A toy go-kart? You're nicked
When I started out in this game, the police went round in pairs and rarely appeared in the papers.
There'd be stories appealing for witnesses to a crime, an Identikit photo of a suspect would be issued and an inspector would occasionally read out a short statement outside court following a successful conviction. And that was about it.
These days, there are just a handful of bobbies left on the beat, while the rest are sitting behind locked doors in police stations closed to the public - filling in forms, attending diversity seminars and suing each other for racial and sexual harassment.
The politicisation of the police is all but complete.No one wants to go back to the rough-and-tumble days of 1970s Regan and Carter policing that's recently been getting an airing on BBC1's Life On Mars. (Oh, I dunno.)
But at least back then, the Old Bill solved more real crimes and nicked more villains.
So what happened to all the "tough-on-crime" rhetoric that Tony Blair fed us?
Well, there's still plenty of crime out there - just not the kind of "crime" most of us recognise.
Here's a handful of cases to give you a true flavour of modern policing.
• West Yorkshire Police scrambled a £3.3million, 180mph helicopter to chase two boys suspected of taking a pedalo in a boating lake without paying. The desperados were duly rounded up and charged - but whether with nicking the pedalo or pedaloing above the speed limit wasn't clear.
• Keighley Police in Yorkshire announced a crackdown on crime. Detective Chief Superintendent Roger Gasson said: "The festive season is a busy time for us. We are determined to stop offenders causing Christmas misery."
So when Susan Drummond, a cleaner, found herself being pelted with bricks by a gang of 25 youths outside the nursery where she worked, she retreated inside and dialled Keighley Police.
When she got through, she was told there was no one available to respond because the officers were "mealing". That's cop-speak for having their tea.
• Merseyside Police hired an American to teach coppers how to ride a bike. A spokesman said: "They'll learn how to get on and off and generally cycle along."
I don't know about you, but I could do all that when I was about seven. One minute, my dad was holding the saddle, the next he was gone.
Er, that was all there was to it. What about the cops who can't manage a twowheeler? Will they get a trike, or one with stabilisers?
• In Aberdeen, the evervigilant McPlod launched a campaign against a growing menace to society. Bus drivers will be charged with careless driving if they splash pedestrians by driving through puddles. • In Staffordshire, the war on motorists has taken an exciting new twist.
WPC Gibbs, Staffordshire's answer to Juliet Bravo, was driving her panda car through the village of Codsall when she spotted three boys riding a homemade go-kart.
It sounds like a scene out of Just William and recalls an age when youngsters made their own amusements in the fresh air, instead of sitting in their bedrooms glued to computer screens, downloading pornography from the internet.
That's not how Juliet Bravo saw it. She pulled the boys up and said they were breaking the law because they hadn't got a tax disc or insurance.
After lecturing them, she took their names and addresses. A few days later, their parents received a letter informing them that their sons were guilty of antisocial behaviour.
Needless to say, the parents were livid - not with the boys but with the petty-minded police.
One of the boys' mothers, Karen Cross, said: "When I was young, my sister and I built our own go-kart. It is part of growing up."
Precisely. When I was a boy, building your own kart out of planks half-inched from the nearby building site and pram wheels recovered from the local scrapyard was a rite of passage.
With no brakes and rudimentary steering made from string likely to snap at any time, we were a downright menace.
It was like the chariot race from Ben Hur. The only way of stopping was to hit a wall headon or slam your shoes down on to the pavement.
Frankly, you were better off hitting the wall, especially as most of us had only one pair of shoes.
There was always someone limping to school with the soles and heels hanging off their Startrites, sporting a clip round the ear from their mum or dad.
Mrs Cross was prepared to concede the possibility that Juliet Bravo was concerned for the safety of the boys and other pedestrians and road-users.
She admitted: "Young lads can cause problems sometimes. If the police officer was concerned, she could have told them: 'Come on, lads, you are causing a problem. You could hurt yourselves or cause an accident. Let's have you home and off the streets.'"
That is, of course, what any sensible copper would have done. Moreover, not so long ago, if a silly slip of a WPC did tell her inspector she had taken the names of three young boys riding a go-kart, she'd have spent the rest of the week cleaning out the cells after the winos.
But that's not how it works any more. You'd have thought the police would be pleased three teenage boys were getting rid of their energy in such an innocent fashion and not shoplifting, robbing people of mobile phones, spraying graffiti all over the place or kicking in bus shelters.
It's not as if the Old Bill haven't got anything else to do.
In Staffordshire that same year, burglaries went up seven per cent and violent crime increased 16 per cent.
• The Staffordshire Plod seem to specialise in this kind of nonsense.
