Saturday, 18 February 2012

‘Coppers’ On Channel 4 – Good Insight Or Bad Representation?

The chairman of Notts Police Authority says he fears the portrayal of police in a television show may undermine confidence in the force.

Councillor Jon Collins said that if the authority had been consulted by Notts Police about the filming of Channel 4's Coppers, he would have advised it not to take part.
And he’d probably have been right. You see, I watched the ‘riots’ episode of this a few days ago, having taped it.

And it was eye-opening. There’s no doubt about that. It gets a fair bit of praise on Gadget’s blog for ‘showing it like it is’ and providing a good insight into the lives of the people they are so often called to deal with, and the totally petty offences they are having to manage. And it’s true that it’ll be a shock to those who never see that sort of behaviour (should they bother to watch it, which is unlikely).

And yet….

On at least two occasions in that particular program, the problem (and resulting arrest) was caused as much by the behaviour of the officer as the behaviour of the member of the underclass.

The first was the ‘mouthy but toothless drunk’ incident. Cops turn up to move on drunken tramps in a city centre square, and one gets a bit lairy, swearing as he moves away. But the crucial thing is that, as we can see from camera shot, he does move away. However, not quick enough for our hero, who starts to push him bodily; at one stage, he falls down backwards, which – given PC Simon Harwood is due for trial this year and Channel Four’s cameras were turning merrily – seemed a nonsensically stupid thing to do.

And then, in struggling with the guy (who continues to try to eat his sandwich all the while!), he rips off his jacket and throws it behind him. At this point, the tramp (who can’t really make himself understood well, having both no teeth and a mouthful of sandwich) just wants to get his jacket back, and keeps going forward with that aim in mind, leading to more pushing and finally an arrest (for which he didn’t show up at court, quelle surprise).

But why not just…give him his jacket back? If he then continues to try to get back to the square, fine. But as it was, it looked petty and unnecessary and ultimately futile.

And the second was the ‘chav party from hell’ incident. The finest specimens of Nottingham underclass were on full display, and it wasn’t pretty. Tattooed, drunk, unshaven, aggressive and incoherent. Some of the men were equally as bad. One woman – well, I’m assuming, it actually looked a lot like someone had put a walrus in a dress and applied a thin blonde wig and some lipstick – was acting like a child (as one of the cops admitted onscreen) and was told to go behind a line denoted by a lamppost or she’d be arrested. Of course, the next shot is of her tiptoeing across the line behind the officer and promptly being arrested.

And this was apparently meant to prove the ‘people behave like children’ quip. Well, yes. And it seems, so do police officers. They then had to put her through all the custody preamble, just as with ol’ toothless above, and for what? A child learns not to cross a line dictated by authority figures because there are consequences. This woman never will, because there are none! All it served was to take one police officer off the streets to deal with her.

There’s an old saying – ‘Never wrestle with a pig; you both get filthy, but the pig likes it!’. Yet here we saw cops going out of their way to wrestle with those pigs, despite all the whining about ‘pointless jobs’ on Insp Gadget’s blog.

And for no result, either for them,. or for society.
Labour leader Alan Rhodes said: "In my view, Coppers was an unmitigated disaster for Notts Police – the senior officers who allowed the show to go ahead displayed naivety.

"However, one officer – Steve Porter – showed a fantastic, caring and considerate approach which shows how community policing should be."
Hmmm, and what did he do? Well, since I’ve now caught up with the episode in question, I fully understand their description…
But some officers appearing on Coppers were praised at the council meeting. PC Steve Porter, of Worksop, was seen on Monday's programme mediating in disputes involving feuding neighbours and a mother and her 10-year-old son.
Ah. The ‘not police work’ part of the job, then? The bit that, frankly, no-one should be employed by anyone to do (‘mediate’ between an inadequate mother and her portly, ‘ADHD’ son)? Well, that just figures, doesn't it?

Police are employed to keep the streets safe, bust up drugs dens, ensure rival football teams don't knock seven bells out of each other and the like. We saw plenty of that, but did they get praised for it? No...
Notts Police says two incidents in the programme have been referred to its professional standards department.

Jackie Alexander, head of the department, said: "We acknowledge that the language and behaviour demonstrated by some of those participating in the programme do not meet the professional standards that we expect for all our officers and staff and we will be addressing this with the individuals concerned.

"We are also commencing work to ensure that everyone representing Notts Police clearly understands why such comments and behaviours are contrary to the values we hold."
I wonder if those two incidents referred to are the ones I saw in that ‘riots’ episode? They should be.

I bet they aren’t though. I bet one of them’s the weary reference to a city centre drug dispute shown on CCTV leading to a stabbing as a ‘s**t on s**t attack’. Probably for being insufficiently respectful to a ‘victim’ of crime…

If anyone else has watched it, I'd be glad to know your thoughts as to which way it goes. Me, I think it's a little of both. And that's surely no bad thing?


jaded said...

Where do I start?
I have watched this programme from the start.It's very accurate.

As you state,when the police gets "hands on" the lefty liberals start crying,but when they do the social work thing they are praised.
Remember the riots?Seems like a lifetime ago.

