As part of the ongoing investigation into my assault, today I had to go to Baker Street station so that some evidence (a CD-ROM onto which I burned the photo I took of my attacker) could be seized from me, and so that I could give a statement about that evidence. I was told to meet the officer in “the police room”.
None of the London Underground workers at the station knew what I was talking about. I was eventually led through a door and a long hallway to where the British Transport Police have a couple of training rooms and a few offices. In the main office, five policemen were absolutely lovely to me and made sure I was comfortable as I waited for the detective to arrive from Aldgate. Amusingly, one of the officers was clearly having an email debate with someone else in the BTP, and read his reply aloud to the other men so that they could tell him he was being too harsh. “I liked the last two words,” one remarked, referring to the “kind regards” sign-off. Another two officers discussed what a shambles OASIS, the police’s central IT system, is. When I received a call on my mobile, I wandered into another office to take it; nobody tried to stop me. On the desk, there were about a dozen very nice iMate JAMs, a spiffy web-enabled phone/PDA which I owned myself (until I got tired of being connected all the time).
Eventually, the detective from Aldgate found me, and led me down another long, winding hallway, through many doors, up one floor, down another series of very smoky hallways, and into a small room. He took the evidence from me, took my statement, and the whole process lasted about half an hour. “I can’t believe this is all still done on paper,” I said to him as he wrote down my name, address, phone number, and all the other details they already had for me on yet another set of forms. “Yeah, well,” he said, smiling weakly.
What really surprised me was just how much more there is to a London Underground station like Baker Street than one would ever guess from rushing along its platforms and wandering around the halls. It was a little disconcerting, too, to note how many more cops were deep in the labyrinth and offices, immersed in bureaucracy and paper-pushing, than were visible in the station. Am I being unfair?