Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Mis-spent youth

I found this guy today.  I feel some of his pain - well quite a lot of it actually. Sadly, it is not new and I discovered that old Socrates (or `Socca` as The Sun newspaper would've called him) may have said,

"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers". (Wiki).

 I was a Metropolitan Police Cadet. I joined in 1969. It was an outstanding regime, modernised largely by this man

 The Met Cadets was a bit like the Army without rifles, artillery or explosives. In fact we regularly took the army cadets on at sport, etc. I remember being up Snowdon in a blizzard in March. You couldn’t see 5 yards and we were roped together and were using ice axes. We passed army cadets coming down and their leader told our leader it was too bad to go the final 500 feet – what a challenge. Up we went, got to the cafe (closed) saw nowt but white, and headed down below the weather line into mere driving rain. One of our lads ended up airlifted to Bangor, by the RAF, with moderate hypothermia! he was on the phone later that day, asking to be returned to his squad for the rest of the expedition.

The Met Cadet scheme today is not like that any more. You can be a `cadet` now at a mere 13 years (our regime was way too vigourous for 13 yr olds) plus it doesn't pay a wage – at least we were paid £4  a week, fed, watered, clothed and accommodated...when I entered Hendon as a constable on my 19th birthday I had been transformed as a person; I had experienced harsh weather, been punched around a boxing ring, thrown around a judo mat, roadwalked, run ragged, abseiled, canoed along rivers and the sea, become a gymnast, marched to Guards standard having been drilled by an ex Grenadier drill Sgt and performed 2 months voluntary service in a secure psychiatric unit in south London. I felt as if I could have pushed a house over and woe betide anyone who messed with me.

Did it help me in my career? Well I was never as tired, cold or sapped of energy like I was during those cadet expeditions so I think it did. I had been given a very up close and personal insight into the vagaries of mental illness so I guess that helped me too, as the mentally ill sadly come into contact with the police quite a lot. And yet all of that paled into insignificance when one looked at what Colonel Andrew Croft did. He was our Commandant and I was so proud to have served in his Cadet Corps.

I expect the cadet schemes these days are seen as a waste of money. Perhaps they wouldn't even be allowed to run along the lines of the one I was part of. Maybe people would be just too scared to allow them?  I don't know either way.


Thursday, 25 July 2013

Adjourned Sine Die....

I never knew Keith Blakelock and by the time the Tottenham riots kicked off, ten years separated The Metropolitan Police and me, but I knew countless officers like him and I felt his loss like I was still a member of that force. One of those countless officers was a particularly good friend of mine, that friendship forged in two years of cadet training in the wintry peaks of North Wales, the wilds of Dartmoor, the February fog of River Thames canoeing expeditions and on the judo mats and in the boxing rings of the Hendon cadet training school.

He was killed in the execution of his duty by four young men in a stolen car. He tried to grab the keys from the ignition when the driver refused to turn off the engine. He got trapped in the window and the driver deliberately rammed him into railings in Oxford Street to shake him off. They were caught and convicted of a lesser crime than murder, which requires `malice aforethought` and served a paltry few years in jail - less than 4 paltry years. That one event shaped me in respect of law enforcement and my tiny part in it -  `Report of a Stolen car? So what? I'll do what I can but it won't be much`.

So I am heartened by the news that my first police force has run another suspect to ground, because this sort of crime cannot be left to gather dust. Its memory sits quietly dozing in the cerebral filing system of hundreds of ex coppers like me - quietly dozing but occasionally opening a cynical eye.

Perhaps the progress of science can achieve today what it was unable to do 28 years ago. Lets hope for no `high morals` corrupt practice. Lets hope they get this one home. A conviction must be `beyond reasonable doubt`, says our criminal justice system. May it be so in this case.