Sunday, August 24, 2014

So what can we do in the face of such travail?

One of my favourite snatches of poetry recalled is from Bertolt Brecht. 'Even anger against injustice makes the voice grow harsh.' I realise that my creating arguments is not only hard work but also gets in the way of  seeing things that aren't broken.

As I was constructing a letter to the editor of the Herald in my mind, I took some time to browse among my garden.

The fennel flowers (good for butterflies and collecting their seeds) are beautiful in their own right. The sea holly has now grown way beyond the bed where he was put temporaily some time ago. They are neighbours in my garden, so I put them together and brought them inside.  I think they look great and they smell wonderful, with the licorice-y scent of the fennel. Now I have to write that letter to the editor.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Rhetorical Shifts in Armed Police Debate and a Personal Note

In today's Press and Journal I noted a shift in the rhetoric. MacAskill, after stonewalling about the decision is now part of a who knew what when debate--in the face of 2 independent reviews of the decision to have armed police on routine patrols. I welcome this shift in the rhetoric because it implies that they already accept that the decision was a bad one and they are distancing themselves from it. Good, but not quite good enough because this decision is only the symptom of a larger problem. The problem is a shift in how the police--or their leadership at any rate--perceives their role. I alluded to this in one of my Courier articles. When House said that the police needed to be armed because of the number of guns per capita in the Highlands, this only made sense if the police perceived the community as enemies or as is so often used these days 'potential threats.'  Between the Glocks in Inverness and Ferguson police in camouflage and county sheriffs in armoured vehicles, some big shifts had to take place, but they did not come all at once. That is why we need to listen now carefully and stop the first step down that irrecoverbally slippery slope.

I leave it to people more savvy than I am to chart the steps but I lay a few out here for the sake of those who would say 'that could never happen here..'

I suggest the militarization of the police has at least some of its roots in declaring war on domestic things. In America we had first the war on poverty, then drugs, then anti-terrorism. These wars were never won (and hence never over). Such long lasting failures and the attendant escalation of violence dehumanizes us all.

Blaming the military industrial complex is too obvious, so I  will include it here only in passing. If you have armoured vehicles, then someone will find a use for them.

But the rhetoric is what we are watching here--pay no attention to that tank rolling by the window.
One of my friends in the States sent me this snippet from a blog she reads:
...the militarization of police, which has its roots both in the drug war and the post-9/11 terror-industrial complex. As my former colleague Radley Balko, now at The Washington Post, has documented for years... “The buzz phrase in policing today is officer safety. You’ll also hear lots of references to preserving order, and fighting wars, be it on crime, drugs, or terrorism. Those are all concepts that emphasize confrontation. It’s a view that pits the officers as the enforcer, and the public as the entity upon which laws and policies and procedures are to be enforced.”
The italics in that last phrase are mine. I urge my readers on the Highland side of the pond to note them because we have an opportunity now to make an important change in those stepping stones to Ferguson. Tell the police and the independent reviewers, we are not the enemy and you are not the enforcer. You are still a public servant and we are the public. We are on the same side. Put away your guns.

And now the personal note. Yesterday would have been my brother's birthday. I miss him all the time. Sometimes I feel it more than others. Yesterday was one of those days, but I am in the fray now because, like my brother, I never liked bullies, and he was always the one to insist on taking up the cudgels for what was right. OK, Mike, I'm on the job.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why we need to keep guns off our police

Most people understand why I am so passionate about not having police walking casually around Highland streets wearing Glocks. It is not just Glocks and the attitude they engender toward problem solving, but also how the decision was made. One man, the chief constable, decided to make this drastic change with no regard for public consultation--or even alerting the Highland Council to what he was doing. Since the arbitrary decsion, we have had armed police visit the council (shades of Caesar crossing the Rubicon), and nonsense explanations one after another. First, it would take too long to put on their guns (a demonstration had them gear up in 2 minutes); there are only 2% armed; it is a response to too many guns in the Highlands; or worst of all, the chief constable had 'intelligence' indicating the possibility of a potential future threat.  That last excuse brought back the long dark shadows of Iraq and the suicide of a misquoted advisor.

And then there is the way the public reaction has been handled.

The Chief Constable said that critics were mishief makers and working to a different agenda. The Justice Minister said arming police was an operational decision and within the remit of the chief constable. He tried to disavow any responsibility for the decision and continued that the police needed to be free of  'politics', which by all accounts translated as free of accountability. When did armed police own the streets free of any accountability in a civil society? When did they stop being public servants?

Now while this storm is blowing up over here, the tragic death of a young black man in  Ferguson, Missouri comes along like the spectre of policing future. If any one has wondered why I was so passionate about this issue, please take a look at this link that my daughter sent me to a British ex pat in America taking a look at the issue.

Here is an English expat comedian on the issue of police in Ferguson, which I daresay is a wake up call to us here in the Highlands.

We should be proud of the fact that we in the Highlands are seen to be leading the objections to routine arming of police. Write to your paper, email your representative, do not let this issue be ignored or crowded out by referendum issues. This is an issue for where we live right here, right now.