In a departure from what I normally drone on about, I was reminded the other day about the differences between the way the police service operates today, compared to what happened ‘back in the day!’ And I would like to think that some of what follows would be appreciated by some us old dinosaurs out there.
I retired from the police as an operational traffic officer in 2005. Whoever decided to call us Road Policing Officer’s really didn’t understand, did they?
Anyway just before retiring, some eager young traffic cop was banging on about how the police service had changed for the better. I smiled, chuckled, and he enquired as to why. I explained to him that I considered the best years and best times, for me, was some fifteen years back, when I was young and eager – yes, I was… honest. He commented that when he got to my length of service, he would probably think the same thing. That’s when he called me an old dinosaur.
I joined the Traffic Department in 1979, they crewed me with an old trafpol who had no interest in me, or doing anything other than going to road accidents and staying out of town. And, he didn’t want me to rock the boat. I remember we attended the scene of an accident on a wet, cold, miserable afternoon, in the very car pictured above. Two divisional bobbies were at the scene, looking just as wet and miserable as the weather.
My crew mate opened his drivers window very slightly, just enough to talk to these two bobbies. He said to the nearest bobby,
“You OK here then?
The bobby looked at us, his face almost pleading to get him off the hook, and back into his warm panda car. He nodded, almost imperceptibly.
“OK then,” my crew mate said, “We’ll leave it with you!” Closed his window and drove off.
But ‘The Job’ was much different then. We did make some on the spot decisions that today’s coppers would never do without first filling in a dynamic risk assessment! Delivering babies in the back of traffic cars, – yes, it happened more than once – getting rough when we needed to, or becoming social workers, and all the while making life and death decisions at least once a shift, none of which made its way on to any reports as long as it got the job done.
To me, of course, it was the best of times and the worst of times. We were happier doing the job we joined up for, there seemed to be less bureaucracy (there probably wasn’t; I just didn’t notice it,) and it was before the time of having to be Politically Correct.
Political Correctness took the spontaneity out of everything, from using nick names, to worrying whether someone at the other end of the police canteen might be offended. It had a detrimental effect on the camaraderie and espirit-de-corps I seemed to remember. I am sure that it still does.
The evolution of policing, if you can call it that, tells us that the current way is the right way. But us old dinosaurs know better, don’t we?
(c) Copyright. Stephen G Collier. 2012.