Pages

22/02/2011

Born, Bred or just plain Bad?


Some years ago there was a man who lived alone in part of a city. It had been decided that he had 'mental health' issues, but was capable of living in society. He clearly wasn't a threat to others - it was the others who were a threat to him. His name was James.

Most crime is committed by members of the underclass against members of the underclass. An alternate reality exists in the sprawling estates, a world occupied by the weakest and most vulnerable, a world a long way from the opinion formers and pressure groups, a world that exists in the darkness of our nightmares. No-one represents the people of this world, and very few care.

James had a flat that was taken over by the crack dealers. Users came there to buy a few rocks then crash on the floorboards while the drug took hold. The dealers sent their runners to keep up the supply, meeting the users with their armfulls of stolen loot, looking to exchange electrical goods and cash for drugs.

James lived in the midst of this, a blurring reality tempered by his medication, his weekly visit to the chemist his only meaningful direction in life.

Until they decided to rob him.

James had a cashcard. He was never given money directly, he wasn't trusted not to lose it or give it away, so his money was paid into a bank account.

James didn't give up his PIN the first time. They had to come back again, and handcuff him to the radiator to administer his beating. He gave it up then. They never came back. James was left cuffed to the radiator in his front room. Some crack users came and went, looking for the dealers. The dealers didn't come back - the turf was tainted. Gradually less and less people went through James' flat. By the time the last few passed by, James was dead.

Not one person helped James. Not one.

Because society doesn't have to. Does James have a voice or any influence? No. Do his problems come to our door? No. Don't we have enough to do? After all.

February 1981


Early on the morning of 11th February 1981, a cleaner at work in St Mary's church, in Thorpe, Surrey, was surprised to find a smartly dressed woman kneeling in a pew. Not wishing to disturb her, the cleaner went about her work quietly until, sometime later, she realised the woman hadn't moved. She told the vicar, who called an ambulance. A closer inspection found that the woman was dead. She had no identification, was not known locally and her identity - as well as the cause of death - remained unknown.

(FT39:24)

07/02/2011

Multiculturalism and Race


The Prime Minister has recently made a speech about multiculturalism. This has been covered in depth in many other places. The policing of ethnic minorities and racial bias has been the obsession of the higher ranks of the police service for many years. They have got it wrong in so many ways.

Many point to a lack of integration from certain minority groups. Integration into what? What is Englishness? Are we expecting Muslims to join us in a weekend binge drinking session followed by a good old fight? Do we want them to attend the Anglican churches most of us don't? Are they expected to swear allegiance to the Queen when some of us claim republican views?

Look at who does the poorest paid work in this country - the cleaners, the binmen, the factory workers. It's the most recent immigrant groups. Are they taking jobs from the 'indiginous population' or are they merely doing something others refuse to do?

Of course we should be targeting ideological extremism in all its forms, from Islamist suicide bombers, to far-right and far-left thugs. All represent a danger to the state. If they are not targeted, they will spread fear and undermine democracy. This is not limited to a certain religious or ethnic group, and cannot be solved by deportation or tighter border controls.

The control of society by the middle and upper classes has survived through racism. Everyone likes to feel superior to someone else. We need someone to blame for our situation. The ruling classes avoid the hostility of the working classes by causing them to turn in on themselves. The newest immigrants live in the poorest areas, and have little if any financial power. Their presence is met with hostility by some, using them as the scapegoats for perceived wrongs. The far right prosper in these situations, with the left having abandoned the working class. The left have become the middle-class radicals, more concerned with having their children's degree courses paid for than the plight of the working class.

Where do the police fit into this picture? The majority of police officers are working class. The majority of the people we actively police are working class. People at the fringes of society are significantly more likely to be both the victims and perpetrators of crime. Recent immigrants fall into this trap. They become part of the dispossessed, with some taking part in crime. This is significant - they are viewed not merely as criminals, but as foreign criminals. Others taking part in crime therefore have someone else they can feel superior to, and the cycle of racism continues. The press enjoy a story of someone from another country who is convicted of a crime but cannot be deported due to human rights concerns. This works the other way as well. A murdered immigrant does not get the same press coverage as an attractive white woman.

The vast majority of police officers police their communities without prejudice. This was not the case in the past, but I believe it is now. A new breed of officers have emerged, ones who have been brought up in a world where racism is not acceptable, and have taken on those values. Our senior officers refuse to accept this however. We are told that racism remains, and that anything is racist when someone says it is, despite any evidence to the contrary. The waters become so muddied that the truth is lost. This is the legacy of Ian Blair.

I was sent on a course about two years ago. This was for supervisors who complete Personal Development Reviews (appraisals) of their officers. This document is around 25 pages long, and is completed twice a year. I was instructed that a new form would be introduced - a totally separate diversity PDR. This would mean that each officer would be expected to hit 25 separate targets, and provide evidence that they had done so, all around the area of respecting diversity. If an officer did not hit every point, they would be shown as failing in the area of diversity. This would mean re-training, no promotion, and no lateral career development. You would be tarred a racist basically.

One of the points they had to hit was challenging and reporting unacceptable behaviour by a colleague. You also had to show evidence of supporting another colleague who did the same. Therefore, for every officer in the Met Police to pass this new PDR, each would have to identify and report potentially racist behaviour by another officer. This would require 35,000 incidents. This would mean that they would each be reporting each other, and supporting each other to report each other to pass this PDR. This has not seen the light of day since Blair left.

Multiculturalism is a wonderful thing. It IS Englishness. It always has been through history. Extremism in all forms is the enemy of Englishness. That is what makes this country. Class is the issue - when the working class recognise this, and someone represents their interests properly, racism will decline.

