In Londons Olympic stadium in 1987, Princess Diana was paying her usual royal visit to the police office to thank the bobbies there for attending to the safety of her young children.
But walking out the security control room with a video camera, Police Constable Dave Hedges couldnt see 5-year-old Prince Henry of Wales, and Hedges ran right into the fourth man in line for United Kingdoms throne.
I just said, Oh, whoops, but Princess Diana laughed and assured me that everything was just fine, Hedges said. She was such a nice person, and she wasnt the type to get upset.
In case youre wondering, yes, that is the same Hedges whos currently a member of Milwaukie City Council. At the request of the Clackamas Review, he recently agreed to talk about his life working at Scotland Yard before he married his wife, Linda, in Milwaukie in 1996, receiving his U.S. citizenship in 2009. Hes waiting until the results of this months election to decide whether hes going to run for mayor.
Before he retired from the force, Hedges, now 66, tried to maintain good spirits about the work he was doing, although it rarely involved brushing elbows with princes. He served for 19 years in the Metropolitan Polices Kilburn Division, an area of London with a high immigrant population during the Irish Republican Armys bombing campaign. Hes had to do everything from rush victims to the hospital himself when an ambulance wasnt available, to stand in a line of policemen garbed with riot gear on a hot day when a quarter million people protested Margaret Thatchers plan to tax anyone over 18 for just living in a house.
In part through humor, Hedges was able to keep a good attitude about his work. He wrote story lines for British TVs The Bill, a 1984-2010 detective series styled after the forces Old Bill nickname. Graham Cole, the actor who played Police Constable Tony Stamp in the series until 2009, said he modeled his character after Hedges, whom Cole called the real PC Stamp.
Graham Cole did the job well and cared about what he was doing, Hedges said.
Hedges also was able to shine as an officer assigned to sporting events. In Wembley Stadium in the 1970s, a young Constable Hedges helped Russian gymnast Olga Korbut after she fell and badly hurt her ankle. Much to the annoyance of the KGB, Hedges made sure she got back to her hotel room.
Another incident worthy of The Bill occurred early in Hedges career when he was asked to write his first death-investigation report. There was nothing suspicious about the circumstances behind the woman in her 50s dying in her studio apartment, and the Detective Division asked Hedges to stay behind.
As I was doing my report, I hadnt realized that they had left the body on the side of the bed so that it rolled off and scared the heck out of me, Hedges said. Police officers around the world are very similar in their outlook and sense of humor, and if you didnt laugh about it, youd probably end up having a breakdown.
Standing the line
Hedges began 15 weeks of intensive training in 1976, after which he could become a probationary policeman learning beats with a seasoned officer in May 77. Although he passed his final exam in November 78, he had to spend more than two years on a walking beat.
Despite having a regular drivers license for more than a decade, high British training standards stipulated that he had to complete another 360 hours of special courses before he was allowed to drive around a police vehicle with sirens.
One of the biggest challenges for the Kilburn Division was helping with the Notting Hill carnival, which attracted tens of thousands of people each August. In 1976, police were ill-equipped to deal with the riots that broke out, so the next year, Hedges was among the re-enforcements with shields. Since then, police and organizers of the Caribbean-themed festival have worked to make relations more cordial.
It was as much one-sided in our favor as it was one year before in their favor, Hedges said.
Hedges said the IRA nearly always sent out a warning about their plans for economic disruption of domain land, what rebels called the non-Irish areas of the United Kingdom. They would often plant one viable bomb device, along with a dozen or so dummies, so that all of the devices would shut down freeways and other major transportation and financial hubs.
IRA agents took credit for bombing the Natwest skyscraper in London, which took about a year to repair, and then they blew it up again just as the reopening ceremonies were taking place. Their campaign from about 1969-2007 also took many civilian lives and killed some horses in the Hyde Park police cavalry.
Hedges was acting sergeant when the IRA used a fake bomb to bring the entire London Underground to a virtual standstill during rush hour. He identified the bomb as fake in the Kilburn station and took subway officials as soon as possible, but he was frustrated when it took more than an hour to get the system running again.
He vividly remembers witnessing the April 1992 bombing at North Circular Road, a major arterial north of London since Roman times. Thinking that the IRA had planted another dummy, bomb-squad members had just asked him to help them down to check out the device when it went off only 100 yards away from them.
There was no debris that hit us, but the shock wave blew us off our feet, Hedges said.
Hedges has had to go with inspectors to the homes of the parents of victims of IRA carnages. But he had a very different story to relate to the father of girl who he found on Christmas morning in the early 90s bleeding profusely after a falling pane of glass nearly severed her leg, leaving it hanging just by the bone.
With the ambulance about 40 minutes away, Hedges made the decision to put her in the back of a police van. Using his first-aid skills, he bound her wounds as best as he could on the way to the hospital. When he got there, his shirt was soaked in blood, and he was credited with saving her life.
Whatever decision you make at the time will often decide someones life when youre a police officer, Hedges said. The most moving part was that her Irish father, who was a bus driver, came by the police station with a bottle of Scotch to say thank you.
Later in his career, Hedges joined Special Branch to watch people coming in and out of Heathrow Airport. He says youd never be able to tell his group from normal people at the airport, and one of his colleagues found the evidence needed to prove how the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center was financed.