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Northern EYE by Bob Kimmins: The days of PC Plod are over

At the wheel of my car, crammed with friends, I raced through London breaking the speed limit.

Published on November 17, 2007

Northern EYE by Bob Kimmins: The days of PC Plod are over

Bob Kimmins

And it wasn't long before a black Wolesey police car - blue light blinking and bell clanging - gave chase. When I pulled in and lowered the window to the inquiring policeman, it needed no bloodhound to smell the alcohol.

"In a hurry are we - sir?" the officer asked, and I explained with a slur it was my 21st birthday and we needed a curry house before it closed. The bobby suggested that to see 22, I ought to slow down a bit, and then waved us on our merry way.

In those lenient days, forty years ago, there was always the chance of being let off. And besides amiable patrolmen, the everyday Police Constable was a community member - almost family - plodding the neighbourhood pavements or occasionally pedalling about on a bicycle.

Those reassuring PC Plods on the beat, rescued cats from trees, helped old ladies cross the road and told us the time.

However, times have changed, and today the British police force is something more like the SAS - machineguns and all. If caught drunk driving nowadays, I would probably be thrown straight into the pen. And quite right too I hear some of you say.

But shortly before leaving England, I was stopped on the road several times for no good reason, interrogated and breathalysed with negative results. And on a trip home later, I was arrested in a case of mistaken identity.

After being physically apprehended, which left bruises, I asked the police who they thought I was - Osama bin Laden?

It could be worse

If that seemed bad, it was nothing compared to the time a policeman waved down my car in Benin, Nigeria. Once stopped, he opened the passenger door, sat down beside me and pointed a gun at my head.

He alleged that the car was not roadworthy and offered me three choices - an African jail, one of his bullets or my cash donation to the police benevolent fund.

Over zealous and/or corrupt cops can be found in one form or other in most countries worldwide. According to Ron Wilson of Cadence International, more than half of the violent crimes in the Philippines are committed by the Philippine National Police, who are locally referred to as "crocodiles of the streets".

And Russia's Prosecutor General's Office recently stated that special probes would be opened into the countries growing police involvement in bribery, abuse of power, illegal fines and extortion.

Policemen in the USA are often associated with illegal drug dealing, while, back in Britain the fuzz are still having problems putting names to faces.

In 1975, six men were sentenced to life imprisonment for bombing two pubs in Birmingham. Sixteen years later it was proved that all six were forced into making false confessions after days of torture and interrogation. What's more, the police lied in court.

More recently, on July 22nd 2006, Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead by police after being misidentified as a suicide bomber. So, I count myself lucky with a bruise or two from my mistaken identity.

The Thai police

The police in Thailand suffer from terrible press, but when reading above, are they any better or worse than some of their foreign counterparts?

It's a frequent criticism that when Thai policemen break the law, they are merely transferred to an inactive post. But let it be known that the police involved in both the Birmingham six and killing of Menezes were never prosecuted, never mind convicted.

And comparatively speaking, Thai police receive a pittance in salary, which must affect overall morale and efficiency, and enhance susceptibility to bribery and corruption - you get what you pay for.

Over the years, the Thai police force has been connected to various forms of corruption, extra-judicial killings and even the murder of tourists, but on the other hand, I have never had a bad experience with it.

When found to have the wrong driving qualifications at a roadblock near Theon, the policemen involved went to great lengths in explaining how I could get a Thai licence and strongly suggested that I got one as soon as possible.

And on collecting my Thai licence from a Chiang Mai police station after having it seized for not wearing a seat belt, the mirth created by my attempted Thai language helped in reducing the fine.

I drink far less alcohol myself these days, but a Thai neighbour of mine was caught at a checkpoint while driving under the influence. He explained that after being stopped by the police, they asked him to sit down for 10 minutes and drink some water before driving on. Perhaps the days of PC Plod are not quite over after all.

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