Who’d be a policeman these days?!

Who’d be a policeman these days?!

by Christopher Anderson
article from Wednesday 14, March, 2018

I AM PROUD to say that I have a long family association with the police in Scotland. On the right side of the law, I hasten to add! One of my close relatives, in fact, is still serving as a Detective Inspector. Having said that, I have not solicited any input or opinions from any of my police connections, which might be thought to influence the subject matter of this article.

The police in Scotland, already well into the process of amalgamation into one national body, is of course completely independent of the individual police forces in neighbouring England. In fact the police in Scotland is governed by, and operates under, the strictures of our own, long standing, and universally admired, Scottish Law.

Understandably, some confusion arises at times in the eyes of the general public in Scotland, many of whom tend to think of "the police" as one British entity or institution. This misconception is not helped by the media and, in particular the BBC, which fails to make any distinction and persists, when reporting, for example on crimes, in using English terminology which is incorrect in Scotland, such as "Affray” and “Arson".

The same basic fundamentals and principles of policing with consent, however, apply to both countries in respect of the practicalities of protecting the public and upholding the law of the land. It should be emphasised that this national separation, in no way inhibits prompt mutual operational assistance across the border, when required and requested.

The police in England are having a particularly bad run at the moment, with incident after widely reported incident of incompetence, bad practice, and worse still behaviour contrary to the law they are there to uphold. They have even fallen out with their own boss, Home Secretary Theresa May, never a happy, wise, or productive move. There can be only one winner, and it will not be the boys in blue. They can depend on that.

These days, when any plan, enterprise, or organisation goes egg-shaped, the practice is to play some sort of vague blame game, rather than root out and deal with the real and obvious culprit, the individual holding overall responsibility for the fiasco. What happens all too often is that a convenient corporate whipping boy is selected and an enquiry is held, which is usually totally pointless when no one is brought to book. How many times have we heard the following hackneyed phrases repeated ad nauseam "No one person is to blame" and "Lessons will be learned". Estate agents, British Rail, The National Health Service, and the Banks are but a few of the groups who, rightly or wrongly, have taken their turn in the stocks. Each then suffers a period of criticism, ridicule and abuse by the general public, encouraged gleefully, as ever, by the voracious vultures of the media.

All indications are that it is now the turn of the police to be arbitrarily selected as a punch bag for all and sundry. None of us can pretend that the police service in England has not been culpable and seriously found wanting on a number of indefensible occasions. At the same time, it appears to me that everyone is now jumping on the bandwagon and blaming the police for all the ills of society. It's a wonder that, so far, they haven't been held to be responsible for our foul spring weather this year! Of course, the police are an easy target and some people cannot resist shooting a sitting duck, or for that matter, a young unarmed woman police officer on duty outside a foreign embassy. Incidents of officers being injured or murdered by criminals obviously are not grist to the mill of the anti-police brigade.

I would be very surprised if the police in Scotland are happy or complacent about events down South. The force here is very jealous and justifiably proud of its hard earned reputation over the years, at home and abroad, and there is nobody harder on a wayward police officer than another policeman. I would imagine, therefore, that the Scottish police do not appreciate any perceived guilt by association with their counterparts in England.

The recent demonstration and allegations by football fans in Glasgow, accusing the police of undue bias is palpable nonsense and is quite rightly firmly denied. What on earth would the police have to gain, except to stir up more trouble for themselves? Contrary to what some extreme politicians and members of the press would have us believe, police officers are not confrontational thugs, but people who, like most of us, prefer to finish work on time, discard the uniform or work clothes and spend quality time with family and friends. Nevertheless, this sort of allegation could be a worrying trend, even though the genuine protesters, as usual, were well augmented by the presence of the rent-a-mob knuckleheads, who always appear, whenever there is an opportunity to cause more trouble, from under the stones.

In every job or profession, a certain percentage, albeit a small one, of people recruited are not what they seem to be. On the face of it, they comply with all the requirements and criteria to fill a particular vacancy, such as age, character, education and so on, and also appear to have a trouble free background, showing no hint of unsuitability for the post. The acid test is always on the field, where inadequate performance, of any kind, is very soon observed and assessed by colleagues on the spot. Obvious flaws, such as laziness, cowardice, violence and dishonesty soon become apparent, especially where mutual trust and reliance is essential, as in the police. The probationary period in uniform is invaluable in this context and is a tribute to the high standard we have in Scotland with our police service, that very few "bad apples" appear.

I will never forget an old retired policeman friend of mine, sadly no longer with us, musing and reminiscing in his cups one evening, "When I was in the job, I stotted about in uniform for long enough before it dawned on me what being a 'polis' was all about. I reckon it took me about seven years to really know what I was doing. Dealing with rubbish criminals, petty offenders and preventing crime is instinctive, but it's just as important to do what you can to help honest punters, who basically are on your side".

What my friend said made me think of some of the people a police officer might have to deal with in the course of a thirty year career: the dishonest; the vicious; the cruel; the callous; the dangerous; the negligent; the desperate; the devious; the drunk; the drugged; the deviant; the sick; the injured; the sad; the stalkers; the sadists; the sex offenders; the flashers; the child molesters; the exhibitionists; woman beaters; wife abusers; self mutilators; the homicidal; the suicidal; the dead and dying; the temporarily deranged; the permanently insane; the prostitute; the pimp; the runaway; the destitute; and the abandoned. All of the foregoing and I've probably missed a few! Not many jobs or professions require such versatility.

It is little wonder that the police want to protect their pay and conditions of service, including the pension which, incidentally they contribute towards from their pay, during all of their service.

The police, as with all of the emergency services, should always be open for examination, criticism and improvements, but that criticism must be proportionate and fair. It will be to everyone's advantage when the police weather this storm and are seen to be sorting out the deficiencies they have had exposed. There is still much to be proud of, and a fine international reputation to uphold and cherish.

PC 30B Chris Anderson (pictured) served in the Edinburgh City Police (1954-84) and was a valued member of its Pipe Band that won the Grade 1 World Championships in 1963, 1964, 1971, 1972 and 1975. In his eightieth year (2012-13) he wrote many articles for ThinkScotland.org based upon his wealth of policing and piping anecdotes and following his passing last September we are pleased to publish as a tribute a mixture of unpublished stories and old repeats for readers to enjoy.

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