He’s not likely to get signed up as the poster boy for Greater Manchester Police but there was a refreshing candour about the way PC Gareth Rowe talked about his job in Coppers (C4).
Preparing for a day on riot squad duty in Bolton, where the English Defence League were set to square up for pitched battle with Unite Against Fascism, Rowe’s eyes gleamed at the thought of what lay ahead. ‘As ugly as it might seem,’ he reflected, ‘I enjoy it.’
It was clear he meant it. Whether it was the push and shove of holding the line, a heated debate with an outraged bystander or arresting a protester who overstepped the mark, job satisfaction was writ large on Rowe’s imposing face.
Where most of us would find getting caught between two ticking time bombs a living nightmare, Rowe was in his element, caught up in an adrenalin rush that, he admitted, was way more exciting than handing out parking tickets.
Coppers offered an exemplary anatomy of a political protest from the police perspective. It gave voice to the views of both sides through the experiences of some who took part but the spotlight here was concentrated on how the police tackle such a potentially explosive situation.
It wasn’t pretty and the figures told an interesting tale: of 63 arrests, 51 were on the UAF side with only 12 from EDL. Does that tell a tale of police bias when it came to taking sides? Coppers left us to make up our own minds on that score.
What was clear was that you’d cross PC Rowe at your peril. ‘You just have to justify what you do,’ was his conclusion to the question of whether or not a police officer could be justified in kicking someone.
He made a persuasive case but I’m guessing his cheery admission that ‘I’d rather have a bit of sport’ than have to endure a peaceful protest will have gone down like a lead balloon with his superiors.