Updated: Friday, 5th June 2020 @ 4:07pm

Murder, riots and infanticide - just another day at the office

Murder, riots and infanticide - just another day at the office

by Kif Hussain


INSPECTOR Chris Donaldson has been an officer with the Metropolitan Police for 26 years. Kif Hussain expected to meet a hardened, battle-weary officer, but the reality was very different...


Speaking to Chris Donaldson for the first time, with the knowledge that he has been a police officer for 26 years, you would (quite stereotypically, admittedly) expect to meet a cynical, serious person who offers very little in the way of a smile.


In Chris’s case, however, this assumption is about as correct as an MP claiming honest expenses. Yes, he is serious when he has to be but he also has a colloquial and friendly nature that really stands out and surprises you as you talk to him. He responds wittily throughout the interview, cracking a joke every now and then, but in an instant can switch to telling you about his involvement with something as serious as the G20 riots in April.


It all started for Chris immediately after leaving school. He admits that he hadn’t given serious thought to his future beyond school and decided to be a policeman on a whim.


“It was really a spontaneous thing,” says Chris. “But I am glad I did it because I didn’t want my job to be monotonous, I wanted to be out and about rather than behind a desk.”


The first major police incident he was involved in was the death of his “puppy-walker” – a slang term that refers to an officer to which new recruits are assigned in order to “learn the ropes.” Yvonne Fletcher was killed in London’s St James’s Square while on duty during a protest outside the Libyan embassy in 1984. Chris had only been on the job for eight months and it was an experience that left its mark.


“I suppose it was my first proper introduction to the field,” remembers Chris. “It was definitely a shock, I was only a teenager at the time. There was a protestor who had fired some shots and Yvonne was hit and killed. Right now, we are trying to get the Government to extradite the killer from Libya so justice can be done.”


Yvonne’s death was just the start of a series of intense experiences Chris was to go through. The following year he was involved in the Tottenham riots in 1985 with the Poll Tax riots following in 1990. During this time, the police were also battling with the threat of the IRA.


“The good thing about the IRA though, although I am in no way advocating what they did, was that they would at least ring us up and tell us where their threats were located!” jokes Chris.


Chris’s recent work saw him policing the G20 Summit in London. Protests were planned and were expected to pass peacefully. However, police intelligence had informed Chris and his colleagues that a group of anarchists had congregated in the financial district and their sole intention was to cause damage.


“We were put in a tough situation then. On the one hand, we had genuine protesters who were fully entitled to exercise their right to protest,” he recalls. “However, the anarchists were just there to be destructive. My team had 20 new officers that day as well who were inexperienced and that made things more difficult. We were attacked with whatever they could get their hands on, even bottles of piss!”


Even with bottles of unpleasant liquid hurled at them, Chris and his team had a job they had to persevere with. They resorted to employing a tactic known as ‘kettling’ in which police contain a crowd within a limited area. The hope was that the genuine protesters and anarchists would be kept together and so trouble would be restricted.


“The kettling tactic worked very well. But some damage was unavoidable I suppose. One amazing thing was that we made an arrest that day on the Tube – someone on their way to the riots had managed to sneak a wheelie bin full of weapons!


“Me and my team got a commendation for our work, so we were pleased about that,” continues Chris. “But the ceremony takes place behind close doors which can get very frustrating. We are proud of our hard work and it doesn’t seem fair.”


The protests were obviously very testing for Chris and his colleagues. But what about the best demonstration he’s had to police?


“A Tamil protests was in the same month as the G20 one and that was fantastic!” laughs Chris. “Honestly, they were the nicest protesters I’ve ever seen, I wish they were all like that! When we told them to get up and move on, they acted promptly. And they even shared their curry and rice with us!”


That may have been one of the easier moments of his career but in  26 years of policing, what’s been one of the worst parts?


“To be honest, I don’t get many nightmares. But there is one case that wakes me up in a cold sweat once in a while,” he admits.


The case in question involved a woman who was threatening to kill her children. Chris, undercover in plain clothes, got into the house and managed to disarm her. However, after six months under care, she was deemed healthy enough to get her kids back but just three hours after being reunited with her children, the woman took their lives.


“That’s definitely one of the worst cases I’ve been involved with during my career,” states Chris.


It’s obvious from these anecdotes that it takes a courageous person to be a police officer. Chris has definitely had his fair share of horrible experiences. But, he stresses, with the rough comes the smooth and he’s had his good times too. Perks include policing England football matches, meeting Nelson Mandela and also being lucky enough to have met Princess Diana herself (“She just had this aura about her that I can’t explain,”).


So after nearly three decades as a law enforcer, what’s next?


“Well, I have three years and 10 months left until retirement,” ponders Chris. “When it gets stale, I move on to keep it fresh. The higher up you get in terms of promotions, the less fun it gets as well. But I’ll just see what happens. Ideally, when I’m done, I’d like to get involved with charitable or social causes involving kids. Some sort of personal development scheme for kids that lets them develop skills and confidence and show them that they can be somebody.”


And who said all coppers are mean?