You lot are all the same..

A TV cameraman had taken home a new piece of kit to experiment with over the weekend. He set up the camera and went into his garden to try it out. As he did his attention was drawn to the sound of police two tone horns. Turning his camera to the sound he captured a vehicle being pursued by police cars. The vehicle stopped or was stopped and what followed was appalling. The police officers jumped out of their car got hold of the driver and for want of a better phrase “gave him a good hiding.”

I was shown this as part of my advanced driving course. The lesson was about “red mist.” I would, on completion of training be placing myself in pursuit situations. I would observe the recklessness of criminals racing through busy junctions against red traffic lights with no let off of speed. My anger would increase, my desire to catch and detain this miscreant would become my sole objective. There would be a competitive air about the situation that I would feel I had to win. The “red mist” would descend and my normal judgement would be clouded. At this dangerous stage anything could happen and I may react totally irrationally.

We all sat in the class shocked at this old footage. We discussed how dangerous red mist could be. It stuck in my mind and many times as the years went by I found myself in situations where it could easily arise. By presence of mind, personal resilience, luck or a combination of all three I never succumbed to it.

A few years later I was equally appalled by the actions of American officers detaining Rodney King. More recently I was shocked by the events in the Tomlinson case and also the actions of Sgt Smellie. The latter was cleared of assault and the former is an ongoing case.

I make no excuses for officers who use inappropriate use of force and abuse their authority but I understand how easy it is to make assumptions and condemn them on limited facts. Far better to allow due process to take its course. Of course if exculpated cynics will claim that the police have the IPCC, magistrates, the CPS, judges and juries in our pockets.

Is your MP corrupt? Does that make all MP’s corrupt? As cricketers are found to be match fixing does that mean all cricketers are the same? If a judge opens him/herself to a bribe does that mean they are all on the take? If a dog bites a child does that mean every dog is a menace to society? Of course not. Therefore it stands to reason that just because one officers actions are brought into question you cannot lambast the remainder. Newspapers, columnists and the TV news will all pick up on a story and the intimation is that if one is bad.. all are bad.

Admittedly this impacts on public perception and trust and all the hard work done by officers around the country can be undermined in moments by one officer highlighted in the media.

I would ask you to consider that the police are out on duty 24/7/365. Right now we are attending incidents, putting our lives on the line and serving our communities. The communities we live in too. How many incidents this year have put the police in the media spotlight? Quite a few it would seem but we are always newsworthy. In comparison to the number of good work we do though the figure is infinitesimal.

Please remember that before you criticise an officer for his/her actions have a think about the good work the other 139,999 are doing.

Those of you who saw my tweets today know exactly what this post is about. I saw my conversation as debate. Others may see it as a spat, argument or schoolyard behaviour. I would emphasise that I see it as debate. There is an opportunity for dialogue when such incidents arise. Dialogue where people can discuss and debate the issue and by mutual respect and understanding of each other reach conclusions that may make changes to the benefit of all. Twitter is a platform that I thoroughly enjoy and I get the opportunity to debate with people I would otherwise never meet. Long may it continue.

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23 thoughts on “You lot are all the same..”

  1. I know which one. I’ll also draw you attention to you discussion with me when I pointed out that cuffing people as a matter of routine is assault. You reply was that you couldn’t tell who was dangerous and who was not. To which I replied that in which case when I see police offices I can’t tell which are violent and which are not so I better act to protect myself. You then broke of the discussion.
    Anyone who has watch Sky’s road way will seen Police acting as thugs, when the don’t get there own way. That other police and CPS will not prosecute these people is corruption.
    If was to cuff someone because the couldn’t be sure that they weren’t violent then you would be all over them and have them nicked. That you are prepared to support cops acting without reasonable suspension, when that is what is required shows you to be exactly the kind of officer that puts yourself above the law.
    When you not give respect that you think you desire you flip out. It is one law for you and one law for the rest of us. Even when the law makes no distinction.
    A lot of this is caused by a lack of introspection and education on the part of police officers and another part by a lack of empathy.
    We don’t ask you or pay you to do the job as you see fit but in the way that through our elected representatives we have had it set up. You need a proper education in ethics and morals before your capable of understanding what it means to be a servant of the law. If you don’t like it get another job.

