It's a Guy Thing


Good karma wears sensible shoes 

Being deceived, duped, conned, or shafted isn’t pleasant. But if you have been you are in damn good company. In 30 BC, according to Plutarch, Cleopatra misled her protector Epaphroditus and committed suicide. Prime Minister Anthony Eden was duped by Harold Macmillan during the Suez Crisis of 1956 resulting in the latter getting the top job, although to be fair Macmillan was simultaneously deceived by his wife Lady Dorothy Cavendish who was literally being shafted by Conservative grandee Robert Boothby. In 1967 a comprehensive review stateside concluded that Harry S. Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson had both deceived the American people about the Vietnam War. Even when a shyster has a surname with red flags and yellow flares erupting around it you would think that people would be savvier, although the 4,800 investors who were defrauded out of an estimated $64.8 billion believed that Bernie Madoff had their best interests at heart. Although on this occasion the judge had a different take on the matter and sentenced him to 150 year’s incarceration in 2009. 

Having such esteemed bed fellows still doesn’t make the con any easier to swallow, particularly when it dawns on you, and even more so if the perpetrator happens to be someone you trusted beforehand. But we human beings tend to be easy prey, generally wishing to see the good in people first. The infamous psychopath Ted Bundy used this trait to his advantage in the 1970s by luring many victims into a seemingly everyday situation whereupon their act of being the good Samaritan would ultimately cost them their lives. His existence was terminated in the electric chair in the State of Florida on January 24th, 1989. His particular demise was, in my opinion, wholly appropriate yet from personal experiences much lesser deceptions have often caused me to reach for the most disproportionate remedy. In the immediate aftermath of being hoodwinked, I have imagined the grisliest punishment for the assailants who had the nerve to plan and then execute a deep and painful shafting. But first of all, I have to confess to a deliberate con on the ones that are charged with investigating criminal deceptions, the police. 

In the early 1990’s I was a police trainer at Sulhamstead, an absolute peach of a posting in the lush open green spaces of Berkshire. As a young dad, I wanted some normality back in my life and nine to five with weekends off for a minimum of three years was going to be the perfect antidote to the rough end of policing and a shift pattern that was designed to fuck your life up both in terms of mind and body. Early turn commenced at six in the morning, concluding at 2pm, and rolled on consecutively for seven arse-wrenching days. Literally, nothing happened at that time of the morning, and having shaved at 5am I not only looked like a hobo around 8am but felt like one too. I finally stumbled into my one complete weekend off a month at the end of this shitty ordeal. 

The end of seven-night turns on the bounce was equally ludicrous since having finished at 6am on the Monday I was back to the fray eight hours later. The beginning of the week following the weekend before where all of the wankers who had been thumped in the face, usually drunk or equally deserving of a slap across their chops, had their lumps, bumps, and bruises inspected by their friends and work colleagues only to be told that they should report the incident to the police since a crime report would always be necessary for compensation. Or, on returning from a weekend away and wanting to mow the lawn to be surprised that their wooden bunker, secured by some garden twine or a broken peg had been viscously broken into and their mower nicked. This time of day was like New York’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade where the police on duty were extras on one of the incarnations of the Living Dead films. Yes, on reflection I thoroughly deserved some time out! 

Having successfully secured my position in training, the lesson for today for the 16 strong class of asbestos chewing hard arse cops who knew what it was all about having celebrated just shy of 12-months patrolling duty, was deception, under the auspices of section 3 of the Theft Act 1978. Colloquially known as bilking, the legislation engaged with those occasions when an offender dishonestly made off prior to settling a bill with the intention of avoiding the payment due. The case study I was using focussed upon a typical street scenario whereupon several people would order food at a restaurant, consume the meal then do a runner to avoid the tab. There was obvious disapproval from the gobshites in the group who argued that this was more of a civil matter claiming that proprietors of such commercial outlets should employ greater countermeasures. Simply put, according to the best of British bobbies this wasn’t a policing matter. Claiming it was a civil matter was wholly incorrect and to reference this against a limited knowledge of criminal law did this particular class no favors at all. Policing by consent isn’t just about legal enforcement. Dealing with the often upset, confused, and bewildered victims is just as important yet I was beginning to struggle with convincing this lot of this key theme. The cognitive approach of examining the statute and how the Act had ultimately corrected a defect within the Theft Act 1968 failed to penetrate growing resistance. At this point, I knew that the only way to change their collective thinking was to enter the affective domain. In other words, the learning that is achieved through a direct exploration of our feelings, emotions, and attitudes. 

