Age: 22 | Location: London, UK
If you’ve ever wondered whether that police car you can see in the rear-view mirror is following you, it probably isn’t.
It was speaking to a colleague recently which made The Police Officer realise the general fear of the police that exists: ‘His whole life is traffic. He goes around, driving up and down motorways, pulling people over and giving them speeding tickets. He told me that every time, without fail, a police car pulls up behind him, he shits himself. He goes, ‘what the fuck have I done wrong?’ And he’s been doing that job for over a decade.'
'When people see the police they panic. It’s completely normal. We all do it.’
If even the police are frightened of the police, they clearly have an image problem. However, on the inside, the force are concerned with bigger things than you accidentally stealing an onion from the supermarket because you forgot to weigh it, or stopping over the painted line at a red light.
‘What I’ve realised, doing this job, is generally we don’t care. If you were going 32 in a 30 zone, and if we’re on our way to a potential stabbing, we’re not too fussed. We let a lot more people go than we bring in for minor things.’
So why do people have such a bad impression of the police? How can this be fixed?
‘Often people are expecting to have a bad interaction with you. It’s very easy to make someone who has never spoken to the police before have a good opinion of the police, just by not being what they expect.’
He tells me long confidential stories about people smoking meth in hotel rooms, others teetering on bridges, and some just texting at traffic lights. He is knowledgeable, methodical, dedicated. And yet, as with all of The Archetypes, the most interesting details are the tiniest ones.
The Police Officer doesn’t have much of a morning routine. For him, ‘it’s just get up and go.’
Often it’s before sunrise that he has to leave his house, so the priority is just to eat something. Anything. Normally it ends up being a protein bar on the tube. ‘Whatever has the most amount of calories in the shortest amount of time is my philosophy. It needs to go down as easily as possible.’ He never knows exactly how long it will be before he has lunch.
He gets to work exactly on time. ‘The minute my shift starts. Not a moment earlier and not a moment later. We have a briefing every morning at work, you have to be there kitted up ready to go. I tend to walk in as my name is called on the register, usually shirt still being tucked in.’
Shifts are irregular. He has just found out his schedule for the next three months, although he tells me it's supposed be at least a year. It never is.
This makes it terribly difficult to plan things. Sometimes The Police Officer gets pulled from his normal team to work on something else. On other occasions he has to work overtime.
If your shift finishes at 6pm and you arrest someone at 5:59, you’re dealing with that person until they’re done. So if you arrest that person and they need to go to hospital, say they’ve taken something, you’ll have to go to hospital with them for the half-life of that drug. If they’re on meth that’s twelve hours.’
‘My longest shift so far is 22 hours,’ he adds.
What makes it worth it? What keeps him going?
‘On occasion you genuinely make somebody’s life better, or save it, and that feels pretty good. We have calls where if we didn’t turn up, that person would be no more in a matter of hours, or days, or weeks. It’s rare, but if you do catch them at the right time and do your job well, and get them what they need, it helps.’
What is The Police Officer still working on?
‘Communication. We have this thing called code switching, which is changing how you talk to someone depending on who they are and what they’re doing. You can go from speaking to a crack addict to an MP, and connecting with those different people is all to do with how you communicate with them.’
‘A good officer can talk to anyone, but a great officer can get anyone to like them.’
His dad - who separated from his mum a long while ago - is a military man from a military background. Is this why The Police Officer chose to enter the force?
Mostly it was doing adventurous stuff, and being outdoors, but he does admit ‘I got a sense of public service as something that’s worthwhile.’
Having said that, he later reveals ‘I’m not sure I ever wanted to be a policeman. I didn’t decide I wanted to be one until four or five weeks in.’
What did he want to be? ‘An entomologist. That’s the study of insects. Niche, I know.’
The Police Officer actually has a lot of things to admit. He claims he’s not emotional, but tells me, ‘I cried watching Paddington about a week ago.’
What else? He spends his days dealing with sharp knives and illegal drugs, yet he’s most scared of the underside of boats. ‘I don’t know whether it’s cautionary tales of being chopped up by propellers, but yeah, the underside of boats scare me. More so than sharks.’
The Police Officer suspects he’ll die running towards something: ‘I’ll last be seen going into something rather than trying to get out of it.
'At university I was voted the most likely to die abroad, so maybe in some far flung place, doing something inadvisable.’
And finally, I ask him for something that nobody knows.
‘I’m into interior design. I like a throw cushion and a nice coffee table.’