Updated: Sep 17
by Simon Werrett, Minister at Eastwood Evangelical Church and former police officer
Why do police officers never wear their hats these days?
It is perhaps a question that has been asked over several years. When I joined the police in the mid 80’s, it was second nature to wear your custodian helmet when on foot patrol and police hat when alighting from a vehicle.
The heavy custodian helmet was only worn by male Constables or Sergeants when on foot patrol, females only had one type of hat suitable for either foot or vehicle patrol. Police officers had to be of a minimum height and the helmet usually made them stand out in a crowd. But over times that has changed. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between Police Officers, Security Guards, Local Government Officers and volunteers.
Southend on Sea Constabulary was established in 1914 and in 1969 they let Essex Police join to become a joint constabulary.
Unfortunately, in 1974 the title was shortened to Essex Police, but the custodian helmet still contains elements from the amalgamation: the cockle and shrimps on the top.
Members of the Southend on Sea Constabulary used to have a white helmet and officers were entitled to wear it until retirement.
There was considerable folklore around the helmet:
No! Pregnant women were not allowed to ‘P’ in it when desperate
No! It was not an illegal arrest because an officer was not wearing their hat, and
Yes! If you try to knock it off, you will be arrested.
I had a boss who was fixated on officers wearing their hats, he even had a picture of an incident at a Scottish airport where an officer arresting a terrorist was wearing his hat. When you made excuses, he would point this out in his loud voice!
Although the helmet has been around since 1863, times and priorities have changed, The uniform is becoming more user friendly for officers. Having said that, the helmet is still used by most police forces.
The Bible mentions the helmet in several places:
David borrows Saul’s helmet to go and fight Goliath, but it does not fit.
Paul, perhaps inspired by the Roman soldiers guarding him speaks of the helmet of salvation. The helmet is about protection and visibility. The Roman soldiers like Police Officers were recognised by their helmets.
When I was growing up (in a pre-internet world) I had numerous Bibles, study books and concordances. Now, I have a few but most of my resources are accessed via my iPad or Mac.
In his book Liquid Scripture, Jeffrey Siker devotes a whole chapter to the question: ‘Is there a Bible in the Church?’ Considering what this actually means: is there a different perception when the preacher uses a digital device as opposed to a physical book? A theme of the book is ‘do people engage differently with a printed Bible than a digital one?’ People read a printed version differently (Z shaped reading pattern) to a digital one (F shaped) and this has a different impact on the brain’s memory. He concludes that even though the Bible is digital ‘through it God will spread his word’.
Siker argues that a physical Bible is just that - a physical book. But a smartphone or tablet has a ‘multitude of functions and apps designed to interrupt and disrupt.' This makes the digital Bible different. Rather than being an individual package, it is one of many. The reader does not need to understand the canonical order of the Bible or whether a passage is located in the Old or New Testament. They can just type a reference in the search bar and the passage appears, the knowledge of the metanarrative (the story as a whole) is lost. Physical Bible learning games like ‘Draw swords’ become who can use Google or their Bible app the quickest.
I remember when in South Africa at a church, the preacher walked among the congregation and forcefully banged them on their head with a Bible asking them if they wanted to receive Jesus. An iPad wouldn’t have the same effect (and would probably get damaged). Prior to starting the MADT, I would always use my iPad in the pulpit. But having reflected on my study I have started taking a physical Bible into the pulpit, to demonstrate the visible presence of God’s word.
Pete Phillips suggests around 63% of regular churchgoers read the Bible, but only 65% of pastors use scripture for sermon preparation. According to Christian Research the pandemic has encouraged Christians not only to read their Bible more frequently (78%) but for longer (27%) and increased engagement (35%).
A physical Bible potentially makes our faith more visible when commuting or sitting in the café reading. However, it is not as practical as we cannot check our mail, post a social media update of our drink or check the news. Perhaps, like the custodian helmet, the time for a physical Bible is running out?
What do you think?
Simon Werrett BA (Hons), MTh, MSc is a Minister at Eastwood Evangelical Church, Essex and a student on the MADT at Spurgeons.
 Image fromhttp://www.pmcc-club.co.uk/museum/displayimage.php?pid=869