Memories of a Metropolitan Police Japanese Course Instructor
Guest article by Les Brown, Motorcycle Instructional Officer, Metropolitan Police Driving School, Hendon

Hi. My name is Les Brown. I joined the Police Service in 1974. That seems a very long time ago and as a raw recruit back then I had no idea how my career path would turn out.

I started my service in the West Mercia Constabulary and transferred to The Metropolitan Police Service in 1980. After gaining experience in many differing aspects of police work, I joined the Metropolitan Police Driving School in 1997. It was here in the summer of 1997 that I first witnessed a Japanese Course. I remember the striking Japanese blue uniforms with contrasting white belts, causing a splash of colour amongst the dark British ones.
I first instructed on a Japanese Course in 1999. Back then, we had six motocyclists and two car students. It was my privilege to be the car instructor. It was immediately apparent to me how conscientious and hardworking the Japanese students were. This trait has remained consistent with all the students I have encountered since. In total I have instructed on eight subsequent courses, as a motorcycle instructor.

When you use the term instructor, it may give the impression that there is only a one way flow of information. Nothing could be further from the truth. My life experience and understanding of a different culture have been enriched beyond belief by the contact I have had with the students.

They have taught me about the customs and history of their respective prefectures, the differing types of food, music, but above all else their fantastic sense of humour. In return I have attempted to explain British and European equivalents, with escorted visits on off-duty weekends to such locations as Paris, Edinburgh, Brussels and Rome - not all on the same course, obviously!

At first you may think that the language barrier would have prevented learning - not the case at all. All the students had gone to great lengths to learn some English prior to their course. I in turn with each successive year managed to learn some Japanese, so couples with an ability to illustrate resulted in a free flow of information in both directions. Differences in translations, though, caused many funny incidents, far too many to list here. One, however, sticks in my mind. On the first day in the classroom, a series of personal introductions take place. It helps all to quickly get to know each other. The Japanese officers completed theirs. Now time for the British. The inspector at the time started. "Good morning, my name is Ian and I am married to Annette." There was an immediate buzz of conferring Japanese. "A net?", said one confused student. "Does she like fishing?" The good natured laughter could be heard for a great distance.



Obviously the greater part of the time on the courses was spent riding motorcycles. For most if not all the students, it was their first experience with large, heavy BMW motorcycles that the British Police tend to use. All students displayed an excellent sense of balance allowing them to cope with these machines with comparative ease.

Having to ride out each day, the locations were designed to provide the maximum stimulation and interest to the Japanese students. Amongst these were Stratford on Avon, Stonehenge, Avebury Stone Circle, Kennet Long Barrow and many other places of historical interest.

Each Hendon Instructor is repsonsible for three Japanese students. So at any time there would be four marked police motorcycles riding together, just the same as we do for British students. This in itself, though, produced some strange incidents. For example, on one ride my students and I came across the scene of a road traffic accident that was causing major traffic congestion. We filtered to the scene of the crash and tendered to the injured. The students, all experienced traffic officers in their own right, immediately started directing the traffic past the accident. To do this they were talking to each other in rapid Japanese. The look of amazement on the passing motorists as they were so efficiently dealt with still stays with me today. They must have thought that we were recruiting from very far afield.


The Metropolitan Police Driving School, Hendon, received a Certificate of Commendation from Ambassador Hayashi in June 2014. For more details, click here.