Five minutes before, they had pulled up in the narrow lane, about ten feet ahead of where I had parked, effectively blocking the road with their ‘plain’ 4×4.
They emerged together – one plain-clothed, two in the usual semi-military accoutrements.
They approached a young chap standing by the road and bright pen torches soon flicked on, viewing, I presume, various pieces of ID the man produced while they closely surrounded him.
Soon thereafter, he was escorted to a quiet bit of pavement right next to my car and, again, they encircled him, this time with his back to a shop window. Words ensued, few of which I could hear, had I been even remotely interested, due to the background noise of pub-closing time in large town.
The way they held themselves, how they walked, their tones of voice; all birthed a nagging concern in the back of my mind: If this gets rowdy, it’s my car that these Starsky & Hutch wannabes will be using as a prop. Now, that might piss me off to the point that I’d be waking up in a cell, myself.
Soon enough, another vehicle arrived and, encountering a stationary vehicle in the middle of the road, the driver waited then honked his horn to make the driver aware of his presence.
Rather than wave apology and move the car, Plain-clothes shone his mag-light across my car and directly into the face of the waiting driver for an uncomfortable number of seconds then switched it off and turned back to his interrogation.
Just as the driver called, “Officer…? Officer?”, Plain-clothes grudgingly ambled to the 4×4 with nary a glance, let alone explanation, to the member of the public he had obstructed and, with what I felt was exaggerated slowness and ‘care’, climbed in, started it up and moved the vehicle to the kerb.
As usual for that particular night of the week, I was waiting to give my daughter a lift home from work.
She works in a pub and it was about 1am.
One of the uniformed men approached my partially open driver’s-side window.
“Could I ask you what you’re doing here? You waiting for someone?”
To hear my own, personal interrogator better, I opened the window fully.
I put my phone down (I’d been playing patience to pass the time) and took a deep breath, considering my options.
“Excuse me, am I doing something wrong?”, I asked.
“It’s not that. I’m just checking.”
“Oh, OK. Well, thank you. I’m fine. Really”
(This seemed to throw his script a little).
He regrouped: “Do you have any ID you can show me, sir?”
“As a matter of fact, no, I haven’t.”, I replied.
I wasn’t lying. I had my drivers licence in my wallet but I couldn’t show it to him because my principles wouldn’t allow it and I place great store by my principles – so I *couldn’t* show him. Not at that moment.
I added, helpfully: “But, I suppose you could always run my number plate, right? The DVLA will have my picture, won’t they?”
I was waiting for the next question: “Can I take your name, sir?” but it never came.
The other two were moving off back to their car and, without a further word, my questioner moved off to join them.
I was relieved that the expected question hadn’t come. Things may have become a little ‘uncomfortable’.
Furthermore, having already texted my daughter to tell her I was already outside, I had disturbing images of her panic upon finding me missing from my car.
I still wonder, though…
When did certain civilians, entrusted by other civilians to ‘keep the peace’, begin to assume the right to harass and obstruct other civilians for no other reason than that they carry a warrant card?
Of course, this wasn’t an event on the scale of, say U.S. cops shooting kids dead for playing with toy trucks in the street, but it highlights the mental (and spiritual) attitude which would lead to that kind of incident.
It gives a glimpse into the mindset of: ‘I’m the one in the military kit and carrying the firearm here, so I get to break the rules in order to enforce them.’
I’ve known, and socialised with, many coppers, squaddies and prison officers in my time.
Most are genuinely pleasant, funny guys with nice kids and spouses.
However, whenever I met them in uniform, it was as if they had been given a personality transplant – as if the garb and tools of their trade were possessing them in some way.
(I’ve even met a traffic warden out of uniform once and she wasn’t a complete ‘jobs-worth’ piece of s**t… Not completely, anyway…).
Why does this ‘uniform’ effect occur in those kinds of professions, then, and not, say, nurses?
Or barbers, even?
“This haircut is nothing like I asked for! What were you thinking?!”
“Hey! I’m the barber, not you! Think you know better than me? Let’s not forget who is holding the scissors, here, OK…?”
I suppose one reason is that a prime component, if not the essential nature, of those jobs is the use of force against others to achieve ‘success’ – be it force of ‘law’ or arms.
Is it not natural, then, that anyone immersed in that kind of environment/culture will find it bleeding into all facets of their life and eventually becoming part of their outlook and personality.
Does bestowed power corrupt personality – or are personalities who crave power over others inevitably drawn to professions where they can exercise it?
But those who run the risk of corruption can, potentially, be steered away while those who naturally crave power – or, worse, believe it is their right – will always pursue it.
Has our civilisation (I use the term loosely) become one huge Stanford Prison Experiment?
As a species, I think we still have a lot of growing up to do.