Rankin: cop like Rebus would not join today’s “touchy feely” police


WORKING class mavericks such as fictional detective John Rebus would not join today’s Scottish police, according to writer Ian Rankin.

Rankin described modern policing as “touchy feely and human resources”.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Rankin said “a working class Scottish guy of a certain generation” would no longer want to don a police uniform.

Working class mavericks of a certain age would not join today's police, says the author
Working class mavericks of a certain age would not join today’s police, says the author


Rankin told the audience that a man like Rebus, “for all his faults and all his difficulties”, is “still the guy who will stick with you through thick and thin”.

“Rebus is that kind of cop – he’s the last of his kind.”

Referring to the modern police force, he added :“It’s not so much they don’t want them, it’s that they wouldn’t get them.”

Rankin compared his fictional officer with Gene Hunt, the swaggering, politically incorrect detective portrayed by Philip Glenister in Life on Mars.

Rankin said people were more likely to want “the monster” Gene Hunt on their side than the professional and procedurally accurate Sam Tyler, played by John Simm.

Rankin said: “The kind of people that join the police these days aren’t the mavericks. They’re not the Gene Hunts of this world – they’re more like the John Simm character.

“What was interesting in (the television show) Life on Mars was the dichotomy between 21st century policing – touchy feely and human resources – and that Gene Hunt character who’s like a monster.”

Rankin added: ” If you were in a bad situation, which one of them would you want standing up for you? You would want the monster.”

Throughout Rankin’s Rebus series, the Detective Inspector’s policing methods are often questioned and in the 2007 novel Exit Music he is suspended for his over enthusiastic interrogation technique.

Scottish police now recruit far more graduates than in the heyday of Rebus and there has been criticism that some officers are too politically correct and insufficiently streetwise to take on criminals.

Earlier this week  it emerged that a hotel owner in Dunbar had been told to remove a sign advertising TV coverage of the England versus Scotland game which referred to the Auld Enemy as “them”. The officer claimed the sign could cause offense and the hotel owner agreed to replace the word “them” with “England”.

And a 2010 Appropriate Language Guide issued to officers in the former Lothian and Borders force told police not refer to elderly people as “old biddies” or refer to gay people as “batting for the other side.”

In a preview of his new novel, Rankin said it would find Rebus trying to navigate through the modern policing, including tasks such as learning to use Twitter.

The book, Saints of the Shadow Bible, Rebus will be surrounded by “younger” villains, who unlike his usual “bad guys” such as Big Ger Cafferty, “have no code of ethics whatsoever.”

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  1. I’d rather have the cop who’s got the brains to keep me from “getting in a bad situation.” And if I happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, again I’d rather have the cop who’s going to use evidence and procedure to arrest the right person, instead of assuming I’m guilty because it’s the simplest answer.

    Without Sam Tyler, Hunt would have continued to bang up innocent people.

    Simm’s 2006 Sam Tyer was as far from “touchy feely” as you could get. I think you need to watch Life on Mars … again.

    And, speaking as a woman, I’d rather deal with a police officer who considered me an equal, and not some “skirt.”

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