The first police officer I knew was a family friend. A giant of a man, with shiny black boots so big that babies could have slept in them.
He ran our town like a smiling version of Clint Eastwood, in an early spaghetti western.
We would see him walking the streets after school. Helping an elderly woman with her shopping bags. Talking footy with Harold the barber.
I’d only ever seen his friendly side. But the toughest of the local kids were scared stiff of him. I would soon discover why.
Bored one afternoon, I started throwing stones at the front of our house. Actually, they were rocks. In the direction of on-coming cars. To this day, I can’t tell you why.
I wasn’t trying to hit anyone. But I did. Straight through an old bloke’s windscreen. How he kept control of his rusty bomb I’ll never know.
Neighbours came running. So did Mum. It was a major incident. I was in strife.
When the dust settled, I sat in my room, waiting for the wrath of Dad. Before that happened, there was a knock at the door.
It was my parent’s policeman friend. I came out, to find him blocking the doorway. It was like there had been an eclipse in our street.
His voice deepened, and he gave me the biggest bollocking I’d ever received. There was mention of being locked up. And a reference to what happened to young blonde boys in prison. I was close to wetting myself in terror.
Years later, Mum told me she’d asked him to come over that night. There was never any chance of me being taken away. It was all about giving me the fright of my life. And it worked.
It was an early version of pro-active policing. Helping kids stay on the right path. When a boot up the bum or a clip over the ear wouldn’t lead to an internal investigation.
Funny how some of my best mates are now cops. Or ex-cops. I met most of them back in the day. When police and journos got on. Often by spending nights consuming cool drinks, and solving the problems of the world.
They were from different cities and towns over many years, but all shared a common trait. They loved locking up bad guys.
Not one was a paper-pusher. They were street-smart. Some, it should be said, would rather a fight than a feed. Again, a different time.
Those who remain in the job today, are high-ranking. Still driven by the desire to make the streets safer. That will never change.
Others have successful careers outside of the force. When we get together, the tales are tall, and the laughs loud.
I’m hearing that there’s a push to get back to that raw style of policing. More cops on the beat. Experienced eyes and ears, nipping trouble in the bud. Let’s hope so.
We hear so much about young people not respecting authority. Of having no fear at being spoken to by a police officer. It remains one of the greatest concerns for my mates in the force.
The time of the local copper being invited home by worried parents might be gone. But pro-active policing never went out of style. The results are worth the effort. That stupid, rock-throwing kid would tell you that. If he wasn’t still shaking.