Partygate and a long litany of ugly incidents – can we trust the police anymore?

Just a few ‘bad apples’ can do an extraordinary amount of damage if they are tolerated

James Moore
Sunday 22 May 2022 14:30
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<p>With just a lone exception, the PM gets a pass for attending lockdown parties </p>

With just a lone exception, the PM gets a pass for attending lockdown parties

Here’s what struck me when the Met Police decided Boris Johnson was off the hook but sundry other boozers, ravers and party animals in the No 10 nightclub were getting fined for their lockdown lash-ups.

I’d feel pretty sore if I were a Black kid in a hoodie. Furious in fact. Justifiably so. There is nothing on the statute books saying that it is illegal to be young and Black in Britain. Nor is wearing a hoodie an aggravating factor to that non-crime. But in many parts of urban Britain, the plod appears to believe that it is. And woe betide those who have a joint on them.

Sure, possession of cannabis is on the statute books as a criminal offence, but compare and contrast. That small object – not uncommonly found on the persons of young Britons regardless of skin colour – may get the Black recipient of a stop and search shoved roughly into a van with their hands cuffed tightly, before later getting dragged before the magistrates.

Just last month a couple of innocent black teenagers found themselves handcuffed for the crime of… running in Walthamstow. One of the officers involved said they had been detained under the misuse of drugs act. Except that they didn’t have any drugs on them. A local police sergeant subsequently said he saw nothing wrong with the interaction. Come again?

Meanwhile, getting rat-arsed on repeated occasions, when a pandemic was actually killing people and booze-ups were quite rightly illegal? With just a lone exception, the PM gets a pass for attending and Tory tabloids scream blue murder over the fact that there was even an investigation. Apparently, civil servants, some of whom did get fined, are furious.

There was another example, courtesy of the taking and sharing of pictures of two black murder victims – Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman – by ex-coppers Deniz Jaffer and Jamie Lewis, who were supposed to be guarding the crime scene. They were ultimately jailed.

More double standards came to light in the way the Sarah Everard vigil in Clapham Common was policed in March 2021. It was outside. The organisers tried to do the right thing and ensure it was stewarded and socially distanced. Even when official permission was denied, those who turned up mostly attempted to stay apart and wore masks. The Met piled in all the same. The picture of Pasty Stevenson restrained on the ground by officers in hi-vis jackets became memorable. It still makes me shudder. Sarah Everard was murdered by a (now former) copper.

Shall we go on? How about the way cases of sexual assault are still handled, which is regularly criticised and with good reason? Trust has to be earned. Has it been?

I’m disabled. I once described an abusive incident (they’re not at all uncommon) I experienced by a member of the public to a lawyer who said I should have reported it. It was, they said, a hate crime. I laughed. I’m a white male, so it’s mostly “mind how you go” for me, but even I didn’t feel I could trust the police to take people abusing me in the street seriously. God knows what it’s like for those who aren’t.

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You have these incidents, you have the double standards, you have what looks like the police bowing before power. Boris Johnson has been described as a vampire, feeding on the reputations of anyone who gets close to him. No one emerges unscathed.

Where does it all leave the idea of “policing by consent”?

In many countries the police are best avoided. The Foreign Office’s travel advice will sometimes tell you to steer clear in places where they exist to protect the leader and their mates, their clients, and other powerful individuals.

Bad apples? We keep hearing that don’t we? Except, bad apples can do an extraordinary amount of damage if they’re tolerated. The acting head of the Met has also admitted that cultural problems in the force go beyond just “bad apples”

Partygate, the politicisation of the police, that admission after a string of ugly incidents. Can we trust the police?

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