Thursday, 21 January 2010

Useful coppers

Reading about Leah's whole-hearted support for the police reminded me that I support the police pretty strongly myself, a view people might not expect from a fervent socialist.

Well, socialist I may be, but I also believe that if we don't let the police deal firmly with crime and anti-social behaviour, we would quickly decline into an anarchist, anything-goes nightmare.

In the sixties when it was very fashionable among the young to criticise not just police excesses but the police themselves, I can remember me and my friends cheerfully screaming "Pigs, pigs" every time we passed a copper, and thinking we were being deliciously rebellious and right-on.

As the years rolled by, however, I came to realise that there are an awful lot of vicious, heartless, ruthless people out there who need to be kept under control not just to protect everyone else but to protect them from their own self-destructiveness. If the police don't do it, who will?

I'd be the first to admit that the police often make big mistakes and go wildly over the top in their actions. There's a long list of people who've been wrongly arrested, secretly beaten, jumped on for utterly trivial offences, or fitted up. That sort of behaviour seriously discredits the police and needs to be stopped.

But the fact remains that most of the time police are doing an absolutely essential job in keeping criminals in check and enabling the rest of us to feel safer and less vulnerable.

I would like to ask anyone who really thinks the police are unnecessary or useless - what would you put in their place? Vigilantes? Paramilitaries? Private security forces? Lynch mobs? Whatever the alternative, it would be a lot less pleasant than a few bent coppers who get carried away and forget their professional ethics. It would be rough justice indeed.

27 comments:

kylie said...

ah yes! there are some power drunk cops but most are good people doing a thankless job.
my husband hates the police because of some perceived injustice and i always wondered why he would target the group for the actions of one.
these days i realise that his life is full of people who are out to get him, the amount of effort "they" make on his behalf is stunning

Nick said...

Kylie - Indeed, why blame the whole group for one maverick?

"The amount of effort they make on his behalf is stunning". I like it!

tattytiara said...

I'm glad the police are generally respected, but I am also glad that people rebel against the practice of respecting the uniform blindly. I was going to say that police have to earn respect like anybody else, but actually no. Police have to do more to earn respect than everybody else. With power comes responsibility.

Wisewebwoman said...

I've got nothing but praise for the police force, Nick. I've never had a bad encounter and that includes back in the day when I was stopped for drunk driving. I know, I know, hard to believe, saintly old me.

I was stopped a few days ago for weaving all over the road (sober)digging in purse for might-have-forgotten-wallet and I was stopped because he thought I was drunk (it was morning, he told me I'd be shocked at how many are stopped in the morning for being drunk) and then he helped me find my wallet AND just admonished me to not multi-task when driving.

XO
WWW

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I was a 60's rebel, too, but I agree that we really need the police and firefighters. Most of them are heroes who do very dangerous work that the rest of us wouldn't dream of doing. There are a few bad people in every line of work, but that's no reason to replace them all with vigilantes or any other kind of frontier "justice."

Nick said...

Tattytiara - Agreed, blind respect is mistaken. There will always be bad apples that need to be rooted out before they spoil other people's good work.

www - I'm glad your encounters have always been positive. I've hardly ever needed the police personally so I can only judge them by their general behaviour.

Heart - Indeed, other kinds of law enforcement are fraught with problems much worse than a few misbehaving cops.

conortje said...

I often feel sorry for the police. It's a really tough job with very little gratitude from the public -a nd as you said quite necessary.

Nick said...

Conor - It's a very tough job. Would I or anyone I know willingly risk violence and mayhem on a daily basis? I think not.

Kate said...

As a raging Hippy in the late 60's - I was never on the wrong side of the police - they viewed me as a flower power nutter I think but if I needed help from them I always got it.

Same thing now I suppose although the Hippy look isn't quite as extreme... after all they are only human beings like me! And I am quite law abiding!

Nick said...

Kate - At the end of the day, yes, they're just human beings. Most of them trying to do their jobs conscientiously, a handful bending all the rules. Just like the rest of us! I wasn't quite a flower power nutter but I knew plenty who were!

Leah said...

Nick, I kept coming back and reading and trying to come up with a comment, but I couldn't. I really liked the post, though. I have very personal reasons for feeling as strongly about the police as I do, though I can't disclose (don't mean to sound mysterious).

Anyway, great post, great comments.

Lame, I know. Just wanted you to know I'd read.

xo

Nick said...

Leah - I think I know what those personal reasons are. Thanks for the thumbs up.

Liz said...

I agree. I'm sure most are decent and upright.

Baino said...

It's like any public service, a few bad eggs tend to see all tarred with the same brush. We've had the police out here on occasion, especially when we light fires but it's good that they're being vigilant and asking for our permit. All ends well. It's one of those jobs, much like the Military, I don't want to do it but I'm very appreciative of those who do.

Los Angelista said...

Lots of law enforcement peeps in my family and even they hate some other cops. The bad ones that do tons of racial profiling and beat people for no reason. But so many are good and really do want to serve.

Nick said...

Liz - I think so, despite the huge media coverage that always attends any abuse of police power.

Baino - Yes, you might think they're too officious sometimes, but at least they're maintaining public order.

LA Liz - However carefully you screen new officers, there will always be some who think beating up a suspect is a good idea. But they're still the exceptions.

Rummuser said...

Nick, you well know that we have some crazy cops in our society. I have written about them. One of my close friends is a senior police official from who I hear some stories which never make to the media because they are not news worthy and show the humane side of the police. I have had a personal experience of police high handedness and was locked up for a few hours till my lawyer bailed me out. Other than that one aberration, I have had many occasions when the police have been very helpful including allowing me to sleep overnight in a police station in a town without a hotel or inn or anything. No, I would not like to live in a society without policemen.

Nick said...

Ramana - They allowed you to sleep in the police station? That's amazing, it certainly wouldn't happen here. I think that's true, many more humane stories never get heard because they aren't sensational enough. So we get a somewhat biased picture.

Megan said...

I worry for them. It must be a constant battle - to keep thinking well of people, when they are constantly exposed to the worst in people.

I could never do it.

Nick said...

Megan - Good point. When they're confronted daily with human nastiness, they can easily get cynical about everyone. They must suspect us all of criminal tendencies, however minor.

Leah said...

Megan's point is excellent and all too true.

However, this may sound sappy but it's also true--they're occasionally exposed to the very best in human behavior, bravery and goodness, when people help each other and come together in response to extreme situations (stuff that civilians rarely get a chance to see) and that is all the more meaningful to cops--those small encounters often stand out as being the most important ones.

Nick said...

Leah - I hadn't thought of that, witnessing how people can come together in a very positive way. That must be very inspiring in contrast to the more horrendous behaviour they come across.

Shelly Rayedeane said...

A very interesting read. I don't so much know about anti-social behavior being illegal but I do believe in justice and putting people away who do wrong to others. There are so many ways to collect evidence against the bad guys.

And when an idiot continually files false police reports, they are bound to go to jail eventually. I do believe most cops are at the job to do a good job.

It is the other political bullshit which goes on which makes their job difficult.

Nick said...

Shelly - I also think most cops try to do their jobs conscientiously. How do you mean political bullshit? You mean politicians passing misguided laws that just tie the police's hands?

Shelly Rayedeane said...

Yes Nick. That is what I meant. I always hear people blaming police officers for not doing their jobs when crooks are on the streets. However, there is no truth in this viewpoint if a police officer puts a person in jail, and due to overcrowding, the crook gets out again.

I used to work for the police department. Often times police officers are unjustly criticized.

Shelly Rayedeane said...

However, we are getting pretty strict with laws regarding foreigners. It seems people can sneeze wrong nowadays and still get deported.

Nick said...

Shelly - Prisoners are often released early in the UK too, not just because of overcrowding but because of good behaviour, automatic remission etc and there's continuing concern about it.

Deportations don't happen that easily here, but what bothers me is when people are deported back to countries where they're still at risk of torture, rape or death.