When I started out as a PC in the early 1990s, things were a little different to the way they are now.
I handwrote my first crime reports on large sheets of colour-coded paper and filed them in binders in the CID office.
I prepared my warrant applications on an antique typewriter – one of those dusty old machines with raised keys and a carriage return lever.
I had a pair of chain link handcuffs.
There were fewer specialists and more officers on response teams.
There was less driving and more walking. I learned my beats and discovered where the best tea holes were.
There was a lot more overtime – with many more people willing and available to work it. In fact, it was names in the hat pretty much every time.
There was less bureaucracy and, outside of the Control Room, not a computer in sight.
Cybercrime was just a made up word.
I wasn’t faced with a succession of performance targets that made little sense – and almost no difference to the lives of those we served. I was simply expected to work hard.
Whilst the IRA was still active on the mainland – with sometimes devastating consequences – I wasn’t an explicit target for international terrorists intent on mass murder.
9/11 hadn’t happened. 7/7 hadn’t happened. Syria hadn’t happened. Paris and Nice hadn’t happened. The globalisation of terror was still to come.
There was no 24-hour rolling news and no constant second guessing of operational decision-making from the comfort of a television studio.
I was well paid, with an assortment of allowances that topped up my salary and helped to make ends meet. I had regular pay rises and, by the time I’d finished my first two years, plenty of future promotion opportunities.
I was able to buy my first flat – a two bed place on the edge of Brixton – for £65,000. It was expensive but, provided I was careful with my money, it was affordable on a PC’s wage.
My pension was secure and guaranteed.
There was a balance to be found between duty and downtime. Some of us were even given time to play job sport during working hours.
I loved it.
But, before I’m accused of a selective rewriting of history, I ought to point out that it wasn’t all sepia-tinged perfection.
I had no body armour. Nobody had ever heard of CS spray or Taser. My wooden stick was useful only for breaking windows when someone had collapsed behind a locked front door. And there was no emergency button on my personal radio.
We were still faced with criminals capable of unimaginable wickedness and human sorrow of every kind.
The Met itself had any number of serious faults and flaws. It was less open, less accountable and less tolerant. I was a victim of homophobia inside the police station during my probation.
And we were still to be found out by the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry.
Some changes in the last twenty-five years have been very much for the better (and we’re not done yet).
But still, policing seemed simpler when I started out. Life in general seemed to be a little more straightforward.
There was no internet. No mobile phones. No anonymous vitriol on social media. No global financial crisis or new economics of austerity. No so-called Islamic State.
And perhaps there are occasions when those of us in positions of leadership and responsibility need to be reminded that, these days, life as a PC or DC is not quite as we remember it.
The fundamental nature of the job hasn’t changed in the best part of 200 years: it’s still about saving lives and finding the lost and protecting the vulnerable and confronting the dangerous.
But, in endless other ways, things aren’t quite what they used to be.