My favourite news story of late is the one about police responding to reports of gunfire and screaming in a Norfolk village and finding …a children’s party.
The ‘gunfire’ was caused by bangers, the ‘screaming’ was shrieking kids and the only sign of weapons was the array of Nerf guns being touted by the little darlings.
Much as the fearful residents of Yaxham might have wished to see hardened criminals marched out of the premises in handcuffs, they had to make do with three officers piling out of a patrol car then joining in the fun.
The delighted (and I imagine somewhat relieved) mum of party host Oliver told the media how the officers chatted with the kids, posed with them for pictures and even joined in the party games. That’s what you call community policing.
As a fully paid-up bleeding heart liberal, I’m really impressed by the attitude of the officers. We hear and see plenty of reports (accurate or not) of poor behaviour by police when interacting with the public. But at a stroke these officers have given the partygoers an experience they’ll never forget and – probably – the confidence not to be afraid of the police.
I don’t know how much PR work is shoehorned into the average police officer’s training schedule. I imagine it’s more of a ‘thing’ than it used to be, but it would be nice to think that they were just behaving in the way they would want their children to be treated in similar circumstances. That’s what I’m going to run with.
I have no great desire to see my kids become members of Her Majesty’s Constabulary (which, by the time they’re eligible will probably be His Majesty’s Constabulary), but I also don’t want them to think of that as a non-profession, nor of police officers as people to avoid.
I’ve known a few policemen and policewomen over the years. Some were really good people, some less so. But then that’s true of everyone, in every walk of life.
Whether they’re wearing a dark blue uniform or a waiter’s apron, an engineer’s work clothes or an academic’s wacky dress/shirt/tie/waistcoat combo, surely what we want for our kids is for them to be good-hearted and compassionate and, well, decent human beings. Oh, and to be handy with a Nerf gun should the need arise.