My article in The Guardian online today has caused some consternation. You can read the debate in the comments, so I'm not going to go into it here, apart from to say that the grannies are not intended to be fictional!
As an undercover police writer, you suffer from two contradictory presumptions by non-police readers:
- Half of them think you are touting the party line, and condemn you in the same breath as the police establishment you are trying to satirise.
- The other half think you are a whistle-blower and must therefore hate your colleagues and be on a mission to expose their corruption.
What I really try to write about is good people trying to do a good job, strangled by a detrimental culture of target-chasing and risk aversion. I am not speaking for front-line officers, but I speak as one of them.
Personally, I try not to get hung up on which judge has made what ruling, unless it is on a point of law that materially changes how I can legally do my job. I have learned over the years that it is possible to police sensitively, morally and bravely, but the more you do so, the greater chance there is that you will make a mistake. Hopefully, the mistake will simply lead to someone being acquitted for a trivial offence. If you're unlucky, it might lead to an innocent person's death. Because the stakes are so high, I harbour no resentment towards colleagues who err on the side of caution, who follow force policy in blinkers, obligingly fulfill targets and avoid risky decisions at all costs. They are still good coppers with their hearts in the right place, but some of us have a different opinion of risk, or have more to lose.
Most of us are somewhere on middle ground, making a risky decision one day and playing it safe the next, according to how much we know and what we think is right. When people ask me what is the hardest thing about my job, I think about that balance, and how close I come to getting it wrong, day in, day out.
If you haven't worked in a job like that, it's hard to grasp how that feels.
Corruption is a strong word.
For those of you who have commented on the CIF article expecting a response - I don't have an account. If you want a more detailed response as to what I meant by the article, feel free to email me. It really wasn't anything sinister and I'm sorry for how it's being interpreted! My commenter at 15:29 has it about right.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.