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.