The police should work with all communities - protect the vulnerable and target the criminal. As simple as that.

02/02/2011

In Fear of the Fear of Crime


The news of a new website where the public can access crime statistics has provoked debate. Mainly that it doesn't work. It appears that you will be able to enter your postcode and discover the number of crimes reported in your street and area. Is this an important tool in a free country, or does it merely increase the fear of crime?

Firstly, statistics gathered by the police are not a true reflection of the crime that takes place. Crime is recorded once reported to police, or discovered by police. Many crimes take place, particularly in deprived areas, that do not come to the attention of the police. This is for a number of reasons: Distrust of the police, fear of retribution, or a feeling that it's simply not worth it. Some people exist in worlds where abuse and suffering become almost a way of life. Other people come from countries where it is simply not a usual course of events to seek help from the police.

Any data is only as reliable as the person inputting it. The police work under the Home Office Counting Rules, which dictate how an incident is recorded, and what it is recorded as. This is a complex area. How the Home Office define a crime may not agree with the views of the general public.

The first argument against the reliability of the data on the new website is that it is simply not a reliable reflection of crime in your area. There is no way that I can think of to accurately portray reality.

You may examine the data for your street, and discover an apparent crime wave. This does not mean that you should feel more at risk. Every crime is unique - Was the household down the road targeted, or was in an opportunist burglary through a window left open? What about the burglary two doors down? Was this the same, or was it an elderly occupier targeted by people pretending to be from the waterboard? If you keep your house secure, and are not elderly, you are not very likely to be targeted by the burglars in your street. The whole problem is, the new website will not give you this level of detail.

Issues of privacy come in here. Do you want your neighbours knowing that you've had criminals trick their way into your house? Even if it makes your neighbours feel more secure? Do the public have a right to know that the woman at number 30 is the victim of repeated domestic violence? Could this lead to vigilante action against her husband? Or do we need to know this in case the husband decides to attack us in the street?

I feel that the new statistics are worthless. If anything, they may increase fear of crime because the reader is not told the full facts. It is a matter of balancing fear of crime against privacy for victims of crime - a balancing act that cannot be done with any measure of validity.

WWD Radio Exclusive - Sebastian in Cairo


"Good morning. Some of you may remember Sebastian, the young man who is a member of the Guildford Revolutionary Students Movement. He took part in our recent debate on student protests on this station. Sebastian joins us now on the phone. Sebastian, where are you?"

"I'm in Cairo! Cairo Tunisia!"

"Sebastian, Cairo is in Egypt."

"No borders! I've just managed to get a cab and I'm heading downtown to join with my ethnic comrades!"

"Sebastian, the Foreign Office has advised against all non-essential travel to the region. How did you get there?"

"Father has business interests in the Middle East, so we chartered a plane. The crew were from Egypt. I spent the flight learning useful phrases on my I-Pad. The steward was telling me how his brother and father were taken by the secret police and have never been heard of since. He was in tears. I felt his pain - I told him how Justin and I had been asked for ID in Guildford Weatherspoons, then moved on from the no-drinking area by the British police. I felt the connection between us as he hit me over the head with his shoe!"

"Sebastian, tell us what you see now."

"I'm in a taxi. There's lots of people running around with flags. I've got my Guildford Socialist Workers Party flag wrapped around my shoulders. The driver is looking at me in the mirror. I can see the bonding! I'll try and talk to him: 'Ich bin ein Guildforder!' Yes! Yes! He's still staring!"

"Can you see any police or army in the area?"

"The police here have had their Millbank moment. They've all left the streets to the people. It is because of the bravery of British students that the Arab people have risen up! They have been inspired! I can see that the fear of tuition fees being abolished has sent shock waves across the globe! This is only the beginning!"

"Sebastian, are you serious?"

"The Tunisian Police have fled the streets of Cairo! The people have been saved from kettling! We are one world now! The revolutionary left is rising all across Asia! That is why I am here! To show solidarity. I'm getting out now! The driver has supported the cause by taking all my imperialist American dollars. He will be burning $500 to feed his family tonight!"

"Are you in the centre of the city? Describe to our listeners what is happening now."

"I'm outside some kind of government building. There are millions of people here. It's the 9th December in London all over again! I've just spray painted a cock on a mosque! The crowd are chanting and waving their fists at the building!"

"What are they saying? Are they demanding the president leaves office?"

"I'm holding up my I-Phone - I've got the translation App open. Yes! They have a new leader! They are chanting his name over and over again!"

"Are you sure? None of the news sources here make any mention of that. This is an exclusive listeners!"

"Yes! I'm with you! MUBARAK! MUBARAK! MUBARAK! They hear me! The crowd are turning towards me! Yes my comrades! The Guildford Revolutionary Student Front is here! Join with us! NO IFS NO BUTS NO EDUCATION CUTS!"

"Mubarak? Sebastian I think you may be mistaken!"

"The revolutionary left are never mistaken. This is the future! The crowd is surging towards me! They see I am a leader of a leaderless organisation! We are running! I'm at the head of the crowd! Missiles are flying past my head! They must have seen police! I've fallen.....Wait! No! This is what the Tories want! Don't!"

"Sebastian? Are you okay?"

"They must have undercover police here, copying the London police! They might rape me! Get hold of James and tell him Code Red!"

Line goes dead.

"And now, over to the traffic with Will."

01/02/2011

Nick Cohen

I am a big fan of the Guardian columnist Nick Cohen. This article is spot on.

His book is excellent.