Interview Topic: The life and work experience of a British Police Officer in the 1980s

From a beginner’s perspective, Britain in the 1980s seems an appealing place to start to explore the notions of memory and identity within oral history. The decade has rather controversial and complex narratives surrounding a ‘national image’ and identity.

Arguably, Thatcher’s government deliberately fashioned (or attempted to) a national image of unity and greatness that tied overt links to ‘public’ or ‘popular’ memory of the Blitz spirit and lessons of the Second World War. However, there was much disparity (and no sign of unity) of experience across the decade through many social divides; gender, class, race and ethnicity, for example.

The decade saw much conflict and upheaval; both internationally with conflicts such as the Falkland’s War and tensions with IRA and nationally through inner city riots and large scale, violent strikes.

Thatcher, herself, splits opinion almost in two camps; for a multiplicity of reasons, some admire and others despise her legacy. How individuals remember, or choose to view the decade and figure can lead to sharp debate and with the death of Baroness Thatcher this year, the topic seems to have additional resonance for its audience.

I would like to carry out an interview with an ex police officer who worked under the Thatcher Government in the eighties. The overall aim of the interview is to gain an insight into the experience of someone whose occupation was so closely tied with much of the social upheaval of the decade. An interview would allow the opportunity to gain an insight into the difficulties faced under such a turbulent decade.

Moreover, the images surrounding The Miner’s Strike and some policing tactics in inner cities are often wounding towards the police departments heavily suggesting violence and aggression. Whilst there are official police department reports surrounding such events, the experience of the ‘ordinary’ officer is as valid and crucial in understanding the point of view of the institution and those that work within it.

Through the interview I aim to discover the life experience of the officer in their day to day jobs: What is their opinion of their role and duties/ their department/ their public image (heroes vs. aggressors)? In addition I seek to understand further how a police officer may attempt to ‘make sense’ of their experience: Where do they see themselves within the context of these disturbances (even if they were not a part of the events themselves)? How do they react to negative portrayals around police tactics and behaviour? What is (now) and was (then) their opinion of the popular image of a unified Britain?

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