British Policing

There’s a good discussion going on over at Tim Worstall’s about this incident, where two blitheringly incompetent policemen tasered a Rastafarian who was being a dick, only he turned out to have been a police race relations adviser. The video of the tasering can be seen in the second link and it says so much about the state of the British police it’s hard to know where to begin.

So let’s take a step back. 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. For how long this continues is open to question.

I recently referenced Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II, by Keith Lowe in another post and I shall do so again. One of the points made in the book was that Britain was fortunate enough never to be occupied during WWII and as such people are not wary of authorities in uniform. This contrasts sharply with places that were occupied, 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. The same view of the police and other security forces very much applies in Russia and I daresay in other European countries too.

My own dealings with the British police have been thankfully brief, but I was left distinctly underwhelmed by their competence. Others have not been so lucky – see the anecdotes of monoi and DocBud in Tim’s comments, and I have heard many, many other similar stories of police incompetence and/or dishonesty. Now I’m sure the police often do a good job and there are plenty of good policemen, and I am also under no illusions that their task is thankless and they have suffered far too much political interference. But, as somebody put it on another blog recently, the British police are increasingly acting like a blend of Robocop and the worst type of jobsworth you encounter in the public sector.

The policemen involved in the tasering incident I mentioned at the start of the post were a man and woman, with the woman being a sergeant and therefore the senior officer. Their control of the situation is pathetic, woefully so. Yes, the Rastafarian was being a dick but he is perfectly within his rights to do so: people in Britain are still allowed to go about their lawful business without Plod demanding to see identification. It is clear from the video that the police have no “presence”: they may as well be a couple of kids. The WPC appears to know everything about demanding respect and nothing about commanding it because faced with somebody who isn’t cooperating with a request to identify himself (but is otherwise harmless) she whips out her taser as a first resort. And once it’s out, you know she’s going to fire it, which she does, into his face. They have no authority over the situation at all, and as JuliaM of this blog points out wonderfully in Tim’s comments:

Authority is precisely what they lack. Instead, they have weapons.

This is what “diversity” policies have wrought (although they’re not solely to blame): a police force which cannot command respect, has no authority, panics at the slightest sign of legal non-cooperation, are unable to control the most benign of situations, and fires their weapons at the first chance they get. I am amazed this WPC is even a police officer so incompetent and unprofessional she is, let alone a sergeant. I’ve long since thought the British police is broken beyond repair, and it’s only a matter of time – perhaps one more generation – before they will be treated by the population in the same manner as European populations treat theirs. They will only have themselves to blame.

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27 thoughts on “British Policing

  1. Tim, an excellent summary of the event and the state of affairs.

    I fear I get too angry about such things because at heart I am still a romantic about the British police. I still fervently believe they are the best in the world (as in the old heaven and hell joke) and am desperately offended when they miserably fail to live up to even basic standards that the courts have emphasised time after time.

  2. I agree with you, Tim, but I’m a little concerned at the limitations of the video. We don’t know how the encounter began – were the police/rastaman unprofessional/belligerence from the get-go? – and we don’t see exactly how it escalates, because there’s a jump-cut in the middle.

    It looks to me that they might have said the magic words: “You are under arrest”, at which point he is obliged to submit, but didn’t, instead bolting for the gate. If so, they’d be justified into following him onto his property and using force. Even the tasering becomes justified in that scenario, since by that time he’s resisting arrest.

    I’d also add that, although it’s hard to be certain given the paucity of footage, the man looks like might be tweaking on something, which if so might explain his hostility, and may also have explained why they were wary of him. But who knows?

    Bonus: a meandering wander through the same topic with comedian Patrice O’Neal on the old Opie & Anthony show.

  3. The British police once carried the authority and presences that also allowed a very small number of Men to dominate hundreds of millions, and much of the globe, usually without the need to resort to fear.

    It’s not surprising that the forces that hated the British Empire also hated traditional British policing, and undermined it in exactly the same way.

  4. The British subject that filmed the assault in Bristol deserves some praise in my books as he is the model citizen and he said and done the right thing with regard to the incident. The police do not have the people’s consent to do things like this.

    I have never thought that the Old Bill were any different or better and rather just as corrupt and incompetent as any other police force and have always held a deep dislike and suspicion of them. That includes the CID as well, who would fit you up as soon as look at you. I also remember how they engaged with me during the SUS law period in London, they would have their hand in your pockets before they even asked you your name, this was before the needle stick concern days.

    I was back in London a few years ago with my family and had an unpleasant interaction with a Bobbie. Came out of Harrods and Julian Assange was on the balcony of the embassy so I moved towards him off the footpath and onto the road towards the other footpath next to the embassy in order to get some video on my iPhone and this little copper kept telling me to move back, I ignored him, it never came to a push and shove but my heat seeking radar had locked into the space between his eyes. They must have relaxed the height restriction as he was a short arse and his centre of gravity was such that I could have easily overturned him. His conduct in a public space was totally unacceptable but there was no point in escalating it further so I stopped crossing the road but remained where I was and didn’t move back. From memory he had a beard as well is that now also allowed. I told my two boys who seen it all at that time to remember how fucked up the pommy police force are.

