From the archive: Dear Independent – On police ‘brutality’
On Saturday 2nd May the front page of The Independent featured a story concerning police brutality linked with racism which caused considerable anger within the police service. Here, Chris Hobbs responds to the story.
Both serving and retired police officers were bitterly disappointed in Saturday’s Independent front page story which concerned police ‘brutality.’
At a time when police morale is on the floor and amidst huge frustration that policing cuts have failed to make the general election agenda, this grossly distorted piece of journalism has only added to the disillusionment felt by serving officers toward the media.
What isn’t mentioned in the report is that police in England and Wales make more the one million arrests a year and that each arrest is technically an exercise of force. The Met, in policing some eight million Londoners, makes just over 200,000 arrests a year and it will be noted that complaints involve 746 alleged assault cases. It is also worth noting that many complaints against police take more than a year to resolve.
The sad fact is that the inner city areas of London and the West Midlands, where the population contains a greater percentage of black and other ethnic minority inhabitants, are frequently blighted by socio- economic deprivation which includes low quality housing, poor education and a complete lack of job opportunities. This, quite simply, is not the fault of police but of successive inept governments.
These areas are suffer from high levels of crime and serious gang problems which leads to a proportionate number of arrests and police activity as front line officers do their best to keep the overwhelming majority of law abiding citizens in these areas safe. Little wonder that this will inevitably lead to some conflict and tension.
There was also a failure to mention the now litigious nature of UK society which sees legal action taken at virtually every opportunity. Many, but of course not all, complaints against police will be malicious or made with the object of ‘muddying the waters’ of any arrest. It would also have been interesting if the FOI requests had included relevant facts such as how many of those complainants had significant criminal records which included violence.
The case of Carol Howard was thrown into the mix to increase the perception of ‘racist police’ and indeed her treatment by supervisors and the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) was appalling. However appalling treatment by the DPS also extends to a number of white officers in recent years, the most infamous being that meted out to police whistleblower James Patrick.
Of course, as with any major organisation, there are a tiny minority of racists within it but the primary objective of the overwhelming majority of police officers is to keep the public, whatever their race, religion or sexual orientation, safe. This includes working with exceptional individuals and organisations, which include former gang members, who steer young people away from street violence.
Those who doubt the above should view numerous footage that exists of officer’s distaste when dealing with bigoted, violent elements seen on right wing demonstrations. These individuals too would be involved in making complaints against police officers.
Little wonder that just about every front line officer, tired of vexatious allegations, welcomes the introductions of ‘bodycams’ yet even this has attracted adverse comment from police detractors as being intrusive.
(Metropolitan Police 1978 to 2011)