I brought the session to a halt at 3pm, with two hours remaining before the end of class. I announced that I would photocopy the relevant legislation and supporting notes and requested that the group stay quietly in situ for the time being as they could leave early and conclude the reading in their own time. I left and walked straight to the nearby trainer’s office, put my coat on, and took my mate Pete into my confidence asking that he pop his head into the classroom in twenty-minutes time. I then fucked off home. Apparently, when he ventured in the class they were meticulously well behaved, until that is, when Pete Carter told them where I had gone. In the morning, the distinct chill in the air was worth the temporary discomfort since these keepers of the peace had learned a valuable lesson that no piece of legislation or manual could adequately cover. Many years later, whilst custody sergeant at Slough dungeons, one of the constables from that class approached me, shook my hand, and thanked me for teaching him an important life hack. You would think that having orchestrated this positive sting I would have the sublime capacity to manage my own frequent bouts of being had over, although the trouble is when our guard is down we can often be easy to pick off. In my case, it happened at the same establishment and the learning I took from this tricky episode lasted much longer than a jaunt home and back again the following morning. 

I had been placed on the starred scheme for rapid promotion. Not quite the same kudos as the Home Office version but nonetheless my own Force had deemed me a senior leader of the future. Police training had been revolutionized since I joined in 1982 and sitting behind desks learning legal definitions by rote had been replaced by open-plan classrooms that encouraged discussion, deliberation and often debate. I settled well into this new regime of the so-called ‘safe learning environment’ where leaving your comfort zone often meant having your own perceptions on life dismantled before your very eyes. It was a vibrant, experiential time where the old doctrines of hierarchy and simply tugging the forelock had been successfully challenged and steered the British Police from the notion of a force to that of a service. A play on words? Try telling that to some 30-year veterans who felt utterly exposed and wishful of the old order of regiment, rules, and a consistent reality. I was surfing on the cusp of this wave although many of my immediate bosses were firmly stuck on the shoreline with beach towels congruent to their rank. And just maybe I had drunk too much sangria and my pseudo spirit of the 1960s had unintentionally irked one or two of the senior team that had tried, in vain, to manage me especially since I regularly called out the inefficiencies of the old ways. I guess that on one hand, I typified the brave new world of policing whilst on the other I was an arrogant twat. My most recent staff appraisal was in keeping with my potential for early promotion with a straight genius across the board. Since the British Police didn’t have a captain rank it would have to be at least Commander Kirke. 

Then one day I took up the challenge to help a senior boss with their three-hundred-and-sixty-degree feedback process. I merrily left my comfort zone in a Learjet not checking to see if my senior colleague had even checked in their luggage or indeed chosen a destination. I gave him the feedback he sought with a few additional pointers thrown in at no extra cost. I couldn’t get fairer than that, could I? Three months later I had an unexpected baggage reclaim all of my own when my pre-promotion assessment saw me fall spectacularly from hero to zero. I had also been on annual leave for two weeks during this period. How could the mighty have fallen? And more puzzling, how come the senior officer who I had so eagerly helped felt compelled to attach a performance review when they had no direct line management over me? I had been royally shafted without lube and it hurt like hell! Unbeknown to me certain bodily chemicals then ran amok and the urge for revenge over this travesty of justice became totally overwhelming. The initial flight or fight adrenalin rush that programs all of us to protect ourselves by either running away or going into mortal combat took over and I was up for thermonuclear war. The only reasonable response to the unceremonious method in which I had been fucked over was to expose the criminality of it all. I was in the police. A mere cursory examination of the facts would undoubtedly expose the villain of the piece. Or so I thought. Having taken it all the way with the grievance procedure I was promptly marched out of the Assistant Chief Constable’s office after he had deemed that my appraisal was fair and that I wasn’t ready for promotion. Other than public order training, the last time I had marched in that manner was over twelve years previously when I was a recruit in training. Police culture was turning but its arc of movement was, in reality, more like an oil tanker. Like the Clash, I fought the law and the law won. 

