What do I tell my 8 year old about the police?

Do I tell him that daddy can never quite bring himself to trust them, even when he likes them? What kind of society is this when huge numbers, particularly from minority ethnic backgrounds continue to have little or no faith in the institution charged with keeping and administering law and order?

That trust has always been a challenge for this former Hackney boy, but I want my son’s experience to be different. My wife and I were both brought up on council estates with [what I have learned to be] typical Caribbean parents who didn’t do the “touching” thing, we were determined his experience would be different. I go to his school and read to the children in his class, he doesn’t eat meat, doesn’t get smacked and is very rarely allowed to eat sweets. One thing is not different is he is black, a fact that will have a huge impact on many things in his lif,e particularly his relationship with the police. I grew up during the time of ‘Sus’ where an officer could stop and search you if they felt there was a suspicion you may be involved in any illegal activity. Without a doubt it did more [in its application] to destroy harmonious community relations than any other single act. It meant that as a 12 year old my first contact with the police was being thrown in a cell, kicked and called a dirty black bastard. No charges were ever brought [against me] but the experience had a profound affect. I resolved to have as little to do with the police as possible. No talking, no nodding as I pass and definitely no calling to report what I may have seen.

That was working out pretty well before I got a job on BBC London 94.9 [a decade ago] where I see my job as asking the question of “the common man”

I have put my previous dealings with them in [some] perspective but what do I tell my 8 year old?

If, though, you think my doubts are just based on colour, then you are wrong. I have mates from Asia, The Caribbean and Africa who all moan about the police -with guns- they tell me our police are fantastic

I was told many times as a youngster “Never mek de police knock dat door” And my parents were the most law abiding people I know. My dad used to say that you could like a police officer but not the police

The one thing that I am sure of is that I must be as honest as his age allows and try to make sure his first experience is as positive as possible.

I was in a café with my himi recently and six officers came in. He was very disappointed that none looked at him, spoke to him or smiled at him. I told him they were busy.

I wonder whether I should have walked over and introduced him.

if god forbid, anything were ever to happen to my little Prince, I would want him to go to an officer and for that officer to bring him home safely. I recognize that we need the police.

I guess I have answered my own question. I am not going to tell him anything, I am going to walk up to the next officer we see and introduce him. It will then be up to that officer to decide how the next generation of the Nestors will view them. I do hope I choose the right one.

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