Sleeping policemen? Do we really want our law enforcers dozing off?

A new study has suggested police should recharge with regular 'power naps'

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The Independent Online

Picture the scene. In an East End public house, an ugly incident is developing. A hoodied psychopath has spilt the pint of a biker-gang leader. The latter vows revenge, seizes a knife from the carvery and advances menacingly on the youth. The crowd shrinks back in terror, as the hoodie extracts a Glock pistol from his jeans and narrows his eyes. It’s a tense stand-off.

Time for firm action. The barman rings the pub’s direct line to the cop shop. “Wapping police station,” says a voice. “How can I help?” “There are two armed men about to kill each other in the Pig and Whistle,” says the barman. “Can you get two officers to the scene right away?”

“I’m sorry,” says the voice, “but Det Sgt McDonald is having his siesta right now, and Constable Owen is snoring in the holding cell.”

“This is an emergency!” shouts the barman. “You must come right now and arrest these men!”

“I’d like to help,” says the voice, “But I’ve just taken a couple of Mogadon and I’m off up the little hill to Bedfordshire…”

Welcome to the future. No really. Thousands of policemen from around the nation have contributed to a survey on “officer well-being,” commissioned by six Police Federation branches and run by an expert in “fatigue management solutions.” The results suggest that tomorrow’s cops will be able to have regular “power naps” to refuel their energies, rather than have them rely on coffee, cigarettes and “high-carb foods” (doughnuts? Ginster’s sausage rolls?) to keep them going when the criminal classes are at their dread work.

Will Eastwood of the North Yorkshire Police Federation, presumably a distant cousin of Clint, said: “We hope that this study will go some way to assisting our officers and organisations in improving the management of fatigue.” Yes, but how will it affect the image of the British policeman?

You can bring up the fact that both Churchill and Mrs Thatcher were keen fans of the mid-afternoon “power nap” – but they were middle-aged politicians, not lithe and super-fit young crimefighters. We think of our cops as tough, determined, sometimes over-zealous (though nowhere near as bad as American cops when confronting unarmed black people) and good at jumping out of vans with riot shields. We don’t want to think of them in siesta mode, having a little kip sitting on the pavement at 3pm like beggars on the streets of Mexico City, their helmets tilted over their foreheads. The idea lacks that all-important quality of, you know, aggressive alertness.


The suspiciously effete-sounding Marcus de Guingand, the study leader, suggests that police stations might in future use “sleep pods,” as employed by companies like Nestle and GlaxoSmithKlein – a kind of six-foot fibre-glass cocoon you slide inside, with discreet lighting, the sound of waves crashing on a Dolby sound system, and a comfy mattress for peak napping. I’m not sure I want to think of the Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe snoozing inside such a gadget while London erupts in flames around him. Comfy mattress indeed. Why not go all the way and supply granite-faced Chief Superintendents all over London with hot-water bottles and cuddly toys at teatime?

And did anyone consider what this new regimen would do to detectives on TV? I suspect not. How gripping would Series 1 of Broadchurch have been if the investigation of a child’s death in the Dorset seaside town had kept stopping because DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) needed a little zizz in a deckchair on the seafront? Wouldn’t DI Lewis (Kevin Whately) in the Lewis cop show lose a few hero-points if he kept nipping into the Bodleian Library for 40 winks as a break from hunting the killer of another Oxford don?

And in The Fall, although Supt Stella Gibson, played by Gillian Anderson, does admittedly spend lots of her time horizontal, wouldn’t it demean the integrity of her search for the deranged serial killer, played by Jamie Dornan, if she stopped every so often for jimjams, cocoa and a little snooze?

Call me a dreamer but I can’t easily imagine Luther, played by Idris Elba, as a guy who needs a power nap. He’s enormous, he’s hunky, he runs everywhere, he bashes up things, he’s supposed to be “brilliant but emotionally impulsive” – must we imagine him slumped over the wheel of his car, drooling and dribbling in sleep, as he dreams of parting Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) from her foundation garments?

No we don’t. Crime is unsleeping and officers are supposed to be “in a position to respond” to it at all times of day and night and not be – what is the phrase? – caught napping by terrorists, murderers, arsonists and people shamelessly riding around on bicycles without lights. We’d much rather think of the British cop as Inspector Morse rather than Inspector Morpheus, as Dixon of Dock Green rather than Wee Willie Winkie. Frankly, the only sleeping policemen we need are the ones that slow the traffic in my street.