  5. @Matthew McConnagay: “It looks to me that they might have said the magic words: “You are under arrest”…”

    That’s certainly a possibility, and one must always be wary of video that appears to have a part missing.

    But even if they did, police are still obliged to utter the magic words ‘Taser, Taser. Taser!’ before they fire one, not while the bloke’s doing the horizontal St Vitus’ Dance on the pavement…

    “… the man looks like might be tweaking on something..”

    Nah, it’s just Bristol… 🙂

  6. I grew up in the east end of London in the fifties. I can remember scrumping apples as a ten year old just as a police car, a very rare event as they were normally on foot, came round the corner and saw me astride the wall taking apples. They helped me down took me home and told my mum who smacked me in front of them. It was my first and only ride in a police car and it was worth the smack. Nostalgia the worst affliction.

  7. My dealings with the British police over the years has always been first rate. I remember a bobbie approaching me outside Gatwick when I first arrived in the UK from Uganda back in 2000. He pointed at my laptop carrier and gave me some excellent advice on how to keep it in the city in which I had just arrived. He was friendly, professional, courteous, and unarmed.

    But I have not been to the UK for many years now.

    I presume the reason why the female policeman is a sergeant is for the same reason in Australia – she was promoted because she has a vagina and a pair of tits and they were obliged to fill a quota. The video is a fine example of the natural consequence of promoting in this manner as opposed to the old method which held at least some semblance of merit in the process.

    There’s an old European joke which I am sure you have heard about hell being where the Swiss are in charge of sex, the Italians are in charge of government and the Germans in charge of the police force. The heaven side of the equation has the British in charge of the police. It seems that this joke has become obsolete.

  8. A very good friend of mine, old git like myself and in very poor health, was passing a pub on his way home from the station. A scuffle broke out, he didn’t get out of the way in time and was pushed to the floor. He arrived home in a bad state and consequently his missus called the police. You can guess what happened next. The copper told him one of the lads had hurt his ankle and my friend might be charged with assault.

    You read about this kind of thing but it really does happen. I can only assume it’s an attempt to discourage reports and thereby improve the crime figures.

  9. UK police have gained a reputation over the past couple of decades of going after the weak, and often much easier, target and ignoring the hard issues in front of them. Thus they will round on people shouting abuse at a muslim march from the sidelines, which is one they are ‘guarding’ and ignoring the ones in the parade openly carrying signs calling for the death of non-muslim people. Still, not an easy job toeing various political lines for the sake of ‘cohesion’ and ‘diversity.’ I am sure the cops do get frustrated when they do some real police work but a court duly excuses the bad guys, and equally I know people who maintain the cops are only effective if they are basically criminal themselves. ‘It takes one to see one’ sort of thing.

    Anyway, everyone has a cop story, perhaps, and I have two.

    First, a retired cop who once lived next door to me was caught, at 6 one September morning, up the apple tree of another neighbour, helping himself to free fruit. When challenged, the ex-cop said he ‘hated to see food go to waste’ though apparently had he gotten away with his tree-climbing while everyone was asleep he was going to keep the apples and not tell anyone.

    Second, one late night I was roused to answer urgent knocking on my front door by two cops. “Ahmed Mohammed?” one cop said to me gruffly as I opened the door. “Are you Ahmed Mohammed of 60, Wilson Street?”

    I replied, wearily: “Do I *look* like someone called Ahmed Mohammed to you?”

    The cop said, well, no I didn’t. So I pointed out my front door was located at 60, Watkins Street and Wilson Street was in another part of town, some three miles away. The pair duly left, but I do wonder if they eventually found where they should be. I hope so.

  10. The public attitude towards police in Europe may have been influenced by forces of occupation during WWII, but note most of France (Vichy) was not occupied and German troops were rarely seen and only in a few places.

    The main reason for suspicion is that the ‘police’ have always been seen as agents of the State, there to spy on and impose the will of the State on the citizenry – gendarmes means men with guns.

    The Continental Countries have a Roman Code based system wherein nothing is legal for a citizen unless the Law says so, unlike the UK Common Law system where everything is legal unless the Law say not.

    As for the assorted weaponry with which British (mostly fat and unkempt) police are now festooned, these supposedly are to be used only when manual restraint fails and/or a life is at risk. Using these weapons whether lethal or non-lethal to capture, prevent flight or to punish is contrary to the Law.

    There was a recent case of a man (intoxicated) in a tree shouting at passers-by and who would not come down when ordered by the police The police then Tasered him – ‘for his own safety’.- causing him to fall out of the tree.

