The Proverbial Policeman

Dixon of Dock Green
Image via Wikipedia

“Evening all”… Before anyone from the Puritan PC Army, feels an urgent and crushing need to bash hell out of their keyboard, blasting out vociferous allegations of ‘sexist pig’ or ‘anti feminist prior to thumping the send button, I would like to reassure you that when you see the word ‘Policeman’, I also mean ‘Police Woman’. 

I chose the male variation because that is my gender, or it was last time I looked. I know I could have chosen to describe the individual as a genderless ‘Police Officer’ however, why should I. This piece has nothing to do with choosing words that will enhance my CV or an application for promotion consideration. Ergo, I have no requirement to evidence my ability to adapt to a changing and target focused environment or even espouse that I fully embrace the value of diversity in a multi cultural society that is reflected in it’s public services.. Right, that’s got that out of the way, now on with the post… 

Without wishing to stereotype in any shape or form, the Proverbial Policeman of twenty to thirty years ago is a vastly different commodity than the one we know today, at least in general terms. Let’s look at the traits, qualities and facts… 

Then: A person of reasonable intellect, average education and possessing a sense of public duty. A community spirited individual with social and life skills, ones used to drive a personal desire to help, serve and protect. The actual process of performing the task is the ultimate incentive and goal. The friendly but forceful Dixon of Dock Green type character, a Proverbial Policeman of a bygone era. An individual that reflected the society they came from. 

Now: A person of reasonable intellect who is often educated to degree level. One who seeks personal recognition for achievement. A person who is led to believe that ‘achievement’ can only be measured and attained by meeting targets and gaining promotion over their peers. One who strives for monetary gain and, feels the task is a necessary evil on the route to the ultimate goal. A politically correct man (woman) who meticulously collects the CV must haves as expediently as possible, on route to the highest rank feasible within 10-15 yrs. The Proverbial Policeman of today. An individual that reflects the society they come from. 

Proverbs are popularly defined as short expressions of popular wisdom. Efforts to improve on the popular definition have not led to a more precise definition. The wisdom is in the form of a general observation about the world or a bit of advice; sometimes more nearly an attitude toward a situation. (WikiQuote

The problem with proverbs, like many other pieces of written (or verbal) work is they are usually open to misinterpretation. What the author actually meant when the pen hit the paper, is not always the same meaning arrived at by subsequent readers. Having said that, the misinterpretation is often innocent however, there are those whose interpretation is carried out mischievously. 

Many of these actions are taken to further a personal or group agenda. The bible (or Koran) is a case in point. How often have passages from the holy books been misinterpreted to further ideological or radical causes? I digress… 

So we have (at least) two fundamentally differing types of the Proverbial Policeman but which is the one we actually want? This is a quandary to which there is no simple answer. Differing elements of our society will have differing expectations, based upon their own social background, their personal interaction (if any) with the police and to a great extent, their actual understanding of the individual and role. A mental picture that is increasingly (but not always correctly) portrayed and generated by television drama and the media. 

I thought it may be worthwhile to apply some well-known proverbs to the police and policing in the UK. How you interpret the proverb is up to you. All I ask is you open your mind to the issues and gain an informed opinion… And never one foisted upon you by a newspaper or TV program. They are not always inclined to tell the whole truth after all, they are in the business of selling news. The more sensational that news actually is, the more it sells (thanks to you!) 

For many years senior police officers and politicians have been barking up the wrong tree when it comes to police reform and modernisation. Yes, a new brush sweeps clean however, why keep trying to reinvent the wheel? Confucius said; our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall however, as you’re in a hole, stop digging

The concept and worth of British policing must not be used as a career enhancing plaything by politicians and senior police officers any longer. The fundamental elements of the British policing model are not actually broken, it is the management of the service that is. After all the previous broken promises to the public its time to actually get on with the changes that are required but remember; if something is worth doing its worth doing well

Members of the public have started to realise, despite all the spin and rhetoric that all that glitters is not gold. Continuously spouting statistics does not deliver results, we all know; there are three types of lies – lies, damned lies, and statistics. People with any understanding of all the issues also acknowledge the need for change. They also know that the smell of shit attracts many flies, those flies are now turning into nasty maggots of discontent. That said you can’t please all of the people, all of the time

The public (and frontline police officers) have been fed so much manipulated information however, a half truth is a whole lie. Continually treating the public, along with the rank and file within the service, in this way really is the straw that broke the camel’s back

Those driving change need to let their actions speak louder than words for once. The UK police service has too many cooks spoiling the broth; it has suffered mismanagement and political intervention for too long. Hardly surprising I suppose as Monkey see, monkey do and birds of a feather flock together in the ACPO Old Boys Club. The membership of that club has continually tried to blame anyone but themselves for all that is currently wrong in policing. Perhaps they should have remembered that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones as much of their previously embroidered truth is suddenly coming home to roost

No one likes change but change we must. It takes both rain and sunshine to make rainbows despite the fact you are often damned if you do, damned if you don’t however; don’t cry over spilt milk because a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step

It is insufficient to keep creating new laws to fix our Broken Society as laws only control the lesser man; correct conduct controls the greater one – (Chinese Proverb). Make sure that when you implement change you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. And again, something worth doing is worth doing well. So take heart that in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity and for pity sake, don’t spoil the ship for a ha’p’orth of tar. Being bold and innovative as suggested by our Prime Minister will ensure the best is yet to come

A coward dies a thousand times before his death. The valiant never taste of death but once. 

  • Proverbial: pro·ver·bi·al/prəˈvərbēəl/Adjective 1. (Of a word or phrase) referred to in a proverb or idiom. 2. Well known, esp. so as to be stereotypical.
  • Proverb: A proverb, (from the Latin proverbium), is a simple and concrete saying popularly known and repeated, which expresses a truth, based on common sense
  • Proverbs (book of): a book of the Hebrew Bible. The original Hebrew title of the book of Proverbs is “Míshlê Shlomoh” (“Proverbs of Solomon”). When translated into Greek and Latin, the title took on different forms. In the Greek Septuagint (LXX) the title became “paroimai paroimiae” (“Proverbs”). In the Latin Vulgate the title was “proverbia”, from which the English title of Proverbs is derived.

2 thoughts on “The Proverbial Policeman

  1. Another goodie Mr G. Innovative spin on the topic yet at the same time striking the right chords in between the lines about ACPO and the need to strike a balance between managerial, strategic and common sense operational policing. Inspired piece mate. All that time spend on the riverbanks must be fuelling that imagination!
    Steve TBL UK


    1. Thanks Steve,
      It’s pasion that drives my thought process as opposed to ‘imagination’. Pasion for a career and role that has systematically been undermined for years by succesive governments and senior officers, mostly for their own gain. The public deserve better!


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