The police, or more specific the London Met. was what got me started on the army piece yesterday. I had been thinking about how Ken Livingstone will jump in with uncritical support for senior officers in the force when they are in trouble. I would like to sort out what qualities Ken, and we, would hope for in a police force.
In the sixties it was so much easier. We thought the police were an instrument of the authorities and we would be better off getting rid of them. Not that Ken was ever part of the "Kill the Bill" extreme as far as I know. Mind you there was some truth in the left's views. Certain police stations did have large numbers of BNP or National Front members and synthesizers in them. Rumours always had Bexleyheath as one of these. Also both the Met and the City of London police were riddled with corruption down to the point where robberies were being organized by the police.
Of course very few societies, and I guess no large ones, could exist without policing. In a city like London we would have vigilantes if there was no police. So what are the ideal qualities for the police force?
The easy answer is that the force should represent the views and cultural make-up of the population it polices. A cynic would suggest that usually they represent the views and cultural make-up of the authority that pays their wages and controls their promotions. To me the answer is that we need to individual policemen to be liberal with a small "l". An ability to see more than one side to a problem as opposed to a "string them up" attitude.
With the best and brightest of the young officers now being put on a fast-track promotion ladder is this what we get? Has Ken got it right? I suspect that attitudes more than racial make-up of the force is more important. Having said that, it certainly doesn't hurt having more black and asian faces on the force.