Policing – When it goes badly wrong

The BBC has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-52932611

I have thought for many a year that some people recruited to police our laws are fundamentally unsuited for such sensitive jobs. And I’m talking here about what is probably a world-wide problem across most if not all democracies.

Militaristic organisations like policing will always tend to attract people who enjoy being controlling, authoritarian, in charge, able to enforce etc. etc. but often of course some of them are actually the very last people a society would want in such sensitive jobs. Yes police forces across most societies have to be able to tackle hardened criminals in uncompromising ways, indeed we expect that of them. But and it’s a BIG but those very same officers are also expected to exercise discretion and to sensitively deal with other policing matters. It has long been clear to me that some officers can’t do both as it is not in their make up.

Some of the scenes from the US have been heartbreaking following the killing of an African American man at the hands of the police and the legitimate protests are no surprise. Yet the police seem not to be able to handle the need to try to keep public order whilst ensuring that legal public protests are given the freedom required in any democracy. Yes the looters need stopping/arresting but what on earth is going on when innocent protestors, by-standers, reporters etc. are in effect attacked by the police!

For policing to work it has to be by consent not by force and communities need to have confidence in it. If some sections of any society feel that policing is biased against them or even actively aggressive towards them then the police become a part of the problem not a part of the solution.

America is a violent society where guns are seemingly valued above life itself. An armed police force, which draws guns far too often, will be a job very unsuitable people will apply for and sadly get. We like to think that our society is not as racist or violent as the US but I fear that just leads to a complacent approach. I am absolutely sure that in the UK there are some unsuitable police officers out there and the fact that they are not armed we must be grateful for.

And don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some great police officers in my time in public life especially those involved in community policing. However, I’ve met others whom seemed to lack the diplomatic skills and empathy required to deal with sensitive community matters. This is an issue which needs to be resolved during the recruitment process and via continual training.

Community policing was the first major issue I took an interest in back some 40 years ago as a fresh faced trainee Liberal politician and it was the work of John Alderson (former Chief Constable of Devon & Cornwall) which I saw as a piece of policing fresh air – see link below –

www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/oct/11/john-alderson

That the progress made via community policing across the UK has all but been put in full reverse due to austerity and changing policing policies/priorities is a matter of great regret to me as Alderson was right all those years ago and he’s still right now.

Authoritarianism – Why we should all be worried & better informed sceptics

Authoritarianism, in any form, is probably what us liberals try to fight against most of all. Indeed, it is one of the biggest fault lines in our left of centre politics as it splits liberals from socialists because socialists tend to lean towards it whilst Liberals abhor it.

And here we are, because of our present health crisis, in a government sponsored authoritarian state with our freedoms significantly curtailed for our own good. Yet despite us being in a form of lock-down the government which imposed this on us is said, in polls, to be reasonably popular. Do we like being told what to do and when we can do it or are the present restrictions on our lives an almost welcome comfort blanket to wrap ourselves in? And how do we know government is doing its best for us? Yes I know they keep telling us they’re doing all they can but is that really true? We, Jane and Joe Public, don’t have the facts so is it right we that we take the view that government is doing its best in difficult circumstances just because they tell us they are?

My view, as a Liberal, remains as it always has, don’t trust anyone with power – remember the adage ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. We have no sitting Parliament, the official opposition is all but missing in action, there’s no leader of the opposition, why even my own party has no elected leader in place! If ever there was a recipe for state sponsored authoritarianism this heady brew must be it!

And on another level I saw a social media posting the other day which made my blood run cold. It was asking folk whether they were flouting or complying with government instructions via you replying to with 1 of 4 answers. Firstly, who on earth would reply that they weren’t following advice? That would be a big invitation to be trolled would it not? But why do folks want such information? Just think about that for a moment…… Before answering any question ask yourself why you are being asked it.

