The Potential Victim: Insights from a British Policeman

Johnson Babalola

In years past, my daily routine involved commuting between different workplaces using the London Underground. On one such occasion, while waiting for my train, I struck up a conversation with a uniformed British Policeman. Our discussion covered a wide range of topics, from diverse cultures to the intricacies of policing in the United Kingdom. One aspect of our conversation left a deep impression on me:

I inquired, “Why is it that you’re so resolute about ensuring that suspected offenders face legal consequences?”

He replied, “That’s an excellent question, my friend. It all traces back to a simple training session that, to be honest, lasted just a couple of hours. During that training, we were prompted to imagine various scenarios where individuals suspected of wrongdoing were allowed to evade the justice system.

The twist was that the next victim of these individuals could be someone close to us, like a family member. We mentally explored numerous scenarios and were encouraged to share our thoughts with the class.”

Curious, I asked, “What were your personal conclusions from this exercise?”

He recounted, “In my mind, I envisioned a specific day. I bid farewell to my wife and young daughter as I left for work. Three hours into my shift, while driving from a late dinner to the office in my official car, I observed a driver in front of me running a red light. I pulled the driver over, and it became evident that he had been drinking but was still coherent. I inquired whether he had consumed alcohol that night, and he admitted to it but claimed he was fine. For some reason, I allowed him to continue driving, with a caution to be careful. He expressed his gratitude and drove off.

Approximately an hour later, I received a call informing me that my wife had been struck by a car while crossing the street near our home to buy milk from a convenience store. I rushed to the hospital to be with my gravely injured wife, only to later discover that the man who had hit her was the same individual I had let go. I should have subjected him to a Standard Field Sobriety Test, and if found intoxicated, prevented him from driving. Instead, I allowed him to go, and tragically, he ended up injuring my wife.”

I remarked, “Although imagined, that’s a deeply moving story.”

He continued, “Indeed. My colleagues also shared equally powerful anecdotes. Our audience included judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and representatives from other law enforcement agencies. One judge recounted a scenario where a bribe had been accepted to release an armed robbery suspect. That very same individual later robbed the judge’s son while the young man was returning from a trip to the USA, resulting in his tragic death.”

I asked, “What kind of impact did this training have on you personally?”

He replied, “The impact was profound, affecting not only me but also my colleagues and others in attendance. The message was unequivocal: the law must be enforced, regardless of the individuals involved. Failing to do so not only exposes us but others to the potential of future atrocities or crimes committed by those who are allowed to go free. A nation cannot progress if its laws are not upheld.”

I noted, “I can see how the non-enforcement of laws approach could deter investors from the country.”

He concurred, saying, “Absolutely. It impacts the nation’s economy, fosters an environment of insecurity, tarnishes the reputation of the country and its mostly upright citizens. People live in constant fear. Moreover, it negatively affects the quality of life for citizens, including those individuals who, through compassion, corruption, tribalism, racism, or other reasons, contribute to the freedom of suspected criminals or allow illegal activities to persist.”

Understanding the reasoning behind their strict law enforcement, I remarked, “Now, I comprehend why your law enforcement is so stringent. Embracing such training ensures a consistent commitment to upholding the law.”

He nodded and said, “Yes, but I’m not claiming we are infallible or free from individuals who deviate from the right path, like any other country. Nevertheless, more often than not, we do enforce the law as it should be enforced.”

I acknowledged, “You all make sure that laws are upheld as they should be.”

He concluded, “Indeed. Everyone involved in the judicial system must play his/her part in upholding these laws. Failing to do so could result in the next victims being closely connected to us.”

As our conversation concluded, I added, “It’s unfortunate that many of us don’t consider the consequences of our actions on ourselves, our families, others, and our countries. We often settle for immediate gratification and move on as if nothing has happened.”

“Na so, my brother,” he agreed.

“Ha! You speak Pidgin?” I asked.

“I picked up a bit from my Nigerian neighbors. They’re great people from a beautiful country, and their cuisine is delightful. The moment you spoke, I knew you were from Nigeria.”

“Thanks for sharing your time. My train is here.”

“Of course, take care.”

*Johnson Babalola is a Canadian immigration lawyer, writer, storyteller, and story-based management trainer. Follow him on IG @jbdlaw; FB: and