When 'Bystander' on the Magistrate's Blog dared to question the wisdom of a high-speed police chase that resulted in the death of innocent people, the 'hate' he drew from serving police officers was entirely predictable. I raised a similar question on a sailing forum some months ago, and the sheer rudeness and vituperation that I got from serving and retired plods for the suggestion was truly eye-opening. You ask whether it's right that 30 people a year or so should die in police chases, but what they seem to hear is 'I want to cut your testicles off'.
The comments that Bystander drew are eerily similar to those I got. To precis: it seems that plod thinks that young men who drive cars without tax or insurance (invariably referred to as 'scumbags') deserve to die not for not having a current tax disk but because they fail to stop for the police. Innocent motorists or pedestrians who get killed or seriously injured are an unfortunate consequence of maintaining the rule of law. If the police stopped chasing young men in cars at high speed then the country would collapse into lawlessness. No-one but a policeman is qualified to discuss this subject.
A few weeks ago in Trafalgar Square a patrol car with screaming siren and lights drew up behind a black cab waiting at a red light outside St Martin's. When the cab didn't cross the light to let them through, they gave him a prolonged blast on the horn. He still declined to move. When he chugged off on the green light, the patrol car swerved around the inside to overtake the cab and squealed to block him side-on outside the South African High Commission. A furious red-faced little policeman leapt out to berate the cabbie volubly and at great length.
"Must have been a really urgent call, then" remarked the very ordinary man beside me in the knot of spectators on the pavement.
The gulf of opinion between police officers and the law-abiding public on the use of 'blues and twos', on the use of macho high-speed cars, and on the 'rights' of the police to act in a way that many regard as disproportionate is perhaps the most emotive divide that separates the police from the people they serve. It is right that it should be questioned and debated. And like the Magistrate, I've got a thick skin too.