Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Genuinely Scary

I was genuinely scared by the cover of the Daily Mail this morning, with the picture of the 'robocop' police officer. And not just because of their idiotic labelling of a human woman as 'robocop', which is about what I'd come to expect from the Daily Mail, but rather what the picture represents.

I actually don't have any issue with the new "shoot to kill" policy with regard to ongoing terrorist activities. Nor, indeed, do I have any great issue with the increased prevalence of police armed with firearms while on routine patrols - I would very much prefer not to see this, but I broadly trust that these weapons will only be issued to people properly trained to use them, and I broadly trust them to only use those weapons where it is genuinely appropriate.

But what does worry me a great deal is the increased militarisation of our police forces, which is most easily seen by a quick glance at that newspaper this morning - that's not a picture of a policewoman; it's a picture of a soldier.

Though, actually, the problems started quite some time before that, the moment the first member of the police referred to 'civilians' meaning not the police.

The thing is, it's actually vitally important that the police are civilians. They're not, and must never become, a body apart. It's actually difficult, perhaps impossible, to over-state just how incredibly important that principle is - because the moment the police are a body apart is the moment we're under martial law. And that's a Very Bad Thing.

It is, of course, appropriate that the police maintain some special units for dealing with terrorism, and that those units be appropriately armed. It's also appropriate that in areas of heightened security (such as airports and, yes, Wembley stadium last night) such units be deployed visibly.

But that must be the exception, not the norm. The creeping militarisation of the police must be resisted. And this practice of using the word 'civilians' to set the rest of us apart from the police must stop.

#55: "The Long Mars", by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

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