The police have been behaving foolishly for years
BY MAX YOUNG
The latest idiocies exhibited by the police over the Coronavirus restrictions provides further evidence of the degeneration of Britain’s police force. Derbyshire Police have been harassing dog-walkers on the empty moors. Yorkshire Police have busied themselves setting up roadblocks to check if cars are on the road for “essential” reasons. Cumbria Police have declared the Lake District “closed” and are threatening fines on those suspected of entering the Lake District to exercise.
As police units enforce social distancing and consistently overstep their mark with what can only be described as gleeful enthusiasm, they gather in large groups themselves for a break and lead a crowded clapping session on Westminster Bridge, organised by Metropolitan police commissioner Cressida Dick.
While Nigel Farage received a visit at his door for venturing outside of his home in order to produce a video, Professor Neil Ferguson, the Imperial scientist whose report brought us into lockdown, found being visited by a married lover, will face no police action whatsoever. A West Midlands officer has been videoed “striking and kicking” a 15-year-old boy, and Lancashire Police have been forced to apologise for threatening to “make up” an offence with which to charge a member of the public.
In any crisis or difficulty the police can be relied on up to jump in, flat feet first, and make fools of themselves. It was not ever thus. There was a time when the police had a relatively high standing in the community. They could be relied upon to act sensibly and concentrate on their core task of reducing crime. Alas, no more. Rather than preventing burglaries, they’re much more interested in harassing ordinary citizens for minor infractions of the rules or investigating “non-crime hate incidents.”
The Carl Beech case is a good example of Police incompetence. A fantasist accused former prime minister Ted Heath, the ex-home secretary Leon Brittan, the former Tory MP Harvey Proctor, and former Chief of the Defence Field Marshal Edwin Bramall of together abusing and torturing him. For most, this seemed implausible, – there was no evidence to back up the claims – but not for the Met Police who, stating that Beech’s accusations were “credible and true,” went on to persecute the elderly accused individuals. The claims, of course, came to nothing, and a subsequent independent report accused the Met of “institutional stupidity.”
Ted Heath had already died, but that did not stop Wiltshire Police spending £1.5m on a futile investigation into assorted entirely unsubstantiated child abuse claims against him. Dr Richard Hoskin, a criminologist brought in to conduct a review of the police’s actions said there was never any “substantial evidence” against Heath, describing the Police as showing a remarkable “collective gullibility.”
Persecuting Sir Cliff Richard in order to gain publicity for itself was a highlight for South Yorkshire Police, which gave the BBC a running commentary on the day of a raid so that the police operation could be filmed, with the use of a helicopter hovering above Sir Cliff’s apartment in Berkshire. Sir Cliff took the South Yorkshire Police and the BBC to court, gaining £400,000 and £2m plus costs from each respectively.
South Yorkshire Police led the way with the ludicrous policy of urging people to “please report non-crime hate incidents, which can include things like offensive or insulting comments online, in person or in writing.” Other police forces such as the Met have followed suit, recording over 120,000 so-called incidents.
The policing of the internet seems much more to their taste than the policing of the streets. The police are gripped by every latest Twitter obsession, notably transgender controversies. Police officers have even taken to turning up at people’s place of work to instruct them to “check their thinking” over tweets on transgender issues.
Given any opportunity to over-react, the police will jump at it. After a CCTV operator confused jump leads for a gun, Dorset police scrambled a helicopter and armed response unit….
Those who lead our police are clearly deeply insecure and many of them are either serially incompetent or lacking in the ability to exercise reasonable judgement. They are desperate to get the approval of our cultural elite. They overlook the fact that it isn’t healthy for our society for its police to be held in contempt by the bulk of the population.
It is difficult to devise a set of solutions to the problem. One hesitates to put politicians more directly in charge of police actions, as their incentives are clearly quite the wrong ones. Just imagine the damage that would be done if a publicity-seeking witch-hunter like Tom Watson could give direct orders to the police. The Police and Crime Commissioners, an invention of the Blair years, are just another set of politicians and a waste of money. What is the point of “democratising” a position when, at best, less than a quarter of people are bothered to vote for it?
For one, police forces should get off Twitter – it’s not doing any wonders for their reputation as they publicise their latest stunts. Then, we should see a reshuffle of police prioritisation in the public eye: units should focus first and foremost on lowering crime and serious crime. They should be publicising that on social media, if anything. It’s not glamorous and it’s not as eye-catching as dying England’s “Blue Lagoon” black to put off visitors, but it has to be done and will, in the long-run, do well in restoring our trust in our Police Force.
Max Young is Deputy Editor of Free Market Conservatives. Follow him on Twitter: @maxneoliberal