The Future of Policing

24 October 2009

9:31 AM

24 October 2009

9:31 AM

PC Heckler and PC Koch prepare for life on the beat. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

Let us concede that there may be problems in Brixton, Haringey and Tottenham that demand new approaches from the police. Let us further accept that perhaps there really are "no-go" areas in some of the estates in these boroughs. But even if one takes the police at their word, I think one may still be worried by the news that, for the first time on the British mainland, police officers on routine patrols in parts of London will be armed.

Because will it stop there? How long before there are calls for all police to be armed everywhere they go? The ongoing efforts to paramilitarise the police are not, I think, an encouraging step. Indeed, the lack of an armed constabulary has always seemed one of the encouraging, even optimistic, things that’s very much in this country’s favour.


Alas, that’s unravelling too. Guns grab all the glory but much of the action is elsewhere – not least in the number of Tasers being supplied to officers. It is only a matter of time before one of these things kills someone. Nor, alas, does the record of armed police in this country inspire great confidence that innocent folk won’t be killed by gun-toting police too.

And, of course, it’s not obvious that putting armed police on the streets will persuade would-be miscreants to leave their guns at home. On the contrary it seems more likely to persuade them that they need to carry a weapon.

So perhaps the idea is simply to give the impression of being "tougher" on crime? In other words, it’s a piece of security theatre designed to reassure the public that something is being done.Well, maybe. But the sight of armed police on British streets is an unsettling one (it’s bad enough at airports) and something that risks fostering the impression that everything is out of control, civil war is imminent and we need the comforting presence of an armed, occupying force to keep the peace.

Now maybe things really are tough in Brixton but it’s not Baghdad, is it?

All in all, this does not seem like a Good Idea.

[Hat-tip: Adam Smith Institute.]

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Show comments
  • rnd technologies

    Nice blog.

  • Beer Moth

    Andrew McKie

    No sorry.

  • Noa Zrk

    Austin B:

    Your point not missed old chap, I for one had assumed it was implicit,due to the stark staring raving..success of multiculturalismo. Step up man!

  • Austin Barry

    Alex and posters are missing the real point here. Gangsta London is, sorry the Great and the Good, a direct consequence of dodgy immigration policies. O.K. having written that I’ll now go and sit on the naughty step.

  • Noa Zrk

    Arming the police carries an implication that citizens have a right to use reasonable means to defend themselves too. Let us then repeal the laws prohibiting the ownership and carriage of firearms. Or, we can re-instate an effective, rather than a strawman system of justice which deters and punishes criminals.

  • In2minds

    Quote – “But even if one takes the police at their word”, which I don’t and I fancy I’m not alone with this. The police routinely overstate their case of the relationship between crime levels and police numbers.

    Remember the YouTube vid of the police tazering a drunk, already on the ground, to the sounds of their hysterical shouting on this blog just a few weeks back?

    We have political policing from a public service that lacks discipline and acts illegally. The court judgements on retention of DNA are being ignored for example. The UK public deserve something better than this.

  • Saltirethinking

    Too late I’m afraid Fergus.
    Collectively, we’ve sat on our arses and allowed this country to collapse into chaos.
    Unfortunately life under the New Conservatives will not improve.
    Cameron had a vision, but his inability to trust members of his own Party means more of the same muddle and mediocrity.

  • Nicholas

    Not just the arming, but the training too. The British police have shown themselves singularly inept at adopting the paramilitary training, discipline and efficiency required of a paramilitary police. The tattoo on the arm of the officer in the photo says it all.

    And where has the transformation of our police from local civic force to paramilitary state force been debated? Where is the evidence of consent by the people?

  • Fergus Pickering

    It’s not the bastards being armed like Americans that I mind. It’s them sitting on their fat arses in police staions like Italians that gets my goat. Go out and arrest some criminals you idle bastards. And I mean CRIMINALS not middle class persons attempting to go about their lawful business. I mean robbers and violent, often drunken youth. Get to it!

  • Andrew McKie

    Beer Moth: Brannigan, perhaps?

  • Beer Moth

    “What is England anyways? Some cockameenie place where the cops don’t even have guns”

    Name that film. (Maybe not word perfick)

  • Cuffleyburgers

    Spot on.

    The sight of these paramilitary thugs swanning round airports like something out of SWAT 69 is already depressing enough – to see them doing the same in the lanes of little-sudbury-in-the-wold would drain one of the will to live.

    Actually, that’s not true; it would fill one with the desire to shoot out security cameras with a 12 bore, send a load of text messages from a stolen phone containing the word bomb, nightclub, etc, in other words it will irretrievably break the unwritten covenant between people and state in this country.

    It would underline once and for all that the state now sees us as its inferiors, serfs to be worked and taxed until we drop, with any inclination to step out of line, dropped on with armed force.

    Welcome to labour’s Britain. As prescribed by Orwell.