Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Man in the Arena...to serve and protect...

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena..." Not many people would quote Theodore Roosevelt’s “Citizenship in a Republic," speech when talking about the police because of their notorious and colourful reputations across all boarders. It brings a bitter sweet taste to one’s sensitivities when the word ‘police’ is raised in conversation. Many have a disliking to the police because of the numerous stories that circulate of racism, bullying and sexism within the police and targeted stop and searches, lack of response, rudeness and sometimes accusations of dodgy dealings in the public domain.
The Negative Press


The ‘very public [by design]’ resignation of Britain's highest-ranking Asian Police Officer, Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur was publicised it rocked the country but not as much as it did the police force itself! He disclosed his intentions to sue the police with threats of airing ‘dynamite claims of racial discrimination within the police force’ at an employment tribunal.  He was alleged to be seeking to gain two million pounds from the Metropolitan Police in compensation. His actions appear to have been motivated more by financial gain than by genuine concern for equality within the force which one would expect from an officer that high in ranking His responsible to and for countless young men and women (of all races) in the police force seem to have been sidelined his personal agenda. Self portrayed as a martyr for the ethnic office, his actions seemed to have been taken to the detriment of the ethnic minority officer, irrespective of the impact it would have on his fellow minority colleagues he left behind. 
Another area where the police force has been caught in controversy is in their powers to ‘stop and search’. A newspaper headline reads, “Stop and search UK: A Briton is interrogated by police every 20 seconds. 90% aren't even arrested”. Historically the power to ‘stop and search’ was seen as a tool used to by the police target and sometimes victimise ethnic minorities, in particular young black men. Another newspaper headline claims, “Stop and search: white people held 'to balance racial statistics”. All of these perspectives, whether founded or not are circulated in the public domain and they inspire anger and resentment toward the police by the general public.  These ‘stop and search’ powers have been since been extended as a result of repeated terrorist threats and attacks that have been prevalent in the last decade particularly. The Terrorism Act 2000 sets out the additional powers for police to act on their suspicions. This extension has been deemed unlawful by the European Courts and various groups have protested against the police being given these powers.
Referenced news articles:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/12/stop-and-search-ruled-illegal

The interview


Last Friday evening, various (non illegal) events took place that put me in a position whereby I got to spend two hours in London chatting to a London Metropolitan Police Officer, whom I will refer to as PC Boots. The contents of this conversation I will attempt to present to you. PC Boots is in his late 20’s early thirties; and has been a police officer for four years. He is of Italian decent though born in Britain and speaks both English and Italian fluently. He is based in a London team of forty officers, a third of whom are ethnic minorities and they work between 12 and 14 hour shifts. Each shift has a squad car (pictured) assigned to it to make appointments, something I was not familiar with.  If a less serious crime is committed and you have evidence in that you have witnessed the crime or were the victim, you can call the police and book an appointment for someone to come to your home, at a time convenient to you for them to take your statement. These lesser serious crimes are for example, when you return home and find your house had been burgled and the burglar is long. The purpose of this is to maximise police time and efforts and to work with the generally public also in that they will come at your convenience.

PC Boots talked of how his multidisciplinary, and multicultural team work well together, with a jovial spirit of ‘taking the mick’ out of each other and keeping the mood light to balance out the difficulty of their work. He went on to talk about how he attended car accidents every other day, a suicide is reported through the radio waves daily and he personally attends to at least one a week. Each week he deals with rape cases and burglaries and assaults. Car chases are common place, murders take place as regularly too and they are confronted and ‘fronted’ more often than not by the public. A certain level of abuse is to be expected and tolerated as an officer he told me because the general public do not always like the police when they are committing a crime and are caught and some do not appreciate the work of the police at times when they are being assisted after becoming the victim of a crime.
False reporting of crimes leading to hours of wasted police time is a frustration that the police come across daily and it wastes hundreds on man hours every month, especially in cases where rape is claimed or children are involved. The force is over worked and over stretched with each days’ work turning into nine hours of paperwork where they have to duplicate their efforts as the information they initially write down at the scene of the crime has to be inputted into one or two other unrelated computer systems as well when they return to based, often each report is seven or eight pages in length. A freeze on overtime pay when incidents can stretch out way past handover and shift end means sometimes working for no pay, ‘For Queen and Country’ they are told. And when they are permitted overtime, the first half hour is to be done, again for ‘Queen and country’.

PC Boots’ experience so far is that the police force is complex and the politics and red tape is sometimes overwhelming and most certainly frustrating. However his role is varied and interesting and he gets an opportunity to really help people and be there for them, sometimes at their worst, the lowest moments of their lives; after a rape, after witnessing a murder or after a major car accident... He really loves being a police officer and feels he makes a difference to the people in the borough he has sworn to ‘serve and protect’.
Final Comments…
Individual citizenship, the subject of Roosevelt’s speech quoted at the beginning of this post is all about throwing your hat into the ring and going for it! Standing up to be counted, doing for your country, your community, your family, what no one else will do; Being the voice of reason even if it means you are to stand alone; Holding fast to your integrity when there is constant temptation to lose it; Daring to do rather than stand on the sideline and criticise; Put your hopes and dreams before your fears and anxiousness…dare to be different. I firmly believe that among the stories of police brutality, racism, and prejudice; there are brave men and women in police forces, not just in the Met, but all over the world who have risen above the expectations of racism, dodgy dealing and mismanagement and stand proudly today as, ‘The Men [and Women] in the arena…sworn to serve and protect…

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