Sunday, 14 September 2008
Insulting The Cloth
Some people just can't help themselves. Now even as a serving police officer, if I'm off duty I will always steer clear of uniformed officers if out and about. If our eyes meet in passing I will offer a polite greeting. If there is a situation brewing I will loiter in case I need to offer assistance. This is perhaps due to my upbringing to respect but also fear the police. If I'd had a drink there is no way I would argue, abuse or do anything to generally upset a police officer.
I am at a loss sometimes to explain the utter stupidity of individuals who feel the need to either approach officers and end up getting themselves arrested. On the whole we are fair sorts and will always let it be known how an interaction is likely to end up. A fair warning would be to make firm eye contact before saying –
"You've had your fun mate now move on"
If they don't get the message then it gets made clearer by the prophetic –
"Stop swearing this is your last warning - move on or you will be arrested"
Now most people will at this point get the message. You might be looking for the "sensible" friend to do his mate a favour and take him home. Unfortunately for some this is the point of no return. You are likely to meet with an abusive "Arrest me for what you C*/t you can't do nothing, if you didn't have a uniform" etc etc.
Of course members of the public will be seeing this tirade towards police and depending where you are, will either look shocked and put their heads down and walk briskly by, or if you are in a rough area join in the abuse towards you.
It's a tricky one because you have to weigh up if it's worth being off the streets for at least 3 hours to deal with the arrest. The days of a quick book in (1/2 hour) and straight back out leaving the notes for later are long gone. Forget the PND (Penalty Notice for Disorder) this is only going to be an option on leaving the station.
I was overseeing the dispersal from an upmarket night club, when a drunk idiot approaches. He is a dick and gets ignored. He tells me he is a professional rugby player and earns £200k a year. He is built like a prop and is swearing insulting and tells me how he could mash me into little pieces. He demonstrates by stamping on the ground with his feet. Don't ask me why. I smile at him and tell him to move on. He doesn't and now is cursing and again for some reason tells me how much he earns. Money doesn't buy class that's for sure. He gets the warning and the stare but to no avail. "Go on effing arrest me then and see what happens". In a flash he's handcuffed and immediately the realisation dawns on him that he won't need that cab home after all.
He was no more trouble at all, didn't play up and went through the process eventually departing with a PND. I'm sure the £80 didn't dent his immense fortune. He had crossed the line and dozens of people who witnessed his conduct saw that the Queens Peace had been maintained.
So how do the public feel about police officers being sworn at? I had a face up with a youth on the estate who was effing and blinding at me. I didn't know who he was and although he was a big lad he was still under 18. As I'd approached the group of lads I would have in the eyes of the CPS initiated this interaction so any subsequent minor public order offence would have been discontinued. Don't laugh this has been going on for years - youths flash the finger at police - get stopped and kick off before getting arrested. CPS don't like it if we initiate the stop saying police can't be insulted in these circumstances. Case dropped. They would prefer us to arrest for Breach of the Peace and to dearrest once the breach has ceased.
So I take it and we call it a draw. He's on my estate so we'll play the long game. He trots off and a bloke who had walked past earlier seeing everything came back past. He asked me why I'd let the youth swear at me like he did. I told him straight - if arrested nothing would happen to him as he was a young person. He shook his head - how can we deal with yobs when unsupported by the system? I would have been shown as the catalyst for the whole incident for having the audacity to approach a group of youths.
Still the long game does work. I went to report a missing person. I spoke to the mother who worked for the police in catering. Her daughter had not returned from school. Who comes down the stairs? It was the lad. I tell her everything and he's as sheepish as they come. Knowledge is power in community policing and we make our peace. We now get on fine so perhaps the discretion used was better in the long run.