I stumbled across this piece of news the other day. It was reflected in Police Oracle too and seems to be a rather pertinent piece of writing from someone whose field of expertise is poker, of all things.
There are, apparently, more armed officers wandering the streets of London these days, and Victoria Coren seems to be more worried about this than ever before. I don’t know what your take on armed police is, but this is mine:
You don’t tend to see armed police officers hanging around on street corners, or down dark alleyways wearing hoodies, talking ‘street’ and pimping their girls while keeping an eye out for competitive drug dealers moving in on their turf or looking for some rich and easy pickings to walk past.
Perhaps my perspective on life, the universe and everything is poles apart from Victoria’s, but I don’t get scared when I see armed police about. At worst I might think, “Get your bloody hat on!” Or perhaps, “What’s going on ‘ere then?” One thing I can say for sure is that I don’t get scared. I feel safer, if anything. Despite what the press would like the public to believe, police officers that routinely carry firearms are highly trained and highly unlikely to randomly shoot innocent people. (Braces himself for the tide of ‘what about de Menezes’ comments.)
There’s a few points in the Police Oracle version of the story I’d like to address, however:
• 2 January: Armed police and helicopter scrambled to a home in Weymouth where people were preparing for a Fancy dress party.
Slightly misreported, this. A member of public called saying that a firearm had been seen. The fact that it turned out to be a fancy-dress prop is neither here nor there – ALL reported firearm incidents have to be dealt with as such until its established that the weapon isn’t a real one, capable of wiping out a school full of children.
• 30 December 2009: Armed police attend comedy show at Bristol’s Colston Hall.
If you can’t laugh, what can you do?
• 21 December 2009: Police admit armed officers stormed into a young family’s home in Oldham, pinned down a father of two and wrongly accuse him of drug dealing.
Don’t know the story behind this one – sounds interesting though.
• 16 December 2009: Armed police swoop on Enid Penny and her seven-year-old spaniel Toby as helicopter hovers overhead. Penny has a dangerous heart condition.
Two thoughts – what the hell does her having a heart condition have to do with anything (did the police know about this BEFOREHAND?!) and secondly, since when has having a heart condition been an offence worthy of armed police and a helicopter? There must be more to this story.
• 26 November 2009: Armed police and helicopter mobilised in Staffordshire to arrest member of the band Thirst when a man monitoring CCTV mistakes jump leads for a gun.
Well, this is another non-story blown out of proportion. When will the media realise that if someone reports something they THINK is a firearm, then the police HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT AS IF IT IS A REAL FIREARM?!?!?! My Force-issue crystal ball hasn’t arrived yet and until it does I will treat ANYTHING that is reported as a firearm as a firearm until it turns out it’s a table leg, banana or Airsoft replica Desert Eagle .45. The hacks who pump this kind of crap out really are exposing their single-fingle IQ’s with these kind of stories.
• 13 October 2009: Pest controller Graham Simmonds was arrested by six armed officers at a shopping centre in Havant, after he had already informed the police of his contract to cull pigeons.
Communications issue, methinks? Who did he notify, and how?
• 27 September 2009: A 63-year-old musician has DNA removed from the national database after police arrested him at gunpoint in the street for being a terrorist, stripped him and forced him to put on a “Guantánamo Bay-style paper suit”.
It’s the Guantánamo Bay-style paper suit I take offence at here. Paper suits are paper suits. We have them so that we don’t leave suspects NAKED when we seize their clothes. What would the press rather we do? Dish out Armani suits to them instead? Comparing a bog-standard paper suit with what they wore in Guantánamo Bay is a purile attempt at sensationalising the story.
• 25 September 2009: Leslie May’s home in Surrey is raided by several armed officers for a second time after hoax call.
Again – without our crystal balls, how the hell can we tell a hoax call from a real one? What if someone rings up saying there’s a madman with a Kalashnikov running around the local primary school taking pot shots at toddlers? Are we just going to send a single-crewed Panda round to pop in, do a bit of neighbourhood engagement and apologise for disrupting the kids lessons (“Look! A poweeceman!”) or are we going to take it damn seriously until we know otherwise? Which would you rather we do – especially if YOUR kids were at the school?
• 25 July 2009: Armed police break into the Poole flat of school dinner lady, 29-year-old single mother Rachel Whitmarsh, as she bathes her six-year-old son.
Sounds like police brutality to me. Or perhaps the call they received wasn’t that she was bathing her son, but perhaps that something far less innocent was going on, involving a firearm?
• 13 July 2009: Armed police arrest Kenneth Wilson while he is shooting pigeons legally on farmland in Wiltshire.
He may well have been legally shooting pigeons, but until the police can establish that he may also be one bird short of a game pie and, having topped the farmer and his family, is now out taking pot-shots at the wildlife while the police arrive so that he can commit suicide by cop.
I’m not trying to defend the indefensible – there are times when the police do things that are hard to defend, but fortunately these are few and far between. But it would be nice if the public, generally speaking of course, were not so prone to accepting the drivel the news feed them with – without questioning the facts and having a think about it before they jump on the anti-police bandwagon.
The bottom line is, as well as turning the TV on, turn your brain on too. As well as opening the paper, open your mind. Don’t accept the limited viewpoints of the vocal minority such as Victoria who are scared of their own shadows.
Perhaps we should stop pussy-footing around...?