Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Police, Riots and Moral Collapse

There has been much said and discussed about the riots, and I haven't got much more to say really. Without doubt the riots represent a wider social problem that we are all a part of. Greed, selfishness, a desire to put 'me' first. I was talking to Tom yesterday and we reflected on that saying 'well as long as your happy...'. Sometimes parents say it to you, sometimes friends. And it is a ridiculous thing to say, and an example of the moral collapse, personal shortsightedness and selfish, ambitious desire that society bathes in.
'I slept with six woman this week and didn't use a condom.' Well as long as your happy.
'I burnt down a shop and stole 10 laptops.' Well, as long as your happy.
'I got so drunk that I ended up in a fight.' Well as long as your happy.

'I make money by exploiting others.' well...
'I use my power through my job to control and manipulate others.' Well...
'I am selfish.' Well...
'I am greedy.' Well...
'I am lazy.' Well...

So we have lost our moral direction because we do not see ourselves accountable to the One we are called to serve, follow, learn from and worship.

What we also have is lots and lots of people saying that strict punishments and tough policing is what we need. People want those involved in the riots to feel the harsh arm of the law. People want strong policing and view those involved in the riots as scum.

We need law and civil order. We need people to be held accountable for their actions. But we don't need knee jerk, moral judgement being made and ridiculous policing and sentencing.

Our police services (not forces, and note the difference) were founded and based on the service and consent model. So police are keepers of the peace working with the community to keep the peace. It is not an authoritarian approach or crime control approach that the US use, but it seems that is what people are asking for. The police are not there to be feared or obeyed, but they are accountable to the public, as the public is to them, that we might work together to make our communities beautiful places to live in. The rioters were wrong, but our calling as a society is for restorative justice not retributive justice. Not only that, but if the police are like a cooperate gang who simply want to charge people for breaking the rules, then we have lost altogether the point and purpose of our police service.

If police use the crime control model then I suspect communities will trust them less. And the less respectful police are to public and suspects, then the less likely people are to comply with the law.

But more and more this seems to be evaporating whereby the police are being given orders to be much more brutal and authoritarian. I saw only the other day on one of these police shows a man in a work van dragged out of his car by four police officers, pinned to the ground and a taser pointed at him. Why? Because he hadn't pulled his work van over at the exact moment he was asked. Did he speed off? No. Did he try and lose the police? No. Was he being threatening? No. Was the van stolen? No. He simply was a few hundred yards from his home and decided to pull up there.

But if society is calling for harsher sentencing and more brutal policing then they have to be prepared to accept that. To accept that you will get a prison sentence for a first time minimal offence. That you will get roughed up by the police, and they are allowed to do it. Because it is no good saying we want harsh sentences for rioters and not for ourselves. One size has to fit all.

So I am concerned by where this is all heading.

But then maybe I'm just paranoid...

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