Armed Police and the Threat of Political Oppression

Mike over at Vox Political reported a few days ago the government’s latest plan to tackle the terrorist threat: armed police. It seems one of the Paris murderers had pictures of Birmingham on his mobile, suggesting that the Islamists were planning an attack there. The government has stated that, at present, it takes too long for armed police units to respond, and are considering arming the police as that they can react immediately to a terrorist attack, or threat of one.

See Mike’s article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/27/police-have-been-used-by-politicians-as-tools-of-oppression-should-they-have-guns-to-fight-terrorists/

Mike raises the point that armed police have been used as instruments of political oppression, and asks whether anyone thinks it would be a good idea to give them guns now, with this present highly authoritarian government.

It wouldn’t. In fact, it would be a disaster, and potentially make the situation much worse.

Before we come to the issue of armed police being used to suppress freedom and civil liberties, there is the whole issue of how far the public can trust armed police to protect the innocent. And there’s a very large question mark over this. There’s a massive controversy in America at this very moment over ‘Black Lives Matter’, a protest movement that points to the disproportionate number of Black Americans who have been shot and killed by the police unnecessarily. These have included people, who have been unarmed, or were simply running away from the police. Some were violent, but did not present such a threat that lethal force had to be employed. They could simply have been restrained by the cops using their own physical force, or batons and tasers. Unarmed Whites have also been needlessly killed by the rozzers, but the Black community is particularly subject to this kind of lethal policing. This is possibly due to Blacks being perceived as innately more violent, thuggish and threatening than Whites.

And we’ve seen the same phenomenon here in Britain. There were the riots nearly four years ago over the death of Mark Duggan, the criminal who was shot by the police despite being unarmed. And when I was at school, back in the 1980s, there was a huge outcry then after a Black child was accidentally shot by a police officer while searching the child’s bedroom during a raid. There was also another incident in my home city of Bristol, where the cops shot a man, who they believed was armed. He was carrying not a firearm, but a chair leg, and shouting, ‘it’s a chair leg’, when they shot him.

The problem in America is that the police are too willing to use firearms in preference and other, less extreme methods of capturing or subduing a suspect. And I’m afraid that if we arm the police, they will follow this same precedent. And it concerns British police officers as well. Last summer I was talking to the partner of a British police officer, a woman, who has herself tackled violent offenders. He told me that his wife has successfully disarmed potentially lethal situations using simple negotiation, though she had used her own strength when necessary. She believed, along with others in the force, in policing by consent. You can only successfully police a community when that community trusts you. This will may be lost if officers come to rely too much on their firearms. And as far as the American officers, who automatically shot the suspect in response to a potentially violent situation, she had nothing but disdain. They were badly trained. She took pride in the fact that, no matter what dangers she encountered during her working day, she could end her shift knowing that nobody had died.

All this is likely to be jeopardised by arming the police, and especially if they are supposed to be armed against the threat of militant Islamism. There’s already massive discontent amongst Black British about the ‘stop and search’ policy in London, which has seen a disproportionate number of Blacks stopped and harassed by the Fuzz as potential suspects, simply because of their ethnicity. If this attitude is transferred to Muslims, it will provoke similar levels of discontent amongst them. At the moment the authorities are helped by ordinary Muslims, who do report individuals or actions they find suspicious. This will be lost if Muslims believe they’re under suspicion, simply because of they’re faith, with the ordinary and moderate lumped in with the extremists. It’ll isolate those, who still want to help the authorities, who will risk being branded ‘chocolate Muslims’, the Muslim equivalent of the term ‘Uncle Tom’. And it may alienate some even further, driving them into extremism rather than away.

And armed police in general are a real threat to freedom. The communist authorities in the Eastern bloc used military police units to clamp down on civil unrest and demands for democracy. And Putin is pretty much still doing it in today’s nominally democratic Russia. This government is all too willing to turn them into an authoritarian force. Remember the way the police were used to crush the miners’ strike in the 1980s? Blair and the Tories have passed successive legislation to ban and suppress protest marches and demonstrations, especially in front of parliament and Downing Street. There are any number of account of the cops using excessive force against marchers during riots. And one of the provisions in the government’s anti-trade union legislation, which fortunately didn’t get passed, was that strikers and picketers should have to give their names to the police. This was too much even for David Davies, on the Right of the Tory party, who declared it to be ‘Francoist’. And so it is.

The present government are highly authoritarian, and are doing everything they can to stifle dissent and democratic questioning of their authority. Given past examples, it’s absolutely certain that they will used an armed police force to suppress what remaining liberties we have. They’re pretty much Fascists already. They just wear business suits instead of black shirts and jackboots.

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