7 Reasons to Keep the Traditional Police Helmet
1. Pregnancy. In the U.K., a pregnant woman can legally urinate wherever she likes. She can even, if she requests to, urinate in a policeman’s helmet. I’m not sure that it’s a practical receptacle for urine – the ventilation holes in the side would prove a particular problem – but it’s surely a desirable thing to pee in. Who among us wouldn’t want to have a go at that?
2. Theft. Stealing a traditional policeman’s helmet is a part of British popular culture. P.G.Woodhouse’s most famous creation, Bertie Wooster, was fined £5 for stealing a policeman’s helmet on Boat Race night. It’s not just a sport for fictional toffs though. Drunkenly trying to steal a policeman’s helmet is a pastime which is practiced by all classes. The correct method for removing one is to knock it forward from behind, thus obviating the efficacy of the chin-strap, before running very quickly (we imagine).
3. Height. The traditional police helmet is hard and is approximately 30cm tall. In theory, it could be used by a policeman to stand on to look over a wall or through a high window. I don’t know what they’d see, but it could be important.
4. Food. The traditional police helmet is sometimes used by policemen to store their fish and chips. It keeps them warm until they arrive back at the station for their break, and stops them from seeming as lardy and food-obsessed as their American counterparts. The vinegary scent which emanates from within the helmet often confuses passers-by.
5. Visibility. It is important that the police are a visible presence on the streets to enforce law and order. This is why they wear those retina-burningly bright high-visibility jackets. You can’t see those on a crowded street though as they, and their wearers, are obscured by the throng. You can, however, see the traditional police helmet as it protrudes from the body of a crowd. You can see it as a reassuring beacon radiating order, or you can imagine it as a shark’s fin portending danger – humming the Jaws theme is optional. The one thing you can’t do is miss it.
6. Protection. Unlike the more modern police cap, the traditional police helmet is hard and will actually protect a policeman from a blow to the head which, as they deal with the sort of people that might possibly hit them over the head – criminals and the like – would seem to be a desirable feature. It also protects bald policemen from the effects of the sun, and from the taunts of teenage boys, for whom baldness is more amusing than almost anything.
7. Tradition. Not all traditions are good. Throwing goats from church towers or having to pull crackers while your Christmas dinner goes cold are particularly pointless and cruel traditions. The traditional policeman’s helmet, however, is an example of a good tradition. The traditional police helmet is redolent of Dixon of Dock Green, of Bobbies on the beat, of the nice copper who gave you boiled sweets and reunited you with your parents when you were six years old and lost in Coventry city centre. It brings to mind the avuncular face of policing. Traditionally, the sort of chap that you would ask for directions or the time wore a police helmet. Would you ask a copper in a modern police cap the way to the train station? You’d probably think twice. He might pepper-spray you and give you an ASBO or a fixed-penalty-notice for wasting police time or loitering. A modern police cap signifies that its wearer is a policeman or woman; a traditional police helmet bestows upon its wearer the dignity and gravitas of a fine and noble institution.