“Hot on his heels”.
An undercover police officer “chased himself round the streets” for 20 minutes after a CCTV operator mistook him for suspect.
By Andrew Hough
The junior officer, who has not been named, was monitoring an area hit by a series of burglaries in an unnamed market town in the country’s south.
As the probationary officer from Sussex Police searched for suspects, the camera operator radioed that he had seen someone “acting suspiciously” in the area.
But he failed to realise that it was actually the plain-clothed officer he was watching on the screen, according to details leaked to an industry magazine.
The operator directed the officer, who was on foot patrol, as he followed the “suspect” on camera last month, telling his colleague on the ground that he was “hot on his heels”.
The officer spent around 20 minutes giving chase before a sergeant came into the CCTV control room, recognised the “suspect” and laughed hysterically at the mistake.
The details of the operation blunder were leaked to Police magazine, which is published by the Police Federation, this week by a senior officer who witnessed the embarrassing incident.
Sussex police were unable to provide further details of the incident, the officers involved or where it occurred.
The anonymous officer, believed to be the PC’s sergeant, told the monthly magazine: “An officer who joined a team in Sussex as a new probationary officer was soon very keen to do any plain-clothes operations and be as proactive as possible.
“He would be waiting at the end of his shift hoping to be unleashed for a further couple of hours of plain-clothes duties.
“On one such occasion in a little market town in Sussex which has suffered a spate of town centre shop break-ins, officers were on plain-clothed foot patrol when a report was received of a suspect male in one of the side roads.”
“The CCTV operator soon had the suspect on camera and everywhere he saw the male the keen PC was on his heels – radioing in to say he was in the same street.”
He added: “Every time the man darted in to another side alleyway, the PC was turning immediately into the same alleyway, but every time the CCTV operator asked what he could see there was no trace.”
It was at this point that the sergeant entered the control room where he recognised the junior officer.
“With the sergeant’s sides aching from laughter he pointed out to the PC that the operator had been watching him unaware that he was a pain-clothes officer – thus the PC had been chasing himself round the streets.”
A police source told The Daily Telegraph: “We’ve had a couple of funnies lately, but all taken in good spirit.”
On Tuesday night a spokesman for the force, which has about 3000 officers, could not provide any further details on the operation due to a lack of information.
He added: “Policing is often a serious business, so we all enjoy moments of light relief.
“This story was shared anonymously with the Police Federation magazine, so unfortunately without the date or location, confirming the details and locating the officer is harder for us than it was for the CCTV operator.”