Consent and respect matter more than numbers

Keystone Cops There has of late been a lot of talk about rising crime, particularly violent crime, with the predictable cries that it’s all due to insufficient police numbers. Now it may well be that the police force is under manned, or possibly that it’s got too many of the wrong people doing the wrong things. However it occurs to me that to a great extent the absolute numbers of police really doesn’t matter. By and large the number of people employed in the police force doesn’t have any direct impact on the amount of crime committed. Much like ticket inspectors don’t stop fare dodges, what they do is catch fare dodgers and the risk of being caught and the repercussions of being caught prevent people fare dodging. So it is with the police, a bobby on the beat might stop someone in the process of committing a crime but generally the police are there to take action after the event. It’s the action they take that causes crimes not to be committed. So to have a deterrent effect the police have to be able to take suitable action and the resultant cost to the ne’er-do-well must be such that crime doesn’t actually pay.

So to be effective a police force needs to be perceived by our would be miscreant as likely to take actions that will result in a greater cost to the miscreant than the potential gain. To this end the police need to be taken seriously and dare I say it be respected. We are ( at least in theory ) policed by consent. The police’s power is dependent on the co-operation of the public as the third principle says:
To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.

I would suggest that to achieve such respect and approval the police need to enforce laws consistently and impartially, indeed as the fifth principle says: “by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws”
Now I’d suggest that some of the police over recent years by their action, inaction and own media portrayal have consistently eroded at least the appearance of being impartial and by ill-conceived public announcements squandered what respect the public had for them. They haven’t been helped of course by the ever-increasing number of jobs worth and busy bodies strutting around in faux police uniforms, and I include PCSO’s in this camp. If you have some jumped up jackanape who looks remarkably like a police officer trying to throw their weight around and making up rules and penalties as they please it erodes respect for the police by association. Mainly because there are now so many bodies that have this enforcement power or that ability to charge penalties that as far as the general public are concerned they’re effectively a single amorphous enforcement blob headed by the constabulary.

The rozzers haven’t helped themselves in this matter, and I’m not entirely blaming the feet on the ground here so much as those that instruct them and represent them. We’ve had riots where the police stood by watching cities burn, rather than defending property but condemning those that were prepared to defend things for themselves. We’ve had rules and laws suspended for some groups due to “cultural sensitivity”, and lower sentences given because of the same “cultural concerns”. We’ve had millions spent to find the child of a pair of media savvy middle class parents that if they’d been working class would have been investigated for neglect, whilst the abuse of thousands of working class was ignored for the sake of “community relationships”. Violence at demonstrations has been prosecuted with an uneven hand, with no visible action taken even against people filmed carrying out violence directly in front of officers. There are repeated boasts from various forces about all the resources they’re dedicating to prosecuting hurty words and upset feelings, whilst telling us they don’t have the resources to tackle theft or crimes against the person.

All of which would be bad enough but then they go and trumpet the success they’re having with getting illegal weapons off the street, by headlining it with a legal antique air pistol, or the contents of someone’s tool box or even a table knife. This doesn’t convey a sense of a zero tolerance approach, so much as a sense of farce and if people are laughing at you then you don’t have their respect. Rainbow coloured patrol cars and twerking at carnivals fun as it might be also really doesn’t help support an image of a serious force, ready to prevent crime and disorder. If you want to have a zero tolerance policy, and tackle “smaller” crimes to create an atmosphere inconducive to crime that’s fine and dandy – but you can’t do so by prioritising such matters over more serious offences and to convey such a message you have to be taken seriously and be respected.

