The Socialist Unity Network

Tories oppose accountable policing

Jim Jepps

The Tories today announced that they would be opposing the introduction of measures to help make the police more accountable to the communities they are supposed to protect.

The measure is recommended by the report that came out of the Stephen Lawrence enquiry in order to curb what some have seen as racist behaviour by the police.

The report proposed that the police make a official record of every stop, or stop and search that they make, including who they stopped, why they stopped them and the outcome of that stop.

The Tories have claimed that this will involve seven minutes of police time for every record taken. A Tory spokesman said - that may not seem a lot but if the officer makes ten stops that's an hour of police work, the Lib Dems then piped up to say that the Tories were right to try to cut back on 'bureaucracy', although they didn't like the Tories very much.

Two things; first - even the most vigorous police office will not be stopping ten people in a shift except on very special occasions (an arms fair perhaps?) but more importantly why does it take seven minutes to get out a form and fill in

  1. who I stopped
  2. when I stopped them
  3. where I stopped them
  4. why I stopped them
  5. the outcome of this

Particularly as the outcome is almost always none its hardly going to chain the police to their desks all day is it?

Many people have pointed out down the years that whilst individual police officers may be untainted by racism, prejudice or bad intentions as an institution the police target the communities of those in ethnic minorities - and the stop and search powers in practice have meant that if you are black or Asian you are far more likely to be stopped and searched, and there is far less likely to be any outcome of that search.

Whilst this measure is small in itself, if the Tories oppose even this modest proposal to simply ask the police why they are stopping people, where will their populism end?

Embarrassingly their initiative is titled "Restoring respect - cutting crime" and Tory leader Howard made a speech today in which he warned of 'hooded youths' and powerless police. He went on to warn of Westside story hoodlums stating that ďIím depraved on account of Iím deprivedĒ and extolling the virtues of smacking children and damning the old favourite "political correctness."

But rhetoric aside did the legacy of the Tory years really end in a safer society. The unpinning ideological belief that there is no society and we should just look after ourselves, whilst cracking down on the unemployed and those who break the law - did it work?

If political correctness is to blame how did these people manage it - after all the Conservatives were only in government for 18 years, that hardly compares to the mighty power of an awareness raising group in Hounslow. Does it?

At the end of the day the Tories are offering the same tired old claptrap and it won't compete with New Labour's bright shiny claptrap. That's their problem - our problem is we have to put up with all their old new ideas.


August 2004


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