The Anorexic Blue Line

Rookwood, Going Postal
Anti-cuts Riot in London 2011
Mack MaleLicence CC BY-SA 2.0

I have a number of friends who are police officers. Or to be more accurate, former police officers. Which is a bit of a paradox really, as by far the majority of rank and file police officers consider their professional role in society a lifestyle choice than just a job. You can take the man out of his vocation, but not the vocation out of the man.

All of these friends left their respective forces not so much because they wanted to, but rather because they didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. All, without exception, had much to offer society and indeed their local constabulary, yet the the harsh realities of realpolitik took an incalculable toll on the careers of these individuals. Without going into too many details, let us say they had a very clear perception of the difference between right and wrong, and standing on the side of the angels isn’t always the best career move. Particularly when holding officers with equal or greater seniority to account. Even more so when Masonic influences come to the fore.

As a police officer you are expected to shut up and take your medicine. What happens on duty, stays on duty, and you are programmed to maintain a professional and very respectable distance between yourself and “ordinary civilians”. What happens at the station, in the squad car, the gun range, or indeed on the street, is not to be discussed. Partly this is to protect friends and associates, but is also to protect the officer – it was not that long ago that officers required permission to get married, and depending on the sensitivity of the post held, background checks were made on the prospective partner. No doubt the same process is in place today, albeit in a more politically correct format. The end result though, is more often than not, individual officers can find themselves extremely isolated in times of difficulty, especially if the force decides they are “Persona non grata”. It is at times like these you soon discover who your true friends are.

My dealings with the UK police over half a century has generally been a positive one. I can count of the fingers of one hand the number of unpleasant experiences I have had, but these have very much been in the minority. One traffic stop at 1:00am outside a particular London squad area office was a case in point. Hauled over after competently steering around a traffic cone left in the middle of the road and pulling over with the intention of investigating, 2 fully staffed area cars immediately pulled up behind me. The lead officer was clearly indignant at the fact that I had stopped before being “requested” to do so, and expecting to smell alcohol on my breath, was equally disappointed that all he could smell was stale Marlboro. Knowing I would pass a breathalyser test, he then decided that bloodshot eyes were a clear sign of drug usage, and suggested I had been smoking cannabis and would I mind if I had my car searched. By now, I was pretty wound up by his supercilious attitude, and sarcastically told him in no uncertain terms that it would be his time he would be wasting, not mine. One glare and thorough car search later I was on my way. To this day, I am convinced I wandered into a sting operation, and my eyes are still bloodshot twenty years later, despite no longer wearing contact lenses. And no, I hadn’t been indulging in whacky baccy.

Being old school, I don’t have a problem “Helping the police with their enquiries” when need be. I don’t know any motorist that has not had a “pull” at some stage. Some are absolutely hilarious. I once had a very attractive WPC lean through the window of my stationary car to give me a “Pretend bollocking” as she politely put it, to keep up the appearance of fairness to the two drivers in front that she had just read the riot act to. Their offence in question? Driving at full pelt down the middle of a narrow road between parked cars which obscured a busy zebra crossing. Knowing the locale, I had dropped well back and only proceeded with caution at about 10mph. Which was acknowledged with a wink and a smile from the aforementioned officer. That encounter did more to reinforce my diligence to road safety (and faith in British policing) than the former incident by more than a country mile.

The reason I wanted to highlight these two different approaches, is due to a number of facts that seems to have escaped the middle and senior ranks, certainly over the past 40 years or so. Firstly, there are a lot more “Civilians” out there than police. Secondly, we are traditionally policed by consent. Thirdly, the criminal fraternity don’t give an elephant sized turd about the law. As the British police move towards European style militarisation, especially with the increased use of lethal and non-lethal weapons, these seismic shifts, along with increased civil and decreased criminal penalties has not been lost on the old guard. Robert Peel, the father of modern policing will already be turning violently in his grave. His idea of a police force was “Policing by the common man for the common man”. The idea of opening the lower ranks to university educated “Professionals” would be an anathema to him. This, amongst the increasingly politicisation of the force as a whole, has not improved the quality of life on British streets. The death of the Bobby pounding the beat, partly caused by modern communications, and partly by the introduction of the area car, has widened the already gaping disconnect between the police and public. Whereas in the era of Z-cars the policeman lived in the community (often in a house provided by the local constabulary, not the local council or estate agent), while there was a distance kept on both sides, this was born out of respect. A good clip around the ear and a few stern words with a parent would deal with all but the most recalcitrant of offenders, with the occasional journey face-first, down a set of stairs, being meted out for the most morally repugnant. Both sides, generally, respected each other – policeman and criminal alike. The bent copper and sexual predator, opposites on either side of the coin, were despised from both sides. Apart from the few opportunists that made a life swimming though the dark sewer of corruption, the lines were clearly delimited between the good guys and the bad guys, be it policeman or civilian. It was understood that “intelligence” and “good old fashioned policing” were the bedrock of a civilised society. Both require long term investment and committent, as well as a working social contract. Take away any of these supporting pillars, and the ground you stand upon rapidly becomes a quagmire.

Hence the departure of my friends, long before their effective “use by” date. Their old fashioned wisdom, the understanding of the streets, and point blank refusal to adopt “situation ethics” being the litmus test of failure from an “educated” standpoint. More than ever, today’s police force is a service, and they are not in  post to serve the community. Rather, they are in post to be blind order followers for their ultimate paymasters, the political cream. Sandwiched between an increasingly alienated public, and successive governments that are determined to hand law and order over to the private sector, which will ultimately ending in fascism, the police have become tragic players in their own demise. More and more officers are leaving due to mental health issues, often following multiple vicious attacks. What is the most concerning, is the damage that is being done by political correctness. This attacks the very soul of the old fashioned copper, re-framing the clear divisions between right and wrong as movable feasts.

Don’t get me wrong. The old fashioned police model oversaw many miscarriages of justice. PACE went a long way to correct these, but as an untended consequence, gave far too much quarter to the other side. All I will say in closing is that corruption is something that urgently needs to be addressed, more than ever, in our police service today. One of the most corrupt individuals I ever knew as a young lad ended up in a senior CID post. More bent than a LGBT rainbow …….

© Rookwood 2019

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