This article first appeared in the Sunday Times.
It was yet another dreadful week for the constabulary. Mainly, this was because an on-duty policeman woman was captured on film fist-bumping the sky and generally letting anti-Israel protesters in London know that she was very much on their side.
We’ve become used to this sort of thing at the Notting Hill carnival, where officers are urged to dispense with Dixon’s teachings from Dock Green and twerk the night away with revellers before settling down with a can of chilled Red Stripe and a nice spliff.
But it’s one thing to try to get on with a crowd of generally good-natured marijuana enthusiasts, and quite another to prance about at a political protest, in a full policeman suit, letting everyone know that you go to bed every night with a blow-up Yasser Arafat doll.
Meanwhile, in Lincolnshire, a former policeman support community officer — or traffic warden, as we used to call them — was facing jail because she’d been making improvised explosive devices out of shotgun cartridges. According to her bosses, her behaviour was “completely incompatible with what we stand for in Lincolnshire”. Really? So IEDs are all right in Humberside but not across the estuary?
On the very same day we read about another PCSO who had been sacked for gross misconduct after hitting the bottle and being convicted of a public order offence. And now she’s claiming that she’d been made to work with a constable who, she reckons, liked to chase colleagues around the woods with his penis hanging out. Which, she says, damaged her mental health.
This is the police we are talking about here. The guardians of law and order. And don’t think things will improve any time soon, because just hours after we heard about penis-man, a senior officer in Northamptonshire went public with the news that new recruits didn’t realise they had to work nights and weekends.
It gets worse. I watched a video on TikTok recently of two policemen women who’d apprehended a youth in London. And while they were talking to him, he scarpered. One of the officers did nothing at all, while the other deployed a style of running that Larry Grayson would call a bit effeminate, and set off in pursuit.
Even if she hadn’t been weighed down by a belt full of tools, she wouldn’t have had a chance of catching him. There was a time when police officers needed some kind of rudimentary fitness, but now half of them look like Frank Cannon.
Of course, I’m well aware that the police are still very good at solving some crimes. If you drive at 24mph in London, they’ll have you in a heartbeat, and round where I live, they raided every single lockdown party before the guests had even started their soup.
They’re also excellent at catching dead disc jockeys and politicians who they think might have been up to no good in 1972. But other stuff? No. That doesn’t seem to interest them. They tell us that budget cuts are the problem, but it seems to me that the main issue is how the thin blue line is now completely entangled with entitled millennials, socialism, mental health issues and penis enthusiasts.
I bet you any money that instead of getting fired, the policeman woman who supported the Palestinian cause in London last week will receive a “hey mate” email from Commissioner Dick that will have been fully spellchecked by the new Google Docs “woke” filter, which changes words such as manhole to personhole and deletes passive-aggressive expressions. It will also have been signed off with a thumbs-up emoji in a neutral skin tone. But despite these things, the policeman officer will instantly resign and then sue the Met for using the wrong pronoun.
What the police need to remember is that they exist not to keep a few thousand lefties happy on social media but to make millions of normal people feel safe. And we don’t care whether they call themselves a force or a service. We don’t care about semantics at all.
And, if we’re honest, most of us don’t care about stabbings either. The victim’s mother may go on the news to say he was a happy-go-lucky boy who wanted to be a doctor when he grew up, but most of us sort of suspect that he was a machete-wielding drug-dealer who got into a late-night fight, in a kebab shop, with a rival gang. So we are not that bothered about seeing his killers being brought to justice. Not really.
What we do care about is catching burglars. We want to think, when our telly’s been nicked, that Morse will lob some fingerprint powder into his bag and fire up the gunship. Obviously, Plod must maintain an elite division to deal with exotic crimes such as terrorism and murder, but the rank and file? They should be sitting in their squad cars, like Second World War fighter pilots, with their Tasers charged, waiting for the order to scramble.
And I don’t want to see footage of the crim being given a silver blanket and helped into the squad car so he doesn’t bang his head. I actually want him to bang his head, so often and so hard that for years afterwards he’ll be able to use the extremities of his ruined nose as ear plugs.
Let’s not forget that when we dial 999, it’s because there’s an emergency. And we need to think that the police will respond as firemen do — immediately, and with vigour — rather than waiting two days and then asking us to pop into the station for a pamphlet on “victim support” and a crime number for the insurer.
If this is impossible, then maybe the time has come for individual streets and villages to employ their own privatised police force, which has no time for social media niceties and will, if necessary, go fully Jack Regan on the local tea leaves.
I may start such a thing in Chipping Norton. We could call it the Sweeney.