As many readers will know, I’m a bit of a fan of The Bill (RIP). When I say “a bit of a fan”, I’ve got DVDs of the earliest seasons and watch daily repeats on the Drama channel (we’re up to 2005).
As a result, I reckon that I’m pretty much up to speed on police procedure and terminology. I know that “What’s the SP?” means “let’s go back over the story-line for the benefit of anybody who missed the last episode or has the attention span of a goldfish”.
I know that “India 99” is a police helicopter.
I also know that Trojan units are armed police officers who deploy in ARVs (armed response vehicles) and that when they arrive “on scene” they rush around shouting things like “CLEAR!” and “ARMED POLICE! STAND STILL!”
Until yesterday, the only time that I’d ever come across an armed police officer outside an airport was in the staff canteen at County Hall in Oxford.
At that time, the “canteen” was in an area that also acted as the antechamber to the Crown Court. One feature of the criminal justice arrangements at this time was that the prison was next to the building that housed the court and that prisoners could be moved between the two via a tunnel. This meant that people deemed to be a high security risk were often taken to Oxford for trial.
On this particular occasion, someone had threatened to kill the man on trial and so I found myself queuing for a baked potatoes behind a detective with a revolver strapped to his side. At least – I hope he was a detective.
Yesterday, I came across two more armed officers – not entirely surprising, as this was central London. Quite what they were guarding wasn’t clear. The building was being guarded by soldiers- but the soldiers only had swords, so maybe the police were guarding the soldiers.
I would like to have taken a photograph, but I know that photographing the police in some circumstances is illegal, so I asked and they said no. They said that I could take pictures of the soldiers, but I passed on that one – just because you’ve got a camera, doesn’t make you a tourist.
The whole situation left me feeling tremendously sad and a little angry. Every time we turn an unarmed police officer into an armed guard because of the actions of a few fanatics we end up surrendering a little bit of our civilization in order to protect it.