Anyone who works in teaching knows that this job has, like others, high points and low points. This is why I believe it is essential to have something that you do that is outside the job, a hobby or pass time that ensures you have some time to recharge your battery and have some down time from the working day. I enjoy walking my dog and I have developed a keen interest in photography, with a focus on night photography. I know there is a pun in there somewhere!
Night photography involves going out after dark and taking pictures of landscapes, buildings or, anything really I suppose. I have driven around to various villages, industrial sites, coastal towns and enjoyed taking pictures in relative peace and quiet. If the mood should take you my flickr account is here. I can accept that my skills are average at best and the subject matter may not interest you but I enjoy it so I guess all is well.
My recent experience visiting the town of Mansfield in Nottinghamshire gave me cause to reflect on contrasting experiences when dealing with the police. On occasion, as it is night and you are out and about. you come across officers of the law now and then. I have also met a couple of security guards and we have chatted about my pictures and how night photography works. These folk seem happy to chat as it is usually quiet.
During a trip to Sheffield I had a police officer pull up his car near me and I explained that I was taking pictures and he said he stopped so he would not ruin the shot. A friendly chap and he was on his way after exchanging pleasantries. I suppose he wasn’t that interested as I am not a criminal. The event passed as a mere footnote to an otherwise pleasant evening. I will now contrast this with my experience of driving towards the “Making It” building in Mansfield and being unsure whether I needed to go right or left to get back to a more main road. A car comes up behind me and I decide on turning left, only to find I am going to need to turn around as it is a dead end.
I go to the top of the road to reverse and find a car has stopped in the middle of the road, thus blocking my only means of exit and a man in a police uniform has got out. A second person gets out of the passenger side and they approach my window. The car they were driving was older, a corsa I think and unmarked. I wind my window down and the first officer asks, “what was wi ya driving back there?” I responded that I wasn’t aware there was a problem and he then goes on about me moving to the left on a junction. I need to be clear about being stopped at this point. I have no issue with a police officer questioning me about what I am doing but I have serious issues with rude, aggressive people. This is what he was. His WPC colleague then joins him and asks why were you driving slowly? I explain I am a keen photographer. We then get what do you photograph? That’s unusual and so on. I point over my shoulder to the camera on the back seat and offer them the opportunity to check it. They took no notice and just carried on with their rude and hostile attitude.
It was clear the driver of the “Police car” didn’t like the way I turned left. There was no fixed penalty, there was no advice given, no warning, nothing at all. I wasn’t even asked my name or to produce documents.In short, they had discovered I was an amateur photographer and they could have just moved on, having exercised some common courtesy toward a law abiding citizen. There were, quite possibly two of the rudest and verbally aggressive people I have ever met in any context, who were also wearing Nottinghamshire police uniforms. I will not be travelling to Mansfield with my camera again. Their conduct was appalling.
It made me reflect on my day job as a headteacher and about the work we do with young children in EYFS about “People who help us” this area usually involves a visit by fire service and police officers. I may have to add a caveat to this area of the curriculum and tell the children, not in Mansfield!
To be clear, I support the work of the police and I know they have a difficult job, indeed I have friends and relatives who are serving officers. I know the conduct of the two officers I have mentioned is hopefully the exception rather than the rule but it is disappointing to experience such rude, confrontational and aggressive behaviour. The officer just leaving his car in the middle of the road, essentially trapped me in the cul-de-sac. This would have been very intimidating to any driver as this vehicle was unmarked. Perhaps next time these officers will identify themselves using their warrant card and exercise some common courtesy. I somehow doubt that this will be the case.