The Not-So-Special Constabulary
Hayley Adamson, 16
This is just one of numerous examples I could give of my police area alone, where police officers are being prosecuted for motoring offences and use-of-force incidents - mostly of a far more minor nature. In cases where police officers have committed offences, the cases are looked at by Crown Prosecutors from neighbouring force areas, to avoid suggestions of corruption. And quite often the CPS will prosecute police officers where they would never consider prosecuting a member of the public: partly because they hold the police up to higher standards, partly because they don't want to get accused of being in on it.
I don't think police officers should be allowed to speed whenever they please, nor tweak people's handcuffs to make them stop swearing, nor receive gifts in return for a good service. But the point is that this used to be acceptable, because people recognised in return that the police had a difficult job to do, and that they were putting their necks on the line - physically and morally - to do it.
We still put our necks on the line. In fact, our position financially, legally, socially, is as fragile as it ever was. And gradually the small special privileges of the role (free tea at the local cafe, parking on double yellows for a minute to grab a sandwich, not having to queue at tills, the freedom to pop home for a moment during the day if it's on your patch, etc), are being removed. To some, these privileges are a legitimate return for the job we do. To others, they are a notch away from corruption.
It's hard to argue in favour of overlooking minor indiscretions for the police without being labelled corrupt. I don't take liberties myself, because it isn't worth it. But as the privilege of being a police officer is erroded, the public still expect the same tireless commitment, the same performance, the same service, and they are surprised when they don't get it.
PC Dougal's mowing down of this girl isn't a minor indiscretion, and I hope I wouldn't drive that fast without blue lights or sirens. But I'm not supporting corruption when I say that I feel for him, and that I wonder how many other avenues to prosecution were considered. There but for the grace of God go all of us.
If society wants the police officer to be like any other job, it can be achieved by carrying on down this route. We can keep rigidly to the restrictions of a normal job, even when it means sitting at a red light while you get beaten up round the corner; arresting you for the pettiest of allegations by your neighbour; refusing to do overtime if we've exceeded our 48-hour-week; taking our hour meal break and driving 10 miles back to the nick to do it.
I just think society needs to think very carefully about what it wishes for. Because the public will be the first to complain when it all goes wrong.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.