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.


At 11:23 AM, Blogger Ruan Peat said...

I read this and had a half quote in my head, so I went hunting;
Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. I found this, which is miss-attributed to Edmund Burke but is actually John Stuart Mill.
but in the course of research I found that Burke had said so many good things!
One which caught my eye was this;
Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament.

Speech to the Electors of Bristol (3 November 1774); as published in The Works of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke (1834).
which is something we should remember! Those making choices are accountable but must be above 'local' concerns! which seems to be the opposite of your worries but I feel it isn't, the idea that you must be more than your role and still accountable is what has been missed!
Keep up the debate!

At 9:13 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Thank you for ferreting that half-remembered quote. Very powerful. And it reminds me that all those high-powered thinkers that laid the foundations for our countries deserve revisiting. I sometimes feel as if while we were going about our business, the business of government has been left to thsoe who dont even try to remember those principles.


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