When I joined the Met in 72 it was a very different animal to what it has become today. Some of the changes have been an improvement, many, in my opinion, have not.
The first thing I noticed was that the instructors were SCARY, especially that Drill Sergeant, Sid Butcher, who seemed to think that I couldn’t march properly. He was right of course. He threatened me all kinds of dire consequences but he succeeded in getting me to closely resemble a march.
Out to Division, my reporting Sergeant was an old sweat from the Palestinian Police with a metal plate in his head. Never upset him I was told. I saw what happened to people who upset him, but we just seemed to click, chalk and cheese. “You’re an enigma son” was the best ‘compliment’ I ever got out of him, but he was good. All kinds of ‘wickedness’ was waiting for new probationers, including (allegedly) the Station Stamp for WPCs. Yes I did say WPC, I was never renowned for Political Correctness. I would like to think that I was polite and respectful, but Politically Correct? Possibly not.
Some of the very first Inspectors I met were brilliant, I won’t repeat some of things they said to me, but it was character building and exactly what every fledgling Police Officer needs to hear, for any number of reasons. I had a Chief Inspector who delighted in reducing people to tears, but I came to learn that (in his way) he wasn’t a bully. What he wanted was for the officer to turn round and tell him to F*** Off. No bollockings, no discipline, for that one won his everlasting respect. Old School, right or wrong, it was right for me.
Some of you who knew me then might remember a Welsh Indian Chief Superintendent. All kinds of crap was rained on him by the lower ranks because he was the worst example of an officer promoted beyond his ability, several times. I could tell you many tales of life with him at the helm, but most of them you probably wouldn’t believe.
My first two years were hard. No sitting at the Drivers’ Table in the Canteen (yes, we had a good one), day duty invariably meant School Crossings, Shoplifters, Reserve Room duties, but most importantly learning one’s craft. Fast cars and glamorous postings were for after the magical 2 year period, where if you passed, you were trusted with all manner of important jobs, Driving Courses, Specialist postings, looking down on Probationers and “Wind Ups”. Instead of being the butt of Wind Ups one was allowed to participate at other Probationers’ expense. But it was fun but the Job most definitely got done first, that was always the main priority. Nowadays there’s seldom time to down a pork pie never mind have fun between assignments. If we handed 6 jobs over to the following shift there was a shit-storm to follow, unforgivable. Nowadays I can imagine dozens of jobs being handed over to the next shift. Too many calls and not enough cops.
I had a serious wobble at about the 15 years and told my Inspector that I wasn’t coming in to work and he could do whatever he ******* pleased about that. Don his name was. He was brilliant, he appeared at my house, alone, and sorted me out in the best possible way. He got me to see that it was ‘just’ a wobble and what could we do about it? A change of direction within my career, a hilarious application to work at Buckingham Palace that didn’t go very well, and I was back on track again, different role, different responsibilities and fully re-energised. After that point I never looked back. If I ever meet up with Don again I shall surely buy him a large pint or two. I owe him a lot.
We had our Gene Hunts, Jack Reagans, a few Jack Frosts and even fewer Barnabys. Dixon of Dock Green existed but he really wasn’t very well. Did I like working for Hunt and Reagan? You bet I did. I knew exactly where all the lines were drawn, I knew what was expected of me, and I knew what I had to deliver and how to deliver it. In the 90s I was introduced to the newest breed of DIs and DCIs. Not for me I’m afraid, and those people were destined to be the Senior Management Team of the future.
It was about the same time that the Met started universally going down the pan. PCs started calling their Sergeants John (or whatever their given name was), things became too pink and fluffy. Having been given an assignment some officers were heard to say “I’d rather not do that, can’t you give it to somebody else?”, ‘bosses’ would surround themselves with their friends rather than take who they were offered, or choose the best people for the job, Chumocracy had arrived in the Met and it made me uncomfortable, calls would go unanswered and (Once) I even witnessed officers finishing their meal rather than turn out for an Urgent Assistance call.
Slowly and almost imperceptibly, the really senior officers changed from being proper cops to academics and weasels. Not all, but very many.
From the late 80s to the present time the Met has tragically gone from being the envy of the world to (almost) a laughing stock. Who do I blame for that? May, Camoron and Winsor most definitely. Hogan-Who must shoulder a large part of the blame too. Too late speaking up in his last month before retirement, the Winsor ‘reforms’ was the time when any true leaders needed to be heard. I certainly didn’t need to turn the volume down there.
I do need to get my glasses out. Where exactly has the Metropolitan Police Force gone and what is this thing that has replaced it? How did that happen?