My walk to the office each morning takes me through a gigantic pedestrianised concourse with a police station located smack in the middle of it. This means that police cars often have to enter the concourse area and navigate their way through crowds of pedestrians.
This morning I saw a fully-marked police car (without its lights flashing) trying to enter the concourse and into a line of commuters. They weren’t having an easy time of it because nobody was really willing to move aside, and if they did it was a couple of feet at the most. The police car had to inch forward and wait every few metres for a pedestrian to walk past; nobody was particularly interested in cooperating to give the men in uniform an easier life. If one were to look at who had the power in that situation, the conclusion would be that it lay with the pedestrians. The ordinary people, in other words. I thought it interesting that the policemen didn’t resort to using their lights or sirens or even trying to push through aggressively. They looked a bit annoyed, but they didn’t make any moves to insist the pedestrians change their behaviour any more than necessary.
If the same scenario were to take place in the UK, the public would be a lot more helpful. They’d leap out of the way in their attempts to show the police they are cooperating, mainly out of pure public-spiritedness. I’ve written before about this difference:
Growing up in Britain you are sort of taught that policemen are nice people who are there to help. Terms like “citizens in uniform” and “friendly neighbourhood policeman” are bandied about, and this mindset appears in the British culture in shows like Dixon of Dock Green and the Noddy series of books where Noddy invites the policeman into his house for a cup of tea. As far as I can tell, British citizens still view the police as people to be trusted, approached for help, and to cooperate with at all times.
This contrasts sharply with places…such as France for example. Here people think the gendarmes and other police forces are there to catch criminals and keep the piece, but are to be avoided wherever possible. They are not your friend, you don’t ask them the time or for directions, and nor do you invite them into your home for a cup of tea. You hope to go through life with a minimum of contact with them, and any other uniformed authority.
But what’s more interesting is how the British police would have behaved had the citizens not cooperated by flinging themselves into bushes and ditches to get out of their way. They would almost certainly have used the sirens, causing people to jump out of their skin. They’d have turned the lights on implying there was an emergency when none existed. And they’d have wound down the windows and threatened people, and if one or two were not sufficiently cowed they’d have jumped out and quite possibly tasered and arrested him. As I discussed in my earlier post, the British police are quick to use intimidation and force against people who they are reasonably sure will not fight back, i.e. proper criminals.
Of course this is speculation, and maybe this wouldn’t happen at all. So let’s take an example of what the British police actually do. I sat down this morning expecting to use this example in which the police see motorists as a handy revenue stream, but opening Twitter I saw this:
The U.K. is fucked. pic.twitter.com/5R0qWSOt60
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) April 27, 2017
(In case you can’t see the picture, a screen-grab is here.)
This comes from those who police a city where:
Daylight stabbings of schoolchildren have become “part of the workload” for London’s Air Ambulance medics, they revealed today.
The service is now treating almost as many shooting and stabbing victims as people seriously hurt in road crashes, with open-heart surgery on knife victims performed in the street on an almost weekly basis.
This morning I read this:
Detectives in Greenwich Borough are appealing for witnesses and information following a stabbing in Plumstead.
Officers and the London Ambulance Service attended and found an 18-year-old man suffering stab wounds. He was taken to a south London hospital his injuries are being treated as life threatening.
DC Andrew Payne, the officer in the case, said:
“This attack happened in broad daylight, in a busy street and I am appealing for anyone who saw anything, or who knows anything, about the attack to contact me.”
A man has been found stabbed to death on a bus in central London.
Police said the man, aged in his 40s, was found fatally wounded on the 189 bus in Gloucester Place, near Dorset Square, at about 00:10 BST.
And last week I saw this video of events which took place in Hackney:
— Eneka Quamina (@EnekaQuamina) April 20, 2017
As I said before:
If the police in Britain … want to remain relevant, they had better make up their minds whose side they are on and inform the law-abiding masses of their decision, preferably via demonstration rather than empty speeches.
At the rate they’re going, the British police are going to be awfully surprised when one day in the near future they are called upon to restore law and order find the population treating them very much as part of the problem.
The French police might not be liked and respected, but at least they are confident the people they serve know whose side they’re on.