Are the police too scary for you?

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...

Perhaps we should stop pussy-footing around...?


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13 Responses to “Are the police too scary for you?”

  1. Dungbeetle Says:

    Glad you raised these issues:
    1: fear has taken hold. I would be not alive now if the present hysteria was running amok during the threat of Parachutes landing and ‘put puts’ were backfiring across the English skies..
    My Father would be in the Nick and not in the home guard [Dads Army] for shooting “bludy” vermin , same with me, I use to ‘luv’ shooting Pheasants , rabbits [no not welsh rarebits] and other great game to have our Sunday dinner.

    The Media is one of the main causes of the stupidity of modern Government.
    Sensational illiterate head line is the only “sauce” of daily news intake for so many.

    misquoting Bacon

    “Some media [books] are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some media [books] are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. [the rest to be used for removing excess faeces.]

    Sir Francis Bacon
    English author, courtier, & philosopher (1561 – 1626)

    As you are now in Business, like a good business, know your customer base, find the best purchasers of vacation cells.

    Armed Police:
    The French Gendarmes have been around for a quite awhile and the French peoples were never this paranoiac as the people in England appear to be. The Daily Rags are like a person crying fire in a crowded Theatre.
    Like food, we are ‘wot ‘ we eat, we are ‘wot’ we read and consume.

    Keep us informed of your daily dose of madness.
    “I read the newspapers avidly. It is my one form of continuous fiction.”

    Aneurin Bevan quote

  2. Adam Says:

    It’s all about what you’re used to seeing – I’ve lived in America, so seeing armed police was something so every-day, you didn’t even see it. If we’re talking about what any journalist/writer has to say, they only deal in polemic’s – who writes about something neutral?

    Personally, I have no problem with it, though it’s notable that the armed police in America will carry some variant of a service automatic – you see them in England, and they’re mostly carrying H&K MP5’s. Hand-gun in a hip holster is fairly out-of-the-way, whereas a shoulder-hung-in-the-hand SMG is a little more overt.

  3. Tony F Says:

    Well written.

    I stopped buying ‘news’ papers more than 20 years ago. I realised then that many stories were either dumbed down of so twisted as to not to have much bearing on the truth. Remember, papers are not ‘written’ to inform, educate and entertain. They are purely there to make money for the shareholders. What really needs to happen more often, is not the tiny apology on page 9000 or whatever for a ‘mistake’, but a massive fine.

  4. Fee Says:

    The only place I’ve seen armed officers around here is the airport – where, given what happened through in Glasgow, we consider it necessary. I’ve no doubt that when Her Majesty is in residence the Holyrood area is bristling with armed officers, but as Liz and I have never gotten along, I tend to stay away!

    The last time we were in London there were a lot of armed officers lugging scary looking guns around, but several of them were relaxed enough to return my (then) 3 year old daughter’s waves. Certainly, none of them looked like they were about to start firing at all and sundry.

  5. Adam Says:

    And on another note, all I can say is that in a spirit of keeping an open mind, this is interesting and I’ll be curious to see the results.

    • kkop Says:

      “It will also look at travelling habits, and access to healthcare, education and other public services.”

      Will it also look at how they’re intending to pay for these facilities, like the rest of us taxpayers?

  6. kkop Says:

    As a young teenager I remember living two houses down the road from a certain Home Secretary’s country hideaway, at the time the IRA were making all kinds of threats at the Tory government. One day we had three armed police officers come round to our house and ask us who lived there and if we had access to firearms etc as they were in the process of fortifying the Home Sec’s house and needed to know the outlying area for safety reasons etc.

    I remember sitting on the patio, drinking tea whilst these guys were chatting to my parents and my father was listing all the firearms we owned. They were very pleasant, very professional, and had their guns on them at all times. I didn’t feel in the slightest worried, but that’s me.

    It was funny – for months after we’d drive past the ‘subject premises’ on our way back from the shops etc and play ‘spot the copper lying in the undergrowth.’

    At the time I had absolutely no convictions or interest in joining the police, I hasten to add (RAF all the way!) But none of us found it threatening – we actually felt safer.

  7. allcoppedout Says:

    The idea of cops not being armed goes way back to fears about them becoming a standing army. I don’t like seeing guns about and I’m very concerned when cops make bad mistakes like Stockwell and start lying about what happened. You don’t want cops shouting ‘stop, armed police’ if you are sitting next to someone reasonably suspected to be a suicide bomber, you want accurate shooting without warning. Poor lad was, of course, the victim of an utter cock up and cops lied about the warning.
    We need both a heavier presence from our cops and sensible accountability – currently we have neither and seem prepared to let kids drown over health and safety.
    Someone on a sub-division should be armed at all times, preferably all supervision – but I suspect lack of resources and training is the real reason this hasn’t happened, rather than public concern.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    People wouldnt be so worried about armed officers if the unarmed ones didn’t already spend most of their time beating people up for no reason. People are fed up of the way you guys seem to be becoming the paramilitary wing of the government, and behaving in an increasingly arrogant, needlessly violent and fascistic manner. Until the police stop behaving like mindless thugs people will be intimidated by you, and grow to despise you.

  9. kkop Says:

    If all the unarmed police did was ‘spend most of their time beating up innocent people for no reason’, then don’t you think we’d have no time at all to deal with the real criminals? Take an unbiased look (if that’s possible) at current crime figures and you’ll see that the police are hardly sitting around doing nothing, or spanking innocent people for want of something better to do. And that’s in the face of budget cuts, reducing numbers and political meddling.

    If you’re unable to seperate the actions of the miniscule few from those of the majority (i.e. the odd news bad news article versus the 140,000 officers on duty), then that’s the same as me saying “7% of the population are criminal scum, therefore you ALL are.”

    How reasonable, or even adult, is that?

  10. Big Fat Trucker Says:

    My neighbour’s grandson was very nearly shot by the ARV a couple of weeks ago. Little idiot was seen plinking at the bypass fence with an air rifle.

    Luckily for him, he saw them before they saw him, and knelt with the gun broken in his outstretched flat palms. This saved on the immediate paperwork, but as he’s going to be a “frequent flyer” (currently awaiting disposal on public order, knife and assault charges) possibly a false economy.

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