April has been a tough month for the police in terms of negative publicity. Right from the very first day the Police in London especially, were in for a tough ride with the G-20 summit, taking place in London. The police had to deal with large scale demonstrations mainly in the city of London, which ended in the attack on a Royal Bank of Scotland building. But overall most of the demonstrations ended peacefully, with relatively few people getting hurt. Or so we thought. A few days later it emerged that Ian Tomlinson, a newspaper seller, died shortly after being pushed over by a police officer. In a separate incident a female demonstrator was hit in the face and then with a baton by a policeman with his identity number obscured. Both of these incidents had been filmed by onlookers and were shown on national televison. Then in a third incident a policeman pushing back demonstrators is shown throwing a punch at a demonstrator, whilst one of his colleagues was shining a bright light at the person filming the events.
All this has helped reduce public confidence in the police. Further incidents this month in other areas have included the arrest of ten suspected “terrorists” in the North West of England, supposedly involved in a plot to blow up public places in Manchester. Yet this week I read that all of them have been released without charge. The final icing on the cake was in Gloucestershire, where police broke down the door of the home of a 73-year-old lady who they hadn’t “been able to contact by phone”. Luckily she was out at the time when they burst in, but she has been told she will have to pay the £100 bill for the damaged door.
These incidents show that somewhere along the line something has gone wrong with policing in this country. Sure the police have to put up with a lot of abuse, especially in demonstrations, but shouldn’t their training prepare and teach them to cope with such aggressive behaviour? The days when most people in a community knew who their
local policeman was, seem to be fading, in spite of the fact that most people would prefer to see more “bobbies on the beat”. Do you personally know a policeman or policewoman that you can talk to about a problem in your area? Nowadays you see more police on TV on the news and on those car chase shows. In most areas of Britain there has been the introduction of “Police community support officers”, or “Plastic policemen” as some cynical people call them. They have limited powers compared to a “proper policeman”, but surely their presence on the streets is reassuring for many ordinary people?
Another way the police seem to have been “replaced” is through the explosion in the use of CCTV cameras all over the land, so that Britain is the most watched nation per head anywhere in the world. I have learnt that just by taking a journey into London and out again by public transport, you will be filmed at least thirty times during your journey on CCTV cameras. Who is watching you? The Police? Or some minor civil servant? And what about your privacy? Does this count anymore? Do CCTV cameras help prevent criminals from carrying out crimes? Or are they just another tool for the powers that be to watch over the general population? Have we become a police state? Yes and No.
The police are supposed to be public servants, yet in some people’s eyes they have become public masters. On the police’s side I would agree that they have to do far too much paperwork when a crime is reported and they are on a hiding to nothing for the job they do. Most members of the public support the police and are appreciative of the job they do. Yet there are signs that some officers, once they put on that uniform, are becoming a different animal. In fact these recent incidents show that some officers are not behaving in the way that is befitting a police officer. Could this be the tip of an iceberg? Ask yourself. Who controls the police? The people of this nation? Or certain individuals in power?
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