Me and the police force have had a mixed relationship. Being charged at by shield wielding cops while demonstrating for trade union recognition back in the 1970s changed my image of them for ever.
And in my dotage I’ve had a community copper ask me not to give out anti-war leaflets outside Tesco.
He had to give up when neither he nor his boss, who I asked him to phone, could think of a law I might have been breaking.
But I’ve been grateful for the police as well over the years: calling in after I’ve been burgled three times, arresting the drunk who ran over my partner, listening when I told them about the kids vandalising cars in the car park.
Oh, and laughing when I told them I’d accidentally hit a flasher over the head with my umbrella.
As a stick user with friends in wheelchairs I recently put on my disability activist hat and went to find out what they’re up to locally now.
So I put a casserole in the oven and popped over the road to the Broadstairs NEM (Neighbourhood Engagement Meeting) where the local police are supposed to answer residents’ questions on crime, parking, antisocial behaviour and why you never see a policeman on our streets except in Folk Week.
Some nice policemen and women muttered quietly from the platform as if they were a bit scared of us – the audience was much louder – about how we live in a really safe area, but please report worrying behaviour when you see it.
But don’t use 999, now you have to ring 101. 999 is for really serious stuff.
This was news to me!
So you have to judge how bad things are – murder or someone giving you a hard stare – before you decide which number to ring?
Well, as the audience pointed out, there are drawbacks to 101.
Apparently you can wait a long time to get through to talk to someone and it costs money to ring it! And they won’t rush out and deal with what you’re reporting, or even get back to you for ages.
I felt very out of touch!
“You can report online as well”, said a helpful cop, “or go to your local library if you don’t have a computer.”
So you see kids smashing wing mirrors in your street one evening, wait till the library’s open, get the bus to it, find out how to use the computer, report what you saw and wait for a reply while the kids have 24 hours of fun trashing cars!
I asked if we could have a police station in Broadstairs again, but apparently we live in a really safe area so it’s not a justified expense.
The local cops may think this is a “safe” area – but for disabled people it’s not at all.
Cars are parked on our pavements and block our dropped kerbs so wheelchair users have to use the roads with the traffic. And the roads are full of pot holes because our county council only repairs ones that are reported to them.
Our pavements are the most wonky and badly repaired I’ve come across – and cars using them makes them worse.
All this actually makes Broadstairs a very unsafe, downright hazardous place for disabled and elderly people like me.
Message to the local cops: a burglar will only steal my electronic gadgets – a blocked pavement may break my bones.
And I can’t afford to break any bones.