The sole policeman on Tristan da Cunha rarely if ever uses the tools of his office—a truncheon, handcuffs, pepper spray, a jail cell—nor does he make arrests. He hasn’t had to. The Guardian last week included an article about Conrad Glass, Tristan policeman for 22 years, who was in England for a training course on community policing.
He told the reporter that the island does not even have a prison to put people into. The cell that they do have is not usable. “We only have one bunk, there’s no washing facilities and the door is made of plywood so it wouldn’t take a strong man to break it down.” He told the reporter that crime is nearly nonexistent on Tristan. Doors are never locked. When there are problems, they occur among people who know one another, so calming situations is one of his most important responsibilities. For Glass, the concept of community policing often involves staying out of things. “It’s hard to remain aloof on such a small island but that’s what I try to do,” he says.
His daily patrols include the fish factory, the school, the administrator’s house, and the hospital. But he avoids going into the pub, the Albatross Inn, since he is not a drinker. “I’m much happier at home with a book,” he says. A photo with the story shows him standing next to his official looking patrol vehicle, police lights prominently displayed on the roof.
He recalls that there was a serious brawl once, in the 1970s, before he was the policeman. A knife fight broke out on a fishing vessel. Since then, the problems that have occurred have been due to visiting yachters. After one man left, Conrad learned that he was wanted by Interpol.
Officer Glass plans to retire in five years, and no one appears to be eager to take over his job. He has two deputies, but they are not interested.
The Guardian story does not mention that Glass was elected Chief Islander in 2007, and that he has written a book about his experiences called Rockhopper Copper. A biographical sketch of him can be found on the website run by the Tristan community, its government, and the support group, the Tristan da Cunha Association.