22 April 2009

Above Their Stations

There are two groups of public servants in the headlines at the moment: members of parliament and the police. Worthy as these two groups are (at least in principle) neither is in the limelight for worthy reasons.


I have great respect for the police. I think they do a difficult job, for the most part very well. As custodians of the law, they keep our society relatively safe from those who see no value in the common good, as far as their limited resources allow. However, the recent G20 summit saw police behaviour on the streets that would be totally unacceptable were it perpetrated by an ordinary member of the public. I am talking, of course, about the assault on and subsequent death of Mr Tomlinson. We have all seen the video recordings of this man, whilst trying to make his way home, and unassociated with any demonstration, being brutally pushed to the ground for no apparent reason.

I would not wish to pre-judge the outcome of the independent enquiry that is being conducted (after all, a third post-mortem is being done in an attempt finally to establish cause of death) but what could have provoked such a vicious attack? We have no idea what verbal interchange may have taken place between the police and Mr Tomlinson but, even had he launched the most heinous torrent of verbal abuse at the thin blue line, would it have warranted being struck down so? I think not; being arrested for behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace and later being let off with an unofficial warning may have been a more measured response...

No reasonable person would say that policing events such as the G20 demonstrations is easy: the police have to second-guess everything, and have to be ready for the worst even though it may not happen. Having riot police waiting in vans around the corner is a reasonable contingency, not evidence of police brutality. Unreasonable and unnecessary use of force, as appears to have been the case in this incident, is nothing but thuggery and totally unacceptable in my view, even taking into account the heightened tension of such events; our police have been trained to deal with these things, after all.

I have no problem with the police using force when necessary but it should be in the terms prescribed for them: reasonable and in proportion; preferably in response to a situation getting out of hand, or possibly even beginning to get out of hand, but not pre-emptively unless there is clear intelligence of intended mischief and for the protection of the public of whom the police are servants.

If MI5 is reading this and marking my card, there is no need. As I said, I am not anti-police. I merely think that, as guardians of society, their behaviour should project a good image of the kind of society we want to live in.

As usual, the sterling efforts of the many are negated by the bad behaviour of the few. Bear that in mind. The majority of our police are doing a great job: I would not want to live in our society without them.


All I have to say about this crew is that we do not elect them to abuse our trust. They get paid well in reflection of the great responsibility they carry. No reasonable person would deny them reasonable expenses but we are extremely peeved, to say the least, when we hear about them taking advantage by claiming salaries for family members who do nothing or for porn film rentals. It is, quite simply, unacceptable.

Any who set out to abuse the system are not worthy of public office and should be sacked, and possibly even prosecuted, as I might be were I caught fiddling my expenses at work. After all, benefit fraudsters are (rightly) being pursued and prosecuted. If Members of Parliament pass off some private scam as a legitimate expense and make us tax payers foot the bill, is that not fraud? Why should they be immune from the law?

Come on, you politicians, what kind of society do you want to live in? You should be squeaky-clean in your use of public funds.

Yet again, the sterling efforts of the many are negated by the bad behaviour of the few. It is in the interests of those who are doing a good job to be seen to be circumspect in all they do and to rid our noble House of any who use their high office for ill-gotten gains.