Defunding the Police Leaves Communities Vulnerable to Real Vicious Criminals

Mike put up a video yesterday of Keir Starmer speaking. This illustrated the present Labour leader’s dismissive attitude to the Black Lives Matter movement. He said that it should be regarded as a moment, and rather than causing people to ask questions about the police and racism, it should make us reflect on the death of George Floyd. It’s clear Starmer regards it as transient phenomenon which will eventually pass. And he doesn’t want to confront the issues it has raised.

The Labour Party is losing Black and ethnic minority support thanks to Starmer’s indifference to calls to improve conditions and opportunities for them. And Mike put up a series of tweets from people saying they were leaving the party because of his attitude, including Whites, who were fed up of people, who didn’t come from marginalized communities, raving about what a wonderful job he was doing.

But I did find myself agreeing with something he said in the video. It started with Starmer arguing very strongly that we shouldn’t disarm the police. He’s right. Unfortunately many Black communities in Britain and America are plagued by extremely violent, dangerous criminals. And sometimes armed police have to be deployed to protect the residents.

I am not arguing that drugs and violent crime are unique to Black communities. I am very much aware that long before there was mass Black and Asian immigration to this country, we had violent White crims terrorizing their neighbourhoods. And these gangs are still about. But it also affects Black communities, who may be particularly vulnerable because of their greater poverty and unemployment.

Bristol’s St. Paul’s is a case in point. It was one of the areas which rioted against the police in ’81/82, along with Toxteth in Liverpool and Brixton in London. It had a reputation for drugs, prostitution and violent crime. One of my uncles was a cop, and there was a Black gang there out to kill him. Don’t read too much into this – my uncle wasn’t racist. He had Black friends, and I never heard him utter a racial slur. I’ve also heard similar stories of other cops being threatened and seriously wounded whilst they were serving in the area. And on the other side, as it were, I had Black college friends, one of whom was a Sunday school teacher at the time the riots broke out. He was training to be a teacher, and told me how extremely upset he was that the young children in his class told him they were going to the riots. ‘I felt like crying,’ he said. he was adamant that the riots weren’t racially motivated, and there were Whites trying to stir up trouble. I’ve mentioned before that I was at school during the riots. At the end of one day during the rioting, as we were leaving there was a White guy with a long grey beard and a megaphone perched by one of the trees just outside the school steps. He was haranguing us, shouting ‘Do you hate the teachers? Do they make you wear school uniform? Well if you do, come down to the riot in St. Paul’s tomorrow!’ I didn’t know it at the time, but he was probably one a member of one of the Marxist sects, like the Socialist Workers’ Party. They were notorious for joining protest movements and trying to take them over and make the worse. I heard from my Black friend that they were Whites from outside the area also joining the riots, which showed to him that there were people in it just for some kind of malicious kicks.

And in the ’90s and first decade of this century, Stapleton Road was on the front line in a turf war between two drug gangs. There was an incident reported on the local news, in which two young women had been left seriously wounded when the car they were in was shot up. One of them was hit in the skull.

I can remember going up Stapleton Road on the bus c. 2003/4, and looking out the window and seeing armed police in high-viz jackets with submachine guns. This was at the time when there was gang violence in the area, and particularly on that street. One of the organisations that was particularly under threat was a women’s charity, which I think helped mostly immigrants and asylum. One of its staff appeared on the local news and stated that nearly every day they had an incident where a man with a gun walked into their premises and they had to warn their co-workers. One Christmas during these years, seven people were murdered in a fight that broke out in a pub, including a man who tried to stop it and calm the situation down.

As I said, rioting and violent crime aren’t unique to Black areas. Hartcliffe in south Bristol is mostly White, but it too had a problem with crime and unemployment. It was also hit by rioting in the early ’90s, which caused some people to move away from it if they could. Knowle West was also a rough area. It’s now quite racially mixed, and there were some Black people living there when I was at school. But again, it has a problem with unemployment and drugs and in the ’80s at least there was a skinhead gang there causing trouble.

I realize that many Black people distrust the police, and have good reason to do so. Black people are afraid that they are excessively punished for crimes, which are taken more leniently in the case of Whites. But not everyone in these communities is an innocent victim of police racism. I am very much aware that the police have shot and killed people unnecessarily and it looks less like law enforcement and more like a murder or execution. But I’m also very much aware that the cops are also trained to deescalate dangerous situations before the violence breaks out. I was talking to a chap a little while ago, whose wife was a senior cop in one of the forces around the country. She’d been called out to deal with several situations where people were threatening to kill someone with a weapon. She’d been successful, and managed to calm the situation down and disarm and nab the offender before he attacked and killed anybody. I heard that her attitude was that an important part of her job was to make sure nobody died. If what I heard was true, then obviously she was a brilliant cop and we need more like her.

At the moment our cops are under threat. BoJob has cut their numbers to disastrous levels. There’s been a drop in certain types of crime due to the lockdown, but I believe this will start rising again as it’s lifted. I don’t know what you can do about police racism, except increase anti-racism and racial sensitivity training as well as initiatives to strengthen community relations with the cops. All of which are being done already. It obviously would help to recruit more Black and Asian rozzers and give them the same career prospects as their White colleagues.

But for heaven’s sake, don’t defund the police. If that happens, it will leave the way clear for the real violent gangs to terrorize poor communities regardless of their colour. And that also means Blacks.

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