Sergeant Peter Davies threatened to prosecute villagers in Eccleshall for giving away bottles of sherry on tombola stalls at the village fete without a licence, contrary to Section 160 of the Licensing Act 1964.
While Eccleshall, like most of rural Britain, is plagued by burglary, car crime, drugs and vandalism, Davies decided to go after the tombola barons of the WI, the Young Farmers and the Ladies' Bell-ringing Circle.
The stallholders were forced to pack up and local charities were considerably poorer as a result.
• The Old Bill are fighting a constant battle against a lack of resources. That's the excuse they always give for not turning out.
So you can imagine the amazement of shopkeeper Gary Haggas, from Middlesbrough, when he saw four police cars racing past his shop and a helicopter overhead.
What could warrant such a turnout - an armed robbery, an Al Qaeda attack, a murder?
Er, no. A policeman had just had his bike pinched while he was carrying out a spotcheck on a man outside the shop.
• The Metropolitan Police decided to spend £70,000 sending officers on "Shakespeare awareness" courses.
The programme was designed to instill "inspirational leadership" by drawing on Henry and Julius Caesar. Wherefore art thou, Romeo Bravo Echo?
• Cambridgeshire is plagued with illegal gipsy campsites.
But rather than do anything about that, Old Bill decided the real victims here are not the tax-paying, law-abiding locals, but the non-taxpaying, lawbreaking invaders.
The police spent £10,000 on a CD advising "travellers" of their, er, "rights". Chief Superintendent Simon
Edens believes "travellers" are victims of racism, who suffer "disgusting and offensive" abuse.
On which planet did he complete his diversity training?
It obviously wasn't anywhere near Cambridgeshire, which is home to a massive illegal settlement at Smithy Fen, where locals have been subjected to constant antisocial behaviour and the murder of their postman since the 800 "travellers" moved in.
Otherwise, he wouldn't have had the 2,000 CDs produced in Romany.
Only a handful of "travellers" speak proper Gipsy. Most of them are Irish. He'd have been better off getting Terry Wogan to voice it.
• In Plymouth, police threatened to tip off insurance companies if burglary victims had left a window open or a door unlocked. Insurers could then punish householders by refusing to pay out on claims.
This was the Plymouth Plods' response to a record 34 per cent yearon-year increase in burglaries in the city.
It was bad enough when they couldn't be bothered to do anything more than give you a note for the insurance.
Now they seem determined you shouldn't even be entitled to compensation for your stolen property.
The city's police commander, Chief Superintendent Morris Watts, said: "It is part of a number of measures to raise awareness and to hammer the message home that you must take better care of your property."
Brilliant. Only in Blair's Britain could a senior police officer have come up with a plan to persecute victims in order to combat a crime wave.
If Chief Supergrass Watts and his force had been doing their job properly, the people of Plymouth would be able to leave their doors and windows unlocked without fear of being burgled, as they could within living memory.
But he seems to think burglary is a force of nature, against which society can do nothing except batten down the hatches and hope for the best.
Anyone who doesn't turn his house into Fort Knox is clearly gagging for it.
Someone should have told him that the job of the police is to patrol the streets, arrest criminals and protect property - not to act as a nark for the Man from the Pru.
They might also suggest that presiding over a 34 per cent annual rise in burglaries should be a resignation matter, not the occasion for a sanctimonious, patronising and threatening lecture to the law-abiding people who pay his wages.
• Superintendant Supergrass's attitude is sadly typical of so much of our modern police force - sorry "service".
They're all far too busy to actually do anything about crime.
Take Welwyn Garden City's finest. We are not talking NYPD Blue here. A thief robbed the local Wine Rack, making off with a customer's purse containing £100.
Two days later, manager Andy Smith spotted chummy going into a nearby fish and chip shop. He called the police, but the thief made good his escape. The Old Bill said they couldn't find the chip shop.
Two weeks later, the thief actually walked back into Wine Rack.
As luck would have it, there were five police officers in the street only yards away.
Andy ran out to ask them to arrest the man. But the cops couldn't help.
They were engaged on a mission vital to national security - putting out traffic cones. Nicking villains could wait.
Hertfordshire Constabulary defended the officers' dereliction of duty. A spokesman said they were properly engaged tackling "serious traffic disruption".
The people of Welwyn Garden City can sleep easy in their beds knowing that although they've got a police force that couldn't organise a fish supper in a chip shop, it is a worldbeater when it comes to cones and contraflow systems.
• In an Essex shopping precinct, a disabled pensioner was breathalysed after a zealous young policeman spotted her drinking a can of lemonade shandy.
She was sitting on her invalid electric shopping trolley at the time.
• When they're not ignoring crimes or persecuting innocent victims, there's nothing the Old Bill like more than suing each other.
