We call them “Bobbies” after the founder of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Robert Peel, in 1829. In London there are now 33,000 of them and you can find critical articles about their boss, Dame Cressida Dick, almost daily in the papers.
These stories, as is so often the case, never seem to have the space to tell you the facts. For example there were 126 murders in London in 2021 but 485 in New York and 271 in Rome. In Britain as a whole there were 627 murders, but in 2020 there were 863 in France and 782 in Germany. In Russia 21,600 died as a result of various crimes in 2021 according to Tass. Yes, 21,600, and Tass is the government organ.
I have to admit I have never had anything to do with the police. I am happy to see them walking the streets in Victorian helmets and I don’t get the same buzz from them sounding off horns in unmarked cars.
I don’t blame them for local councils trying to collect as many fines as possible from illegal parking, but I would rely on them in any emergency without question.
In this I am now in a minority. A You Gov examination has identified that 48% of the population have lost confidence in the police and only 43% retain it. The situation is apparently worse in London where only 33% are confident and 42% are not.
In any collection of 33,000 people, however, you are going to have some bad eggs. We now find that major organisations like religious bodies and teachers produce some miscreants as well, but I doubt whether more than half the public don’t trust them.
The responsibility for the image of the police lies with the public as well as the constabulary. On the rare occasions when I have asked them directions I always address them as “Officer”. I think we should offer them the respect which they deserve, because they are dedicated to keeping us safe.
They risk their lives every day. Dugald Campbell was the first to perish. He tried to stop a robbery in 1812 and was killed. A long time ago? Well, does the name Matt Ratana mean anything to you? Officer Ratana of the Metropolitan Police was shot and killed in 2020.
If you faced violence for any reason, the comforting sight of a policeman would be the answer to a prayer. They may not be needed when you’re writing up the ledgers in the office, but the thought that they are always prepared to risk their lives for you, a complete stranger, is a great relief.
The police in London also have the responsibility of looking after all the foreign diplomats who represent their countries. There are 168 foreign embassies and High Commissioners in London. All have to be protected. If there is a failure, the British image sinks like a stone. It happened in 1982 when Shlomo Argov, the Israeli ambassador, was shot and critically wounded. Only two years later Policewoman Yvonne Fletcher was shot and killed outside the Libyan embassy. The late Michael Winner used to put up plaques in their memory but it didn’t bring them back.
The police are now regularly accused of using inappropriate language in the course of their daily lives. How does stupid talk, which can cost you your job, compare to risking your life?
The police deserve our support.