From Murder to Ministry - Reflecting on Line of Duty!
By Simon Werrett, Minister at Eastwood Evangelical Church, Southend.
“Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the wee Donkey”, the unanswered question from the Line of Duty is not who was (or is) ‘H’, but how did Superintendent Hastings know it was a ‘wee donkey’ in the nativity story? Perhaps he has a ‘snout’, maybe ‘No Room ‘ere Guv’ gave him the ‘low down’ or a nod. Personally, I prefer the analogue ‘H’ leading (or trying to) ‘’we’re the Sweeney, son, and we haven’t had any dinner…..’, although I am not sure DI Reagan and computers would mix.
Like some of our churches, policing on TV has changed from analogue (Morse, Life on Mars, The Sweeney) to digital (Line of Duty, Bloodlands) but maybe we prefer hybrid (Midsummer Murders, Death in Paradise).
Although, Line of Duty is probably like marmite, you either like it or hate it.
Having spent several years leading murder enquiries as a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) they are not as exciting as portrayed on the television. The SIO spends a considerable amount of time writing policy decisions, setting strategy, reading officer reports or witness statements: not great viewing for TV.
Usually the SIO does not have time for ‘kicking in doors’ or even interviewing prisoners.
The focal point for the recent Line of Duty series was the murder of the journalist Gail Vella. Having led several high profile murder investigations I know the pressure the SIO and the team would be under to resolve the case. It is a challenge, especially where Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) are involved, but murder is not a new crime, it’s the first crime recorded in the Bible.
We read the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4:8 ‘…while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him’. There would have been no forensics, CCTV, house to house enquiries (or perhaps tent to tent in those days) to complete. It would have been an easy crime to solve, as potentially, there could only be three suspects, Adam, Eve and Cain and one witness God. Interestingly, although later on the punishment for murder would be death, Cain is reprieved, and God puts a mark on him so he would not be killed. (Gen. 4:15). However, he is banished from God’s presence and lives under judgement.
The Patriarchs would have kept AC12 busy.
Esau wanted to kill Jacob (Gen. 27:41), Jacob's sons murder the Shechemites (Gen. 34) and would have murdered their brother Joseph (Gen 37) if God had not had other plans. Moses kills the Egyptian (Exod. 2), hides the body in the sand and becomes a fugitive on the run. I would argue that King David having Uriah killed in battle was murder: there was plenty of ‘malice aforethought’. There are numerous other murders I could mention. There was also pressure to solve murders - Deuteronomy 21 outlines the elders responsibility for unsolved murders.
In the New Testament we read how Stephen accused the High Priest and Sanhedrin of murdering Jesus (Acts 7:52) and it could be argued that Stephen is murdered and who is present ‘a young man named Saul’ (Acts 7:58). AC12 would have had a field day and could have even implicated a new ‘H'.
Why are we mesmorised by murders whether on the TV or in the media?
Is it because, ‘but for the grace of God’, we might find ourselves in a similar situation. How often, when angry or in the heat of the moment, do we make the comment ‘I could kill……’. In Acts 9, Apostle Paul made ‘murderous threats’ before he was converted by meeting Jesus on the Damascus road.
David Buss in his book ‘The Murderer Next Door, Why The Mind is Designed to Kill’  highlights that 91% of men and 84% of women have had a ‘vivid fantasy about killing someone’ and suggests that all of us have ‘deeply ingrained capacity for murder lurking inside’. According to Adam Garfinkle ’our brains are not anatomically much different from what they were in Neolithic times, even if some of the circuitry is different’ which might explain why although we live in a digital society our brains remain analogue, and we experience the same emotions and reactions as the Patriarchs.
The final scene of Line of Duty had Superintendent Hastings confess to Chief Superintendent Carmichael his involvement in leaking information that led to the death of an undercover officer. Personally, I was not impressed with how she dealt with the admission, but perhaps that’s for Series 7 (if there is one). He said he had one interest ‘and that was catching bent coppers’. It did remind me that we are all fallible, Hastings was fixated on routing out corruption, but could be described as corrupt himself.
AC-12 could be identified as the ‘saviours of the police force,’ but they are not without blemish, which reminds us there is only one perfect saviour – Jesus as John 3:16 and other verses illustrate.
From my experience, officers reach senior management levels by being sponsored or mentored - so who was ‘looking after’ Superintendent Buckells – perhaps they are the real ‘H’?
Simon is currently a student on the Spurgeons MADT course. He retired from the police service in 2016 as Detective Chief Inspector on the Major Investigation Team. He is a minister at Eastwood Evangelical Church in Southend, Essex.
 David M. Buss The Murderer Next Door, Why The Mind is Designed to Kill’ (Penguin Books: New York 2005).  Adam Garfinkle, ‘The Erosion of Deep Literacy (National Affairs Number 43, Spring 2020)’ <https://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-erosion-of-deep-literacy> [accessed 5 May 2021].