So in a recent conversation about British Policing, I was describing how when I started with Kent County Constabulary, way back in the Dark Ages as far as my audience was concerned, I was telling them how we were issued a wooden truncheon, which sat in a special pocket in your wool uniform trousers, so ordinary people would not be offended by your weapon. And a pair of Sheffield steel handcuffs, which were also concealed in a special pocket, so as not to offend, and a radio, which clipped to your belt, presumably because it did not offend the public. With this you had to sink or swim, learning the Force Continuum from scratch.
We were talking about how badly Police Officers are paid, at least the honest ones. and digging back into the deepest realms of my memory, I dug out some sociology terms I had learned in college, how the most valuable, most important part of Police Officers is very difficult to quantify. At the beginning of the force continuum, the first effect of a Police Officer on any situation in their mere presence, which may or may not affect how any given situation plays out. Now this is very difficult to quantify if the situation does not lead to any more easily quantifiable events.
This example of from 199_ in the small town of Snodland, yes that is it’s real name, I was on duty with a colleague cruising up the Malling Road, which is the main drag through the village, when at the junction with Rocfort Road by the Corvette showroom, we see a beat-up Ford Escort pull up to the junction, indicating to turn right onto Malling Road. There were two occupants inside, and we all exchanged what can only be described as ‘old fashioned’ looks, or what is also known as “Poo Stares”, we stared at them they stared at us. Obviously something was going on, we had passed by where they were pulling out, so we pulled over to the side of the road to wait for them, which they were not prepared to do, so they made a U turn and shoot right off, which mean we have to make a U turn and chase after them. Of course we had to do that safely, and wait for another car to pass, so by the time we get onto Rocfort Road, they have made it to the by-pass and are making off at high speed to Medway.
This had all happened so quickly, we had not had time to put anything out over the radio, and by the time it was over, we didn’t even have a registration number to put out over the radio, just a vehicle description, which matched the description of lots of other cars on the road, it was the middle of the morning, lots of traffic on the road, so not a great time to be racing around aimlessly in the cruiser without a good idea of where the target vehicle was so we just called it good, one that got away, their time would come again.
Well it turns out their time came a week later, when they were arrested trying to blagg (rob) a Post Office in Medway, in the same car, with iron bars and balaclava’s over their heads. When they were interviewed they admitted being foiled a week before at another Post Office nearby. Since where we tried to stop them was just down the road from the Snodland Post Office (apparently now closed alas) we figured that we had prevented them from robbing the Snodland Post Office that day. Of course we received no recognition for this, nor did we expect any, it was part of our job.
And this is the point I wanted to make, I told the story to say this, it is almost impossible to make people understand the ‘quality of life’ improvement that is obtained merely from having ‘Officer Presence’ in a given area, merely by being on patrol, they can deter a certain amount of patrol, for which no recognition is ever received. There is a flip side to this, I recall one statistic being bandied around at training school, that in London, the Metropolitan Police estimated that statistically speaking, every seven years an Officer will pass a house that is being burgled, and never even know it. Obviously Officer Presence is only effective in a few cases, but to the staff at Snodland Post Office that day, the did not have to suffer being victims of a violent armed robbery, which would be important to to them.