"But how can you live and have no story to tell?" Fyodor Dostoevsky
"Keen to cleanse themselves of past sins, have the police become obsessed with punishing wrong thinkers that say hurtful stuff."
The UK's thought leaders, and their allies in the academic world, have long held, deep in their hearts, a wonderful dream for British policing. They've surveyed the societal landscape, picked over the past failings of the police (the Stephen Lawrence case comes to mind) and decided that the solution to everything is something called "positive action".
All their past sin could be cleansed if they worshipped certain client groups, stopped nasty words that hurt feelings and wrapped themselves in the LGBTQ flag.
"Positive action" is a clever idiom that isn't "positive discrimination". No, absolutely not — visiting any UK forces website will reveal each chief constable is keen to assure us that the policy is not discriminating. No doubt started with the best of intentions, but as we shall see, mission creep soon led to direct discrimination. But a few police forces are openly advocating such practices; the chief constable of West Yorkshire isn’t shy with his views.
I've long argued that the British police have lost their direction. And I say this with the benefit of attending UK police command courses and undertaking attachments. Buffeted by cutbacks, accusations of injustices, the label of institutional racism and poor leadership, a challenging job became impossible.
Then in a rush to reform and stay their critics, they welcomed in a new agenda and sought accreditation from groups with political aims — ticking all the boxes of postmodern sensibilities that they rolled through the ranks. Soon their corrupted institutional memory failed them as they abandoned the streets, left low-level crime undetected and wasted time checking "thinking" and pandering to hurt feelings.
And was the vast majority of the public consulted on these changes? The police should be serving all sectors of society, yet all their signalling suggests their clients are few specific minorities group. After all, a 2021 survey found 97 percent of the UK population is heterosexual and 82 percent are white.
Perhaps the myth of the Peel principles, that are said to guide British policing, can finally be laid to rest. Peel's "policing by consent" is rubbing up against a new reality, when the majority are not served.
YouGov’s monthly tracker “Are the police doing a good job” shows that over the course of 2020 an average of 70% of respondents thought the police were doing a good job relative to 21% who thought they were doing a bad job. However, by April 2023 these figures were 47% and 44% respectively. Similarly, the proportion of people who had not very much confidence or no confidence at all in the police to deal with crime averaged 38% in 2020. As of April 2023, this figure had risen to 53%.
Is it possible to argue that the direct consequences of these indoctrinations were on full display this week as West Yorkshire police deployed seven officers to drag a 16-year-old white working-class autistic girl from her home for an alleged "homophobic" remark?
Never mind that crime is rampant across West Yorkshire, seven officers could be found to detain one teenager. Chief constables repeatedly complain they don't have enough people. It doesn't look that way.
Yet, the officers involved proved themselves a politically-correct goon squad engaged in what looked like an unlawful home invasion. The girl, initially picked up by police officers in Leeds town centre, having attended a gay pride march, was reportedly drunk and deemed at risk. Therefore, officers brought her home for safety. All good, so far.
At some point, she allegedly commented that a female officer, "Looked like her lesbian Nana". The girl's grandmother is a lesbian. Whether such a remark constitutes a homophobic insult is debatable — most of us would agree it's not. Moreover, any police officer with self-confidence and street sense would laugh off such remarks, especially from an autistic teenager.
As a traffic officer, I experienced daily insults, some racist, some mocking and some threatening. Most came from folks venting at getting a summons for some infraction. Yes, it was tiresome. Yet I learnt to smile and ignore it, as long as it didn't get physically threatening.
In the West Yorkshire case, no offence occurs if the girl uttered her remarks at home and not outside the house. Still, it appears a triggered female officer sought backup and, with the teenager hiding under a staircase, entered the home to make the arrest. Moreover, when told by the child's mother that her daughter was autistic, the officer replied, "I don't care". The girl's mother captured all of this and much more on video.
In response to outrage from the public, the West Yorkshire police sought to defend the officers, then within hours, agreed the girl would face no further action after holding her 20 hours. Of course, not. She'd done nothing wrong and the matter is now with the force’s professional standards team.
It is impossible to dismiss this case as a one-off because, in recent years, veterans have their collars felt for posting anti-woke memes on social media, and gender-critical feminists dragged through the courts because trans activists took offence to their posts—the saga of Harry Millar I documented here.
Then you have police policies that openly discriminate against white men joining, as forces seek to push up their minority numbers. The West Yorkshire force told a potential candidate, a white male, they'd only consider female or minority candidates.
Meanwhile, the British Transport Police barred white officers from attending promotion seminars. In 2019, Cheshire police lost a discrimination claim by a white male candidate when they rejected him despite being highly qualified and meeting all the force's requirements. Instead, they selected a less qualified candidate with "protected characteristics" — a euphuism for a minority.
The list goes on. And the gatekeepers in the selection process are adopting more subtle means to wean out those who don’t exhibit the correct attitudes. Let's be clear, that doesn't mean treating everyone equally.
All of this nonsense undoubtedly fosters resentment. The genuinely well-qualified minorities in the police operate under the suspicion that they only got there because of their “"protected characteristics". Unhappily, the majority white population loses trust in police forces that do not represent their values of fairness.
As I've said repeatedly, all these issues come down to leadership. Or does this point to something more sinister? Have the police become the enforcement wing of an ideology? Keen to cleanse themselves of past sins, have they become obsessed with punishing wrong thinkers that say hurtful stuff.
West Yorkshire Police initially claimed there is more footage that puts the officers actions in context. That was later deleted from their statement.
Is it the case that many of us are over-reacting to this incident? Could it be that all we have here is a hyper-sensitive officer, who has such a delicate disposition that she’s triggered by an autistic teenager? Either way, the chief constable of West Yorkshire now has a cluster-fluck on his hands of epic proportions and one of his constables is trending as an internet meme with several millions hits. You can't buy publicity like that.
And I don't blame the officer. From the evidence at hand, this lady appears unsuited to the rigours of police work or hasn't had training that would reinforce her psychological stamina for the role. Or maybe she's just having a bad day.
I was repeatedly told under training, "If you can't take a joke, you shouldn't have joined."
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.