Which is why Police Federation rep PC Des Keanoy found himself under investigation for slapping the bottom, or putting his hand round the waist -depending whom you believe - of a female inspector at a conference in Blackpool.
Quite apart from the fact that that is precisely what conferences in Blackpool are for, how did this woman rise to the rank of inspector without being able to handle this kind of nonsense?
Couldn't she just have slapped his face or kicked him in the lunchbox? If she can't cope with an overfamiliar subordinate, how would she react to an armed robber with a sawn-off Purdey?
• A motorist in Stirling was banged up for two days for revving his car in a "racist" manner next to a pair of Libyan immigrants. • We're always being told the purpose of speed cameras is not to nick motorists or raise money, it is to save lives.
Perhaps someone can explain this to 71-year-old Stuart Harding, from Aldershot, Hampshire. He's just been banned from driving and ordered to pay £364 costs.
His crime? To put up a notice on the A325 warning drivers: "Speed Trap - 300 yards".
There had been 18 accidents on that stretch of road in a year and Mr Harding was trying to get motorists to slow down before a spot where people were crossing to a car boot sale.
You might have expected the police to be grateful. Far from it.
They nicked him. Magistrates used powers intended for antisocial behaviour to take away his driving licence.
Mr Harding doesn't understand how he's done anything wrong by encouraging people to obey the law. Me neither.
Perhaps the clue is that police regularly catch drivers exceeding the limit on that stretch.
On one morning alone, they issued 200 tickets. At £60 a time, that's £12,000. Not a bad morning's work. Easier than catching burglars.
So when will they stop lying to us? They don't want people to slow down. The purpose of speed cameras is not road safety. It's about nicking people and raising money.
• In Herefordshire, police hauled a shopkeeper away from his Sunday lunch and threatened him with prosecution for selling golliwogs.
This wasn't an isolated piece of lunacy, either. The Golliwog Squad was also making itself busy in Worthing, Sussex.
Police said they were treating as a matter of "priority" a complaint about gollies being displayed in a local store.
Owner John Scadgell faced charges under Section 2 of the Public Order Act, which makes it an offence to exhibit anything which could be considered threatening, abusive or insulting.
The Old Bill said Mr Scadgell was committing a racially aggravated offence.
The complaint was made by 36-year-old graphic designer Gerald Glover, who is quoted as saying: "I just thought it was disgusting. When I saw them, I thought 'Oh my God,' and I was stunned. I don't know what message it sends out to children today."
For heaven's sake. Children don't look at gollies and go out and join the BNP. I've never met any black person who looks even remotely like a golliwog.
I thought we'd grown out of all this 1980s nonsense. The Home Office even says that displaying golliwogs is not an offence.
That didn't stop the zealots at Worthing nick. As far as they were concerned, this was a "hate crime" and must be given top priority.
We have now reached the stage where crime is an intangible thing.
It may not technically be against the law, but it becomes a crime if someone says it is.
Mr Glover should have been told politely to go away and get a life. If he persisted, he should have been sectioned.
You've got to be pretty sick to see evil in a harmless cuddly toy. And whichever police officer sanctioned the investigation should be demoted.
The reality is he'll probably be put on the fast track to promotion to chief constable.
• Patrick Hamilton is a former paratrooper, a Falklands veteran who served seven tours of duty in Northern Ireland.
He spent 25 years in the Army ready and willing to lay down his life for freedom and justice. He must wonder why he bothered.
When Mr Hamilton, 52, saw his 16-year-old daughter, Catherine, being menaced by a gang of hooligans, he rushed to her defence.
She was being threatened by a group of teenage boys and girls who followed her back from her part-time job at McDonald's, in North Shields, Tyneside. Mr Hamilton gave chase, grabbed hold of one of the gang and tried to make a citizen's arrest.
As the police arrived, he called out: "I've got one, I've got one."
But the police weren't interested in nicking the troublemaker or going after the gang.
Instead, they arrested Mr Hamilton, handcuffed him and drove him away in a police car.
He was held at the local police station for an hour before being released without charge.
Mr Hamilton, who now works as a college lecturer, teaching youngsters who want to join the police or Armed Forces, was livid. And rightly so.
He said: "I can't believe the police treated me and my family like this. It's disgusting. I can't believe the police protected these scum."
I can. The police have gone from being on the side of the lawabiding, through being neutral, to actively siding with vermin.
Mr Hamilton's arrest is par for the course. The Old Bill can't be bothered to go after thugs, either because they're frightened of getting a kicking, or because they're scared of the Left-wing, legally-aided lawyers who infest our so-called justice system.So they take the easy option and nick the good guys. While brave men like Patrick Hamilton fight for freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is the kind of "justice" they can expect back home. Well done, North Shields Police.
Labels: A toy go-kart? You're nicked