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What to do when the Police enter crowded licensed premises with a view to making arrests

Updated: Apr 4, 2020

One of the most dangerous law enforcement interactions occurs where uniformed officers enter premises selling alcohol with intent to exercise law enforcement powers. This is increasingly likely amidst the Coronavirus scare, as populations tire of lockdown and the Police seek to exert their authority over a disobedient population. Our short guide tells you how to survive it.

The typical nightmare scenario for anyone operating in circumstances of a heightened security profile is pubs, bars and nightclubs. There are typically three reasons why police intervention may occur in such environments. One is that the premises should not be open, for example because there is virus pandemic curfew in force. In that case we advise you to stay away; but if you don't, this is what you should do. The second is that the premises is awash with drugs. The third is that there is a group of criminals. (Where the managers of the premises call the Police because there is a fight, there is little danger of arrest unless you were fighting, which you should not have been.)


Whatever the reason, where a large group of uniformed agents (5+) enter such an establishment,  their purpose is almost invariably arresting a substantial number of people, while letting the rest free after search and/or interview and potential verbal warnings. You need to make sure you are not in the unfortunate minority. It is an exercise in looking less deviant or aggressive than the average.


The first thing to do is to establish how many people the Police intend to arrest. If the crowd is calm, count upon the number being one for every two officers. If the crowd is potentially violent, increase the ratio to three officers for every person arrested. However always bear in mind that the Police have the power to call for backup in the event that, should circumstances transpire warranting the arrest of more people, the necessary resources are on hand.


The very first thing you do when you see the officers enter is drop any contraband on the floor. You need to give the 'contraband' a very broad definition, to include anything the Police might not like if they search you, such as membership cards for extreme political organisations, or anything that might conceivably be used as a weapon. Drop it on the floor and kick it away with your foot; then deny, deny, deny. Do not try to flush things down the lavatory. There may be an officer waiting at the lavatory door for people like you. If you are at the door of the bar when the Police enter, wait for the first group of officers to pass you, follow them until you are out of the line of site of the officers waiting at the front door so people can't escape; then execute the drop.


You must become immediately sober. Voluntarily submit to all searches. Answer all questions truthfully, save for questions about whether you are intoxicated in any way in which case the answer is 'I've had three pints of strong lager'. This is plausible, and enough to justify any mild incoherence on your part. It is almost always a good idea to express inchoate remorse for an unarticulated sin. You are on your own. You are not with friends or colleagues (this could be construed as conspiracy). You came here to meet a girl for a Tindr date. She didn't show up, so you stayed to watch the football. On reflection, this was foolish and you intend to go straight home to bed.


As always in interactions with the Police, turn off your mobile telephone at the first opportunity. Do not write WhatsApp messages to your friends about 'the f+++ing Police'. If you must wait for some reason, for example to be searched, stand upright with your mouth closed and your hands exposed in front of you. Be as cooperative as you can while saying the least, and be patient. If you are in a nightclub with a reputation for drug use, you may be waiting for several hours to be released while everybody is searched. The temptation to use your mobile telephone will be overwhelming. Do not do it. Remember that Police Officers have quasi-military training, and they respect more people who exhibit those same habits. Stand straight and remain silent. You will be out quicker. After half an hour of standing like a statue in absolute silence, politely approach an officer and ask if you can jump the queue on a humanitarian pretext (e.g. sick mother - do not go for the children or the officer will think you are a schmuck for not being with them in the first place).


Police intervention scenarios are likely to become more frequent as Coronavirus lockdown periods start to eat into alcohol withdrawal syndrome recovery stages, and the population gets restless to go out. Nevertheless do not panic if you are caught up in such a scenario. They look much more frightening than in truth they are. Provided you follow this guidance precisely, you are very unlikely to have anything to worry about.


Obviously do go home after you are released. If the Police later raid another establishment the same evening and find you there as well, they are likely to remember. They are experts in short term facial recognition, by reason of their duties. In this case you may need to plead a psychotic episode. Call lawyers immediately.

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