ramblings from the hive mind

Police or Thieves?

15 August 2011 | View comments
Damien Austin-Walker

On Saturday night around 11pm I had a knock on the door. I was home alone and just thought it was my other half arriving back after an evening with friends so I opened the door without question. I was slightly shocked to be confronted by two burly blokes dressed in dark clothing. Yes, I said whilst sheilding myself behind the door with my foot against it. “We’re police officers” one said as they both showed their badges. Potentially sensing that I was now starting to look even more worried they told me “not to worry”, that I “hadn’t done anything wrong” but that they would just like to “have a word” and could they come in.

I let them into the hall where they proceeded to ask me “a favour” - they were doing some surveilance and would I be prepared to let them put a camera in my window; “it just looks like a small speaker and sits on your window sill, no-one will know.”

I’m not a big fan of surveilance and I don’t always agree with police prioritisation of crime, nor did I fancy my family getting knocked off if the target of the camera was a psychotic madman who found out about my ‘co-operation’ - so I asked what type of crime they were intended to solve or prevent, was it a violent crime? Was it a neighbour or were they just hoping to catch a passing looter? They skirted round this question, only replying that a lot of people were “happy to help out and support the police at the moment” (presumably post riots) and that it was something they were “doing quite a lot of”. I asked when they would want to ‘install’ the camera to which they answered that they needed to do it now, they “wouldn’t have knocked so late at night otherwise.”

At this point I told them I would not be happy to put their camera in my window, certainly not without a better understanding of what it would be used for or some kind of official paperwork beforehand. I showed them the door.

The next day I spoke with a neighbour who had received the same visit, she had been even more suspicious than me and had called the local uniformed police that morning. They had claimed no knowledge of this particluar plain clothes activity and said they would watch the street more closely to be on the safe side.

So were they Police, or thieves just casing the joint and taking advantage of present goodwill toward the police? Would the local uniforms really know everything the plain clothes were up to in their area? How do you know if someone is showing you an authentic police badge…does anyone apart from criminals actually know what they look like?

I certainly won’t be opening the door in such a hurry to anyone claiming to be the police in future.

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