So really it doesn’t matter how many police we employ if the perception is that they’re all seconded from the keystone cops. When the perception is that in the unlikely event they do see you breaking the law they probably won’t do anything about it ( if there’s a risk that it might be culturally insensitive ), and if they do do something then the courts won’t give out a meaningful punishment, and if the courts do hand down a fearsome sentence then don’t worry because the parole board will make sure you don’t actually have to do it. Now you may claim that all of these things are “isolated” instances or are inflated by the media. Well maybe, but the police forces have their own media voices that do nothing to counter such impressions, preferring instead to threaten action against people removing flowers from a fence commemorating a dead burglar whilst the victim of the burglary can’t go home as it wouldn’t be safe. So the flowers will be protected but not a pensioner in their own home. It’s a bad narrative, and it’s a frequently repeated bad narrative. It is sufficient that justice be done but it must also be seen to be done and these days it very rarely is. So call all you like for more clown cops on the street or behind desks, it won’t make much of a dent on the crime figures until you the police are once more a force that is respected and working with the consent and approval of the populace.

As a final note I’d observe that when the police aren’t considered to be up to the job then people will take over the role, and then when they’re prosecuted it can’t help but erode things further. Most people want to leave things to the police and the appropriate authorities but that only works if those authorities are seen to be doing their jobs and protecting the people who have entrusted them with the task.

You can stop the speaker but not the speech

Tommy RobinsonI along with many others spent toddled along to Speakers Corner on a cold snowy Sunday to listen to a speech that if it hadn’t been for the actions of the UK Government probably wouldn’t have got me out of bed. A little while ago a chap called Martin Sellner wanted to come over to the UK to give a speech at Speakers Corner, personally I’d never heard of him but our ever vigilant Government had and decided to detain and deport him to prevent him spreading ideas that could undermine the very foundations of our society. Whilst they were are it, they deported his partner and also prevented a Canadian Journalist from visiting the UK. The latter two for wanting to interview Tommy Robinson and for saying that Allah was gay respectively. This obviously caused a bit of a kerfuffle on the internet and is rather worrying we shouldn’t be banning people just for ideas, let alone for wanting to interview people. As a response to this Mr Robinson announced that he’d toddle down to Speakers Corner himself and deliver the speech on Mr Sellners behalf. Well if the Government doesn’t want me hearing something I want to hear it, our Government apparently hasn’t heard of “the Streisand effect”. More than that though freedom of speech is far too important not to defend, and the people’s whose speech needs defending is those that we disagree with, that the Government doesn’t want us to hear, that anyone says shouldn’t be allowed to speak. So not to support anyone’s politics or beliefs but to support their right to speak and to express those ideas I hauled myself off to Speakers Corner to listen to what was to be said.

I didn’t get there terribly promptly but still slightly before Mr Robinson and there was a fair crowd gathered and waiting in what seemed to be a fairly relaxed and friendly atmosphere. I gather there had been some trouble just before I arrived but I didn’t directly witness anything. Moving towards the crowd I passed what appeared to be a Muslim gentleman calling for all those about him to remain calm and not cause trouble. The police were of course also present in abundance, the crowd was suitably diverse our glorious leaders would be pleased I’m sure that people of a wide variety of ethnic and class backgrounds and a wide variety of ages had all turned up to support the importance of free speech. Despite the dense crowding, especially when Mr Robinsons entourage went passed it was a very polite and British crowd with room being made and assistance given to those that needed to leave or escape the throng. Following some initial excitement and shouting, it was amongst one of the quietest crowds I’ve been in since I was last on pilgrimage to Walsingham. Often the most noise was from people going shush or saying “shut up we want to listen”. Despite that I heard barely a word despite not being too many yards away but it was windy and you’re not allowed to use voice amplification at Speakers Corner. It wasn’t a long speech and Mr Robinson was soon on his way, after which the crowd gradually thinned and dispersed, with very little fuss or disturbance. There was sadly some litter, discarded leaflets and banners left behind but far less than I’ve seen after “green” demos. What aggravation and proclivity towards trouble that I did see seemed to come from those that appeared to be ill-disposed towards Mr Robinson and his supporters and what they consider then to represent if not
towards the matter of the speech. During the heady days of the occupy movement the widely held wisdom was that to identify who wants a fight look to see who’s come prepared to have one, well today at least the masked and aggressive types were not those there to support either free speech or Mr Robinson.

