Wednesday, 10 August 2011

On the police

Who was telling the police to hang back? In TV interviews in Hackney, for example, a man said that his chemist shop was looted and he was threatened by rioters with sticks, meanwhile the police were watching from a few feet away. In Tottenham the looters were left to get on with it with minimal police prescence all through the night. There were more examples, but this is a blog not a newspaper report & I'm too lazy to find them.

Danny Baker on Twitter suggested that this was a political tactic to create fear and encourage a swing further to the right (because the swing to the right so far has been working out so well for everyone?)

I'm just interested. I'm not being negative, I feel for the police. I'm less ignorant and black- and-white than when I was younger & thought they were all fascist instruments of the state etc etc. They're just (usually working class) people getting on with their job.

They can be corrupt and racist and not think for themselves, yes, but I know a bit more about the poisoned chalice of working as a public servant these days. You are doing a shitty job that no one else wants to do, yet everyone thinks they know better, and you can't win whatever you do.

And who do we go to when we're in trouble and need help? Who had to face down people throwing petrol bombs at them? Who breaks up the fights, faces the real criminals with guns and deals with horrors like the aftermath of kids who've been murdered by their parents? When that girl is Australia recently had a bomb strapped to her in an extortion attempt, who sat with her for 10 hours holding her hand until they diffused it? (It was a fake, but they didn't know that at the time.)

I liked this blog from a secondary teacher in Hackney. She questioned her students' negative perceptions of the police. 'When I questioned one child as to when his last interaction with the police was he stopped and thought. “Oh,” he said, “the time they helped me when my bike was stolen.” '

I feel like giving my younger self a slap sometimes for being so ignorant.


  1. The lovely Danny Baker admitted on DID last week that his Dad, a trouble-making Docker, used to come home every week with loads of stuff looted from the Docks. It was the norm for him so he is bound to see right wing conspiracies at every corner.
    The police do a brilliant and virtually impossible job - and so do a lot of politicians.

  2. I've got a lot of respect for police officers (having seen some very low standards of policing in other countries), but still get pretty exasperated with The Police as a monolithic body. Is that fair?

  3. Rog right, if we've learned anything it's that everybody will steal if they think they can get away with it.

    Why do you think they were hanging back then?

    Tim, right. I feel the same about soldiers and the army.

  4. I think the police held back at first because they were worried they'd be overpowered. And footage of riot police getting their heads kicked in would have seriously exacerbated the riots.

  5. Artog, hm. Of course not if they were outnumbered, but the reports filtering back seem to imply it was a tactical decision not to intervene - for example one man interviewed on TV in Tottenham said that tehre were so many police already in the area for a football match that day, so it wasn't like there weren't enough police to cope with the numbers. It seems curious when they were kettling students on legitimate protests not so long ago...

  6. More here: