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Roger Graef’s eleven-part series for the BBC showed how British coppers behaved, worked and swore – the term ‘boys in blue’ took on a new meaning.
A BBC team had followed officers of E Division of the Thames Valley constabulary for nine months. The first episode showed a massive dawn stake-out of the home of a Mr Donald Stimpson whose wife had telephoned the police during the course of a New Year’s Eve row to tell them he was about to shoot the family dog.
After the police told him on loudhailers to “come quietly” he came, revealing himself as mild and non-violent but amazed by their presence. Eventually, he sued the Thames Valley force for £500 for troubling him.
Later episodes showed a detective breaking down in tears after being demoted, a stake-out to catch a thief as he robbed a duchess, a drunk accusing the cops of beating him up in a van and an officer being reported and suspended for slapping a black youth.
The scenes to have the most lasting effect though were those showing Detective Brian Kirk and other officers bullying a girl who claimed she’d been raped. As a direct result one year later the Home Office introduced new guidelines stressing the need for tact and understanding in such cases.
In September 1982 there was a five-part sequel called Operation Carter, which showed the same force’s success in rounding up and putting behind bars 29 criminals for a total of 411 years.
It made a national hero of Detective Chief Inspector Brian Ward, the man in charge of No 5 Regional Crime Squad who looked like John Thaw and spoke like Eddie Grundy. Security had been so tight that Graef and his co-producer Charles Stewart had had to store their films in a fridge at Reading police station until the court trials were over.