Theresa May is due to announce this week that in future, you can become a Superintendent or Inspector in the Police Farce without any prior experience of policing. It’s called Direct Entry, possibly from the hallowed grounds of Kidderminster University’s Media Studies Department.
They will be able to decide the correct response to a call saying, for instance, that the staff of the local Chinese takeaway, armed with machetes, are chasing a group of Jamaican Yardies down the High Street. Do you send two police women in a Ford Escort, a van full of riot trained experienced coppers, or just send the CID round in the morning to take a statement from the survivors? Your call. We can only speculate how useful three years of propping up the bar in the Student Union will be in this situation over and above several years of being one of the unfortunate plods sent out to deal with such an incident.
Into this farcical mix steps Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, saying that actually, whilst Ms May is about it, could she make sure that the Media Studies trained Superintendent comes from one of the black or ethnic minority communities, because:
Often we are out there resolving disputes between communities and we need officers that understand different communities and different backgrounds.
A statement which presupposes that the decision made will be one that reflects the cultural or ethnic background of our new Superintendent. Otherwise what is his point? Assuming that the Chinese-Superintendent-with-Media-Studies happens to be on duty that night, and not the Afghan-refugee-with-Media-Studies-Superintendent, then how is his cultural background going to affect his response? Will he understand the cultural need of the Chinese community not to be called slanty-eyed chinks by fleeing customers who haven’t paid their bill – and delay sending any response? What if the Jamaican-with-Media-Studies Superintendent is on duty? Will he reflect on the resentment of the Jamaican community against pro-active policing on innocent Jamaicans and send a unit out to arrest the Chinese for attempted manslaughter?
Hopefully he would view the situation as one in which innocent bystanders could get hurt, which could escalate, and send out a van full of riot experienced coppers to arrest both parties – even if such van full turns out to comprise G4S ex body builders and nightclub bouncers, as may well be the future. In which case – what possible difference would his cultural or ethnic background have made?
The Police Force is never going to be large enough to comprise specialist transgendered officers to deal with the handbag slinging fracas in the Ladies powder room at the ‘Heaven’ nightclub, nor to field ex-asylum seekers to arrest the asylum seeking shoplifter in Sainsbury’s who thought you could just walk in and walk out with your week’s shopping, not understanding our strange ‘British’ cash desks. Nor should it be.
It should be solely composed of those who are prepared to forgo a life of ease behind a desk, in favour of long cold nights out on the streets, dressed up like overstuffed teddy bears, weighed down with all the equipment required to file any number of 30 page reports, deliver a baby, haul body parts out of a tree, or stand single-handed and confident between a line of machete wielding Chinese waiters and the Peckham contingent of the Yardies. If anybody is going to be promoted to Superintendent and ask other men to do just that – then they should be seen to have had many years experience of doing that which they require of others. Otherwise they may command a station, but they will never command the respect of that station.
As a middle-aged white woman, I don’t wander absently mindedly out of the front door of Marks and Spencers to examine the true colour of that cashmere jumper I am considering, I am perfectly aware that such behaviour might lead the store detective to imagine I was shop lifting, based on their prior experience – but then I don’t have a community leader to shriek to the Guardian that the Police are institutionally biased against middle-aged white women who leave a store with un-paid for goods…
I can see the superficial attraction of saying that ‘communities’ (when did we become a collection of communities and not a nation?) need officers who understand how they operate – but that is to pander to the problem, not solve it. It is the very fact that ‘communities’ (that word again!) have been led to believe that the law should not apply to them because of specific aspects of their cultural past. The Police are not allowed to say that it might be a good idea for young black youths to not hang around the bus stop in Brixton wearing identical clothing to that reported by a woman who had her handbag snatched last week – for fear of being labelled ‘racist’. It is ‘tarring a community’. Community leaders rise up in horror when a young black man, stopped whilst driving a high powered Mercedes car through town at 3am turns out to be a footballer on his way home from a nightclub and not a drug dealer topping up his local ‘drops’. It’s racial stereotyping apparently.
The problem originates from the same syndrome that led to Liverpool University maintaining a cupboard full of mini mortar boards and gowns; they use them to visit local schools to show seven-year olds how they might look were they to go to University one day. Michael Gove approves, it is called ‘reaching out to young minds’. We used to have an army of such people. They were called ‘teachers’, and for generations they took a special interest in the farm labourer’s son who actually paid attention to the lessons, and encouraged and supported him to go to University. Now we are forced to go over the head of those teachers in order to instill the idea that it is only hard work and dedication that leads to University, not your Father’s occupation.
In communities, this syndrome manifests itself in a belief that they are special, different; not as individuals, but as a community. That the policing of that community should therefore be ‘different’ and by implication ’special’. It is a problem that should be addressed at Government level, not by the Police. They should be saying loud and clear that there are only two communities in Britain, the law-abiding and the non-law abiding; and that the non-law abiding community is policed by British police officers, applying British law to British residents. It is for the courts to take into account any mitigating circumstances from a person’s past life – not the Police.
The cultural origin of British Police officers is irrelevant and rightly should be so. Unfortunately, under Fahy’s suggestions of fast tracking black and ethnic minority officers to positions of seniority, the only people who will be discriminated against are those officers with years of experience who had worked their way up the ranks, hoping to be promoted, and then find they are the ‘wrong colour’.
That should improve morale no end.