Everyone has them. When one dies, the memories, the stories and the experiences return. The personal moments, the things you have learned from your experiences that help you along your path.
All Police Officers have perhaps one colleague that has an impact on what they do. It may be a tutor, a first sergeant, a first oppo if you are fortunate enough to spend a lot of your time in a car. A really big influence on how you deal with the jobs you get. These people have such an effect that the lessons remain with you for your entire career.
When you see victims, vulnerable people, death and a whole range of grief you see the world as few others see it. You experience things that you find upsetting, things that make you angry and things that leave memories that never leave you. You know who will back you up in a fight, you know who is the best person when you need help with complicated statements, you know who has that little extra bit of knowledge to make your own job easier.
When I joined, all those years ago, there was that bloke who was big, opinionated and cantankerous. He always got the job done and everyone, I mean everyone, respected him. Apart from the bosses, that is. To them he was awkward, even sometimes obstructive and definitely did not play by their rules. He did not care for people who wore brown gloves and had their own parking space. He could reluctantly respect their rank but most of them had simply not spent anywhere enough time on the streets being Police Officers.
This person was greatly liked and respected by the victims whilst, at the same time, treated with a healthy respect by the criminals and those who had their career outside of the law. They new him, they called him Mister out of respect because they new what respect meant and who they could take liberties with. Importantly for them, they also knew who they could not.
This cantankerous and bad tempered man seemed to dislike anyone between 8 and 80 for the simple reasons that before 8 years old they had not yet learnt bad habits. Anyone over 80 years old simply had earned his respect because they had lived through 2 wars and that counted for something in his eyes.
I learnt about real respect, about patience, compassion, tolerance and about caring for victims. I learnt that statistics were for people who sat behind desks and not for real Police Officers. I learnt that sometimes you had to put yourself in harms way to protect vulnerable people and that you had to deal with people who tried their hardest to inflict injury on you and enjoy doing so. I learnt that there were people in unfortunate circumstances and there were those who simply took the piss, were lazy and had no respect for others.
I learnt about common sense and discretion. I learnt that the victims had more rights than the offender. I learnt that you had to earn respect and that it did not come without its lessons and that you sometimes got respect from places that you least expected it to come from.
I listened to the stories of how it was when it was just the City Constabulary, in the days before they joined the County Constabulary. I listened when they said how they did things. There were no computers, not many cars and a lot more Police Stations, really out there in the community. All of your patch was within an hours walk and walk was what you did. You spent your time walking around your patch, meeting people, learning the streets, lanes, secret short cuts, how to get to the RV point at the appointed time to see the sergeant, the local gossips, the ones who gave useful information, the local scroats and who was causing problems in the neighbourhood. Not just kids sat about chatting but those who had a negative effect on the lives of those who lived within the law. It seemed that we were able to sort out the good from the bad and concentrate our efforts on the bad. I learnt how you lurked in dark places because you could see without being seen and hear without being heard and sometimes that is important because the darkness can be your friend. I learnt how you could keep a bag of chips warm under your cape and how a sheet of itchy material could become useful in many ways, from a cold night to a pub fight. This was how we made the streets feel safe and reduced the fear of crime. Of course it still happened but we weren’t dreaming up the next trendy catchphrase or slogan to promote the brand.
This was when we gave real time to people. Not just for serious crime but for every victim, of every crime. No crime details given to a faceless, nameless voice in a call centre.
I got to the chapel early. I was surprised to see how many people were there. I saw many faces I recognised, some of whom I thought had died already. All the seats were full, the crowds gathered at the back and down both sides. Even some of the skippers made the effort to honour this disagreeable sod who everyone knew did such a good job for his years of service. I also saw people I knew with criminal records who still respected the memory of this man.
A lot of my old group turned up, such was the testament to the passing of this man who held such a special place in our memories. We talked about things we had seen and done together. We could say it seemed like old times and for one short moment it was, but without him with us.
There were always only ever two ways, two methods, two opinions and two attitudes.
His way and the wrong way.
The problem was that he was always right.
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