Recently I was sitting around the table with a few teammates, a Sergeant and an Inspector from another team. We were discussing the various jobs we had dealt with or were dealing with, when a probationer PC piped up about a shoplifting job he had ongoing.
He'd just picked up the CCTV from the shop, which was of the usual quality - nice to have, but nowhere near good enough for a conviction by itself.
He'd played it back and had spotted a black male going into and leaving the shop at the appropriate time, and the suspect that he had arrested at the scene and who was sitting in custody was a black male.
The officer said "The useful thing is, there aren't many black people in that area, only two come in during the whole time, so that makes things a bit easier to ID him."
A long intake of breath followed.
The young in service officer paused. "What?"
Whispered conversation between the Inspector and Sergeant, then the PC was invited out of the canteen to have a chat about his "potentially racist attitude."
How have we got to this point, where a young, naive but eager PC is excited about the prospect of arresting a suspect and he is spoken to about his potential racism?
Yes, the words may have been misconstrued if seen in an isolated sentence. Yes, someone that wasn't in the conversation may have misunderstood. But in the context of the conversation, it was a simple case of a young copper wanting to be able to charge a recidivist thief.
The really sad thing is that the Inspector involved didn't for a moment think that any racism was involved, and the same goes for the Sergeant. What they didn't want (understandably) was to be seen to be allowing racism.
It's hard to keep up sometimes.