Tuesday, November 01, 2005

If you want to know anything, don't ask a policeman


So, it's official: the police are stupid.

All right, that isn't exactly what the report says, but it does suggest that there are an awful lot of senior police officers who are educationally and intellectually inadequate for the job they have to do.

The surprising thing is that anyone's surprised. When people ask me why I don't trust the police, I point out that young, tabloid-reading men and women who scrape through their GCSEs are suddenly given a uniform and a position of huge authority over the likes of you and me. Basically the police are squaddies but without weapons and a slightly better sense of how to conduct themselves with decorum in the presence of ladies.

PC Copperfield hasn't yet put forth his opinion on this matter, but he would (quite correctly, of course) point out that the police have to do a difficult job, that they get extensive training and that there are good and bad coppers, just as there are good and bad librarians, doctors, farmers and prostitutes. He'd also perhaps point to the fact that there are graduates who join the police force.*

All fair enough, but the statistical chances that I'm going to be able to engage in any complex discussion with a police officer are still pretty low. I'm not talking about philosophy, here - I'm talking about whether a police officer can grasp the detail of any situation in which I've got to either account for my actions or explain what happened prior to his or her arrival on the scene. And, indeed, whether he or she will have the patience to listen.

Why does this matter? Because people with limited intellect find it difficult to absorb new information easily. They tend to react with suspicion to anything out of the ordinary. Even though I am white and respectable-looking, I stand out because I tend to articulate things in detail and avoid clich├ęs and colloquialisms.** I'm not far outside the 'spectrum of normality', but the fact is that I am outside it. Spare a thought for those who are well outside it by virtue of, say, their skin colour - especially since we have people like this in the force (and don't tell me they've all been rooted out). And why all this matters... well, let's just say Section 44 and leave it at that, shall we?

[*Of course, being a graduate doesn't make you bright. 'Specially these days...]

[** i.e. I'm an arty, academic ponce.]


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