One thing I've never been comfortable with is police officers referring to virtually everyone they meet as either "idiots" or "scumbags". The former refers to anyone who's had more than four pints, the latter to a rather hazy concept of "bad people" who police deal with on a regular basis. I've always thought of "scumbag" as a lazy term that doesn't take into account all kinds of social problems: drug addiction, homelessness, alcoholism, mental health problems, broken homes, violent parents or carers, poverty. Many police officers throw derogatory descriptions around willy-nilly, which I've often thought is wrong. However...all it takes is to see things from a different point of view, and the cynical part of you takes hold. That happened to me a few weeks ago, just before Christmas.
I was punched in the face - in a post office enquiry office at 7am. Not exactly how I had the morning planned. When I'm asked for money I'm usually fairly brusque with my negative responses - I rarely get an "oh but pleeease". This morning, however, was a different story, and after I had been asked fairly aggressively for money, and told the chap firmly but politely that I wasn't giving him anything, he called out to his mate. At this point I realised I was in a dark, deserted cul-de-sac, and my heart rate increased quite a bit; I made a quick evaluation of the situation and decided I wouldn't hang about to engage in furher pleasantries and economic debates, but rather find a little space to make a quick phone call.
The only place where there would definitely be light, and hopefully some other people, was in fact my destination at the end of the cul-de-sac, where I was off to pick up a package (some Swedish music: Hans Jorgen Alsing's Vai Alsing Da'r and Har ar en Samba til Dej by the delightfully named Samba Group Bananas. 1980s European Brazilian fusion was not uppermost in my mind at this point, I have to admit, and when I saw the two gentlemen running after me, I was glad that I knew the way through the maze of the post office depot car park.
To cut a long story short I ended up taking a right hook to the right eye socket while still trying to get through to the 999 operator. Brent police were superb in their handling of things, made several arrests and were on top of things. Unfortunately, despite having seen both of the would-be robbers, and arrests having been made, the ID parade was a horribly stressful affair. I never found out for certain if I got it wrong, but I must assume that I did, as the case has been NFA'd for lack of evidence, and those lowlifes will be able to carry on robbing people at their leisure for the time being. A little old lady in the post office said to me "I'll be scared to walk around on my own"; rather foolishly, before I had time to think, I said "yes, you'd be right". The poor thing nearly collapsed. But if a confident 26-year-old bloke takes a punch for his troubles to hang on to his own wallet at 7am, will a pensioner be immune?
I'm a fairly fit, reasonably confident, mid-twenties male who can look after himself, and I felt quite shaken up afterwards. The other victims that morning were apparently more shaken up than I was. The only positive I can take is that I often deal with victims of crime myself, and it's a reminder of just how vulnerable and helpless they can feel - for that I'm glad.
Scumbags? I might not quite go that far just yet, but I can see why the description might be applied.