"I'm Neil Armstrong and I walk on the moon" - out on patrol with the police in Darlington on "Black Friday"

The Northern Echo: PCs Chris Horner (right) and Karl Fairest patrol along Post House Wynd in Darlington town centre. PCs Chris Horner (right) and Karl Fairest patrol along Post House Wynd in Darlington town centre.

AS the last Friday before Christmas, Black Friday is one of the busiest nights of the year for police across the region. Hannah Bryan joins officers on patrol in Darlington town centre.

A PIERCING scream echoes around the grounds of Darlington police station.

Whimpering is punctuated by cries of protest as police officers attempt to coax a handcuffed man out from the back of their van and into custody.

He refuses, instead choosing to lie in a puddle, soaking his suit jacket and trousers.

It’s 1.30am and this once respectable looking chap is the latest Black Friday reveller to be arrested for being drunk and disorderly.

He has a good job and has never troubled police before, but after refusing to leave the town centre following a drink-fuelled brawl in Darlington’s Grange Road, he is brought into custody for his own safety.

“He’ll be embarrassed about this in the morning,” says PC Karl Fairest, who has worked the town centre beat for more than ten years. “People expect the problems to be caused by the usual troublemakers, but tonight it’s usually law-abiding people who can’t handle their drink.

“Most of them in custody tonight are not known to police, but this is one of the nights where people just go out to get absolutely plastered.”

Despite the driving rain and wind, scores of people have descended on Darlington town centre hoping to enjoy a festive drink or two, many dressed in gaudy Christmas jumpers, others squeezed into tiny Santa outfits, teetering around in sky-high heels.

To ensure the night runs smoothly, almost a dozen extra neighbourhood officers, including special constables, have been drafted in to patrol the town centre, allowing response officers to look after the suburbs.

Thanks to the weather it’s quieter than previous years, and for much of the night spirits are high, the only “bother” coming from groups of drunken men wanting to shake the officers’ hands and wish them a happy Christmas.

But it only takes a split second for the mood to change. Reports of a fight between two men outside Harvey’s Bar, on Houndgate, crackles over the radio and officers race to the scene.

A drunken man out with his workmates has attacked a fellow reveller – a case of mistaken identity – and officers are prepared to issue him with a notice to quit, ordering him to leave the town centre for the next 12 hours.

But after the usual taunts of “I pay your f****** wages,” he gives officers false details, claiming he is Neil Armstrong and he walks on the moon.

With that the 28-year-old, who isn’t known to police, is swiftly cuffed and booked into custody, where he and a number of others like him will sleep off the booze on a plastic mattress in a cell.

They’ll be dealt with in the morning when they’ve sobered up and can talk coherently.

“We don’t go out to lock people up, we just want people to have a good night and stay safe,” says PC Chris Horner. “It is just a small minority that cause problems.”

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