Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Reflections And Regrets

The Superintendo was loving it as he'd received a letter of appreciation from a member of the public praising us the police. These things matter apparently and were at one time used as a stupid measure of public confidence locally. I did waiver a little bit as he went into more detail. The correspondent was an alcoholic who some years earlier had been stopped driving his car, having been drinking, right outside his house. The officers spoke to him and used their discretion to let him enter his house with no further action, just strong advice. He wrote that this event prompted him to sort his life out and the letter was a result of him attending Alcoholics Anonymous, attempting to put the past behind him.

He saw this interaction as an important event in his life. Not sure that DPS would have seen it the same way, but let's assume the officers smelt no alcohol. These alcoholics do hold their drink well. I had one on the intoximeter once and thought he was going to be a borderline pass or fail and was staggered when he blew 140.

I'm sure all of us have done things we regret. There are things I've been involved in that I've learnt from but still I remember them. Most were from early on in my career and they still bother me.

I was blessed with a morning on the area car when a probationer, as the operator was at court. I was expected to produce a return of work before breakfast. We sat up at a process point where there was a no U turn sign to await the unaware victims. It didn't take long before somebody drove against the sign and my old sweat driver pushed the gearstick into drive and cruised up behind the car pulling him over. I jumped out to speak to the driver who just happened to be a soldier in full uniform. To be more precise it was a Lt Colonel. I'd only been out of the army less than 9 months and didn't know whether to stand to attention or what. I'd been tapping the boards in front of my OC just before I got out and now here I was, stood in a position of authority over a higher rank. I glanced at PC old sweat hoping he'd step in and send the Colonel on his way, but he indicated I was to stick him on. I did so writing a ticket but it grated because although he'd done wrong I really wanted to let him off with a warning. That's the way it was when I joined total equality in treatment of offenders.

That incident has stuck with me for whole of my career. I've never been a process king and tended to stop loads of motorists in my early years, but looking for crime not petty traffic process. That was reserved for those failing the attitude test or known criminals as a disruption tactic. One thing I have done, is say to younger officers use your discretion and don't be afraid to do so if you think it is right.

Another time I was station officer and a chap enters with a badly bruised arm. He complained that an associate of his had injured him at his house. I'm not sure of the dynamic of the relationship between them but looking back this chap was possibly more vulnerable than I first thought and was being taken advantage of. In these days common assault as a crime didn't exist and people were referred to civil remedy. I listened and gave the legal advice and also words of wisdom to choose his friends more carefully before recording the matter in the Occurrence Book. I was a 50/50 at the time how to handle this but I dealt with it incorrectly. This bloke came for help and I failed him through inexperience. His arm was really bruised bad and possibly I should have recorded it as an ABH so it could be investigated. We dealt with domestics the same way so although I think we've gone too far with positive action things have definitely changed for the better.

What's done is done and I can't go back and make things right, but these two minor incidents have really moulded my policing outlook on how I've tried to do this job over the years. There's plenty of other mistakes that won't be written about here. I've written about my perfectionist tendencies and looking back they've always been there from the start ..... That's interesting.


Dandelion said...

"the attitude test"? What's that when it's at home then?

Stressed Out Cop said...

Rude ranting abusive motorists who can't help themselves but used to end up getting the ticket from me. Better them, than no discretion ?

Always best to stay nice and polite .. works most of the time unless the old bill who stops you is wearing a white hat.

Two jobs I would never do

1. Traffic - Too many dead people and their relatives to see. That's why the white hats enforce traffic law equal to all .. including cops.

2. Complaints - I just couldn't.

Dandelion said...

That's what I feared you would say. I'm disappointed. Better no discretion than abused discretion.
Still, I'm impressed you admit to it. Would love to hear about the other stuff you regret :-)

Btw, it would have been wrong to let someone off just because they were military. That would have been another abuse of discretion, and not in the public interest, or the interests of justice or law and order.

Stressed Out Cop said...


You knew the answer already .. I knew that. Is it abused discretion? In those days everybody tended to get stuck on - was it worth alienating good honest people who made an honest mistake? I think not - had to learn my trade and did it my way. Still stopped loads of people who were waved off with advice rather than a ticket. Were they happy - I think so !!

As for Mr Lt Colonel - He was a lovely bloke and "accepted my award". I would have felt the same if he was any nice member of the public. It was the turning point that made me police the way I wanted to re discretion.

The other stuff you don't want to hear about. Nothing really bad I assure you :-)


Dandelion said...

Discretion as in not alienating good people, that's a good thing, yes.

But discretion as in penalising people when you don't have to, who may be distressed, disturbed, insufficiently middle-class, insufficiently white, or insufficiently subservient to you, or who you just don't like the look or sound of for any reason - No, that's abuse, and most certainly against the public interest, and very much what gives policing a bad name.

Dandelion said...

Good policing, as I've seen it done, can handle rude ranters, and turn the situation around, instead of, as often happens with inexperienced young bucks, inflaming the situation and provoking a more serious offence, and all the cost to the tax-payer that that entails.

Anonymous said...


The attitude test will always exist to a greater or lesser extent.
To leap from that to claiming that people "fail" it due to
being distressed, disturbed, insufficiently middle-class, insufficiently white, or insufficiently subservient to you, or who you just don't like the look or sound of for any reason
says a lot more about your prejudiced view of the police than it does about the way me and my colleagues apply the "test".


Stressed Out Cop said...


You know I won't react, so as I've already mentioned traffic colleagues let me explain it thus.

1. MOP stopped by police for no seat belt. Advice given sent on his/her way. Hopefully will learn from mistake and wear it in future.

2. Ranting MOP stopped for no seat belt and receives a fixed penalty as he/she is unlikely to learn from words of advice - shown by attitude.

Traffic officer sticks both on - as he/she sees day in and day out the results of not wearing seat belts in serious accidents or collisions as they are now called.

Neither are wrong it's just down to perception.

Your comments in last are very judgemental - just what you accuse police of. No doubt some police officers do police that way - some of us try to be somewhat fairer and find the balance.

Good policing and responses rather than reactions? Believe me it doesn't always work, but I take your point. I was a young buck once you know!

Dandelion said...

I was describing 2 different situations, Anonymous, and making no comment as to who either applies to, so your accusation of prejudice is a perhaps a little premature - or even, dare I say it, prejudiced :-)

Even if I'm describing something that never happens, the point still stands, and the my argument still holds.

SoC, I get you, cheers for that, very clear, thanks.

MTG said...

@ Tang0

Wouldn't it ideal Tang0, were it mandatory for police with your personality type, to apply the 'attitude' test to themselves in advance of their great expectations of others?

Hogday said...

If you want robocops following robotic policy diktats then just be patient for a little longer; it's coming ever closer the longer the current path is followed. If, on the other hand, you want fallible humans being guided, cajoled or arrested as the situation is judged, by equally fallible humans who are trying to do what they judge as best and right under the prevailing circumstances as they see it.......like I've said before, equality needs enforcing, freedom needs defending. I'm with the defenders.

Dandelion said...

I don't want fallible humans in the police unless they are accountable. Otherwise, indeed, freedom and justice are in peril.