This is probably going to be the most controversial post I’ve written for a while, but there are some days when it’s just too hard to bite my tongue. I don’t talk about my job often for a very good reason. That doesn’t mean I’m not immensely proud of it.
Working for the Police, like most emergency services, is like having a large and extended family. These are your brothers and sisters. They’re the people you socialise with, the ones that you sit and giggle with at 3am on a night shift when most of the rest of the population is sleeping. They’re the family that are always there for you with a hot (or cold!) drink, a heart full of sympathy and a shoulder to cry on when something goes wrong. They’re the ones who commiserate when you have to miss a special occasion because you can’t get the time off. They’re the ones who come to your weddings, birthdays and funerals. People on the outside don’t really understand it.
The bond between Police staff and officers is a strong one, probably because it’s most deeply forged through adversity. I’ve seen more friends than I can bear to think of go out to seemingly innocuous calls fit and healthy and come back with broken or dislocated limbs having been attacked. They get punched, slapped, kicked, bitten and spat at. People pick fights with them. They scream abuse at them. They deal with horrific scenes of death and destruction on a daily or weekly basis.
And yet every day, thousands upon thousands of officers the world over still go out and do their best to keep the people safe.
When they signed up to protect and serve, I don’t suppose most of them knew how difficult or dangerous the job would be. Most of the people they deal with are ignorant or drunk or high on drugs, sometimes a mixture of all three. They’re dealing with people that have no respect for the law or for their fellow people and all the time they are stepping into volatile and dangerous situations. It’s an insanely difficult job. I certainly wouldn’t do it, not for all the tea in China.
The bond that we have as a service transcends all geographical divides. To put it brutally bluntly, if you are a Police officer or a member of Police staff anywhere in the world, you’re just dealing with the same shit in a different location. We all know how it feels. When officers from other countries come to visit, they’re welcomed as a brother or sister, because we’re all still the same family, all striving to overcome the same adversity.
When something happens to one, it’s felt by all.
When those two Police officers in Manchester got shot, the stations were quiet for weeks. There was a lot of sadness there and a little bit of fear, but mostly it was a stark and painful reminder of the realities of our situation. For the officers it was the reminder that each call they get sent to could be their last and for those of us civilians left behind, it was the reminder that each time we wave our friends out the door to a new call, they might not come back.
Then, slowly, something really special happened. The awareness of the dangers of the job and our own fragile mortality began drawing everyone even closer. All over Facebook, hundreds of officers began changing their profile pictures to the thin blue line, a declaration of how they and we feel, being that tiny barrier between law and order and total chaos. Officers and staff started gathering at each other’s houses more often. Cakes appeared in the station with greater frequency. They’d come into the front office and thank us for the simplest and most basic of tasks, because if anything happened to any of them, they wouldn’t want to go into that good night without letting their brothers and sisters know how much they love and care for them. It was a fraught and emotional time and yet, watching it all happen, it was a time of warmth and caring and solidarity.
This morning, it’s difficult not to feel the pain of our colleagues down in Glasgow. It’s hard not to put ourselves in their position, getting the call late at night to go in and work all the hours God sends, knowing all the while that some of the fallen may be your colleagues, your brothers and sisters, people you’ve worked with for years. Officers all over the country will be hugging their loved ones with a little extra fierceness when they leave for their shifts today. When one dies, we all mourn. All of us, civilian and officer alike.
It drives me crazy to see the sheer lack of respect for officers and the law on the streets. I hate it when the misdeeds of one or two are splashed all over the press as being representative of the Police as a whole, because it’s bullshit. Most people will never know or understand how much abuse officers have to put up with on a daily basis, but I can tell you that it’s a lot. Even as a civilian I’ve been shouted at, sworn at and called every name under the sun. At least in my case there was a phone or bullet-proof glass between me and the offending person. It’s not right. It won’t ever be right.
We’re all just regular guys and gals who’ve stepped up to the plate to be that thin blue line, despite the antisocial hours and despite the antisocial people, because someone has to do it. Someone has to be the line and they do it without complaint, despite their wages and numbers and pensions being slashed. Signing up to the life of an officer is a sacrifice and yet, despite all that I’ve said, so many hundreds of thousands of them love the job, because it’s a calling. Signing up to protect and serve is not something you do because you fancy a change of day job. It’s something you do because you feel that it’s right in your bones.
I know if you’re reading this that you’re probably not the kind of person that attacks officers on the street, but even law-abiding citizens have a lot to be thankful for. If your house or car gets broken into, or you’re ever assaulted, they’ll be there because that’s what they do.
So if you see an officer out and about on patrol this week, make a point of smiling at them. If they’re walking, stop and say hi. I’m not saying you should drop a box of chocolates or cupcakes into your local station just because you can, but if you did it would certainly make their day. But if you don’t, nothing will change. They’ll still come to your calls and still defend your right to live safely and freely, because that’s what a Police officer does – Protect and Serve.