My other worry is that the very journalists whom we are effectively relying on to hold government to account simply aren’t doing so, with a few notable exceptions of course. I’ve been impressed with Nick Cohen but there’s been too many easy ride media interviews for ministers. Surely ministers should be getting turned inside out via probing investigative journalism aimed at exposing any lies and misrepresentations. Now more than at any time we need tough impartial, well informed interviewers and journalists to make those taking the life and death decisions on our behalf feel the heat.

Don’t cheer a government, no matter what its colour, because it is governing in tough times, keep your foot on the back of its neck or it will do what is best for it rather than what’s best for you.

And to close, this from the BBC website about how we are being policed:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-52101040

Quote from BBC article – ‘On Monday, Lord Sumption, a former Justice of the Supreme Court, told Radio 4’s World At One the actions of Derbyshire Police – which also included uploading drone footage of walkers to social media – had “shamed our policing traditions”.

“The tradition of policing in this country is that policemen are citizens in uniform, they are not members of a disciplined hierarchy operating just at the government’s command,” he said.’

My thanks to Chris Reilly for provoking my liberal instincts into action……

Farron, religion and Liberalism

That a thoroughly decent man has been forced from public office is a given and I say that as an atheist.

Yes I was very uncomfortable watching Tim contort himself into knots when asked about his religious views and yes the media were out to do him harm over his religion. Just think about it, how many other leading politicians have strong religious views and how many of them have been hounded out of office for holding them? Blair got some stick because he was Roman Catholic but I struggle to think of many others in recent times.

Did Tim bring trouble upon himself? Well yes to some extent because of this contorted answers that had us all scratching our heads. And you know despite his odd answers he actually did a lot to back minority rights and the LGBT community have acknowledged that apart from what I will call their more militant fringe.

Can you be a Liberal hold religious views? Well you must be able to as there seem to be many people out there who do. Anyway one of the significant strands of liberalism comes from ‘Chapel Liberals’ and Methodism. I am sure my dear old Mum was a Chapel Liberal and I personally know many Lib Dem’s who hold strong religious views and I count them as my friends.

The crunch issue as I see it is this. As a Liberal your guiding light is the rights of others and your being willing to stand up for those rights even when you personally do not subscribe to them. That’s what Tim Farron tried to do, that’s why he stood up for LGBT rights even though his religion was seemingly telling him otherwise. His problem was being unable to publicly reconcile his liberalism and religion when the contradictions were put to him by the media. And once he had shown weakness the first time he was asked about the matter it was always going to be where the media homed in.

Were the media involved in bullying and intimidation? Yes of course they were, indeed they were acting as though they were from the 1950’s and steeped in intolerance with more than a hint of the Spanish Inquisition thrown in for good (or is that bad) measure. It’s as though Farron were being treated as a criminal for holding religious and political views, it’s a sad reflection on our reactionary media and the intolerant times we live in.

Yes of course opposition politicians also exploited Tim’s inability to answer straight forward questions on the potential conflict between his religion and his liberalism. I picked up what I viewed to be political trolling comments on this very matter.

Brexit has split us very deeply because it has brought back into focus views that people used to be ashamed of talking about – racism, intolerance, homophobia, etc. Farron in my view became a victim of that new intolerant culture and it shames our society greatly.

One last thing, the schism on the left of British politics is not actually so much about policy but about libertarian versus authoritarian approaches. In general terms socialism is more authoritarian and liberalism is obviously libertarian. Tell you what is good for you as opposed to giving you the facts to make your own mind up you could say. Quite obviously our society is by its nature these days far more authoritarian and less libertarian. I hope it goes without saying that Conservatism is also authoritarian.

Authoritarian societies don’t tolerate differences from the norm and the norm is usually set by the ruling classes. Farron is, like many Liberals before him and those who will follow him, too libertarian to be tolerated by a media and a political establishment that see most things very black and white, right and wrong.

Don’t look upon Farron as someone you liked or disliked in party political terms, look upon him as someone our society showed the door to because he was not conforming to the norms as interpreted by the media and the establishmnet. Then look at other minorities and think about them too, who will be next?

Oh yes and Farron stood in 2017 General Election on a policy of tolerance!