Black Humour

Probably due to the nature of some of the work that they engage in during their working lives, I think a lot of Police Officers develop what can only be described as a “black” sense of humour. By this, I mean that they develop an awareness of humour which arises out of situations that in themselves are far from humorous. I propose to quote two instances which illustrate the humour that can be found in tragic circumstances if one is tuned in to be aware of it. I hope that they do not give cause to upset any of my readers. They both centre around death.

One of the duties of a Police Officer is to act as a Coroner’s Officer and investigate on behalf of the Coroner all Sudden Deaths, whether natural or otherwise. I dealt with many such instances during the course of my career and two in particular stand out for the humorous memories that they have for me. Both occurred during the time I spent working in Trentham.

The first occasion was on a Saturday Night, at about 11pm I was sent to an address following the sudden death of an elderly gentleman who had died whilst sitting in a chair in the lounge of his home. I set about my work, part of which involved taking a statement from a member of his family about the circumstances leading up to the gentleman’s demise. His daughter was nominated as the spokesperson. I reached a point when I asked her what her father had been doing immediately before he died. She replied (and 25 years on, I can still remember exactly what her reply was)”He was sitting in that chair watching Stoke on Match of The Day. He will be disappointed, he missed the winning Goal”!! I had to restrain my chuckles and wait until I was back outside the house before letting my laughter take over.

The other incident was almost identical, only on this occasion I was instructing a Probationary Constable, fresh from Training School and he was doing the paperwork under my supervision. We arrived at the house early one evening to find the elderly deceased man sitting in an armchair. We reached the point where the question of what he had been doing immediately prior to his death arose. His wife said “He was watching the telly. It was his favourite programme – “Survival.”!!! On this occasion, my emotions nearly got the better of me but I managed to develop a severe coughing fit and beat a hasty retreat to the kitchen on the pretext of getting a drink of water. The young officer who was with me was so wrapped up in what he was doing he did not see the funny side of it until I pointed it out to him after we had left the house.

Having a sense of humour, whether it be black or otherwise is, I feel an essential part of being a Police Officer otherwise it would be very easy to be dragged into fits of depression when faced with some of the circumstances of day to day happenings. The real art is keeping it suppressed in circumstances where an outburst of laughter would not be appreciated at the time.