Polishing the Truncheon - The Secretive World of Police Training

I trained to become a police officer. We were taken to a secret location and made to wear big pointy hats and flares. We were each given an en-suite room. In the old sense. Nowadays it would be described as a sink. Most of my class were on the same floor, so we would shower together and iron each others trousers. We also leaned to ball our boots, an expression which still makes me chuckle in a schoolboy fashion.

Study notes were known as ‘white notes’ due to the revolutionary use of white paper to print them on. They made liberal use of pen sketches to aid learning, and came across as something better suited to a junior school which includes profanity in the curriculum. One of my favourite characters was called Sprake. He was used to illustrate offences under the Public Order Act. At the start of the week he was using mild profanities in the hearing of a police constable. Later in the week, he was shirt off and tooled up. We were all restless in anticipation of his next move. By Friday he was organising riots and conspiring to bring down civil society. If only that first policeman had had the ability to give him an old fashioned clip around the ear it would never have happened. Manacled by political correctness. Even in the white notes.

Some of the guys had sweethearts back home. Every Friday we’d get to write letters. Some of the rural guys couldn’t read and write too good but they could artificially inseminate chickens which was useful on talent nights. Those guys tended to just send pictures of their genitals. The rest of us had to get the letters through the censors so we didn’t give away our position or operational movements. These censors had been doing the job since 1945, but nobody had told them the war had ended. At first it was a laugh, but after thirty years it was decided that they may potentially have breakdowns or sue the Met leading to a series of high profile and corporately damaging employment tribunals so they were left in post. They both had senile dementia but worked hard. Here is one of the letters Big ‘Phallus’ Phil sent to his sweetheart by way of example:

Dear &%$£,

I wish you were %&R£$ you %$&*. I heard you %&*&^& with ^*&%* and gave him a &%*^%*& on stage. If that’s true I’ll *&^%&^%^ him and &%$%£ you. I mean it. I $%$%& with %&$£ and now I’ve got a dose of %$^££$. He got it from you. I now %$%£ when I go to the toilet. Training is %$£%^ and I have to wear a big helmet. The class are a %$$£% of %$£%£.

Anyway, love to your mum and give the girls a big kiss from me.

Love Philly. 

Those of us who could read purchased a weighty tome known as ‘Butterworths.’ This was used to seek obscure detail around law and police procedure to make the instructors promise to find out an answer and head off to the staff room so we could have a cigarette. The instructors were known as staff. The worst ones were the physical trainers. We wore white t-shirts with our surnames etched down the side so they could scream at us while we were pinned to the floor. They taught us all the best methods of hitting and beating people with bare hands or with sticks. We were coached intensively in hula hoop. We also had new rigid metal handcuffs which we could twist to inflict more pain. Everyone was very excited. They also carried out beastings, whereby they’d make you run around and hit each other until you were sick. My class were beasted twice one day having been accused of referring to a female instructor as a lesbian. The accusing instructor disgraced himself at our leavers meal when he vomited all over a Superintendent. 

Each intake of students was called an ‘intake’ and was given a colour. These colours were worn with pride, and there was a clear hierarchy, with the new ones having to wait until last for their dinner, and to hand over our conkers when asked. I once told a member of a senior intake to piss off in a joking way while hanging out in the smoking room. The pause between the comment and the acceptance of the humour was enough to get the old heart racing I can tell you.

Much of the learning was practically based using role plays. We would take turns playing the policeman or criminal. I steered clear of using accents as I always end up sounding Indian. This was frowned on, even in those days. My Glaswegian is very good though. I’m not sure if my memory is playing tricks, but I’m sure a disproportionate number of role plays involved someone being locked in a toilet cubicle trying to get you to push your warrant card under the door. Not really sure what that taught us, but to this day I have never forced my warrant card under the door of an occupied toilet cubicle. 

 Another occasion saw us dealing with a rowdy group in the bar area. Our instructor had got a group of his old CID mates to come and role play for us. They were of a certain age, with beer bellies and mustaches. They had been drinking since midday to assist them getting into role. I went straight in and demanded that they leave. They saw this as the cue to give me a right old hiding while my colleague stood by the door with his arms above his head in apparent surrender making funny little yelping noises.

After eighteen weeks, you took part in a passing out parade. We got to wear our flares and march in a long line. We were drilled by an ex-army bloke with a big stick and a hat with a brim over his eyes. He also dealt with lost property. I was at the front of the parade for most of the practice sessions until one morning, after a particularly heavy session in the Peel Bar, I began marching like a duck and was sent to the back. My one stab at immortality and I blew it. There is a video somewhere of the parade in the pouring rain. There is also a video somewhere of me dresed in a female officer’s uniform as part of a role play around sexual offences. Matron. After marching in the rain we went inside with family and friends to listen to Douglas Howe’s wife talk about herself for a very long time. Some of us tried to go back outside and march around until she had finished, but the Inspector wouldn’t let us pass. After the parade, people drifted off and away we all went into the real world.

About half of my class remain in the police twenty odd years later. One got sacked for sculling six pints of Stella then driving into Essex to have a fight with the local constabulary. Another left after a misunderstanding about a legally held shotgun he forgot he was holding when he went outdoors to address some local youths. They haven't caught up with me yet. 


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