Sunday, 8 May 2011

Where is our Sir Terry?

There is nothing I like more than to be out and about dealing with things. If I'm out on foot or in a car or guarding a scene you cannot wipe the smirk off my face. Just being there out on the street, harassing people, shouting OI, smiling is pretty satisfying. Actually dealing with something half heartedly  and leaving members of the public feeling like they have done ten rounds with frank bruno is what I signed up for. The sense of pride in a job well done is my raison d'etre. I don't even mind taking burglary and minor theft reports.

Everyone signs up for their own reasons, but I strongly suspect that most signed up in order to be patronised, belittled and generally treated like they are stupid. What makes it worse is that most of this disrespect for what we do comes from our own ranks. The Urban Special Constabulary has its own leadership team whose sole aim seems to be to demoralise and frustrate those lower down the food chain who actually want to get out there and get stuck in.

This weekend is National Specials Weekend. It is our annual opportunity to show the world what we do. The lights will be on us and the media will be watching. We have been urged to generate "Good News" stories which will raise the profile of the Special Constabulary nationwide. Not only this, but the revered and usually invisible Chief Officer will apparently be doing the rounds. We were told about this not because it might be an opportunity to quiz him/her on how the Constabulary is managed or to give him/her our thoughts on how we could be better. No, apparently he/she will be keeping an eye on whether we are wearing our uniform properly.

I'm not trying to be difficult, but I don't work for the Chief Officer and quite frankly I couldn't care less what he/she thinks of my appearance. I dress smartly because I am proud to wear the uniform and because I want to give the best impression I can to the people I am there to serve. I do not shine my shoes for special occasions, I keep them presentable for every shift. I will not be putting a sharper crease than normal into my polyester shirt so that the hallowed Chief Officer thinks that our division is doing A Good Job.

I know it's a cliché to go on about Peel's Principles but I really do think they are worth an outing at this point, simply because they are ignored by most officers:

5. Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.

9. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.

I do not give up my time and energy so that someone in the upper echelons can use me as a pawn in his/her career. I do not turn up so that there is a larger number on someone's spreadsheet. I give up my time and energy so that I can make a let out my frustrations on the public a couple of nights a week. Each time we are treated like sheep a little bit of enthusiasm gets chipped off. Each patronising and self-serving email nudges us closer to the conclusion that the time we spend working might not be achieving anything of substance.

I have a better idea: if you prefer sitting in an office talking about policing then fine, find yourself a nice warm comfortable chair and an email client and get on with it, just don't get in the way of those of us who want to be out there getting on with policing week-in, week-out.

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