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Thursday 20 September 2012
Letters: Too dangerous to give the police lethal weapons
Following the death of the two police officers in Manchester, questions about whether to arm police officers are already being asked.
As a former police officer in the Metropolitan Police, I served with Chris Head, who, on 12 August 1966, with his colleagues David Wombwell and Geoff Fox, was callously gunned down in Shepherd's Bush by Harry Roberts and his associates. In the aftermath of those murders the same questions were asked, but 46 years on British police remain, for the most part, unarmed. I believe that this should remain the case.
Police have access to a wide range of weapons much more freely than was the case in 1966. In those days many police officers had military experience during which they had experienced coming under fire and using their own weapons in a disciplined fashion. Two of my colleagues had served in the Palestine Police in the late 1940s.
Nowadays, there are too many instances of police so-called marksmen unnecessarily shooting dead unarmed or otherwise harmless victims, too many occasions of police using tasers when the situation could be resolved by less drastic means.
Given the range of non-lethal weaponry available to police officers inexperienced in their use, it would be a step too far to have such people carrying lethal weapons as a matter of course.
Two police officers have been murdered less than a week since your editorial attacking the police and calling for an inquiry into their culture (leading article, 14 September). You use eight examples drawn from the past 40 years to support your argument that the police are unethical, incompetence, corrupt and racist.
I will give you another statistic. Including the two officers murdered on Tuesday, 117 police officers have given their lives in protection of their fellow citizens in the same time period you have used. In that period thousands of officers have been assaulted and injured; on the other side of the coin countless contacts between the police and the public have had positive outcomes.
Despite spending on the police accounting for less than 1 per cent of total government spend, the police have taken the hardest hit, with a 20 per cent cut, including an attack on their pay and conditions. It seems to me that The Independent is happy to join the Government in putting the boot in.
Bognor Regis West Sussex
Speaking after the dismissal of PC Simon Harwood for "gross misconduct", Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Maxine De Brunner said: "Simon Harwood does not reflect the professionalism of the majority of officers working in public order, often in the most difficult circumstances"
That may be the case but Harwood's "professionalism" was certainly reflected by the several police officers who were filmed witnessing his assault on Ian Tomlinson and did nothing about it. Wouldn't the Deputy Assistant Commissioner better serve the public by addressing this issue of trust and lamenting the fact that, had the video of this sickening episode not come to light, no one would have lost their job at all?
Canvey Island, Essex
Thatcher and the fate of British industry
Owen Jones ("Why I hope the Iron Lady goes on and on", 17 September) suggests that we would all be better off following the policies of the immediate postwar decades, with huge nationalisation programmes, high taxation (top rate of 97.5 per cent at one stage), and strong trade unions. This, he insists, would lead to sustained economic growth.
What he doesn't mention is that growth then was helped by starting from a low base, and was fuelled by massive loans from America, that we still had an empire, we owned and profited from a lot of the Gulf oil, there wasn't much competition from Japan or south-east Asia, and China was still asleep.
The world has changed and Margaret Thatcher recognised it. She had watched the unions refuse to compromise with Barbara Castle or Ted Heath. Unfortunately the strong union leaders of those days were less interested in their members' welfare than in politics and led us to the Winter of Discontent, which Owen Jones will not have experienced. The union leaders wanted a fight, and they got one. Unfortunately their members and many others suffered as a result.
Whatever else you think of Mrs Thatcher she didn't believe in the something-for-nothing mentality. Her deregulation policy was right, but I think she would have been horrified at what happened following Gordon Brown's light touch and confusing regulatory changes. Deregulation wasn't to mean no regulation.
I am greatly encouraged by Owen Jones's column. I was afraid that due to the passage of time the younger generation would not realise or care for the massive damage she wrought, turning what was once one of the most civilised countries in the world into a pre-Victorian sweatshop economy.
The Victorians would have been appalled that the social conditions which they were improving were being reversed. Among others, public libraries spring to mind.
