THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC has mutated into something ugly and carnivorous, not just in its policies with the rest of the world, but in the way it has turned on its poor. It's become a ghastly distortion according to Charles Stross*, who commented on his blog that American police have abandoned Sir Robert Peel's Principles of Policing. As you may know, the London Metropolitan Police was the first professional police force, created in 1829.
These principles are in stark contrast to what we have seen from Ferguson:
- To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
- To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.
- To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.
- To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.
- To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.
- To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.
- To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
- To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.
- To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.
If this is not re-introduced to American police, Charles sees danger: "even if you’re not a member of one of the cultures on the receiving end of the jackboot today, the fact that the jackboot exists means that it may be used against you in future. Beware of complacency and apathy; even if you think you are protected by privilege, nobody is immune. See also Martin Niemoller."
Martin Niemoller's famous warning:
- First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.
- Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
- Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
- Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
*Charlie is one of my favorite SF writers; I recommend his oeuvre "The Atrocity Archives", the first in his delightful "Laundry" series. Set in a parallel universe, an Earth identical to ours, with one difference: in the early 30's, Alan Turing discovers that certain mathematical processes produce "magic". Problem is, this "magic" is brain-eating dangerous.