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At some point in my youth, I had heard that police officers in London carried billy clubs as their only weapon.  “What a country!”, I thought, “where even in their largest metropolis, it was considered unnecessary for law enforcement to carry firearms.”  To this day, apparently, ordinary beat officers are not usually armed or even trained in the use of such weapons, though some exceptions exist.

Detective/special agent programs abound in the UK  and they are very good at producing that genre. In fact they are so popular that PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery features them regularly.  But for the moment, I want to focus on the good old uniformed police officers and how they are portrayed in British television. 

Let’s start with the small village police officer.  They are dedicated men who take their duties seriously.  While the villagers they protect often discount their diligence, when they are needed, these brave officers come through for their friends and neighbors. 

1) Garda Ambrose Egan from Ballykissangel is a stickler when it comes to the law.  While sometimes bumbling in his personal life, he is calm and clear-headed whether he is enforcing village traffic laws or going undercover to break up a drug ring in a biker bar.

2) Doc Martin’s PCs Mylow and Penhale protect Portwenn with good intentions though their diligence can be sidetracked by scheming women in the case of the former and various medical and mental disorders in the case of the latter.  But in their minds, police work defines who they are and they are always on the lookout for law breakers.

3)  Hamish Macbeth of Lochdubh, on the other hand, is a different type of  small town police officer.  He is actually more normal than most everyone else in his village.  He keeps the peace just fine without being terribly concerned with details of the law.  And he often gives credit to others for solving crimes in order to avoid being promoted out of Lochdubh.

The Thin Blue Line follows an entire police department through their daily routines in the town of Gasforth.  As mentioned in the previous examples, Inspector Fowler (Rowan Atkinson) is dedicated to his job and performs his duties earnestly.  His subordinates are a diverse group and there is a definite rivalry between the uniformed police and CID (Criminal Investigation Department) aka plain clothes detectives.  The cocky detectives don’t always do things by the book, and in those situations, the tried and true men and women in blue triumph, if only by accident.

Hot Fuzz is a film and not a tv series, but I want to mention it anyway, because I love Simon Pegg movies and because it is a hilarious take on the work of police officers in the UK.  PC Nicholas Angel is such a perfect law enforcement officer that he is making the rest of the London force look bad.  Therefore the powers that be send him to the seemingly idyllic village of Sanford.  Once there he is mocked for being suspicious of the many accidents that are claiming villagers on a nearly daily basis.  Throw in a dash of American police buddy movie violence and the ending is like nothing you would expect from a proper British bobby. 

I have not watched any British police dramas of the Hill Street Blues variety, so I can only gather my impressions from the comedies.  Yes, these characters resemble Barney Fife at times, but I think that they are endearing jabs at a profession and the people who protect us on a daily basis.

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