Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who guards the guardians?
The British police are the best in the world,
I don’t believe one of these stories I’ve heard…
So sang Tom Robinson back in 1978.
Maybe your image of the British police is based on your English lessons at school or on visits to London, to see soldiers in bearskin hats, Big Ben, pigeons on Trafalgar Square, cricket on the village green, etc? It’s what we Brits would sum up as the “Dixon of Dock Green” British bobby.
To a greater extent this image is still valid. British police officers don’t routinely carry pistols. Their preferred “weapon” is the pot of tea and quiet word. The motto of British policing is still “policing by content.” In fact, Sir Robert Peel, founder of the police in the United Kingdom said:
The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
What would “Bobby” Peel have to say about the modern-day police? Look up the word “kettling” in relation to police methods in dealing with public order matters, such as demonstrations, protests and riots. Now read the following article: kettling
Essentially the article outlines the police’s increasingly macho stance (“over-zealous”) against peaceful protest to the extent that the British police have acted as a quasi-military force against citizens attempting to exercise their democratic right to protest. So, when did the police start to deviate from being “the public”?
Wind back to Lent 2008, when I attended a presentation by a chaplain to North Yorkshire Police, who suggested that it all goes back to the days of the miners’ strike in the early 1980’s, when the Thin Blue Line was massively reinforced to police mass pickets of striking miners, especially in South Yorkshire, an area which had become nicknamed “The People’s Democratic Republic of South Yorkshire” as a result of its hard-left Labour council.
Picketing turned into rioting, with South Yorkshire Police (SYP) being accused of “being not very nice” to the striking miners. Later in that decade, SYP were involved in the deaths of tens of football fans at the Hillsborough stadium disaster. Over a quarter of a century later, the Chief Constable was fired, and other senior officers were condemned in the Coroner’s report. So, has SYP learned from its mistakes? Has it learnt from reports such as that of the Home Affairs Committee of MP’s
, that kettling and testosterone-packed crowd control techniques alienate the public, of whom Sir Robert pointed out, they are members?
It seems, no. The police are not second-line support for security guards. Take a look at this clip from YouTube. Arrest never followed by charge? Is that to be expected in England, or Eastern Europe?
Have a democratic day, won’t you!