Thursday, 9 April 2009

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Welcome to my Wednesday blog dear reader (actually, its now the early hours of Thursday morning, but I've been doing a lot of thinking today).

I try to keep this blog light-hearted - but I would hate for this to be misinterpreted and cast doubt on either my sincerity or the seriousness of this campaign....I guess the way I deal with adversity is to use humour (after all, its difficult to be worried by things that make you laugh....with the possible exception of clowns, which actually proves my point in a roundabout way, as I don't find them funny). Unfortunately, the subject of tonight's blog isn't a laughing matter....

The primary reason I threw my hat into the ring (all of 4 days ago) is that I am saddened and angry at the poor standards evident in public life, and I believe we deserve better. Politicians make themselves easy targets, but todays news has got me thinking a bit wider.

You'll have all seen the news footage of what appears to be an unprovoked attack on Ian Tomlinson at last weeks G20 demonstration:
Make no mistake, I am a strong supporter of the police and I have a deep admiration for the thousands of police officers up and down the country who take their life in their hands every time they go on shift, and perform a vital public service. Its not a job I could or would want to do, but its a necessary job or society would descend into anarchy.

This footage makes me very uncomfortable - perhaps there is some context which isn't in the public domain yet, but on the face of it we have un-necessary force applied to a man who is no threat - he clearly has his hands in his pockets, and is walking away from the police lines. Listening to radio coverage today, the argument has been advanced that the police are young men, caught up in the adrenaline of the moment, and such events should be expected. I say NO!!! While they may be young, and under intense pressure, thats part of the job and they should have the discipline required to control their anger and not lash out. I was similarly disturbed by the TV show "Cops with Cameras" last week, where an officer in the Southwest (in Devon I believe) threatened to use CS spray on a suspect who was already restrained and in handcuffs, but was being gobby and generally obnoxious. While this may have been a macho threat for the TV cameras, I consider it just plain unacceptable.

Theres an old naval saying which applies here: "life in a blue suit", and it broadly means if you can't hack it, then change jobs. Police officers are granted certain powers to do their job, but there is a fundamental unwritten contract with the public that those powers should not be abused. Any officer who does abuse those powers disgraces and dishonours the thousands of coppers who work hard and take extraordinary risks on a daily basis in order to keep us safe, and damages the public trust which is necessary for a free society.

One thing that did strike me in the TV footage of the G20 demonstrations was that many of the police appeared to have their faces covered - perhaps one of the things I should try to advance if I am successful in being elected would be a requirement for police officers in uniform not to have their faces obscured, and for force numbers to be clearly visible and mandatory.

Here endeth the lesson.........

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