When you’re in your kitchen throwing together some cereal, it’s not often that you’re pulled away from pouring the milk by the sound of helicopters.
I was last week. An air ambulance, several road ambulances, a large number of police on foot and then, finally, a police helicopter that was circling the area. Needless to say that I closed my curtains, turned on the TV and calmly ate my Weetos. And why? Because I felt safe, even though every sign pointed to there being some sort of crime occurring, or having recently occurred very near to my halls, I felt ok to sit down and turn on The Walking Dead – because of the police.
Now I for one am a very biased supporter of the police; I believe in them as a force for good – my dad served in the police force for thirty years, and so it’s probably fairly clear why I am biased, but even so, I would like to think that ever had this not have been the case I would have been just as supportive of them. For a lot of people it might seem obvious: supporting the police, but then, from experience, I know that a lot of people don’t.
…reporting on crime has risen year on year…
There is an interesting set of statistics that run parallel to modern policing; increasingly we seem to be told that crime is on the up, that murder, rape, abuse, violence, theft and every other form of criminality is rising, but in actual fact, statistically, there is less of most crime now than there was in the past – crime has, on average, been declining for a number of years whilst, conversely, reporting on crime has risen year on year. So that’s interesting, isn’t it? Well no, not really. Anybody with a knowledge of modern media could tell us that, increasingly, media outlets are relying on shock factor news and shocking images to try and maintain their audiences; the case now is that we, as a community, have become so used to things that once would have been shocking that the only way for producers to keep us interested is to up there games, so to speak. We don’t like to hear about rape, obviously, but it doesn’t shock us so much now as it would have done fifty or even forty years ago.
So support. It’s interesting; to me who, as I said, has always been a biased supporter of what the police do, I have sometimes struggled with understanding people who throw around terms like ‘pig’, but I do think that there can be some basis of logic in it. At the end of the day the police force is made up of people, nothing more, nothing less, so there will have been times and cases where certain members of the police have acted in ways that will rightly be seen as bad. I don’t think it would be fair for me to assume that everyone that uses ‘pig’ is wrong to do so – if you’ve been victim to some sort of institutionally allowed abuse before, then fair enough. But then the thing is that there a lot of people that use the term that never have been. On TV and in film we always see dirty cops, corrupt officers, sergeants taking bribes, patrolmen punching innocent bystanders – if you’re basing your hate on that, then there’s something wrong. As with statistics, the way that the police are portrayed on TV is, in the vast majority of cases, wrong – so get over it.
…institutional racism was not something that he had ever experienced…
Institutional racism and homophobia as inherent parts of the police force? No. No more than in any other line of work and, in fact, statistically less than most – so don’t come at me with that one either. I can even go so far as to include personal evidence; a few years ago in a sociology class our teacher brought in a police officer who was a chief inspector friend of hers; he had been in armed response and had achieved a good level of police service – he was Muslim. When asked about racism and homophobia he responded that, contrary to what many people think, institutional racism was not something that he had ever experienced, in fact he went so far as to say that in the years that he had been a member of the police, some fifteen years, he had experienced that form of accusation only once.
Finally I’ll bring up an interesting paradox. Modern government. In modern government there is a need to cut budgets; one of the ways to cut budgets is by reducing the police force. Cutting budgets means votes. Also, there is a need to continue to decrease crime rates; one of the ways to decrease crime is by employing more police. Decreasing crime means more votes. Similarly, the public, as a rule, do not want to see their money going on more police when they feel that it might be better spent in other places, but then, who do they rely on when something goes wrong? It is a shame, perhaps, that the police is only needed in the bad times – I will admit that as a result of their role within society they will never be viewed in a good light – if the police show up at your door, it’s never really going to be good news. It’s inherent to their position that some of the bad is going to rub off on them; but for each of us, let’s try and remember that, for most past, they are just men and women who are trying to help. They’re normal people, just like every one of us, and they’re just trying to make the world a safer place for themselves, for their families, and for everybody.
…there might be some bigger picture behind what you are seeing…
So next time you read a headline about police brutality or see a clip on the news of a riot officer hitting someone with their baton, don’t instantly jump to any conclusions, think about it and actually consider that there might be some bigger picture behind what you are seeing. Maybe even remember that, three years ago now, in 2011, most people were demanding that the police, whilst trying to control the London, Manchester and Birmingham riots, should be given more force and authority.