Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

A policeman's lot

From Gareth Lawrence

Sir: As a police constable with 15 years of service I laughed aloud at Nicky Samengo-Turner's account of his ordeal at the hands of the Metropolitan Police ('New Labour's police state', 27 November). His reaction to being arrested for what, even by his own account, was a straightforward criminal offence is typical of the sort of person who feels he or she should be allowed to get away with anything and everything due to the position that they hold in society. This contrasts with the 'honest' criminal, who accepts arrest and prosecution as an occupational hazard and doesn't hold a grudge against the police as a whole or against an individual officer when it happens.

The fact remains that as soon as Mr Samengo-Turner left his house with his baton the offence was committed. It is not for a police officer to decide that it was there by mistake, although degrees of discretion can be applied.

Mr Samengo-Turner questions the competence of the police officer who dealt with him. There could be a number of reasons why he struggled with the fingerprint machine and the audiotapes, although in a perfect world everything would proceed efficiently. He also contrasts the army with 'scruffy, overweight, badly turned out, ill-mannered policemen'. There is no excuse for bad manners, but the police force is not the army, and policing does not lend itself to long hours of uniform preparation or even keeping fit. However, most police officers are fit enough to do the job.

The police make an easy target and I would agree that leadership in some cases is poor and that the advent of community support officers is a farce. However, on a daily basis, police officers deal with many and varied incidents ranging from the trivial and simple (as in the case of Mr Samengo-Turner) to the very serious and traumatic. I suggest that people find out what we actually do as a whole before launching into such scathing criticism.

Gareth Lawrence

Hoole, Cheshire

From Stuart Millson

Sir: How reassuring it is to know that the police are pulling out all the stops to defend us against 'terrorists'. It is a pity that no member of the Metropolitan or British Transport Police was present to protect the passengers at Bromley South station (in suburban London) from the real terrorism which they faced on the night of Friday 11 June, 2004. Despite the presence, not 25 yards away, of a brand-new police super-station (complete with cameras and fleets of police cars), the railway station platforms and forecourt were given over to feral, fighting gangs of drugged and drunken youths, half-crazed, foul-mouthed and ready - at the drop of a hat (or a beer can) - to attack anyone who dared to ask them to be quiet. For any normal citizen trying to make their way home, the entire experience was one of fear and shock. Meanwhile, the one member of the station staff still on duty did his best to avoid eye contact with the barbarians, just hoping, no doubt, that they would pile on to the next available train and disappear as quickly as possible. The truth is that our government and police chiefs have lost control of law, order, crime and terrorism in everyday Britain, and justify their existences by creating a spurious anxiety about Fu Manchu-like forces operating from the Middle East.

Stuart Millson

East Malling, Kent

From Nikolai Tolstoy

Sir: Nicky Samengo-Turner's experiences at the hands of our increasingly unprofessional and politicised police recalls Churchill's ominous warning in 1945 that to elect a Labour government was to risk the introduction of a Gestapo to this country. He was much mocked for this at the time, and it was even suggested that his words lost the Conservatives the election. He was clearly wrong in the short term, but 60 years later it seems that all that was amiss with his prophecy was the chronology.

Nikolai Tolstoy

Abingdon, Berkshire


From Prue Leith

Sir: As one in the thick of education and training I'd agree with a lot of what Roger Scruton says ('Know your place', 27 November), and only add that most teachers, and indeed pupils, would too. …

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