Cooper, the youngest officer on Worksop's Neighbourhood Team, has had to adapt quickly to the reality of modern policing: 'Society's gone a bit by the wayside ain't it? We all get called offensive names, being spat at is the worst... you just have to detach yourself from it.'

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    Episode 4 - Coppers

    This episode joins Tayside police's newest recruits as they hit the streets for the first time. Unlike most English forces, police in Scotland are still taking on new recruits.

    After training at the Scottish Police College, the next step to becoming a copper is 15 weeks out on the streets under the watchful eye of a more experienced officer. The rookies face the realities of life on the beat and it's a far cry from their sanitised training classrooms.

    The tutors expect them to be shocked - and not all of them will make it through the tough assessment. PC Heather Milne thinks they'll be unprepared: 'It is an eye opener. You don't have "probationer" stamped on your head. The public just see a police officer and expect you to know what to do.'

    The programme follows the new recruits as they arrive for their first day as a police officer; their first arrest, first drugs raid and first experience of a sudden death.

    Rookie PC Iona McIntyre has left a job as an auditor to become a police officer: 'You're just trying to appear confident with the public with a calm and comforting exterior even if you're in complete turmoil inside.'

    Tutor PC Willie Hughes has a friendly warning for the new recruits: 'The reality more often than not is you're just trying to hold what's left of society together before it finally implodes and kills itself.'

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    Episode 5 - Coppers

    With exclusive access to Nottinghamshire police's Armed Response Unit, this episode reveals what it's like carrying a lethal weapon on the British streets, 'The Gucci end of the job'.

    Whether armed with 9mm pistols, semi-automatic carbines or tasers, the Armed Response Unit officers are highly trained and always ready for action, but praying they never have to pull the trigger and possibly take someone's life.

    The programme follows the officers as they stop a car they believe contains a weapon, detain a man accused of threatening to kill an ex-girlfriend and arrest a woman for confronting a former friend with a pistol.

    PC Dan Butler is philosophical about having to take a fatal shot: 'If they put themselves in a position where I have no choice but to take a shot at them, I will take that shot at them; but it's their choice and their life choices and actions which has led me to take that shot.'

    While Nottinghamshire police attend an average of 243 firearms incidents annually, there are on average 1500 occasions a year when tasers are deployed. Their use by British police is controversial, but many of the armed officers believe that all frontline police should have access to tasers.

    'It's the best thing we've got,' says one. One officer describes being tasered: 'I've never experienced pain like it.' Another says: 'It's like holding an electric fence, but times that by 10,000.'

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    Episode 6 - Coppers

    This episode joins the officers of Nottinghamshire Police's Territorial Support Group (TSG) as they fight crime across the county from their van, which also serves as an office, canteen, home and cell.

    The TSG officers are specially trained to deal with public order - including football violence, demonstrations and anti-social behaviour - as well as warrants and searches. They can be called on to help by any branch of the force, to tackle anything from a counter-terrorist search to a political demo.

    Many of the officers feel that society has 'gone soft', with deference to the uniform long gone, and they sometimes offer a robust, old-school face of policing in response.

    The officers play a cat and mouse game with the tiny hardcore minority of football fans determined to engage in violence with rival supporters.

    Meanwhile, searches see the police engaged in a psychological battle of wits with criminals who are prepared to do anything to stay one step ahead, from wiring the mains to door knobs, to hiding drugs in dirty nappies.

    Alongside the darker moments, the TSG officers are a tight-knit team who spend hours stuck in vans waiting for a call to action, eating, farting and working on insults for one other. But when a new female sergeant arrives the officers attempt to be on their best behaviour.

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    Episode 7 - Coppers

    Coppers meets Nottinghamshire Police's dogs and their handlers, who face some of the toughest challenges on the front-line, from crowd control at football matches and catching suspects on the run, to sniffing out drugs, guns and money.

    After recent cuts, Nottinghamshire Police have 16 dog handlers to cover the whole county, with two on duty at any given time. The officers are some of the most experienced in the force and their services are in huge demand.

    As well as handling dogs, the officers of the Dog Section are trained high-speed drivers, often the first to arrive at a crime scene with little idea who - or what - is awaiting them.

    The dogs are trained for 14 weeks. The 'general purpose' Alsatians need 19 separate skills and are capable of biting with a force of 250 lbs per square inch.

    The 'sniffer' spaniels are expected to detect drugs, firearms and money; some have even been trained to distinguish between Sterling, Euros and Dollars.

    The officers are unusual in that they literally 'take the job home with them', looking after the police dogs while off duty. It's an intense partnership that lasts up to eight years.

    PC Stuart Hazard is a former traffic and firearms officer who, like many of his colleagues, waited years to join the Dog Section. A high-speed pursuit expert, he and his Alsatian Razor make a formidable team.

    Meanwhile, at 48, PC Andy Pickersgill is the oldest officer in the section and only a year from retirement. A former Navy stoker, he's spent his whole police career with dogs, and his dog Blade is the doyenne of Nottinghamshire's police dogs.

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    Episode 8 - Coppers

    The final episode of the series joins officers on the rural Pitlochry beat in Tayside.

    For many urban cops, quiet low-crime rural beats are the source of much amusement - somewhere you're put out to pasture and where the most serious crime is a bit of sheep bothering.

    But with over 1000 square miles to cover it's a challenge just to get to crime scenes, and back-up could be an hour away.

    In an area where everyone knows everyone else, police officers work the same way their predecessors did generations ago, through respect and quiet words.

    People are more likely to wave than hurl abuse at the police here and the officers' secret weapons aren't tasers and semi-automatic rifles, but a cup of tea and a smile.

    But while crime is low, the officers have to cover a long stretch of the A9 - as well as treacherous rural roads and remote countryside - and major accidents are a regular occurrence. PCs will often be the first emergency service on site and have to cope with the dying and severely injured alone for some time.

    Former Glasgow PC Ronnie Deuchar nearly cried when he found out he was being transferred to Pitlochry, and it was so quiet in the first week that he thought his radio was broken.

    PC Peter Lorrain-Smith takes his work very seriously and believes the best way to fight crime is to be seen and getting kids on the straight-and-narrow early.

    Meanwhile, Sergeant John Watson, who's approaching retirement, knows everyone and, according to his colleagues, can walk into a pub and sort out a situation just with a look.

Coppers synopsis

Filmed across Britain, from inner cities to country beats, Coppers reveals what the police are up against every day of their working lives

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