The Nick is a fly on the wall documentary on Brighton police. The problem, like all fly on the walls, is the filmed never quite behave as naturally as they would otherwise. They are aware of – and in some cases perform to – the camera. I have heard it said that after a while they forget the camera is there but I do not believe this.
Nonetheless it made for some interesting television and an insight into the low life, under belly of this vibrant coastal city. I did some homework with the South Coast contingent of the Rust who informed me that Brighton as a party town has a major drug problem, that any sensible person keeps away from West St, the club street, on a Saturday night but is generally not a scary place for crime. This was more or less reflected in what we saw.
The programme was based more on operations. We saw a drugs bust which did not produce as much evidence as the police hoped, another that did, a down and out on heroin who stole a printer and was dealt with humanity and tracking a sex prowler. I was impressed by the bravery of the police. One blonde smiling policewoman did confess that if the raid got rough she was not that equipped physically to cope but relied on her adrenalin flow. Another revealed that in keeping a girlfriend of the prowler on police side they should if necessary take her laptop. This confirmed two aspects of police work to me: one, they do not always have much evidence so the laptop becomes necessary especially if it’s a sex crime. Secondly, she seemed to regard a person they were tracking as culpable prior to the process of the law. This – to be fair – was my impression from remarks like keeping them off the streets being her mission but, talking to professional friends of mine in criminal defence work, they have told me the police regard them as clever but obstructive in reaching their ends.
Generally the police filmed made a good impression: hard working, cheerful , committed. They were not diverse but Brighton is a white City. It’s also known for its gays but I saw no evidence of any in the police filmed. There was an interview with the senior cop but the format precluded the evidential spade work and an interview or two with a few lags might have given a fuller perspective. Of course the police have to consent and to commit and it reflects well on their transparency that they allowed themselves to be filmed.