As a member of the public who is not employed in any of the emergency services my heart sinks when I listen to the talk of youngsters about the Police.
When I was little (in the sixties) I was brought up to believe the Police were there to help you, but don’t you dare bring the Police to our door!! My Parents had very firm views on the Police. You rang them in an emergency only, but then where we lived we had no phone, but the Police had a regular beat and they knew the local bobby. My father had many tales to tell about growing up in the East End of London and how the local policeman took him home having clipped his ear for some misdemeanour only for his Mother or his older siblings (his father having died when he was very young) to inflict further punishment for bringing shame to the house. My mother lived in Leicester and her attitude was very much the same. She would have died from embarrassment if the Police had taken her home for any reason!!
So, when I had a minor traffic accident when riding my bike when I was about 8 or 9 and the local Policeman scooped me off the road, dealt with the car driver, and took me home, I was more worried about what my parents would say about a Policeman bringing me home rather than the state of my bike! Needless to say, I was re-assured by the Policeman and indeed my parents were more concerned about me than my bike! The man who ran me over came round later that night to check I was OK and paid for the repairs to my bike. Can’t imagine that happening today.
I remember in my Junior School every four years they did a week-long whole school project on one of the Emergency Services, and in my time, it was the Police. We had visits from all sorts of policemen and women, the uniform has changed over the years hasn’t it? I do remember one visit in particular. It was from a dog handler. He brought his dog with him, a huge German Shepherd. This dog padded around the classroom while we asked questions, we could pet him, and he did some basic exercises on the playground like a retrieve and then he chased a baddy.
Fast forward 45 years. The training for these dogs must have changed. Not too long ago we had a dog handler and his dog visit our Cub Pack. The Cubs couldn’t touch the dog, and she wasn’t allowed off the lead!
The attitude to the Police seems to have changed over the years. I can remember being shocked at the murders of PC Blakelock and WPC Fletcher, when the two Manchester WPC’s were killed I was shocked again, my sons seemed to just shrug their shoulders and say, well I guess it is part of the risks of their job – I was shocked again.
When my oldest son was in the Junior School I discovered he had a bundle of sweets in his sleeve following a visit to a local shop. I knew I hadn’t bought them. I was horrified. We went back to the shop, who were very understanding, and then I took him to the local Police Station. I asked them to frighten him rigid so he wouldn’t do it again. The Sergeant gently told me that it wasn’t what they did anymore, and he spoke to my son about the wrong he had done and the possible consequences. Water off a ducks back. His father was so disappointed in him, and his response had a far greater effect. I hit the roof and shouted and yelled!! The shame of it all.
So imagine my horror when my youngest son several years later rang me from a local supermarket to say he had been caught shop lifting. Having stupidly accepted a dare to lift a bottle of Jack Daniels from a local supermarket whose policy was always to call the police, he walked out of the store behind the security guard! Not exactly the smartest of moves. I was told by the police officer to moderate my behaviour as I ripped into my son for being so stupid, for doing something illegal, and for being a prat. I shut up immediately, scared that I would be in trouble too for trying to discipline my son.
We had mixed messages about what was to happen to him. Several phone calls from and to the station, then the courts, then the station again over a period of weeks and he ended up with a warning. So a trip to the Station again. I was in tears, my youngest son – he took it all in, apologised and appeared to be upset by what he had done. Again, he was more scared about what his father would say than anything the police could do to him.
This attitude puzzles me. Why is he more scared of his father (who has never laid a hand on him) than a police man?
I know who scares me more. In an age of Taser, armed police, and everything else, the programmes on the tv showing a portion of police life. The Police try hard to walk a very difficult line, some of them don’t help themselves. Others are caring beyond the call of duty. I am full of admiration for those who run towards danger while others run away. However, I dread the Police turning up at my doorstep, because they can only bring bad news
Thank you for doing a difficult job. I couldn’t do it. I might have been able to do it some 40 years ago, but not now!