R E Hooper
Stratford upon Avon
I am afraid Owen Jones seems as incapable of thinking outside his socialist box as many on the right are still incapable of seeing beyond their Thatcherite prejudices.
One can agree that deregulation of the City was driven as much by ideology as common sense and that we are all suffering the consequences today. But to go on blaming Thatcher for the post-war decline of British industry is just silly. She made explicit what should have been obvious: that without a radical change in attitudes and behaviour Britain was in an almost ineluctable decline. One could have looked at industry after industry and seen a picture of ineffectual if not incompetent management, chaotic industrial relations and poor design and engineering skills.
Now, by contrast, and just as one example, our car industry, once the most incompetent in the world, is today one of the most productive and successful in Europe. Sadly, it has taken foreign managements to teach us the skills and positive attitudes that were so manifestly lacking across British industry when Margaret Thatcher came to power.
Teaching to the test
The problem with most education ministers (and the population as a whole) is that their only experience of the classroom is as a pupil. The problem with Michael Gove is that he can't even acknowledge his own tunnel vision in that respect.
Professor Bill Boyle (letter, 17 September) gives an excellent critique of the National Curriculum, but I would like to add to his observations.
Grade inflation is a myth. The reason that grades have increased steadily since the advent of the National Curriculum and the move away from norm referencing is that the examinations have focused on how much of the syllabus pupils have assimilated. Teachers have concentrated on that and got steadily better at it and pupils have responded accordingly. To get a good grade now, you have to know all the syllabus, because the questions cover virtually all of it and consequently don't cover it in any depth.
The result is that there is no room for reading around the subject, for concentrating on certain aspects to the detriment of others, or just to be curious. By striving to head in the opposite direction, we have perversely ended up in a Gradgrindian nirvana.
Pesticides must share the blame
Dr Phil Botham of the chemical company Syngenta implies that pointing to damage to bees caused by neonicotinoid pesticides ignores other factors contributing to pollinator decline, such as habitat loss (letter, 18 September). This is a weak argument – no one suggests that habitat loss is not a significant contributor.
He also says we need to "focus on finding real solutions to these problems". This won't be done by ignoring evidence that neonicotinoid pesticides are a contributory factor just because other factors are also involved, however much the companies manufacturing these products would like us to do so.
Extortionate interest rates
James Moore ("A Virtuous circle inside a less than virtuous business", 18 September) was spot on when he described the misery that will be caused by this government's policy of changing benefit payments to monthly. If ever there was a case for introducing a new tax, I would suggest taxing excessive profits made by extortionate interest rates, such as those charged by short-term wage-day loans and some store cards. Any rates of more than base plus 17.5 per cent should attract a profits tax.
Drama of greed
I can reassure Ray Black (letter, 19 September) that some people don't fall in with these recent excess charges on theatre tickets. The Millennium Centre, Cardiff is charging £1.50 fee for each ticket purchased. I was told that buying 14 tickets would mean £21 additional cost. The only alternative is to turn up and pay cash. I presume the theatre companies appearing don't share in this extra income. I have refused to buy the tickets.
Kate Middleton has a wonderful opportunity to take the recent ridiculous prurient interest in her anatomy and turn it into an opportunity. She should take the Calendar Girls approach: find a few friends, and have (tasteful) topless photos taken for a calendar, the proceeds to be used to support breast cancer research. That would simultaneously devalue any future voyeurism and benefit a worthy cause in a positive spirit.
David Ross Russell
Wallingford, Connecticut, USA
End of marriage
A marriage comes into existence when it is consummated. How do you propose to define consummation for same-sex "marriages"? If it can't be done then failure to consummate as a ground for annulment must be removed. If that happens marriage will not be redefined and extended – it will be abolished.
S P Rouse
Bags of cash
Penny Joseph (letter, 18 September) brings reality to your "Ten best designer handbags" feature. Perhaps it's time for "The ten best examples of obscene affluence"?
Walsham le Willows, Suffolk
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