One of Rolph's topics was 'the ear-clipping period', i.e., that (possibly mythical) time when police constables took a more, shall we say, rough and ready approach to keeping Britain's potentially feral youth in check, based on techniques of which today's Daily Mail reader would no doubt approve:
I have heard citizens of little more than thirty speak of it fondly, as though it belonged to a golden age before the invention of juvenile delinquency. But any man who is forty today was in his pram when I first joined the police service, and even then the ear-clipping period was spoken of as past. The formula is usually the same, ‘In those days the bobby gave you a clip on the ear with his gloves, and you heard no more about it. Nowadays you’d have to go before a juvenile court, hang about for months waiting for the result, remand home, probation officer’s report, women police, children’s officer, attendance centre, perhaps an approved school – the lot.’ In the version I heard as a child, the policeman always put wooden blocks in the tops of the glove fingers to make them hurt more. I had an Edwardian childhood, its leisure hours being partially spent in pursuits that, from a police point of view, were outstandingly gloveworthy. But no police glove ever clipped my ear, though once or twice I was caught (this was rare because the police were fatter in those days).
Nowadays, by comparison, ‘if a policeman strikes a boy there’s a Parliamentary debate and a Committee of Inquiry’; and this, according to the glove advocates, is the cause of the ‘juvenile crime wave’. (187-188)
The more things change, eh?
I also like this quip about the public image of the police:
Apart from the armed forces, the police service is in fact the only public serve whose ultimate sanction is physical force: inside every gentler policeman there lurks a hired strong-arm man, a licensed tough. This is the policeman perceived most readily by some people; others see always the uniformed constable with the lost child in his arms. Both are middle-class conventions, if not smoke-screens: the children of the poor find their own way home and the children of the rich are not allowed to get lost. (188-89)