Letter: Unaccountability of private police

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Sir: The latest radical idea for the extension of the Parks Police into wider duties by Wandsworth Council has come in for justifiable criticism from many quarters. While there is much wrong with the Metropolitan Police, they have undeniably been going some way towards putting their house in order.

Many dispossessed communities, such as minority ethnic and black people, lesbians and gay men and the poor have been on the receiving end of oppressive and discriminatory policing; complaints, riots and publicity have played a part in the process of making the force more responsive to community needs and less the bastions of large power blocks and outmoded discriminatory ideologies. The Metropolitan and other forces still have a long way to go, but the process of change seems to have started. Is it not, therefore, unfortunate that at this formative moment Wandsworth's plan should be sprung on our minority communities?

If Wandsworth has its way, today's fledgling community-consultation climate may be looked back on as a golden age. The black youth on the street corner, the homeless person and the upfront dyke have much to fear as they are likely to join the ranks of the unacceptable when Parks Police become street moralisers.

Yours faithfully,

CHRIS MILLS

Hove, East Sussex

25 August

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