If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Is it me ...

... or are policemen getting more violent these days?

About a month ago I wrote a post on what can only be described and a nasty, unprovoked and unbelievably disproportionate attack by members of the constabulary on an old guy driving his Range Rover home along a country lane. Now we have this:

It is worth remembering that the slight female figure who is the subject of this appalling treatment is 59 years old, and was arrested for failing to supply a sample for a breath test (a charge which was later dropped and I am not surprised, seeing as she was asleep in a parked car on a country lane when apprehended). Was she lippy or awkward? We don't know, but even if she was there was no justification for the violence of her treatment.

I have some sympathy with Inspector Gadget, who posts in support of the officer in question. No doubt the man had had his fill of gobby chavs who 'know their rights, innit' spitting in his face and getting let off with a slapped wrist by some indulgent judge. No doubt the role of Custody Sergeant is a difficult and wearing one, and a long way from the Dixon of Dock Green image that many people still carry around. Perhaps the guy just reached the end of his tether and lost it. But, while that might be an explanation, it isn't an excuse.

If the victim had been a Burberry-clad teenager, full of smug arrogance and spitting at authority, I doubt if there would have been much of an outcry beyond the usual Left Liberal circles. Most people would probably have given a silent cheer. But this was a slim and (can I say this?) rather frail-looking woman, one year away from her old-age pension, whose crime (if such it was) was in failing to follow a routine procedure rather than one of lavish violence.

Are the police getting out of control? It's not as if this kind of thing is an isolated incident, or just a 'bad apple' any more. There's Robert Whatley, having his car smashed up before his eyes (indeed, with him in it) for failing to wear a seat belt. There's poor old Ian Tomlinson, no threat to anyone, who was walking away from a demonstration that he had no part in, was smacked from behind by a burly officer and died a few minutes later - an officer who, in spite of clear video footage, has walked free due to 'lack of evidence'.

It's getting frightening. It's not the violence. I'm not squeamish; I understand very well that "We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."* It's the fact that these things have all happened, not in some dark alleyway or behind a closed door in a police station - they have been carried out in full view of cameras that the police knew were there. They knew their actions were being recorded, and they went ahead and did it anyway. That's scary.

And, of course, the victims were all harmless people who were not showing any aggression or resisting arrest. Soft targets.

* Orwell or Churchill: take your pick. Wiki.

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