Officer Friendly (Dean Allen) and Jimmy Duck Circa 1960
Professor Joe Goldblatt
Most weekday afternoons my younger sister and I tuned our black and white television to Channel 4 in Dallas, Texas to view the handsome young man dressed as a police officer with his golden singing voice and his funny puppet named Jimmy Duck. Officer Friendly (aka night club singer Dean Allen) was also the original voice of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck character. Impeccably turned out in his Dallas Police Department uniform, each afternoon he projected professionalism and kindness and often my sister and I were comforted, entertained and often amused.
Now, fast forward to 5 November 2023, a date that will always remain infamous in the City of Edinburgh as it was the time when there was an armed attack upon the police constables in our city. The date was Guy Fawkes Night or also known as Bonfire Night when we commemorate the planned attack upon the Westminster Parliament on 5 November 1605 in an effort to assasinate King James I. Over the past 700 years the event has grown to include major fireworks incidents throughout the United Kingdom . However, in recent years these fireworks have been aimed at police constables and this year 8 officers were injured.
According to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service actual fires caused by Guy Fawkes events have fallen by one third and resulted in 907 incidents in the three week period leading up to the annual celebration in 2023. Perhaps this is why myself and so many others were horrified when an organised gang attacked our Scottish Police constables in Scotland’s capital city in 2023.
Most weeks I visit local primary schools with the Edinburgh Interfaith Road Show Programme. Five representatives of different faiths and two representatives of Police Scotland accompany me. We each sit at a different table and spend ten minutes with eight to ten pupils talking about our faiths, beliefs, and customs. One of the most popular tables is the one that is completely covered with Police Constable hats that the pupils are encouraged to try on for size.
During a recent school visit I asked the sixty or so children what they learned. They proudly shared what they had learned from each faith and Police Scotland. Finally, one young female pupil rose from her chair and enthusiastically and exclaimed with a big smile “The police are not only here to help us if we are in trouble, they are also our friends!”
The rest of the room fell silent for a moment as we realised and appreciated the important learning that had taken place at her table.
Perhaps it is time for all citizens to go back to school and re – learn one of the most important values in a civil socity which is respect for the law and expecially respect for those that enforce the law. In the land of my birth, the police are referred to as the thin blue line because this line of brave constables is what keeps us safe. The phrase was popularised in 2014 in the U.S.A. and was originally derived from the 1854 Battle of Balaclava when the Thin Red Line of the British Army in Crimea held off the Russian Calvary charge.
As I witness every week our school pupils learning to respect and admire the men and women who protect our civil society, I cannot help but wonder what Officer Friendly might think today about the current levels of disrespect and abuse his successors receive whilst simply trying to do their job.
I also learned that the actor who played Officer Friendly regrettably had an affair with the wife of a criminal and was shot dead when the aggrieved husband found them together in a caravan in a poor section of the city. It seems that even Officer Friendly was a victim of his own vices, regardless of his popularity with his young television fans.
Therefore, perhaps now is the time to increase funding for more Scottish and other Police Constables to visit local primary schools so that we help inspire a new generation of citizens to know that the police will protect us and we must also show our respect through friendship and admiration. If we fail to do this, the sad fate that was visited upon Police Scotland in Edinburgh this past Guy Fawke’s Night may be only the tip of the iceberg that may grow in the future.
Profesor Joe Goldblatt is Professor Emeritus at Queen Margaret University in Ediburgh. His views are his own. To learn more about his views visit www.joegoldblatt.scot