The best bit was the TSG van with all the PC's farting.Absolutely spot-on.I am sure a few people cringed "how dare the police be human,surely they are all robots?".

The trouble is in general is that the public don't like to think that there are so many chav-scum in this country.When they come across them they want something done,they just don't like to see it.

Anonymous said...

Never like fly on the wall progs like this about the police or indeed any occupation.
You'll g et the really good people, the nobby managers and then the 'David Brents' make an appearance, all sly looks at the camera as they come out with Wildean (in their little worlds) comments.

From that great work - 'The Choirboys' - my favourite character is 'Roscoe' Rules, a character that actually introduced the word 'scrotes' over here - an officer so mean and nasty that he is described as a person who would have handed out the towels at Auschwitz and who could undo years of community policing in 2 seconds by shouting 'grab a piece of kerb asshole'.

As motorists drive past the scene of a mulit-vehicle pile up one asks Roscoe, 'anyone hurt officer'? Yeah, this one got banged up a bit - Roscoe replies holding up a head.

Obviously these are extreme and fictional scenes from a very funny book (shit film) but ya feel me aiight?

If I was still serving and a film crew came along I would tell them to piss off and any manger who attempted to order me to participate.

Anonymous said...

In the underclass areas, simply replace the police with a platoon of Ghurkas, and the non-lethal implements with rifles and fixed bayonets. That combined with a minimum tolerance sort of attitude might just work.

Hogdayafternoon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hogdayafternoon said...

I concur with your comments and conclusions JuliaM. I didn't watch it, I won't try to find a re-run, I don't seek out these programmes and I care too much about my lovely normal blood pressure to change my mind. I was a plod of the 70's. I was a Cadet in `69. My cadet corps training was all mountaineering, physical exercise, self defence, academic study, canoeing, attachments to hospitals (mine was a psychiatric secure unit), working with the disabled and disadvantaged. We typically did a 3 month stint with the aforementioned. I even got seduced by a nurse (out of duty hours I might add - great bonus) What was all this to do with being a copper? Nothing and everything. But it taught me a whole load of stuff that did me more good than much else I had thereafter. As a cop, I went after naughty, nasty people, didn;t care if they didn't like me but tried not to make it easy for them to do so. Dead simple.

RantinRab said...

Having watched the whole series so far, I would say it's full of the characters anyone would find in their work place.

However, there are one or two who just shouldn't be police officers.

The mouthy tosser on the tsg van for one, (the ex miner). That guy has issues.

I thought the Lothian and borders cop spoke a lot of sense. (The guy that failed the probationer).

RantinRab said...

Oh, and I think that the English and Scottish methods of policing are miles apart.

The Scottish polis don't call anyone 'mate'!

A salt and battered said...

I defer to those profligate commenters who squandered a profitless evening in the belief they were educated/entertained. A more stimulating night could be had, self-harming with shards of glass and a bottle of vinegar.

Pretty pointless gawping at a TV when even the worst of plod could not be so dumb as to fail to fully grasp the golden opportunity of playing uniformed Thespian to camera.
What's that....many are that dumb and some are even dumber?....Good Lord.

blueknight said...

...they want something done,they just don't like to see it...
A fair comparison is the BBC 'Kill it Cook it Eat it' series. Everyone knows what happens but many would like to pretend it doesn't.
Joseph Wambaugh, who wrote The Choirboys(and incidentally The Blueknight) had served in the LAPD, so Roscoe Rules may not have been entirely fictional.

Anonymous said...

Didn't see it and won't watch it. I enjoy being a police officer but spare time is spent entirely with people outside of the job.

Basing a view of the entire police force by watching a few is not the best. Our job includes preventing breach of the peace and a bit of mediation can work wonders.

SadButMadLad said...

Just watched Ep6 of S2 on catchup. Not the brightest of police are they. And they do seem to have a huge chip on their shoulders. They keep on going about the loss of respect - but never seem to think about how they lost it. Clue to the thick - it's because of they OTT way you act.

JuliaM said...

"Remember the riots?Seems like a lifetime ago."

I don't think they're entirely in the past, do you? I'm praying for a cold, wet summer!

"From that great work - 'The Choirboys'..."

I've read all Wambuagh's stuff. Definitely one of the best, along with 'The Secrets Of Harry Bright'.

"What was all this to do with being a copper? Nothing and everything."

Looking at some of the cops in that show - and the ones patrolling locally - I concur!

"However, there are one or two who just shouldn't be police officers."

There'll ALWAYS be one or two. If only they could identify and remove 'em!

JuliaM said...

"...they want something done,they just don't like to see it..."

I do, but then I reflect on what the criminal justice system then hands out as 'punishment' and I think 'Why bother?'...

" Our job includes preventing breach of the peace and a bit of mediation can work wonders."

It seems most of the little tiffs between Singly Mum and Chunky Son were in the home. Unless the neighbours were complaining, then leave them to it.

"They keep on going about the loss of respect - but never seem to think about how they lost it. "

There wasn't a great deal of introspection about, was there?