How a hilarious jibe at inept police exposed deeper and more sinister faultlines

Two days ago I posted about the fed up Leither who wrote a side splittingly funny complaint to his local cop shop.

The letter was by turns painfully accurate, laugh out loud hilarious and deeply depressing. Like all the best social commentary it used dark and barbed humour to expose a patently ludicrous state of affairs.

Indeed it was so amusing I was convinced it had to be fake. We all know the police are stretched, but this just smacked too much of corporate ineptitude at deep rooted levels. Surely Lothian and Borders police can’t be that hopeless, I told myself.

But it turns out the letter is 100% true, as reported in the Evening News earlier today. And judging by the reaction to the article on the readers forum, this tale has struck a very deep chord indeed.

To worsen the case against the boys in blue, the man who penned the letter is now even angrier – something that shouldn’t even  be possible. The injury of police inaction has now been compounded with the insult of seeing couldn’t-care-less cops treat his complaint as a big fat joke.

When a police insider (no matter how well-intentioned) forwarded this man’s correspondence to friends outside the force it was a recognition of just how funny his writing was.

But his letter was much, much more than just a cheap tittilation for some bored plod. It was also laced with righteous anger, bitterness and – more than anything else – was a genuine cry for help. The last throw of the dice of a man totally and utterly let down by a system in which he had previously trusted.

By failing to act once and neglecting the problem of petty crime blighting the life of locals on this man’s street, Lothian and Borders police were found wanting.

By failing to act for a second time – and refusing to investigate how and why this man’s heartfelt complaint was treated with such contempt – the force has reached a new low. What could have been written off as Keystone Kop farce now seems much more sinister.

Bear in mind this is a force which recently purged its own media office to prevent any forging of healthy relations with the main organs of mass-communication. Its internal affairs officers (the much loathed “rubber heels”) are busier than ever investigating who may have leaked what to the media. And all this paranoia surrounds a force that, ironically,  is widely perceived to have one of the best public profiles in Scotland and previously enjoyed outstanding relations with the media. Very strange indeed.

So perhaps I was being overly generous when I earlier suggested our police can’t be that bad.

Recently a young female journalist of my acquaintance was arrested for interviewing two men in their home on a perfeclty legitimate story. When the men changd their minds about the interview they had given they complained to the police. As a result, the woman was deemed to have put these two delicate blokes in a “state of fear and alarm”. Aye right.

During this gobsmacking waste of police resources the reporter was questioned as part of a process which tied up several detectives, as well as uniformed and civilian staff over several hours. At exactly the same time a young female neighbour of mine – of around the same age as the reporter – had her bag, including, her house keys, snatched while she worked alone in a shop. Later she returned home to find her house ransacked. The same force wouldn’t so much as send round a uniformed officer.

In the public mind perceived incompetence can cause damage to police forces that takes decades to heal. With the de Menezes affair tarnishing the Met, the failure to arrest the gun-toting hoodie who killed Rhys Jones staining the reputation of Merseyside police, it wouldn’t take much for a Scottish force to suffer a similar crisis of public confidence.

What began as an internet joke has quickly become very unfunny indeed – as the man who started the whole thing would no doubt attest.


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