Evening all! Actually not at all.

The other week there was a town meeting at which our local Police and Crime Commissioner spoke. First he explained what he did in return for his £100,000 a year, though I cannot now remember what exactly it was. Did he commission crime? This is a very important role, for what would the army of lawyers we have trained do without crime (and regulation) to keep it employed?

The Commissioner, fat and badly-dressed, was in an elected position, but I doubt that on this occasion he won many votes for himself. His tactic seemed mainly to be to contradict the observation of the townsfolk that they never saw a policeman on the beat. He said that he had seen policemen on the beat.

Was he hallucinating? Did the townsfolk suffer from a collective negative hallucination, that is to say the erasure of a perception to produce a gap where in actual fact there existed something to fill it?

The commissioner went on to explain in what ways he intended to improve the service to the police’s customers. The term seemed to cover everyone from little old ladies to serial killers. He confessed that in the past, his officers had concentrated too exclusively on trying to catch the culprits and not enough on what amounted to the pastoral care of the victims.

The editor of the local newspaper, the Journal (which my neighbour calls the Gerbil), piped up, ‘How many of the culprits have you actually caught?’

This question the commissioner dismissed with contempt as if it were a low blow in boxing. Surely anyone with the slightest brain could see that it is far easier to identify the victims than the culprits, and that therefore it was a far more efficient use of police time (in very short supply) to attend to the former rather than to the latter? It did not seem to have occurred to the commissioner – a Conservative, by the way – that most victims of crime would be more reassured by the arrest and punishment of the culprit than by counselling carried out by men or women in stab-proof vests.

I didn’t dare ask, of course, why so many of our police now dressed like the paramilitary arm of some extremist political party, or why they seemed to repress everything except crime and disorder. Their operational motto is taken from that of our psychiatric services. Concentrate on the inessential: it will give you far less trouble.


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6 Comments on Evening all! Actually not at all.

  1. A young policeman lives on our street (in the UK), and a member of my family made a joke about the hosepipe ban that was in operation a couple of years ago, expecting him to just laugh and share in the joke. You can guess what happened: he po-facedly proceeding to regale her with the most recent regulations on the subject of hosepipe bans. Totally humourless.

  2. I’ve committed quite a few legal offences (not crimes) in my time and I’m usually caught and punished. Mr (or Dr) Dalrymple is not being fair to our men in blue, God bless them.

    • …I’ve committed quite a few legal offences (not crimes) in my time and I’m usually caught and punished….

      Were most of those offences detected by an automatic camera and the (standard) punishment applied with no human involvement, using a computer, printer and automatic enveloping system?

  3. Not to worry. Now one can ‘twit’ them. The response is likely to be far faster than that to 999.

    Mind you, anything ‘Twittered’ will first have to be analysed in the most analytical way to ensure that the ‘Twittering’ does not contain anything remotely (or construed to be remotely) racist, xenophobic, islamophobic, misogynistic, homophobic or downright rude.

    On reflection, the 999 approach would probably be the faster approach.

  4. There is this lyric piece in Plato’s Statesman where good government over men is described as a winding up, poor government as an unwinding. Four hundred years of winding up spread English practice all over the world. We’ve had a century of winding down, it’s been picking up pace (the end part comes undone all of a sudden), and we are now almost totally relaxed / done for.