In nearly all modern societies you can find an ‘us vs. them’ mentality in regards to either politicians or the police. Although not everybody feels this way, the existence of this mindset is definitely there. The main focus today is on the police, a collective people seem to oppose inherently, without really breaking it down. That’s what I want to do, because for all the issues with the police force, especially in the U.K., it must be said that our police aren’t as bad as most and a lot of the issues actually come from people above the regular officers. The everyday British police officer is usually better than their foreign counterparts.
A major issue in the U.K. seems to be the police putting all their energy into the wrong places. I don’t think the media does anything to help this image as stories about ‘policing gone wrong’ make much better headlines than ‘police officer helps local community’. This makes sense though, the news is often for fear mongering and people like to fear groups they’re not part of, which is why many loathe our nation’s police, politicians and general bureaucracy. Yet, despite the media portrayal influencing our views, our police still have a way to go towards achieving proper justice.
From the outside looking in, our system seems broken. Pedophiles and rapists seem to get off fairly lightly in terms of how inhumane their crimes are and non-violent crimes appear to be punished more severely. Pushing this even further, people feel anger that instead of catching the real criminals, the system is filled with vulnerable members of society, not the drug kingpins and pedophile ring leaders. In many ways, yes, this is the truth, but it is dependent on perspective. We all want the actual hardened criminals behind bars, but we the police cannot turn a blind eye to low level crime. What I think really needs to happen is the implementation of a system like Norway’s. They have an incredibly advanced system that focuses on rehabilitation and stops criminals from reoffending. Only 20% of people reoffend after leaving Norwegian prisons, which is an impressive figure. Helping people back into society should be the most important thing, but we don’t have that over here, criminals are just criminals and this feeds into the problem. When you break it down there are tons of low level crimes committed by vulnerable people who really just need help and not to be stuck in the cycle of being imprisoned and released.
The mindset and beliefs of the Western world also help to fuel the problem. It’s ingrained in our psyche that total freedom is the goal and we deserve freedom and liberty as a birthright. This is where we don’t realize how fortunate we are, especially in the U.K. where at least our police give us as much freedom as possible and steer pretty clear from corruption. A lot of it stems from music. Hearing people alienate the police is nothing new, the mentality I’m speaking about paints the police as the biggest gang, not the actual gangs. We have to be unbiased and neutral about it, because for all their wrongs, the police actually do a lot right. When I say this I am speaking mainly about British police – I believe our American friends have an extremely broken system and the anti-police attitude makes more sense, another reason we should be more accepting of our own.
If you’ve been able to travel around the world, one thing you pick up is how intimidating other countries police forces are. Our local officers with oddly shaped hats and big shiny shoes seem comical compared to the khaki and camo-wearing officers of many places. Unlike in the U.K., foreign police act like they belong in the battlefield, carrying assault rifles and submachine guns, wearing blacked out sunglasses, never smiling, never talking and never friendly. This may seem like an exaggeration but it’s not, our police truly are some of the most approachable in the world. They are known to dance at Notting Hill Carnival despite being abused by lots of the public, they will happily speak to tourists and offer help even though it’s often a drain on their time and when they actually do their jobs, they try on the most part to do it without harming people.
Apart from a few exceptions, British police largely manage to arrest people without weapons and this is a good thing that we tend to forget about. Should you ever find yourself on the wrong side of the law, be thankful that at least you can get through the system unscathed (also due to U.K. prisons being fairly light, but that’s another topic).
One of the aspects of this issue that it all boils down to is that the police are a necessity. Obviously there’ll be times they get it wrong, but it’s a job that is entirely human and human error is bound to occur. Yes, sometimes they get it really wrong, but these times seem to be rare. Unless you are living the life of a top criminal, when something goes wrong you will probably call the police. Your house is burgled? A relative is murdered? Somebody harasses you? All of these are extreme, but if any of them happened to most of us, we would turn to the police to sort things out.
Our police force is far from perfect and there is definitely an ‘us vs. them’ mentality that sometimes brews in this country. That being said, you will struggle to find a country in which everyone loves the police. The idea that one group of people have the power to imprison and arrest others is a philosophical problem in itself.
The British police aren’t bad and risk their lives to protect us; we turn to them in times of need and sometimes even in times of joy. There are countless issues with the way police perform stop-and-searches, how they operate and their priorities, but these often stem from people higher up and the guys on the street aren’t always to blame. They’re approachable, relatively non-violent and we have to remember they’re humans too and our own police generally treat us as humans; something that’s sadly not always the case, even in 2018.