THERE WAS A TIME when I had the utmost respect for police officers. Truly I did.
They regularly pounded the beat and made themselves familiar among the local community. Should you be on an apple scrumping spree and sprinted off clutching your spoils there was every chance that you would cannon into PC Murdoch at the next corner.
Recently, I was pulled over by a patrol car for having only one taillight. However, the cops helped me fit the spare bulb. Good on ‘em. They did a great job. They kept law and order, they were polite, helpful, AND they won my respect. If they ever needed my help they would have an ally.
So how DID the Boys in Blue manage to fritter that hard-won respect away? It’s almost as though they purposefully and clinically set out to alienate themselves from the law-abiding public. Quite simply, a spineless minority of cops have achieved that aim and taken the rest of the force with them.
Earlier this month, some petty “officer of the law” pulled over a motorist – a middle aged company director – and questioned him for 35 minutes for “laughing too much”. Seriously, I’m not making this up.
Then there was the curious apple incident in which a Wolverhampton woman was taken to court, accused of lobbing an apple core from her car. The case was dropped after a year and a cost of almost £3000. In a similar case, a nursery nurse was spotted holding a half-eaten apple at the wheel; she was followed by a helicopter and then pulled over by a police car.
And what about the poor chap who was given a £75 fine for flicking his cigarette ash out of the window? Or the man who was enjoying a KitKat behind the wheel and was issued with a £20 fixed penalty only to have it retracted because they later admitted it was “inappropriate”.
Some of these police officers must be exceptionally thick, too. On TV I saw a bloke charged for using his mobile phone. Okay, but this “criminal” was trapped in a massive motorway traffic jam, and his handbrake was on… but the engine was still running. The WPC actually carried out what she saw as her duty in front of the TV cameras. Some PR triumph, that!
There are literally hundreds of cases like this; police officers with lots of better things to do, but not doing them.
What was particularly galling for me was the recent incident when I was approaching a roundabout behind a car with two male occupants. The driver negotiated the roundabout while talking on a mobile phone – no indicators and a one-handed gear change. This route would take him past Livingston police station, and I considered this a rather foolhardy action. But guess what? As he approached the station the driver of a police traffic patrol car coming the other way waved to him with a big cheesy grin – and they both drove straight in through the “Police Vehicles Only” gates. It was an unmarked cop car!
Photographs in a national paper recently captured a cop car parked illegally, blocking a street so that a bridal car had to be guided through the narrow gap by passers by, and the driver later returning with a big soft drink and his sandwiches. I mean, good grief, what was in his head? Did he actually think his self-absorbed behaviour would endear the force to us?
I believe that our police force is better than the next best thing; whatever that is. But the fact remains that I – and millions like me – am an easy target for the self-important minority of bored plods. What other possible excuse could there be for criminalizing ordinary citizens going about their business? It’s the archetypal attitude of the bully.
And nobody, but nobody, respects a bully.