So what does it mean to police this neighborhood? Well, you get gangs, first and foremost. Cops love gangs. They give us a nice, easily-defined enemy, and they wear color-coded clothes for your convenience. Good old "us versus them," right? Nonsense. I've taken part in "rowdy buses," where we go about in groups and put hands in their pockets. For the most part, it ends up good-natured.
Once, in the middle of the swine flu crisis, I was full of the cold and sneezed mid-search. The gang member whose pockets I was delving for drugs and weapons giggled to himself and made a swine flu joke. I joined in the chuckles, until one of his compatriots loudly declared he didn't get it (he didn't know that swine and pig are the same thing). That set the entire gang off, and we spent a happy few minutes ripping the piss out of him. Next time I saw them, it was all smiles and jokes.
Ronaldccwong / Wiki Commons
Getting roasted is better than getting shot.
By contrast, a mate once stopped an elderly geezer, mostly to pass the time of day. He asked what the old-timer had in his shopping bag, only to be greeted with the severed head of the old boy's wife of 60 years. That put him off his breakfast.
I hasten to add that it's not that every gang member is a jocular scamp, scrumping apples and whatever tiffin is. [Ed. note: We have no idea what any of those words mean. We assume they only make sense to British people.] I was involved in the 2011 riots, and more than one occasion in Gilpin Square, or a Friday night in Shoreditch, has seen me outnumbered 200 or 300 to one, praying that the uniform and a good, commanding voice will keep them from realizing the odds. I made it, so I guess I did something right.
Raymond Yau/Wiki Commons
Still no guns -- this being the worst possible time to see if you're any good at using one.
One colleague, who has now left the job, was intentionally driven into by a bandit car recently stolen by means of burglary. She made it, but it was one of the more serious injuries, because a car was used, so it required a significant stay in hospital. She was, as is right and proper, visited by senior staff. As it was, she was out of her gourd on morphine, and greeted the commander of the North East Cluster by pulling up her hospital gown and offering to show him her gash. The commander didn't visit Hackney so much after that.