Friday, 16 December 2016

A Policeman’s Lot

So the way ahead, it seems, is bobbies with bachelors. Policemen with PhDs? Surely, first and foremost coppering needs robust, eager and honest men who can handle themselves in a fight, follow orders and doggedly pursue the wastrels and malcontents who blight our society. For every hi-tech, cybercriminal there are a dozen skunk-addled, sub-technology drop-outs for whom detection is easy and deterrence is physical. I’ve heard of ‘special’ policemen, but isn’t the result of Blair’s education, education, education part of the problem in the first place?

I’m all for workplace professional development and of course we need intellect to compete with the ever more nuanced world – for good or for bad – we live in, but is university the place to find it? After all, every practical workplace on the planet has to spend months if not years kicking the crap out of its graduate entry in order to get a useful day’s work out of them. And in a hands-on job like crime fighting, guile will often win, hands down, regardless of intellectual input.

It’s a thankless task, too; do we honestly think making it also a graduate job will attract ‘better’ people to it? Or is it more likely that with degrees we’ll just get more PC PCs? What would be appropriate courses of study? I’m guessing that apart from a few Old Bill with computing skill and a smattering of law, we can see a new entry into the ‘service’ with ‘expertise’ in sociology, gender studies, human rights, diversity and all manner of new age nonsense, all ready to counsel the criminals and understand why it wasn’t their fault and society is to blame...

Time was, the only degree you needed to get on as a rozzer was the 3rd Degree, in both senses of the phrase. A word in the right ear, roll up your trousers, don the apron and Chief Constable here I come. But the road to high office isn’t always guaranteed and many a pig is happy to plod along as a PC for life; what do they need university-level qualifications for? Surely the basis of all policing has to be a knack for dealing with the general public and a desire to see justice done. Cleverer coppers might end up being mere arm’s length administrators and we've all heard about the very long arm of the law.

Every constable has stories to tell about their own experience in callow youth, learning their trade, experience that does far more to shape their character than books ever will. A recently retired police chief recalls a day from his early years on the job. He’d stopped a motorist who was speeding down the High Street and who had become agitated at being pulled over. Before the young man could explain his haste and his reaction to the stop he found himself handcuffed and bundled into the back of the patrol car.

He tweeted at me in a funny way, your honour...

Back at the nick he pleaded, “But officer,” he began, “I can explain.” His plea was cut short as the holding cell door was slammed shut. “Just be quiet,” snapped the officer, “I'm going to let you cool your heels in there until the Superintendent gets back.” The man tried once more: “But, officer, I just wanted to say...” Again he was interrupted “And I said to keep quiet!”. A few hours later the officer looked in on his prisoner and said, “It’s lucky for you that the Super is at his daughter's wedding. He'll be in a good mood when he gets back.” The young man, considerably calmer now, replied, “Don't count on it,” he smiled, “I'm the groom.”


  1. As a retired Inspector heavily involved in the Training and Development of Police officers, from raw recruit to seasoned 'old sweat' who had just been re-deployed to 'operational policing' after years in a specialist role, my knowledge of the motivation of most recruits is to be 'on the street'. There will always be the 'flyer' who is intelligent, clever and takes to the job like a 'duck to water' and is obviously destined for higher office (not me, obviously), but they are in the minority. My experience of 'graduate entrants' over the years does not instil me with confidence that they will make a 'positive' contribution to the future of the service, with one or two exceptions! If we are not too careful, the whole mantra of 'education, education, education' will mean that a degree will be required for every job in the UK, from the humblest upwards. What then? Many, many officers did not achieve fantastic educational results at school or college (that includes me) for many different reasons, but that did not stop them using their intelligence, and their experience of 'life' to make a positive contribution to the service which made them ideal candidates to be 'good coppers'. Many of those also rose to very high rank, so these people will be lost to the service if 'degree entrance' becomes the norm. If that happens, it would, in my opinion, be a sad day.

    1. Sadly, it's not an 'if', it's an inevitability.

  2. This is just one of the edicts on Policing which came from David Cameron (as a young personal Secretary, and which was rejected out of hand) via his appointment of his old friend the current Chief Inspector of the Inspectorate of Constabulary Sir Tom (must wear a uniform) Winsor. Despite this requirement, the proposed starting salary is less than the manager of a fast food restaurant. As I understand it, the required degree is in 'Policing skills' and will be of no value in any other profession (degree holders, so I'm told, do not have jobs, only professions). As a retired Police officer, and a career beat PC, joining after retirement from the British Army, I soon discovered that the level of education often had little connection with common sense. The best thief taker I ever saw had no education qualifications whatsoever yet had the highest arrest and successful prosecution rate in CID. My own qualifications were military based but I was able to adapt them to my role as a beat PC. At the lowest level, Policing is a dirty, boring job and, as we have seen in nursing, we will have PC's claiming that they did not spend 3 years at university to sweep debris off a road after a traffic collision, or search through an infested house looking for drugs. It has been said that society gets the Police force they deserve. That makes me fear for future society.