As the son of a former Policeman who walked the beat on the streets of Gloucestershire in the 60’s and early 70’s, I count myself very fortunate to have heard those first hand stories of a time when the application of Law in the first hand had a profoundly different and positive impact within our Communities.
Whether you were an innocent member of the public, a testosterone and cheek-filled proponent of the misdemeanour, or a fully fledged member of a criminal fraternity, you would never have dared imagine how things would change within just 50 years and how little the Police and the careers behind it are respected as they once were. It is therefore hardly surprising that the number of frontline Officers under the age of 26 has dropped by 50% in the past two years.
But are budget cuts and a lack of diversity the real causes of this difference in public perception, or is there something far deeper and fundamental behind this change of understanding which leaves many wondering if the Police really want to do much more than target the law-abiding of middle England for trivial offences which often generate fines and leave the Nations bill-payers paying even more?
In a time when Police Officers were respected, the slightest fear or embarrassment generated by being stopped by a Constable would be enough to teach far-reaching lessons and probably halt the fall of many a young person, without any need of further recourse or entry to a Court system which at that time was frighteningly efficient in comparison to today.
Those who saw their role as a Police Officer as being a vocation were supported in their work by a system which worked on the basic practicalities that fear of an effective system of law create. They were confident in their actions, well knowing that when cases were taken before even a Magistrate, that very same system of Law would recognise that they had not taken up the time of the Bench or Judiciary without good reason.
But things have changed, and the actions of a few who abused that system, ultimately have made it impossible for the many who follow behind them today.
An obsessive drive by idealist reformers to eliminate even the slightest chance of conviction for anything less than 100% surety of guilt, followed swiftly by the heralding of the human rights of criminals who surrendered those very rights through their actions, have rendered the system sterile from one end to the other.
It is therefore little wonder that young people have as much interest in enforcing the Law as the rest of the Nation has in their contempt for it.
It doesn’t matter if a policeman is young, old; black, white; male, female: tall, short; fat or thin if the Law is feared which sits behind them.
It’s time that Politicians accepted that idealism in Law and Order simply doesn’t work when applied in practical form. When Criminal Law once again begins to mean something through the interpretation of its results, then so will having a career in its enforcement.