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When Police Constable Steve Guscott caught up with a sassy teenager on his beat who had been harassing an elderly woman, he did what he would have done to one of his own sons - he slapped him.

The teen charged the 42-year-old officer with assault and now Guscott, who has 20 years of unblemished service, must pay $225 and could lose his job.Guscott has become a hero to many Britons who are disturbed about rising crime and long for a bit of old-fashioned discipline.

"It used to be if you had a run-in with a policeman he would box you around the ears and you would go home crying and tell your dad about it and he'd give you another one," said Kevin Escott, a friend of the officer.

Guscott's boss, Avon and Somerset District commander Superintendent Mike Nelson, said police switchboards had been "totally overwhelmed" Tuesday by calls of support for the officer, who is based in Minehead, 140 miles west of London.

"It does show there is a wind of change within society that perhaps indicates that the pendulum has swung too far and it may be time to redress that balance," said Nelson, who will be a character witness for Guscott at his disciplinary hearing next month.

British Broadcasting Corp. radio also reported getting many calls from listeners, supporting the bobby.

The Sun newspaper reported 52,687 in favor of Guscott and 2,195 against him on a "You the Jury" phone line it set up. The Daily Mirror set up a similar line and reported more than 20,000 calls, which were 15 to 1 in favor of the police officer.

At a magistrates' court hearing Monday, Guscott pleaded guilty to common assault on a 14-year-old boy. He was ordered to pay a $150 fine and $75 in compensation to the teenager.

The prosecution said Guscott, who had been called to investigate a report of youths repeatedly banging on an old woman's door, struck the teenager twice, once on the nose with his elbow and once with an open-handed slap.

Guscott admitted the slap but denied the elbow. His lawyer, Ian Wilson, said the slap was "no more and no less than he would do with his own son if he had behaved in a similar manner."

Escott, who has known Guscott for nine years as a fellow volunteer on emergency sea rescue lifeboats, described the officer as an "honest, straightforward family man."

Guscott, whose sons are 9 and 12, won't talk about the incident before the disciplinary hearing. But he described himself to reporters Tuesday as "an old-fashioned bobby."

Sgt. Robin Hobbs, the Police Federation representative for the counties of Avon and Somerset, blamed the courts.