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Review for

“Line Of Fire” by Brian Paddick.

I suppose I'd hoped for too much from this. Paddick's name had been well-known to me from the gay press as an openly gay senior policeman years before who'd been the victim of Fleet Street smears (I couldn't remember the details). Then he'd left (I wasn't sure just how but assumed it was homophobic) & ended up running against Ken & Boris for Mayor of London - of course unsuccessfully. I was curious to know more, to know what it was like being gay in the police when, unlike the armed forces, it wasn't actually illegal but would have been unacceptable to many inside & outside, to know just how he had been undermined, & to know how he'd ended up there in the first place (remembering how illuminating Matthew Parris's autobiography had been about how he became a stalwart of an anti-gay party).

He was open about many things - repressing his sexuality, becoming an evangelical Christian, the institutionalized dishonesties of the force - & there were a lot of good stories (about policing, not the odd bit where he comes across as a tedious celebrity-obsessed scene queen - and the book was written before he went on "I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!"), but somehow there still seemed a bit of a gap at the heart. I don't mean the most conspicuous silences, when he reported allegations against him but then, rather than the indignant rebuttal we'd had for earlier allegations, said nothing about whether they were true or not. No, how did he get promoted about as fast as possible through his career when there were always rumours, & he said he always felt like a fish out of water? He must have been quite good as well as ambitious, & surely modesty doesn't rule out giving us some understanding of that - & indeed what a senior policeman's job is like anyway. (And what do the ranks mean? They're referred to throughout, naturally, but never explained.) And when he said how much he wanted to return to command Brixton, I just wondered "WHY?" - I'd never got any feeling what he liked about the job he'd explained he had no idea why he'd chosen in the first place.

Like most lives, most of it's a succession of bits & pieces, but it does have something of a climax, one long important part late on - the police shooting a Brazilian on the Tube in a panic after the London bombings. More accurately, the fact that the senior levels of the force had deliberately misled the public about this: what actually forced him out was his refusal to go along with a cover-up of the cover-up. Nothing at all to do with his sexuality, which the police seemed to have had little problem about for years, & a pretty minor matter compared to all the lies & abuse he had been suffering from Fleet Street for years because as a visible gay man somewhere they didn't want one, he was fair game.

Overall, an interesting read in many ways & I'm glad I do now know so much more about him & all the issues of his career - and that things are now so different!

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