“SAY, you wanna vote for our judge?” asked the pretty girl.
I was on holiday in America and ambling through a mid-west shopping mall.
It turned out tourists couldn’t vote, of course, but I asked if locals really elected their court judges.
“Sure,” she told me, looking surprised, “just like our mayor and sheriff.”
Well, we’ve got directly elected mayors in some cities, but perhaps elected chief constables and judges go too far. However, now we have a British compromise – crime commissioners.
Like most of you, I suspect, next Thursday’s election hadn’t greatly interested me. Until, that is, I visited an old pal last week who is a retired policeman. He is now 90, while his charming wife who made us afternoon tea is a few years younger.
I presented him with a paperback of a police murder mystery I’d written.
“Don’t talk to me about today’s force,” his good lady said. “We had two night-time intruders recently. Neighbours on both sides phoned to warn us these men were acting suspiciously in our garden, so I called the police.”
The response was tardy, so she called again an hour later. I’ll tell you the outcome presently but, first, there’s our retired PC to introduce.
His style is kindly but no-nonsense. He was tough, jolly, had a hearty appetite for life and loved Blackpool. His recollections reflect a resort and society few would recognise today.
He used to patrol the Golden Mile when Blackpool was in its heyday – meeting many of the stars and even locking up one or two. (But doing his duty so fairly those involved sent him Christmas cards for years.)
One favourite family story recalls him strolling down Church Street, hand-in-hand with his young son on a weekend off, when a man crossed the road and politely greeted them in passing.
“Who was that?” the boy asked when they were alone again.
“A villain,” his dad replied frankly.
A little further on another man went out of his way to politely ask after his father’s health.
“And who was he, dad?” the boy asked once more.
“Another villain,” came the reply.
In short, his dad knew all the rogues and held their respect. Of course, back then Blackpool had its own police force and chief, with many officers on beats where they knew most residents.
But what was the response to those recent intruders at the elderly couple’s home? The police eventually appeared - midway through the next morning.
Perhaps a crime commissioner is a good idea after all.
● n Books by Roy Edmonds are available on kindle and in paperback. Visit royedmonds-blackpool.com for details.