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In praise of “small town”, “old-school” police

As I was driving my kids to school today, I was prompted to think about police.

I saw a police officer with a speed gun – being very obvious – on a road that leads to lots of schools – the same spot as I see a traffic gun every morning.  Predictable.  Not trying to hide. Trying to be obvious and to encourage drivers to keep to the speed limit in this area.

I know lots of people “have problems” with police and don’t like them. Everyone has different experiences with police.

I thought about my own  experience and views towards police and law enforcement.

I thought about how cool it was as a kid to visit a relative who was a “small town”  “country” cop.

You know the type of cops who have to do all sorts of police work – the types who have to live in and are part of the community they enforce the laws for. Their kids and families have to live in these communities too.

I remember my relative seemed to be a cool, down to earth man and would let us as kids look at the empty holding cells at the police station. To a kid this was cool! He seemed to understand kids and especially what boys find cool. He was a dad as well as a policeman.

super 8 dad

This reminded me of the great “small town cop” character in the movie Super 8. The character becomes a hero who uses his “cop skills” to fight  against the “foreign” law enforcement figures who come to the town.

If you haven’t seen it – Super 8  is a “deep” and delightfully “recent-retro” movie – before the aliens and explosion-fest take over from the human story. If you’re interested here is a review explaining why the actors ( and the parts written for them) are so strong.

I grew up in an era and in a smaller city where we were taught to respect police.

Then I went to university at a time where students and police clashed at student protests.

When I played in bands, the  police were always turning up to gigs and parties to shut them down and enforce the Noise Abatement Act.

I remember having to deal with police over minor traffic offences.

I always liked the older (and more rotund ones) who seemed to be “tough but fair”. Maybe they reminded me of my country cop relative.

A mate of mine was telling me about a growing enforcement trend to bring in “enforcement” or security that is not connected with a community – Enforcers who do not know or understand or like any of the people they have to “interact with” in enforcing certain laws – e.g. controlling protests etc. Reduced personal loyalties and feelings.

I’ve never been a cop and never WANTED to be one. The job always seemed too hard to me – and often unpopular in Australia! Maybe it’s the anti-authority spirit.

I always liked the “conflicted” police characterstorn between duty and personal loyalty – as in Highway Patrolman by Bruce Springsteen.  Link at the end of this post – if you are not familiar with the song.

I didn’t want to BE a policeman – however I DID enjoy “playing a policeman” once in a very, very small part in a “small” movie.

TB movie cop

Just found this old photo and must show it to my 9-year-old son. He’s at the age where he will think this is super-cool.

Anyway, just some reflections today inspired by seeing the traffic police this week – going out of their way to be seen.

Police who seemed keener to protect the community than to punish and fine any speeding offenders.


If you’re not familiar with the song: Highway Patrolman – here’ a link to Bruce singing it:


One comment on “In praise of “small town”, “old-school” police

  1. Des
    July 25, 2013

    thanks Tony…thoughtful piece. the trend away from community policing is eloquently spelled out in a recent Wall Street Journal article (in the last week), ‘the rise of the warrior cop’, which traces the growth of SWAT team raids, which started with the Drug War….indeed that policy has wrecked community relations more than anything ….respect dies when thugs selectively enforce ridiculous laws, and raid houses over victimless ‘crimes’, using para-military style dress and tactics. mind you, governments ram these policies through, to protect their criminal mates. the public never gets to vote on these policies.

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