As with all the best protests/demo’s/events things sojourned to a pub, where I got to meet a bevy of new and interesting people and matters of the day were discussed. I suspect that many people will complain that the main stream media won’t give suitable coverage to this event, but realistically this event wasn’t news. There was almost no trouble, the crowd wasn’t massive and there are endless demonstrations in London that also don’t make the news. The only think news worthy from the legacy media’s point of view would be Mr Robinson and other “celebrities” attending but a quiet and reasoned speech being delivered on behalf of someone else isn’t going to interest them that much. That said this was a victory for free speech, a small one but a victory none the less. It was good that so many people turned up to support not Mr Robinson but the principle of free speech – the question though is what next? How can the fight be continued, is this a moment of awakening and the start of action or will we all go back to sleep again until the next time? Will we fight for the right to free speech for everyone, or surrender it to avoid words we don’t want to hear? I hope that we’ll fight and that we’ll win as without the freedom to speak there are no other freedoms and the path of dissent is rapidly reduced to violence.

Great mind bit of a shit

Davros not Stephen Hawking “To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth.” – Voltaire

This is a somewhat tricky post to write, as I have no desire to cause upset to the friends or family of the recently departed. Also one of the problems with critiquing great people is you are open to accusations of jealousy, sour grapes, trying to drag other people down and so forth. However the current sanctification of the late Dr. Hawking within my social circle has been a little grating. Given recent popular movements regarding micro-agressions, believing the victim, #MeToo and so forth I was under the impression that “greatness” was no longer an excuse for treating people badly. As these attitudes are popular amongst much of my social group I thought it worth mentioning that amongst all the hagiographies it might be worth mentioning that he wasn’t necessarily such a great human. Much as we saw with Mr Weinstein, and others, how “everyone knew” and it was “common knowledge” so it was with Dr. Hawking. Way back when I was a lowly Physics undergrad the scuttlebutt at various physics meet up was that his attitudes and behaviour towards women weren’t exactly great. Now of course my saying that is just hearsay and rumour, though I heard it from people who witnessed or experienced it so felt quite comfortable saying that we shouldn’t over look his very human nature. I’m not going to link to anything directly but if your curious you could search on Stephen Hawking misogyny and anti-Semitism.

That is where it got kind of interesting. Suddenly the previously applied standards were suspended, it was to be expected because of the period he grew up in, it was understandable because of his illness, it was forgivable because of his great intellect. The mere suggestion that we could acknowledge his intellect and scientific contributions without ignoring that his past attitudes and behaviour might have been problematic was “vilification” and “turning him into a monster”. On this occasion suddenly there were demands for proof, and not just second-hand reports but on camera instances of his behaviour. So the level of evidence that condemned athletes, actors, some producers, right-wing politicians and other celebrities was no longer sufficient. I’m going to resist the temptation to try to guess why this might be the case, why in this instance we shouldn’t talk honesty about behaviour and call out even the smallest misdemeanour’s. I will ponder that if people are willing to overlook unacceptable behaviour for some people for whatever reason it rather undermines the argument that such behaviour is unacceptable. Of course you can still admire him, you can still think him brilliant or anything else you like, but much as I like my friends whilst acknowledging their flaws we should also acknowledge the flaws of those we look up to and hold them to at least the same standards we apply to those we look down on. I hope that when I die those that know me remember me as I was, big up the tales about me for sure but remember my flaws and don’t excuse them so that those that come after me can do better than I did.

So in memory of Dr Hawking and one of (what I think was) his coolest discoveries I’d like to propose the term “Hawkings Hypocrisy”. A bit like “revealed preference”, Hawkings Hypocrisy is hypocrisy revealed when someone exempts specific individuals from standards they insist on for others.