I left Sulhamstead with a one-way ticket to Beirut, also known as Slough. Some years later I did achieve the promotion I had my heart set on and wondered how my career would have progressed if I had simply played the game in the first instance and graciously accepted the push-back?. As for the boss man, he never got any further up the ladder and the last I heard he had been kicked out to grass into some non-job and had a pretty wretched time in his personal life too. At the time of this unfolding event, I won’t disguise the fact that I wanted him to hurt much, much more than me and, from intelligence that later came my way, the other officers that he had stamped on did too. Maybe Karma did its bit and plodded on at its own speed in sensible shoes rather than slipping on the high-end Nikeies as I originally sought to complete this life lesson in as quick a time as possible. For those of you, like me, who aren’t scholars of South Asian religion, Karma, in a nutshell, is the spiritual principle of cause and effect. In other words, how an individual’s actions have a direct influence on their future. I figured that the boss man had done enough shafting to finally pick up the full tab. Perhaps if he had handled the situation differently then his future life may have been rosier, yet conjecture will never throw Karma off its tracks. 

The mother of all shafts, from my then employer, came a few years later after I had registered a business interest. As an employee, I was always a steadfast conformist when it came to work-based policy, a breach of which as a police officer could potentially connect with the common law offense of misconduct in public office with a heavy-duty punishment of life imprisonment. The thought of Bernie Madoff being released before me was all I needed to ensure that I disclosed everything about my intention to deliver training sessions on my days off. I wasn’t going to sell my body, since I wanted to make some form of return, although rumor had it that an officer from the northern part of the force had been granted permission to be some form of an exotic dancer, and furthermore, I didn’t want to conduct any underground activity, which many of my colleagues were already doing by, amongst other things, renovating houses. On one set of nights two colleagues brought in a drunk driver and whilst I documented the prisoner I invited the pair to take a seat in the custody office. Both surprisingly refused, later admitting that during the day a wall had collapsed on them whilst carrying out some building work, and standing bolt upright was far more comfortable. Neither had a registered business interest. 

My company expanded rapidly although it never impacted upon my day job. I never went sick and as a senior officer, I was always available via my mobile phone. I suspect that the old guard, who had placed all of their bets on the roulette table of promotion, were somewhat surprised when a lower-ranking oik rolled up to work in a brand-new BMW. My intention was never to gloat yet on reflection it was a barmy idea since up until that point I had purposely kept my business life under the radar. The writing was on the wall when a colleague looked at this epitome of elegance and announced their opinion: “Nice handles.” 

The next day I received a memo requesting that I resubmit my business interest application. That was just the beginning of an intrusion into my private life on an industrial scale from members of the complaints and discipline department, ringing clients and informing them that I was carrying out an unlawful activity and forensically delving into my financial records. I had told them everything, had an accountant from day one, and had completed every fiduciary return on time, every time. The only other thing I had achieved was success. I loved being a cop but even this emotional bond had to break when the same department, came back for some more a year or so later. They called on our friends who were renting our previous home before we sold it to inform them that they would lose the roof over their heads, and they insisted that I be interviewed shortly after my father-in-law had unexpectedly had a heart attack and died at our house whilst I was in the shower. I resigned and although scared to death that I had jeopardized the security of my family, once I stood on the Great Wall of China within a blink of the eye, having secured business at the Port of Shanghai, my anxieties began to fade fast. Where I am today is light years away from where I come from and the litmus test was complete when I felt a smidgen of sorrow for those who had shafted me. 

Of course, there are times when, through no fault of your own, you are deceived in a certain manner of circumstances that warrants an appropriate response. I admire those that keep on going whatever the cost when the injustice continues to burn. The incredible courage of the families who eventually secured justice some thirty years after the Hillsborough tragedy which killed 96 Liverpool fans in 1989, who had excitedly turned up to watch the Reds take on Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final, remains peerless. 

However, if the act of injustice hurts your pride or dents your bank balance occasionally Karma, if it deems fit and certainly if my own experiences are any yardstick, will figure it out and pronounce the most fitting sentence. But be warned this ancient philosophy is deliberate, gradual, and unhurried. If you are looking for a quick fix then choose an alternative route, however, be reassured that if merited it will come to pass. 

As I conclude by folding my legs in the lotus position and closing my eyes, I feel compelled to reflect on my most recent dose of good fortune. The inspiration for this piece is a person (or persons) who ultimately lost far more than their H2O panorama and couldn’t, in the end, even propose a toast with their eye off the Evian. Karma eventually delivered on my behalf and the wait has been worth it. Cryptic and sensible. Case closed.

© Ian Kirke 2022 / @ianjkirke