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