Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Friday 23 September 2005

Police state Britain: Sir Ian Blair should be sacked. Now.

In yesterday's Telegraph I read an amazing article (but hadn't time to blog about it immediately) about a speech given by Sir Ian Blair at the annual conference of the Police Superintendents' Association, in his capacity as Metropolitan Police Commissioner. In other words, the senior police officer in the country. This is part of what he said:

"One idea is to have some police officers - paid more and with more powers - to impose an interim anti-social behaviour order, for instance, or suspend a driving licence."

"There is something here about making justice more immediately apparent, not only to the offender but also to the society that the offender is irritating."

"In the same way that we've developed officers with lesser powers, maybe we should develop officers with more powers so they can instantly do things," Sir Ian added. "Instead of saying to a driver, 'We will report you for proceedings to be considered by a court' we say, 'Sorry, your driving licence is now gone and in 14 days it will come up before the court'."

- just recall for a moment that in London very recently we had the case of such summary justice in action. A Brazilian gentleman, whatever his immigration status may have been (and I think this is irrelevant here), was shot dead because, well the charitable explanation is that it was an unfortunate case of mistaken identity. Or because of his milky coffee complexion. Take your pick.

But the best bit of what Sir Ian Blair said was this piece of impertinence; he conceded that such powers should be dispensed with care:

"and without turning the place into a police state, which would be unfortunate".

- note that last word "unfortunate". Who does this man think he is? (*) It would quite simply be a disaster and a betrayal, by him and people like him, of all that this country stands for. And in any case, if some of the actions already carried out and the policies he advocates now are not already precisely what a 'police state' is all about, then they are a pretty good simulacrum.

Luckily there are some senior police officers who have not completely lost touch with reality by forgetting that this country remains, just, a democracy. In the words of Rick Naylor, president of the Police Superintendents' Association:

"We police with consent and part of that is because the public see us as being approachable. If the public fear us more because of increased powers that approachability will be damaged."

Oh, and just to round off this tale of incipient fascism at the heart of the British police, read this salutary account reprinted in the Guardian of the experiences of another recent London tube traveller:

'This Reuters story was written while the police were detaining me in Southwark tube station and the bomb squad was checking my rucksack. When they were through, the two explosive specialists walked out of the tube station smiling and commenting: "Nice laptop." The officers offered apologies on behalf of the Metropolitan police. Then they arrested me.' ...

- if you haven't already done so, I recommend you click here to read the whole story. (thru Europhobia)

You know, some people think you have to take drastic measures in drastic situations. I might be tempted to agree, in some circumstances, but it seems to me that Sir Ian Blair (and his namesake Tony Blair, together with other members of this government, notably Charles Clarke and David Blunkett amongst the more senior ministers) have quite lost touch with what it is we should be trying to protect - our democratic institutions. If we lose the protections they afford, then the terrorists will have won.

Sir Ian Blair must be dismissed. His replacement should be someone who understands better what the role of the police is in British society, and it is not to be like Sir Ian Blair, an increasingly out of control power-crazed lunatic.

(*) The final part of this paragraph has been appended as a post-publication addendum.

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