My boss recently told me that I had not been attending the Town Centre Management Group meeting. I had been missed and they would like me to attend. So I attended. The agenda had nothing on it that I thought need my presence but clearly I was wanted. Item 7 on the agenda was the turning on of the Christmas lights in the High Street. I was excited to hear that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will be the pantomime at the local theatre this year and the actors taking part will be invited to turn on the lights. The actors will stand on the first floor balcony of the town hall. Concern was expressed that people would not be able to see the dwarfs on the balcony. A suggestion was made that the dwarfs could stand on a bench so they could easily be seen. There was then concern that the dwarfs might get caught up in the excitement and fall off the balcony. The solution: We can stand the dwarfs on a bench but have them all wear harnesses and tie them to the building so they cannot fall.Now obviously that's not going to mean that every copper is busy in Town Hall meetings about irrelevant crap all the time - Lex Ferenda is an Inspector after all - but the point is that for however long he was in that meeting for was time in which he wasn't able to do what he's paid for. The guy clearly prefers to do that policework thingy over boring meetings about how to prevent the differently tall (or whatever is the PC term) from falling off things, but attending the meeting sounded less like a choice and more like a three line whip. And it's not like it's never been suggested that it applies to rank and file officers to an extent as well, because of course it has.
So, nearly two hours into a meeting that has no relevance to the police at all, we have discussed for nearly half an hour whether some dwarfs from the local panto can stand on a bench and whether they should be harnessed and tied to the building to ensure they don't fall off the balcony. I kept having to remind myself, this was not a dream...
|Or try the Town Hall - there's probably at least one down there|
Let's just remind ourselves of a few salient points. In Britain the law abiding citizen's ability to defend himself is very restricted and they're expected to call on the police, either literally because there has been a crime or figuratively because the very existence of the police force is supposed to deter crime in the first place. There are roughly 145,000 police officers in England and Wales, so at the most basic level there is only one cop for every 380 people, and assuming that roughly 95% of people are law abiding citizens that one cop has about 19 crims to worry about. That cop needs to eat, sleep, have time off, take holidays, and will occasionally be unwell and unable to work, so the workload is divided and realistically it's probably closer to one on-duty cop for every thousand or so people, each of whom has about 50 crims to worry about. And if they're spending half their time doing paperwork and desperately wishing that they weren't twiddling their thumbs listening to plans to attach safety harnesses to dwarfs (side note: did anyone think to ask the dwarfs, who are adults and probably more experienced with the needs of dwarfs than anyone at the meeting, what they thought? I'll leave a comment asking at The Thinking Policeman, but somehow I doubt it) then it's more like one active cop per hundred criminals and per couple of thousand citizens. Who, as I mentioned, are prevented from doing very much if they attract the attention of one of those criminals while the nearest copper is dealing with one of the other 99 crims or 1999 members of the public.
UPDATE - over at The Thinking Policeman Lex Feranda comments that they did ask the dwarfs - all in the name of consulting the relevant community, natch - and incredibly decided that maybe tying them to a wall might not be a good idea. But before you think that meant actually letting them decide for themselves whether to stand on the bench it should be added that the elf'n'safetee knob said that the council would be liable no matter what so it sounds like everyone stands on the balcony and the crowd get to look at Snow White (or Mild Albinism with Narcolepsy, I imagine) and the Seven Hats.