Policing the Police

Almost two years ago, I was admitted to hospital for the first time in my life. I was about to have my prostate removed to fix an irritating case of prostate cancer. Removing a prostate, not unnaturally, rates as a major operation. Recovery times have been improved by the use of keyhole surgery when possible but we are still talking about general anaesthetic. None of this namby-pamby local anaesthetic nonsense for a prostatectomy; only real men can have their prostate ripped out. 😀

Anyway, the first person I met after arriving chez the good ol’ NHS was my anaesthesiologist. If that sounds odd, I should explain that, on my arrival, my ward was closed for cleaning having suffered an attack of a vomiting virus. Great start! An anaesthesiologist, evidently, is not only in charge of knocking me out but also in charge of subsequent “pain management”. Apart from giving me a swift run down on what would be happening the following morning in the operating theatre, the main thing the anaesthesiologist wanted to know was what type of pain management I would prefer. I had a choice to make. I had to choose between:

  1. an epidural system, such as those much beloved of women giving birth, and
  2. a PCA (Patient Controlled Analgesia) morphine pump.

Which did I want?

This choice may be offered with all good intention, that of giving the patient (or should that be customer?) choice, but the patient had never before had his prostate ripped out – a repeat performance would be somewhat difficult – and had no clue as to how to make such a decision. Surely, the reason we use professionals is that they are supposed to be experienced and should know which is better? By all means ask simple questions about my medical history to determine if one alternative might be ill-advised in my particular case but otherwise, how the hell am I supposed to know? You tell me. Going into hospital can be stressful enough without being faced by mega-decisions.

Today seemed to be putting us in a similar, though hopefully less painful, position. Today we had another decision to make. Today, for the first time ever, we’ve been given the chance to exercise a newly bestowed democratic right to vote for a “Police and Crime Commissioner”; a choice which, it seems to me, amounts to choosing between five candidates (in the case of Bedfordshire) about whom we know next to nothing to fill a new role that, I suspect, most of us don’t understand. I certainly don’t. To be fair, there is a little information available on-line about each candidate but it wouldn’t fill a single side of A4 paper; it’s less than a 400-word school essay. Four of our candidates are from four political parties: three of those are the mainstreamers (Conservative, Labour and Liberal) and one is much scarier, representing the so-called British Freedom Party which is, apparently, the political arm of the English Defence League. The fifth candidate is said to be an independent. One of the candidates even knows a little something about policing. Strewth!

So, we’ve never been faced with this choice before and we don’t know what’s involved – pretty much like my operation two years ago. I suspect a lot of people are confused, too, because we just returned from voting where, at 5:00 PM, we were voters #100 and #101 out of 1600. That’s a 6% turnout so far. There’s more time before the poles close but it’s November, it’s dark and cold outside, and I can’t see the polling station suddenly getting swamped. I think we’ll be lucky to see a 10% turnout.

I have heard more than one person state that they were going to vote “just to try to keep the British Freedom Party out”. Fair enough! We have, after all, just celebrated Remembrance Sunday to commemorate an uncomfortably large number of selfless people who made the ultimate sacrifice to keep Hitler’s Nazis out of this country, amongst other laudable causes. The ballot box is a much better approach whether that’s the only way we can make sense of the election or not.

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