Prosecuting or Persecuting?

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Bury Free Press, 4th April 2014

If you’ve seen a police officer on the television in the last six months, it’s likely to be for one of two reasons. My first guess would be that you’re watching an accusation of a historic cover-up, backed up by evidence that’s recently emerged. If not, then you’re probably staring at Arthur Selby, the charming plasticine constable from Postman Pat.

Given that good news is often not ‘news’, it’s maybe not surprising that we don’t regularly see national bulletins that praise our police force. But the effects of a pessimistic outlook are alarming – recent statistics suggest that as a result of developments in the Hillsborough and Stephen Lawrence cases, public confidence in the police has tumbled. We don’t trust those who are there to keep us safe.

Fair enough, you could say – there has been significant oversight and deliberate cover-ups in the police force in the last fifty years, as well as evidence of institutional racism. That’s just not how we protect people. The problem really lies in the fact that confidence in a modern, reformed police force is undermined because of new information about its flawed predecessor. And more importantly, the majority of corruption cases, past and present, happen in the larger, inner-city forces.

The impact is unfortunately that we – in Suffolk – are feeling more vulnerable as a result of the actions of those who’ve already hung up their helmets for the last time, or those who face entirely different circumstances elsewhere. It might even surprise you that Suffolk’s detection rates are actually very good, even considering that we’re predominantly a rural county. 

On reflection, there’s another reason you might hear about police officers: when one is killed on the job. Obviously the acknowledgement of the past is important, but perhaps we should appreciate now the officers who face that risk every day.

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