Many years ago, in a past life, long before I was a stand up comedian and a writer, I was a Policeman.
Don't ask me how it happened (the police thing, not the stand up and writing thing (although come to think of it, I don't know how that happened either)), it just did.
I quite liked being a policeman, I suppose like any other job it had its ups and downs but most of the time it was fun and challenging with a liberal sprinkling of frustrating and downright infuriating chucked in for good measure.
I worked in the town of St Helens, and this piece, because of that, is a tale of two towns. Back then half of it was a tired old town, struggling to wake up from a long term industrial decline with one foot in the seventies and the other in the dole queue, terraced houses, terriers and tea cakes.
As I said, like Rugby League the game the town worships, this is a tale of two halves. One side, under employed, trapped in the cobbles and concrete and the other commuting to the far off towers of Liverpool and Manchester for work. Posh, leafy, four wheeled drive post codes where the kids wore hats to school that weren't originally made for baseball and the bus stops had glass in them for more than two nights on the run.
Some Bobbies I worked with used to say that the two sides of town needed two styles of Policing, that in the posh part you had to be more diplomatic, more amenable. I disagreed, if I was right I was right wherever I was, if I was wrong, the same rule applied.
It didn't matter if the person I was talking was wearing a tracksuit or a trilby, you got the same Tony.
I'm not an argumentative type of person, back then, if I could, I used to like to listen to people, whether they were shouting or whispering, I always felt there was a lot to be learned before I got my handcuffs or fixed penalties out, but you have to remember this was in the days of discretion,
"Constable Common Sense should always be on the beat with you." An old sergeant had told me early in my career, just before he told me off for not giving out enough speeding tickets.
The police were never just happy with this though, they used to send us on training courses to defuse things (domestics not bombs) and one such course was:
Conflict management techniques.
"How to deescalate a confrontational situation..." the trainers would explain,
"Calm down! Calm down!" Someone at the back who enjoyed winding up the token scouser (me) would whisper and I'd smirk in reply, silently hating them because I'd heard it fourteen times that morning already, and that was even before I'd left my house.
The method the police used for "Conflict management" then had the acronym "L.E.A.P.S", which stood for:
L - Listen
The trainer would explain that if you were in a face to face situation with an irate member of the public the "LEAPS" method would always, eventually, deescalate the incident until, after repeated uses, the other person would become agreeable to your position.
"You need you to get off your bike and pass through this gate on foot sir."
"Piss off you pleb, open the gate, do you know who I am?"
"No sir I do not/yes sir I do*" (*delete were applicable)
"Open the f**king gate or I'll have you job, I'm very important don't you know?!!?!?!"
"I understand that you want me to open the gate sir, it must be extremely frustrating for you to have to walk three feet like everyone else, what with you being so important, I genuinely can imagine what you are going through at this moment. What can I do to help you?"
"OPEN THE F**KING GATE YOU C**T!"
"So sir, you are very important and you are trying to get home on your bicycle when you have come across this massive gate, which was here this morning as far as I can recall, and you would like me to open the gate so you can go through it and go home, is that correct sir?"
"AAAAAAAAAAARGH! OPEN THE GATE! OPEN THE GATE!!!!!!!!!!! I'LL TELL DAVE ON YOU!!!!!"
"May I suggest Sir, that you get off your bike and step this way through the pedestrian entrance...."(Continue until the sun comes up, or, The Sun shows up whichever is first).
LEAPS was a pretty good system in fairness, more often than not it would work, and the incident would be resolved peacefully as long the officer using it maintained the patience of a saint. The one problem that would occasionally arise on shouty Saturday nights was that at some point, almost inevitably, someone would scream,
"I PAY YOUR WAGES!"
Just for once, I would have loved the chance to shout it back.