“Not Like Everyone Else – An Ode to a Copper”
~ By an Unknown Constable
My position is unique. I am treated as an inferior by the upper classes, as a superior by the working classes yet tolerated by both as a necessary evil. I am respected by a minority of the criminal element, amongst whom I spend the majority of my working life.
My character is warped and reshaped and hardened by the nature of my work. Amongst the misfits, the vicious, the ignorant, the pathetic dregs of humanity, the junkies, the violent drunks, the wife beaters, the rapists, the paedophiles, the criminally insane and occasionally the killer. In my years of experience I have seen, done and been subjected to many things outside the normal experience of everyday life. I have been insulted, abused and spat at. Threatened at one time or another with every thing you can imagine, a broken bottle, a length of wood, a garden fork, a knife, a homemade axe, a sword, a screwdriver and at one time a very good imitation firearm. I have been punched with fists, kicked with boots and hurt by heads, I have spent time in hospital after being assaulted in one of the numerous pub brawls I have been called to attend.
I have seen the aftermath of fire, accident, suicide and murder. I have seen the mutilated body of a 12-year-old-girl, the victim of a man’s lust. I have seen the 8lb remains of a six month old baby, the victim of its parents’ ignorance and poverty. I have seen the charred corpse trapped in the passengers seat of a crashed car, the victim of his best friend’s drunkenness and I have recovered the drowned body of a suicide, a victim of his own depression and society’s indifference. I have stood at the bottom of a quarry beside a crumpled heap that had earlier been a 4-year-old boy playing happily at the top of a cliff. I have seen, in all its ugliness, death from neglect, death from shooting, death from accident and death from design.
I also see the ugliness of life. I live with violent death and violent life and I am changed by it. I watch as the trust and optimism of youth are quickly changed into suspicion and cynicism and I am poorer for it. Both in my work and in my private life I am subjected to a rigorous code of discipline and can be fined or even dismissed for breach of that code. I can be maliciously complained about, by criminals whose word is deemed better than mine and I can be subjected to investigation for things I have never done. Refused the rights of an ordinary person and treated worse than a criminal. I am assumed guilty until proven innocent; they are innocent until proven guilty.
Although on the lowest rung of the rank structure, receiving orders from many superiors, I am expected to retain my initiative, make split second decisions and forfeit my job and my freedom should I get it wrong following those orders.
At the same time I have to be both servant and master to the public. I am expected to be courteous, patient, even-tempered (sometimes in the face of extreme provocation), tactful, considerate, efficient, firm, authoritative, courageous, good humoured, fearless and still be human. My greatest asset is common sense, which is not as common as the name suggests.
I have no legal qualifications but I am expected to carry in my head 150 years of legislation and keep in touch with all the changes in that legislation, and should I forget any part of it or get the procedures wrong I am criticised and castigated. I am an open target for trained lawyers who are trained and for fiscals to blame. I am a walking treasure trove of information, a tourist guide, a street map, a marriage guidance councilor, arbitrator to all manner of disputes, controller in traffic, receiver of lost property, dogs and children and keeper of the peace.
At night I may be asked to walk the lonely streets with no protection other than my uniform and my wits. Always in the back of my mind is the possibility of sudden death at the hand of an armed criminal – a fate met by an ever-increasing number of my colleagues, and yet I am scared of the consequences of being armed and carrying a gun. I work shift work, night duty, early morning duty and evening duty. I am on the streets for eight hours and more in all kinds of weather; being soaked to the skin or so cold that my fingers are unable to turn my torch on or answer my radio is common occurrence.
My weekends off and time with my family are few and far between. All this and then people say I am over paid…
I am a Police Officer.