As I may have mentioned (once or twice yawn, zzzzzz) I was a village Bobby for 3 years during my 30 year career and, as a result, lived in the "Police House" within the main village of my 75 square mile rural beat area.
I used to socialise in the area which included having a drink in the local pubs, my daughter went to local play and pre-schoolgroups but, unlike my towny police colleagues, I was generally regarded by my locals as their personal policeman. I got to know all the various strands of the community from the great and good (some of these were only great in their own minds, foolishly believing that being members of the local hunt gave them the ability to command respect, ha) to the likely lads, the ever-so-slightly deranged and the downright villainous. I had great discretion as to how I dealt with them, as each demanded different tactics, albeit that we were all subject to exactly the same law, including me, which is why my empty glass was always the first on the bar and I was out the pub door when time was called. If the locals occasionally stayed behind for `afters` I wasn't bothered unless there was a complaint, but at least I wasn't part of the problem and could look them in the face if I had to lay down the law.
I always gave my locals the respect that they deserved, although this was sometimes at odds with what they believed they were entitled to, but I always tried my best to be fair - and if they didn't like it they could always complain to my chief inspector, but no one ever did. If I had a warrant to arrest one of them and it was "backed for bail" I would always allow them the dignity of meeting me at the police station at a mutually agreed time (within reason) to minimise inconvenience to both of us and to save them the embarrassment of being carted off in a van in front of their neighbours. These "arrests by appointment" took no more than 20 minutes between arrest and release on bail and I used them as both a subtle way of me imposing my authority and of showing my reasonable nature to them.If they broke their part of the bargain, I'd be there for them with a van, at a time of my choosing (but rarely convenient to them).
But Country Beat bobbies were phased out. Prosecutions for `minor` offences were engineered out of the system by various means, including the introduction of the CPS and their prosecutions policies and `seriousness cut off points`. Policing `targets` for police forces were set by faceless mandarins at the Home Office and met by obedient chief constables and police authorities. Discretion was phased out. ASBO's were introduced in the place of the former `subtle social controls` that I was brought up on. Oh yes, I've just remembered where this little ramble was supposed to be going. One of my locals was a hard up but hard working single Mum with a son who had, to use the modernism, "learning difficulties". The local yobs used to make fun of the lad and his mannerisms in the way that kids sometimes do. If I was chatting to them on the village green and any unpleasentness started I would speak my piece and try to impose a little of my own value system on them. In the bigger picture one could argue that this was none of my business, as such things are the responsibility of parents, but I made the point that if they spoke in an aggressive, derogatory tone in my presence I would draw a very clear line in the sand as to where I stood, tell them why and try to impose a little social responsibility upon them. They threw eggs at him and his front door once and I was all over them like a rash for weeks for what, in isolation, would appear to be a minor matter unworthy of police attention. Which is why this story made me feel desperately sad.