Many of the calls I attend under Sir Bernard's Local Policing Team are so distant geographically that I use buses to travel between them. Have you ever noticed that police officers don't sit down on buses?
Ask coppers about this and they will say, “I'm in uniform. Sitting looks unprofessional.”
Why is this? Everybody, officers and the public, like to buy into the mythology that we are relentless untiring machines, like Terminators, with no need for rest, food, or a little space of our own. In 2009 ex-Commissioner Paul Stephenson brought in his single patrol policy – an idea that neglects officer's human need for one another's company.
When standing in buses we don't sit down like everyone else – we tend to loiter in the middle, near the doors – no matter how tired we feel.
Since joining the police I have acquired a bad back, poor posture, arthritis and semi-permanent tendinitis in my feet. It isn't my idea of fun to stand in heavy kit for half an hour while the bus driver practices for a track day at Silverstone.
I have decided to use the seats and, because everybody stares at coppers, I choose seats at the back, but when other passengers spot me they always stop and stare, apparently dumbfounded.
Similarly, most folk seem surprised that coppers need to eat. I can't count the number of times, when I have been buying my lunch in a sandwich shop, that I have heard the astonished comments:
“Look at that copper. We don't pay him to eat lunch. Shouldn't he be out catching burglars?”
Well, inside my uniform is a flesh-and-blood person who needs to eat. I'm not a machine.
I'm not even going to mention the fact that the job can make us work any number of consecutive hours, change our hours willy-nilly with no notice, and call us in on days off: one time I failed to answer my mobile phone during a rest day, a local officer was sent to my door to pass me the order to return to work.
They can literally do with us as they please, but hey...it's always been this way...so that's okay, right?