Policing: 'I can't breathe'!

Do you think we are in the midst of a 'culture' change?

Were you horrified by the scenes of police action in America?

Isn't it time for change?

I am certain that you, like me, have been watching in horror at the events unfolding in the United States, aided by what I can only describe, as the idiotic ramblings of the current incumbent at the White House. I have watched video after video of the scenes of the angry but mostly peaceful protests, now widespread across America and now igniting passions globally.

A couple of days ago I watched a video of an elderly man, being pushed by a ‘full-kit’ Police Officer, who fell to the ground and within moments, blood was pouring from his right ear. The Officer went towards the man on the floor but was moved on by an Officer next to him; within moments, you realised that the man on the floor was now unconscious, as his mobile phone fell gently from his right hand. In the hours following the incident, the event was brought into sharp focus by the ever-changing dialogue from the Police Department, which was then swiftly followed by the suspension of 2 Police Officers without pay. The follow-up revealed that 57 Police Officers, who worked on the same unit as the suspended officers, "resigned" from that unit in protest because of what had happened to their two colleagues. 

In my opinion, the 57 are wrong in the actions they have taken; they've taken so-called solidarity to the extreme. 

By all means, you can criticise my views but you should know that I'm a Retired Police Officer who had an inner-city community beat for 5 years. I have been engaged in many aspects of frontline policing and I've also been in extreme & peaceful protest scenarios and have witnessed fear & anger on both sides. 

I saw the worst of behaviours, in a limited way, during the 1984 Miners dispute. Fortunately, the units that I worked with, appeared to be well-behaved as were the miners that we were asked to watch at the pit gates. However, as you travelled around Yorkshire, it was clear that my experience was not replicated; seemingly some of those areas had the benefit of the repeat police “visitors”, some of whom taunted miners about the ‘overtime’ they were going to receive or worse. 

I only went on that dispute once, because as I and my colleagues concluded, we were being used by the government of the day, to create the expediency of division, as a solution to the failure of dialogue from both sides of the dispute. 

Many of us were uncomfortable with what we had witnessed and we refused, with the threat of disciplinary action, to return and give sanction to those political & social failures. Some of us never returned nor were we disciplined!

Given that this is a US crisis, it’s also important to know that my family is generally a Public Service family and that some of my relatives were Police Officers in US; one was in fact killed on duty, so I truly "get" many of the issues of Society and Policing.

However, in my view, the actions of the 57, fly in the face of what is supposed to be the norm in America; Justice, Freedom and respect for Law and Equality, or am I wrong? 

We often see motto's from Police Departments in America, which proclaim that they  ‘Protect & Serve’. 

But looking at these videos, I can’t help but think, who exactly are they protecting & who are they serving; the Community or the American Constitution or some other ideology? 

Policing is a complex skill; it requires patience, listening and communication skills. When I joined, it was drummed into us that Policing meant that you had to be above the political fray; you needed to demonstrate fairness and independence; politicians were kept at arms length from day-to-day operations. It was a thin blue line and so you had to live by your wits; you really couldn’t throw your weight around. Now I’m not going to insult your intelligence by claiming that everyone was an angel, but I can truthfully tell you that I could count on one hand those that should never have been admitted in the first place, but of course Police Officers are born, they are not quarried, they come from you, the Community.

That is or was the situation here in the UK; America is a different proposition. It’s a country that has a troubled history with guns along with a strong military national ethos, this adds I believe, a potential difficulty when some of those who manage or operate Police Departments, believe that they have to patrol in the way that they do. 

That said, there is ample evidence within this American crisis, that there are some very impressive Police Officers and National Guard members; they are indeed a credit to their Nation.

But, and I hope that my American friends will forgive me, when I say that another set of complications, which in my opinion presents or delivers an American Society that is somewhat patrician, but it has also carried across its generations, the continued undercurrent of racism. Is it any wonder that those oppressed by any form of racism would reach boiling point, anxious for change, but then racism in any Society (because we are not immune from that scourge), is a cancer that eats at the heart of cohesion. 

In my opinion, the 57 have lost the focus on their societal and constitutional obligations and within all the videos I have seen, there certainly exists a lack of leadership or a disrespect for that leadership in the Police ranks; it's a sad day for America. 

What I really don't "get" in this American crisis, is how a class of people who have suffered over many generations, should be simply asked to accept that a Chokehold is "normal"; it is not. 

It is not "normal" in policing to break ranks & attack or push people who are simply chanting and generally protesting peacefully. 

It is not "normal" to give succour to the armed vigilantes now evident on America’s streets. 

It is not “normal” to have ill-discipline in policing during Peaceful Protests. 

It's not "normal" to hear & read what's coming out of the White House.

I would suggest that the 57 should reflect on their actions & allow the due process against their 2 colleagues to take its course. 

After all, the two suspended officers will indeed receive more respect & the full benefit from Due Process; the 57 should be asking themselves 'Did George Floyd receive Due Process; have any of those victims now attracting the  #BlackLivesMatter label receive any Justice?’.

I’d like to think that the tolerance that I grew up in is regarded as a precious commodity and that we will never embrace this abstract form of policing, because if we do, and those who practice a tolerant form of policing are extinguished from practice and dialogue, then we are indeed in trouble, just as is America at this time.

(This is the script/text from Frank's CreatingRipples™ Podcast - Policing: 'I can't breathe'! You can listen to Frank's Podcast here)