It was something of a shock to hear the first episode this week of Radio Four’s adaptation of BBC television’s popular 1950s series Dixon of Dock Green (Wednesday). Were policemen ever like the bluff, wise, shrewd and avuncular constable George Dixon? As a child watching the series, I thought they were, and we expected them all to bend their knees and say, ‘Evenin’ all.’ Audiences also believed it, as the series, written by Ted, later Lord, Willis, ran for 21 years. By the time Jack Warner, who played Dixon, retired, he was 80 and hardly looking like a police constable, let alone being able to bend the knees.
Even if Dixons really did exist, they certainly don’t today. Cocooned in their hermetically sealed patrol cars, abandoning the solving of burglaries for motoring offences, shooting men armed with table legs and arresting householders who defend themselves from attack: that’s our image of the police today, rightly or wrongly.