    1. I understand your arguments and I agree with some aspects however in regards of cuffing an individual, the judgement of the officer is to protect themselves. Better your skin at risk than mine thought process type.
      Power situations/job brings automaticaly abuse. in one way or another, it is up to the individual to have self control and discipline also the individual needs to be tought as you well pointed .
      The force is a family and as a family one protect each other. There is a code of honour but sometimes the principles and morals of this code for which they were devoted to obey, serve and protect get lost in the highst of power.
      This sensation of power emporwered them and those that to start with, were not fit to the job, become abusers of the job and/or individuals. This happens not only on the force but in G.P. surgeries, Hospitals, Schools, Political Parties,Offices, etc.
      I am aware that there is only a minority that bring shame to the force and its against those in particular who the public and we all should focus our attention.
      If we loose our confidence in our force….who is going to protects the streets? you? me? Who is going to protect our family and children or our business when the riots come back?
      In all this I would point that it is the force the one that has to give proper education and psychological training to their officers after that a good cleaning of the house will be in order to protect not only the public but also the honest officers that sacrifice their lifes everyday to protect us. Nothing to say that this action would avoid comments and attacts to the force in general.
      Police should not be feared but appreciated for their honest and hard work, the long hours of night shift that disrupt sleeping pattens, injuries, lost of lives…
      The force make the ultimate sacriface put the lives of officers on the line to protect us. Lets RESPECT them but at change I want honesty and respect. The exact same thing they will expect from me.

      1. Some forces have a policy of cuffing everyone, the officers aren’t even making a decision of their own they are following an instruction. I believe this is illegal.
        You say the Police are a family, the family is just a special kind of gang, with certain admission rules.
        Lets be honest lost of people work long hours and do shift. When it comes to injuries and lost lives the police aren’t even in the top 10. See http://personal.rhul.ac.uk/uhte/020/Labour%202005/Most%20Dangerous%20jobs.pdf and face it it is considerably more exciting and better paid then most on the list.

  2. I’ve pointed out before that the questionable behaviour as demonstrated by some of your colleageues over the last few years has undoubtedly affected the public perception. The actions of a few, whether we like it or not, can negativly impact upon everyone else. Some teenagers are thugs so all teenagers must be thugs, some lawyers are poor and corrupt and so all lawyers are poor and corrupt and so on.

    The police conduct their public functions by way of consent. The general lowering of respect that has resulted from the questionable actions of some officers has resulted in that consent being a lot more forced than it ought to be. Arguments that the police need to become more forceful in order to gain respect are falwed as it results in policing by fear as opposed to policing by consent. The later of the two being what one expects in a democracy the former in a dictatorship.

    The police need to work at gaining that respect back. The actions of officers such as the PC on YouTube dancing and generally enjoying the festivities of the nottinghill carnival, especially affter the riots, can help. However, I do feel that the police need to stop treating every person as a potential criminal and begin treating them as innocent people. Certainly the times that I’ve been stopped and searched by the police the attitude of all the officers involved has been appaling and felt as though I was being viewed as a criminal by the police despite being a totally innocent individual. I know the streets are dangerous and the police can’t afford to let their guard down just in case the indivdiual they are dealing with is dangerous, but that suspicion cannot become a “red mist” that clouds the judgement of an officer and results in them treating every member of the public as a suspect when in fact the vast majority of members of the public are decent and law abiding folks.

  3. You express dismay and I understand that. I accept your stance that the vast majority of officers are fair and would not think of using the sort of force that has been hitting the media for some years.

    For some time, though, the police are seen as tools of the executive and are taking the brunt of the disgruntled amongst us. There needs to be far more education, by those in command, and less spin. Until such time as misinformation is reduced, you will continue to see the backlash against the uniform on the street.

    I won’t even start about the infiltration of the Met by NI, another day, but is another example of those upstars letting down other ranks.

    That being said, there are bad apples and they are now being captured far more often in this world of surveillance. They need cutting out and not to protected by canteen culture, the law applies to all.

  4. Before I came to work for the police department, a friend was complaining that a police officer had been rude to her during a traffic stop. I pointed out that you never knew what call he’d just finished with, maybe some truly horrible or just someone who’d treated HIM badly. She hadn’t considered that before. Now that I’ve been working as an officer for several years, I know that it’s very true. It takes training and effort to stay cool as situations change. As I type this, there is an officer sitting next to me who is trying to come down from his last call, which was very upsetting, so that he can move on to the next.

