Robocop policing: A warning about future riots

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The  former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Brian Paddick gave me an interview for The World This Weekend on Radio 4 in which he issued a warning about a fundamental breakdown in the police’s social contract with the public.  Now,of course, he is the Liberal Democrat candidate for London Mayor and is trailing far behind in the polls, so one can be cynical about the timing.

But he had interesting points to make about the way the police are in danger of more regularly retreating  to controlling the streets only in numbers and increasingly by force.  He expressed his concern about the growing number of officers deployed into specialist units, rather than engaged in community policing. Paddick argues that the public increasingly feel officers don’t respond to call outs and use stop and search without care. A few vox pops on the streets of Elephant and Castle near Paddick’s campaign Headquarters (office space in The Ministry of Sound nightclub) revealed men and women to be quick to praise often very good courteous policing. But almost all of those I spoke to had direct or indirectly witnessed unpleasant experiences with callous and sometimes racially discriminatory policing.

At a time when police funding cuts are combined with a government talking tough about cracking down on rioters  it looks like a short term “smart” option to focus resources on force based tactics: The vans (“bully vans” as they’re known by some)  that can be deployed with a number of officers to an incident, more talk of baton rounds and water cannon. Paddick warns that we risk going down the route of nations where the police are feared, not trusted, and policing is done by force, not consent.

Paddick thinks the Force puts rather too much effort into what he called “reputational management”. A timely example? Gwent Police paying out £20,000 in damages to a 71 yr old driver, just a few days ago, whose windows they smashed after he was stopped for driving without a seatbelt. .

It’s also worth noting (as he mentions at the end of the interview) that he’s testifying about police corruption at the Leveson enquiry into phonehacking in a few weeks . The fact that the Metropolitan Police are thus far investigating themselves is one of the less scrutinised   but more remarkable aspects of Hackgate.

The interview is here, 12 minutes in, with the rather thoughtful views of some Londoners, and a response from the policing minister, Nick Herbert.


About samiraahmed

Journalist. Writer. Broadcaster.
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