Just a little going off on one…
Thanks to the kind assistance of my father, I have been and watched at least one stage of the Tour de France, in France, pretty much every year since 1992 (my parents have lived in France since 1992). Over the years, I’ve stood at more than my fair share of closed-off road junctions, waiting for the caravan and peleton to come rolling past, and over the years I’ve had the fortune to stand by a number of Gendarme (you can think of them as French police, but they’re actually a branch of the military).
They’ve universally been polite, courteous (despite my terrible spoken French), and to a man or woman, they’ve shaken my hand on greeting… I don’t personally know any of them, yet they behave like they know everyone.
It’s something that I fear numerous successive Home Secretaries have erased from British Police officers. I’m in my forties, but when I was a nipper I knew my neighbourhood police officers by name, and they knew me by name (*NO*, not in that way), and you’d regularly see them out on the beat. It’s just how the world worked back then.
Now? The only time I see police officers in Croydon is when they go flashing past in their patrol cars. (I exagerate, but it’s fair to say if I saw three patrols in two months, I’d expect to see a pig on the wing the next month…) It’s as if politicians have forgotten police has the same root as they do; the greek word polis (meaning city, but is also means citizenship and populace), and are intent on preventing officers from being among the people that pay all their wages.
So, what to do? Well, I for one have vowed to shake hands with officers and PCSOs when I get the opportunity, and to thank them for the work they do. It’s just about the least I can do.