The police taking sides: a follow up.

Quick update on this issue. The print edition of the Observer today runs an article under the headline: Police share anger of protesters over spending cuts as union march looms. Here’s the online version:

I still have some problems with the way the police spokesperson describes the current situation for the police, for example:

“The great irony is that officers policing marches like the TUC are actually facing greater detriment than many of those protesting against the cuts”.

To me this implies that the greatest police concern (at least as it is articulated here) is their own terms and conditions. I hugely sympathise with all those who (like me) are facing worse terms and conditions of employment, or job losses, in the coming months and years because this government is making public services pay for the failings of the banks and their (government) regulators. But the March 26 March is not about individual terms and conditions, or even individual services and sectors. The march is about the future of public service in this country. This is the reason for the march:

Government spending cuts will damage public services and put more than a million out of work. They will hit the vulnerable, damage communities and undermine much of what holds us together as a society.

We shouldn’t be measuring whose cuts are bigger or smaller, whose cuts hurt more or less. This is about the society that we are. The society that we want to be. When a job is lost is it better or worse that it is a police officer’s, a nurse’s, or a family support worker’s? Let’s not play that game. Cuts in one service shunt problems into another service to be dealt with there. In this sense, we really are all in it together. 

Some of the divisions between the police and other protesters have been played out in responses to my blog from last weekend. 

@Responseplod says:

some excellent points raised there. My concern is that you failed to mention the mindless thugs in the last protests who destroyed the real reason the genuine protesters were there for and that’s why certain tactics had to be used. You can’t stand there and sift out those causing trouble from those that are not because as you know, they disappear among the genuine protesters. #solidarity #ProtectOurPolice

so who do I as an officer complain to when bottles of piss, fence posts ripped up concrete fire extinguishers etc are thrown at me by people hidden amongst the genuine protesters? Do I run home to my mum? No, I have to stand there and take it. Is that fair? No!

I’m all up for suggestions. I would like you to give my management a better idea for controlling demos when they go badly wrong and if you can prevent the “rent a mob” who hijack lawful demos. As most cover the face they cannot be seen on cctv and therefore harder to trace. Trouble is, its difficult to work out whos who and most importantly….who can be trusted not to spoil it for those that are there.

@SaadaabJanaab replied firmly:

no-one’s saying you should! You go and arrest that bastard and there’ll be plenty of us willing to help…

I shouldn’t have to suffer for said individual and neither should thousands of innocent people… Even if you can’t spot the perp there and then, kettling huge crowds does nothing to increase the likelihood of you catching that person, and only turns more people against you. If anything, we’re all at greater risk by being contained and even if there is cctv footage of the criminal, and I accept that kettling could be a way to scour the crowd trying to find them – but police don’t enter kettles, you’re just as likely to find that person out of the kettle ie next day etc, the cost (I don’t mean monetary) of holding all those people is far less than what you’ll achieve.

I can see both points of view. But these disagreements need to be put to one side on 26 March. I understand that individuals and communities who have been on the receiving end of some of the gross injustices caused by poor policing in the past will find it hard, if not impossible, to stand up for the interests of a strong, well-funded, well-managed police service. But standing shoulder to shoulder with people we like and agree with is not #solidarity. It is tribalism.

Solidarity means standing side-by-side with people with whom we have disagreements, people we don’t like much, maybe even people we can’t stand, because the common interest that we share – at that moment – is bigger than the causes of our disagreements and dislike. 

My own sector – children’s services – supports vulnerable children, young people and families. Children, young people and families are hugely, disproportionately affected by the current round of cuts, both to direct benefits that they receive and to the support services they rely on. Yet our young people represent and carry all our best hopes for a civilised future. I am marching in their interests, not my own, on 26 March.

I will resist any policing that infringes my democratic right to protest this injustice. But I will stand in solidarity with any member of the police force who is happy to stand by me in support of jobs, growth and justice.

See you there. 



Postscript: @PoliceFedChair rather making my point for me this morning in these tweets: 

@nick_clegg @lfeatherstone @MrCliveC Did the LibDem manifesto really promise 3,000 extra police? & the students think they’ve been let down!

@lfeatherstone Do LibDems support 20% cuts to policing that’ll hit the most vulnerable in society most. NHS 0%, Defence 7%, Police 20% Why?

Police pay review b’cos G’vnt & Winsor say we’re paid more than some in the public sector. Why no review then for judges, doctors & MP’s?

Instead of setting police up in ‘competition’ with other individuals or sectors facing cuts (and don’t believe the NHS is immune because of the technical 0% change in funding – there’s a catastrophe happening in the NHS right now) how about pushing for Jobs. Growth. Justice. that will benefit the nation through having good public services and infrastructure across all sectors. 

It’s a strain to hold onto #solidarity when a potential partner seeks differentiation in this way. But we need to hang onto it. 






3 thoughts on “The police taking sides: a follow up.

