UK Riots: Politically correct policing has got to stop

Public servants, responsible for maintaining peace and civility, have become disconnected from the reality around them, says Professor Tom Gallagher

Sir Hugh Orde: 'the British model [of policing] is probably top'
Tom Gallagher
On 15 August 2011 10:09

It is appropriate that it is the head of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Sir Hugh Orde, who has been quick to seize credit from elected politicians for the way that successive nights of rioting across England were handled by police forces.

ACPO is a police quango which upholds the caste interest of the bureaucrats whose priorities have increasingly defined British policing. It could be viewed as a 21st century praetorian guard: it can freeze out its nominal elected civilian leaders and stamp its feet in fury at any prospect that the voters who pay for the police through their taxes might by their votes elect chief constables.

The extraordinary passivity shown by much of the police during most of the period of mob violence reveals the extent to which many of those in charge have become disengaged from individual citizens whose safety was once thought to be their chief priority.      

The craven scenes when police stood by because their orders did not include provisions for apprehending rioters and arsonists destroying livelihoods and looting shops, has not  proven to be an opportunity for self-reflection.

In an interview with Sir Hugh Orde, published on Sunday, there was undisguised disparagement for the politicians’ role during the riots and self-congratulation for the police. American police chiefs, however successful in transforming worse disorder, had no place even as advisers in Britain which was firmly wedded to European norms. Overall, he claimed that the British model of policing was a global exemplar.

There has been no trace of humility in Sir Hugh’s public statements about a disastrous episode in policing that has surely made Britain a laughing stock across the entire world. 

Nor has he, nor indeed many other police chiefs, empathised with countless citizens who faced terrifying ordeals in recent days. This was left to MPs like Labour’s Malcolm Wickes and The Conservative Nick de Bois who expressed incredulity about the police performance when hordes of people intent on violence and destruction poured into their outer London constituencies.

ACPO’s chief is still very much in contention to be the next head of London’s Metropolitan Police. He does not rely on gaining public legitimacy but instead on stacking up influential support among the disaffected members of the bourgeoisie who have risen to power by spearheading a cultural revolution that accelerated during the New Labour years in power and has far from lost momentum.   

Society has been re-engineered to emphasise group rights over individual liberties. The concepts of diversity and equality have shaped job creation in the state sector. Multiculturalism has become an ideology that shapes public policy down to the lowliest branch office of local government in a political experiment that has no counterpart in Britain’s long history.

It is the gatekeepers of multi-culturalism in the quangos and agencies which make up the vast para state who Sir Hugh will need to satisfy if he is to secure the prize of London’s police chief and stay in his job longer than those who have recently held it. 

Perhaps it is understandable that police officers have accepted the new ideological dispensation and that there is no visible debate about how the Queen’s peace should be upheld. After all, the rise of a force often run by politicised  officers, happy, it seems, to preside over a vast bureaucracy, has coincided with graduate entry, where high-ranking police men and women were required to have a university education.

Life experience ceased to be a relevant factor. Calls for the integration into the police force of military officers leaving a down-sized military, are likely to be snuffed out in bureaucratic power struggles. Instead, many top officers who have done courses in law and criminology will continue to have their outlook moulded by the oppositional culture of most British universities where contestation and struggle are seen as the only feasible ways for society to progress. 

In an article here last week, Charles Crawford quoted  the words of Harold Pinter, the Pope of the British counter-culture until his death in 2008 upon receiving the 2005 Nobel prize for Literature: ‘there are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false’.

Sir Hugh Orde’s unruffled statement about a nihilistic rampage -- which may well prove as damaging to Britain’s standing in the world as the loss of Singapore to the Japanese in 1942 -- shows how disconnected public servants responsible for maintaining peace and civility have become from the reality around them. They accurately reflect the postmodern world constructed across academia based on a lack of engagement and pessimism about human accomplishments.

It is not surprising that Britain has become the crime capital of the advanced West given the ideological turn policing has taken and that politically powerful law firms and advocacy bodies use the media as well as the law to champion the rights of the offender.  

For some years, there has been a widespread perception that whatever the statistics are made to say, crime involving un-premeditated assaults and robberies has overtaken other countries such as the supposedly lawless USA. The penalties for a victim or helper intervening can also be draconian whether administered by the outraged assailant or the politically correct bench.

It remains to be seen if the march through the state institutions of the centurions of political correctness will continue unabated. Or if the worm has finally turned and ordinary citizens and some more liberals, mugged by reality during the recent August nights, will demand enough is enough.

As a Scot who is an unabashed Anglophile, I am not very optimistic because one of the most abiding traits of the English is their complacency and readiness to endure social behaviour and state responses which many of their neighbours would quickly find intolerable.

David Cameron and Iain Duncan-Smith are now making positive statements about the need to reclaim all parts of British cities from the forces of uncivility and chaos. A will of iron will be needed to face down well-placed people in the media, the top echelons of the civil service, higher education, and the legal profession who desire little or nothing to change.      

Tom Gallagher is Emeritus Professor of Politics at Bradford University and is researching a book on why Britain’s ability to avoid the internal conflicts which have marked continental Europe is disappearing.

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