    It seems odd that the general public accept this illegal behaviour, and so-called civil liberty organisation, all over the case if someone’s trainers are called ‘gay’, ignore this too.

  11. The public attitude towards police in Europe may have been influenced by forces of occupation during WWII, but note most of France (Vichy) was not occupied and German troops were rarely seen and only in a few places.

    German troops might not have been everywhere, but the German authorities were – either in person or via their local auxiliaries. I think a lot of the distrust during the occupation came when the locals realised that the nice Jewish family down the end of the road hadn’t been seen in a while.

  12. I agree with you, Tim, but I’m a little concerned at the limitations of the video.

    True, I too would have been interested to see how it all started.

    It looks to me that they might have said the magic words: “You are under arrest”, at which point he is obliged to submit, but didn’t, instead bolting for the gate.

    They might, but whether they had grounds to arrest him or not is open to question. One of the things I detest Blair for is expanding massively the number of arrestable offences to include pretty much anything and everything. So now the first and last resort of a policeman is to arrest somebody, whereas most of the time some manners and common sense would be the better option. If somebody can be arrested for calling a police horse “gay”, the system is fucked beyond repair.

    One of the other things that should be brought into the police code of conduct is that if a policeman is caught telling a member of the public that something is illegal when it isn’t, or they are stopping a citizen from doing something perfectly legal, they should be given a written warning. Do it again and their sacked, permanently. There can be no excuse for the police lying to members of the public as to whether they are breaking the law (e.g. by taking photos) and this should not be tolerated.

  13. There’s an ancient piece of advice that one should demand “Which statute have I violated, officer?”

  14. There’s an ancient piece of advice that one should demand “Which statute have I violated, officer?”

    Indeed, and if the policeman can’t cite it immediately then he should leave you alone. If he does what they normally do and make something up, he should be put on a warning. Do it again, and he’s sacked.

  15. UK police have gained a reputation over the past couple of decades of going after the weak, and often much easier, target and ignoring the hard issues in front of them.

    Yes, this. Nothing could have alienated them from the population more than their prosecuting a war on motorists at a time when they gave up on burglaries.

  16. “Nostalgia was better in the fifties.’

    And Dixon of Dock Green was the last clean shaven Tall John.

    While we are at it, The Sweeney was more representative of the type of policing that the Brits have consented to. Jack Regan and Carter collaring villains, Jaguars, car chases through London, tasty birds, plenty of biff, shooters, attache cases full of sterling notes and best of all a one in five chance that the villain gets away with it, so you never knew if they would get caught or not. Carter getting the radio call at Tottenham Court Road (near their office) and turning round and speeding to Luton Airport only to just miss the Hawaiian shirt clad villain and catch a glimpse of him through the plane window as his aircraft taxis for take off to Benidorm just as he turns and gives his dollybird a deep kiss.

  17. Tim – again, agree totally – but whether they have grounds to arrest him is something best sorted out at the station, or, if it comes to it, in court.

    The correct solution to the massive increase in arrestable offences is to decrease their number. If the public starts treating an arrest as de facto illegitimate and on that grounds resisting it, England’s going to go downhill even faster.

    (Of course, that was probably a predictable consequence. One of the (many) problems with New Labour is the break between what the law says and what an ordinary person’s moral code says.)

    In that vein, throwing in a new law – No Policeman Shall Lie About What The Law Is – would also be a bad idea. In particular, while I agree that 9/10 times it’d be a bad idea for the cops to lie, I can foresee some circumstances where it might be beneficial to public order, and I’d like to leave them that option.

    Probably the best idea is for the police to lie so infrequently that nobody would ever suspect them of it. A man can dream, eh?

    As per other people, I think height, fitness and other restrictions ought to be reintroduced, and older standards reapplied. An officer of the law ought to be innately able to command respect, and familiar with the reciprocal nature of giving and receiving respect, before we give ’em a uniform and a laser gun and turn ’em loose.

    And that’s another thing: fuck tasers. I’ve never once heard of them being used as advertised, i.e. instead of a gun. Bring back truncheons, and if the shitters don’t like it, give ’em the old wood shampoo

  18. “…but note most of France (Vichy) was not occupied and German troops were rarely seen and only in a few places.”
    Except that the Germans occupied the whole of France after Operation Torch, in late 1942.

  19. The German police have changed a lot since the 1980s, mostly in the direction of becoming more “citizen-friendly.” The Germans trust their cops a little less than do the Scandinavians and the Swiss, but a little more than the Brits and quite a bit more than the French. At least, such was the case before the refugee crisis.

  20. Rob: ‘Actually your avatar looks a bit like Trent Boult, the NZ cricketer (apart from the hair).’

    I am deeply flattered. My batting record is around 0.1 runs a game, my bowling appalling and my hair is merely vanity art for indeed, I wish it was as luxurious as that in RL.

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