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Cops and robbers

Terry Joseph
March 20, 2002

"Stop! Stop, you mocking pretender", the midnight robber's classic admonition, is ideally what Commissioner Hilton Guy should have put to Police Association president Inspector Christopher Holder after the latter complained his superior's remarks about "Lucifers" in uniform were unfounded.

Already cast as the big bad midnight robber, Commissioner Guy blew the whistle on rogue cops while addressing a fresh batch of recruits at last Saturday's passing out parade at the St James Barracks. Using a line from Ras Shorty-I's song of the same name, Mr Guy said: "Watch out, my children," adding "for there are Lucifers".

"Don't be deluded that Lucifers only reside in the public, but also within our organisation," he said, telling, too, of witnessing a development in the Police Service that was the cause of grave concern to him and senior officers.

Well who tell he to say dat!

Insp Holder was indignant, reports say, apparently mortified by the suggestion that all police officers were not specially raised and nurtured by cherubims and seraphims in preparation for earthly responsibilities.

He shot back saying at first he thought Commissioner Guy was waxing biblical then, upon clarification, recognised no theological genesis in the remark and called on the cop to name names. When no response came, he unleashed his own brand of robber-talk, including another Carnival cliche: "You can't play mas an' 'fraid powder."

Since Mr Guy's statements, Holder said he received a number of calls from police officers, wanting to know what the top cop really meant. "Most of them are confused as to what he was referring to," Holder said, letting on that he knew no Lucifers in the police service.

"Other officers," the report continued, "said there are top police officers involved in corruption and Guy probably wants to protect the young recruits." Going global, the senior officers "pointed out there are corrupt police officers all over the world, but most officers indulge in dishonesty because of their poor salaries".

Now, I really wouldn't mind if this was all being proposed as first-draft of a script for a remake of Hank Mann's 1913 silent-film comedy, The Bangville Police, which introduced the seven-member cast of Keystone Cops, with its creator reserving for himself the role of a bungling police chief, Teeheezel.

That was successful slapstick. The movie spawned a slew of sequels, bringing to the big screen some of the best comedians that matinee prices could buy.

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle carved a career that long outlasted retirement of that era's cinema cops and well before the likes of Shaft, Ironside and Dirty Harry did their tours of duty.

But that was all celluloid fiction. If Insp Holder still wishes to avoid reality, he should not, for our sake, apply that philosophy while on duty at the helm of the Police Association. While he might think it a stout defence of his membership, there are those who view that approach as ostrich-like, robbing us of any hope of his assistance in weeding out the bad guys.

To say senior police officers did not know what Mr Guy meant is another kind of damning evidence, since the Chief's statements were crystal clear at every sequence. If such simple talk could confuse men of good station, small wonder Insp Holder does not know what is happening in his domain.

Granted, Mr Guy is not Heaven-sent. Several of his senior officers routinely whisper complaints about the cop's administrative style. His most recent plan to disband the Community Police Service is at least premature and based on the utterly ludicrous concept that all cops currently under his command would now show the same degree of sensitivity when handling domestic matters, gender issues and village squabbles.

By his own admission at the Police Academy, Mr Guy knows some members within his ranks are unsuited to the task of counselling. He is therefore robbing us of this valuable facility on the flimsy premise that any officer should be able to handle delicate situations.

It is putting the cart well before the horse. It may be that Mr Guy plans to guide all recruits along a straight and narrow path, but except they are isolated from the habits of those who have mastered dereliction, there is a good chance that his plan will produce all the wrong results.

Mr Guy, however, has the responsibility to at least tell new recruits some of the realities and in last Saturday's example he lived up to it quite well.

Perhaps what he needed was to more forcefully assume the role of the midnight robber, wearing a different hat and letting officers of every rank know once and for all time where he stands.

As for Insp Holder, it would do him well to read newspapers more studiously and note the increasing frequency with which police officers are being brought before the courts on a variety of charges.

To simply sweep under the carpet realities known to all deprives us of a starting position in the fight against crime, a battle rendered easier if we know the difference between cops and robbers.

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