    1. the last call is NO defence. Would we accept it from a teacher? ‘Well the last child was really abusive so I was verbally abusive to the next’. No we would not. It is unproffessional. Your colleague who was attempting to calm down sounds like a great proffessional.

      With dearly loved family who are officers I have great respect for the job they do. I would ask that people stop talking of bad apples and start looking for bad barrells. What about a job, an environment, an organisation and its processes can take good people and make them more likely to behave as violent biggots.

      I speak as somebody who has sufferred an unprovoked physical attack by a frustrated plain clothes officer outside a police station in Berks. Having asked to lodge a complaint the officer apologised. An apology I accepted because I believe in second chances, and hope that he learnt a lesson.

  5. My own view is that the police do not exist to be a mate in uniform, they are there to uphold and where required, enforce the law.

    Sadly, for too long now that has not been the case which is why so many elements of our society do not have any respect for or fear of the police which is why we have so many problems these days.

    1. “respect for or fear of the police” about says it all. Respect has to be earnt is a comment often made by coppers as for fear why should we.

  6. For some curious reason, the author of this post seems very reluctant to link to the very post it is in response to.

    So here it is: http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/2011/11/police-officers-are-people-who-want-to.html

    It is is rather noteworthy that few of the commenters there are more angry with me for saying negative things about the police than the footage I link to. Indeed, it seems few actually watched that footage before commenting about my post there, or on Twitter.

    There are many kinds of public service. Not all involve wearing uniforms or exercising coercive powers against civilians.

    And everyone should support a professional police force.

    But we should clear about what the police do: for a living, they – by force – deprive civilians of autonomy and liberty, and expect the rest of us to just nod-along whilst they do it.

  7. When the MPs expenses scandal broke the reaction was not just to say ‘a few bad apples’ but to look deeply into the whole systems, to try to find a way for it to be better organised, and to have proper scrutiny over it. What’s more, there is now constant suspicion of MPs – and quite right too. They need to do a lot to prove that the situation has changed, and that they’re deserving of the trust that we have to give them.

    Why, then, should we treat the police any differently? When we see the kind of thing that we’ve seen, quite naturally have distrust. It’s not just events like Rodney King or Tomlinson, or Joy Gardner, but the actions of police in relation to many protests and so forth. For those of us old enough to remember, the behaviour of the police in relation to the striking miners still echoes strongly.

    And yet, what we constantly hear is the ‘one bad apple’ argument, or even denial, or apparent cover-up (from Joy Gardner to Mark Duggan – and dramatically via Jean Charles de Menenez). There is little acknowledgment of a need for systematic change, for more transparency, for more humility, for genuine accountability, for a sense of solidarity and sympathy with those who’ve been threatened by force, humiliated, beaten up or even worse.

    The MPs grudgingly agreed there was something fundamentally wrong, and at least opened themselves to scrutiny. Will the police do that? Or will we just hear more of the same… …because until we do, it’s hard for people to fully trust, and not to quite naturally think ‘you lot are all the same’. Show us that you’re not.

  8. “More recently I was shocked by the events in the Tomlinson case and also the actions of Sgt Smellie. The latter was cleared of assault and the former is an ongoing case.”

    Interesting! Tomlinson, yes, I agree. But I was pleased to see Smellie acquitted. He did what he did in quite different circumstance to the Tomlinson case, and I felt he was fully justified.

    Would be interested to know why you feel differently. Please don’t tell me it’s because she was female….

    1. The actions of Sgt Smellie have been deemed to be lawful. That’s the end of it.

      The video footage in isolation does not look good but is a great demonstration how even with footage the cause and justification for force is unclear.

      His case was used as example. I have offered no criticism of him. The point was he acted, the press condemned him and branded all officers the same. They misrepresented all officers as much as they misrepresented Sgt Smellie. Then, as I tweeted earlier, he was exonerated yet some papers and commentators will still cry foul.

      1. Oh, I see! You were shocked by the press reaction? I thought you meant you were shocked by the actions of the officers. Sorry, wasn’t clear.