  1. This is my 1st blog entry so treat me gently.I read “itsmotherswork” on twitter with respect as there appears a balanced opinion much I feel as mine however just now and then I feel I need to redress some opinions out there.The Police have to remain impartial for the legal system to work effectively without prejudicing the law of the land. Please also take into account we police our communities with public consent. The legal framework for the office of Constable comes from the various Police Regulations Acts. These Acts govern the pay and conditions of service.In my view the cuts to all public service is huge and we will see a dramatic change in its infrastructure should the proposals go through.Let me try and explain then why Officers feel passionately about these changes to the service. The office of Constable has been slowly withering away with each Government and its attempts to save money. Cuts and changes to pay and conditions challenge the very heart of the office of Constable and policing communities. It’s the collective challenge of the unseen pressures that these cuts and changes in conditions would take effect.The Constable has to be paid a reasonable remuneration both in pay, conditions and pension to prevent a drop in recruitment, retention and to stamp out corruption.Where would society be if a Constable started taking ‘back handers’ or found further employment whilst serving as a Constable which clearly had a clash of interest with their profession? Crime would run riot! I am aware that of course we have these problems now but no way in numbers it would be post cuts!Now I am not entering the argument Police should be paid more than any other public service but these points have to be taken into account.But that is why Police receive a ‘fair’ remuneration for their job and do not wish for that to change! Cuts could effectively be taken making the service more efficient without withrawing funds from source!You will find thousands of Constables working overtime without pay already because they are passionate about their professionalism and their communities. 10 minutes here 2 hours there it all adds up. Even when off duty a Constable has a duty to become involved whilst others merely walk by. Yes the same could be said for nurses, doctors ect but the police are more likely to stop and face the dangers society throw at them on a more frequent basis.Since 1919 there has been a lot of work around the work life balance of a Constable as reflected in the Police Regulation Acts. Police should be afforded a quality of life too!Taking this into account then, where also is the public consultation on these cuts? The so called ‘Front Line’ (Remember Government has now given up trying to define it) will undoubtedly be cut, 700 officers being made redundant in one force alone. How can that not affect this front line? Imagine losing 700 nurses in one hospital or prison officer in one prison or council workers in one council. The service would clearly change and all without public consultation?The Police Service is no different the cuts will hit hard and change YOUR service. But Officers have to remain impartial, imagine protesting peacefully in London on 26th March and becoming caught up in the minority of anarchists where would this impartiality stand? They technically would have to place themselves on duty and deal with the issue. Is that fair or right when they are there to peacefully protest alongside other public service workers?Of course it’s for an individual to decide.

  2. I should just add that Constables under the Police Regulation Act 1919 do not have the right to cause ‘disaffection’ in other words strike!All other Public Service workers do however in saying that once again I raise the issue of impartiality. Were Constables given the right would they? Again it would be for an individual to decide but many would not due to the passion and professionalism they would continue to display.The Police Service today is an ever eroding fine line before anarchy. I would find it difficult to walk away for anarchy to fill my space!Even more reason for public consultation!

  3. I think 1stEmma’s response brilliantly outlines many of the issues. I too read the first Blog with great interest and felt it perfectly reflected my own experiences of the Police from both a an insider and an outsiders point of view. However whilst I fully support the basic premise of this blog that it is important to maintain solidarity in the face of the cuts I think singling out the Police as the one PSW who is saying ‘look at me it’s much worse for me’ is a little unfair and I wonder that if the Police didn’t ‘Police’ marches whether you would have actually posted the link to the Fed article as an example of how terrible cuts are and not as an example of tribalism?! I think the Police very rarely have a voice and very often have to listen to astonishing levels of misrepresentation in the media without being able to defend themselves so I think the level of their very vocal response to the cuts it a testament to how harshly they feel they have been treated. I think quite often the police feel they are used to implement Governments agenda (started appallingly under Thatcher with her use of Officers in the Miners Strike) and that they have to do this whilst also being actively hated by most of the population for doing their job. This is despite the fact that as Emma pointed out, most do their job for the good of their community and often with hours of unpaid overtime. I remember once asking a Police Officer I worked with why they joined the police (in an attempt to win the argument that they were all slightly facsist – it was light hearted honest – oddly I was seen as very ‘red!) and they replied, as if I were an idiot, ‘because I wanted to help people’ and I was utterly gob smacked. It had never occurred to me that the police actually wanted to help anyone and THEN it occurred to me that of all the things I studied at Uni, of all the social constructs I examined and unpicked to discover ‘the truth’ that the Police were the only group we were taught about without any reflection on the stereotype whatsoever. It is like the Police are officially the only group in society we are actually encouraged to hate and so if when they do respond to things they act a bit tribally I think we can give them a bit of a break! Sorry if that was a slight rant, it’s Sunday and I have randomly found myself back in my pyjamas and I have children crawling all over me! Oh and lastly Emma’s bit about why the Police find it hard to March when off duty is precisely the argument my husband is repeatedly giving me about why he won’t go with me!

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