That question is being asked a lot lately.
Incidents like the horrendous and brutal murder of two police officers yesterday in Manchester, by gun and grenade, remind me that my former life as a police officer still has a hold on me despite a decade passing since I walked away with my `un-plundered` and hard-earned pension, paid for in blood and injuries (one of which followed me into retirement) as well as costing me a big percentage of my monthly salary. We deserved nothing less, as do todays generation of police officers.
I will publicly express my horror, sorrow and anger for the loss of those two policewomen but frankly, from my background, it goes without saying that there is a deeper, intangible feeling and I feel it now as hard and personal as if I were still a serving officer. Although my last 12 years were served as a `senior officer`, I was regularly out on the streets on ops of one sort or another, including regular patrols with my team when I was managing a division. It was the way I was, it was how I liked to do things and I didn't stop doing it that way to the day I signed off on my radio with the force control room for the last time - there was just a short, `Mike Mike Zero 2, Roger, goodnight sir`. Nothing special, that suited me fine, although in my previous force (the Met) there would have been no deference to my rank as it would be deemed `excessive use of air space`.
I loved being a frontline officer. In my last 3 weeks of service I was at the scene of a fatal road accident. I was nearby at the time having just finished a job I disliked intensely, interviewing someone who had made a complaint about a police officer, when the call came in and I attended to support my guys on the scene who had their hands full. I remember the afternoon in minute detail, right down to me putting the severed, leather clad and booted leg of the dead biker into the undertakers body bag, alongside the rest of his earthly remains. The sheer weight of detached limbs always took me by surprise.
I will not comment on the usual debates that are buzzing in the media as I tap this out before starting my day. If a new angle on an old theme appears I might be moved to respond. The cynic in me might get all acerbic about how the headlines won't all be about a member of the Royal Family's sunbathing style at last, but I will simply close by adding two more links and answer my own rhetorical question, the one that doubles as the title of this post.
That pretty much sums up my thoughts at the start of what will be a day of reflection for me; reflecting on friends I've lost in the line of duty, of their friends and families and for the families, friends and colleagues of two police officers who yesterday, before the break of day, set off from their homes to do a days work as officers of the Greater Manchester Police and who were prevented from completing their tour of duty.
Is this the police we deserve? I suppose it depends on who you mean by `we`.