  9. With all due respect, lets call everything by its name.That “red mist” as you called is only an anger problem that may become out of control due to the frustration of officers.
    Policing is a very psychologicaly draining job and as such the officers should receive regular psychological support and training.
    Anger and frustration could be the culprit of many frictions between public and officers, however it is a problem of self control, discipline and sometimes the sign that we need a break. We are all humans and a badge/label of any type will not protect us from the psychological drainage and damage of the job

  10. I wonder if officers always remember that many of the members of the public they meet are likely to serve as jurors, and will often be asked to judge the credibility of police witnesses. If officers are rude, off-hand or arrogant (as they can be, for whatever reason), will those future jurors look at their colleagues’ evidence favourably or not in Court? Maybe officers should caution one another: you do not have to be polite and reasonable when dealing with the public but it may harm your credibility if you fail to be. Any bad behaviour will be remembered and held against you and your colleagues.

  11. I’m currently going through the slow and protracted process of becoming a special constable in the Met. I’m glad I’m built of strong stuff because if I wasn’t I probably would’ve withdrawn my application because of the negative reactions – and in some cases, verbal abuse – I’ve received when I’ve told people I want to become a police officer.

    I have jokingly said “I think I’d get a warmer reaction if I’d told people I was joining the BNP!” but in a way it’s true!

    When people make flagrant, ill-informed comments about the Met (or British police in general) in my presence I usually tell them they are bigots; if one were to extrapolate the distrust/hatred of British police to any other community it would be considered bigotry. There are some people in our police forces who are incredibly bent or simply not cut out for the job as they can’t contain their emotions when the ‘red mist’ descends, yes, but that doesn’t mean ALL police officers are like that. And there are some young black men in east London who are prolific drug dealers and members of extremely dangerous gangs – yet if anyone said they distrusted/hated young black men because SOME engage in criminal activity, they would rightly be branded a racist bigot.

    If people really believe our police are bent then why don’t they become specials and try to change what they think is so wrong? Oh, that’s right…because they are armchair critics who wouldn’t have the balls to do the job.

  12. There are two sides to every argument, or “debate”, or “schoolyard behaviour” (actually I think I likened it to a “fight in the playground” on Twitter). Personally, having read both blogs, I could not agree with either and did not intend to comment on either.

    I then re-read this post because something had rankled on first reading and I wasn’t sure what it was.

    It turned out to be this little snippet … “Far better to allow due process to take its course.”

    I know lots of police officers. I have advised and represented police officers. Despite the viewes my clients may have of individual officers, by far the overwhelming majority of officers are honest, decent blokes who do a very difficult job under very difficult circumstances with the utmost professionalism

    But there are bad apples. The same old complaints made against the same officers. Too many stories about the too-tight cuffs, the sly punches to the back of the head or kidneys. Most victims of this behaviour do not bother to complain because … well … they are villains and accept this is part and parcel of “the game” when being arrested by certain officers.

    However, sometimes such behaviour is exhibited upon persons with no previous dealings with the police. They have no template, and regard this behaviour as the norm. They make a formal complaint

    I come back to this – “Far better to allow due process to take its course.”

    The good coppers know who the bad apples are. Will they support the person making the complaint by adding their opinion of the officer in question? Not in my experience, they don’t.

    Senior officers? Always give the impression they want to sweep it under the carpet. Personal visits to the complainant to attempt to persuade them to deal with the complaint locally; no indication given that previous complaints have been made about the same officer. Basically, doing their best to fob off the complainant

    I thought David Allen Green’s post was sensationalist and unbalanced. However, unless rank and file officers do more to turf out the “bad pennies”, we’ll always get articles such as his, always get the “shock video”, and these will always unfairly paint an unrealistic picture of our police forces

  13. Where as I fully understand handcuffing everyone is illegal you have to admit its really sensible if you want to live through the shift. I was assaulted on duty in just such a scenario. Before he attacked me the suspect was amiable and polite giving me no justification. This has lead to years of painful injury for me, the suspect won’t even remember it, just another day at the office for him.

    1. I’ve been assaulted just walking down the street and once for helping somebody stand up, their BF objected.
      There is also the question of the long term view being cuffed is painful and humiliating it run the risk of alienating the very person your cuffing and that may come back as less cooperation later.
      Then there is the fact that it is simply illegal and regardless of any other factor, you are sworn to up hold the law, without fear or favour. Personally I think smoking a spliff is sensible it also carries a smaller penalty than cuffing someone illegally but I doubt you’d be OK with that.

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