Monday, 8 March 2010

Police Racism

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.


Hogdayafternoon said...

In a country village I onced covered, there lived an afro-carib` male. He was in a minority of one, literally, such was the demographic of this village. He always seemed to be wearing his favourite West Ham United top. My unbiased investigation started with the complainants statement, "The person running off from my car, with the radio in his hand, was black, aged about 14 and wearing a West Ham United shirt. It was Danny Grey who lives in Station Road". I started by asking if he could have been mistaken, as Aston Villa have similar colours, but it isn't rocket science to just keep the race in perspective without being labelled racist. Is it?

Anonymous said...

That's outrageous. Poor sod.


Pete said...

You are all gutless.

"I am black".... see you cower.

Old BE said...

Unless there is a minority of one as in Hogday's example, how does a lack of black people in the area improve the chances of finding the suspect?

Or am I missing something?

ps I am of very confused racial and ethnic background so there.

Hogdayafternoon said...

Anon@2240: If you mean the poor sod in my comment, yes he was, as well as being a really nice lad. Talk about carrying a label around with him. And I'm a West Ham supporter too. By the way, he did nick the car radio. His mates put him up to it. I cautioned him and the owner withdrew his complaint. Everybody won. That would not be allowed today.

Tom102 said...

We really are in trouble when the police are coerced into a thought process that determines thinking that it is better to think of terms of ethnicity, than one simple category. A 'thief is a thief' regardless, and a promising young officer is pillored for his accurate observations.

Pete said...

You are all chickenshit cowards.

Anonymous said...

i think his comments are clearly there for describing, i'm sure the lad is terrified, thinking he is going to lose his job. i don't think there is any hint of racism, and i would guess the black bobby also had no problem with it

Fee said...

Would the same attitude have prevailed if he'd said "there aren't many white people in that area"?

His comments, to me at least, were nothing more than a statement of fact.

Old BE said...

Fee - surely that would have been even more racist!

MTG said...

"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."

In part, I agree with the Inspector and Sergeant.

"What they didn't want (understandably) was to be seen to be allowing racism."

It was wrong to ask the young officer to leave the meeting and it provides no service to citizens that police can be immobilized through fear of red herrings. Crystal clear instruction and applied reasoning should have concluded a collective meeting.

JuliaM said...

Do you suppose the same thing occurs in, say, Nigeria or Japan when one of the few white expatriates is a habitual thief?

No. Me neither.

Why do we do it to ourselves, then? This is no more an example of racism than - should the thief be one of the few red-haired men in the area - observing this would be an example of 'gingerism'...

Area Trace No Search said...


I do like Reading your comments. It makes me smile nearly every time, and I reckon there aren't enough things that make us smile on a day to day basis.

The only confusing thing for me though (ok, that's a lie - as a definite non-graduate many things confuse me) is why you read so many police blogs in so much detail?

I'm sure you don't consider us a worthy adversary even in typo wars, much less a threat to you, so what is it that drives you to keep Reading things that make you so annoyed? I know that I'd avoid anything that I didn't particularly like when I was off duty.

Please don't stop commenting on my blog however, I'm pretty sure there's a Pete Fan Club forming.

MTG said...

Gosh Area, reading your last comment invoked images of the Holy George D and audibility of the climactic bars to Handel's most famous chorus.

What we would all give to see the best traditional English values reconciled with our policing.

The Blue Light Run said...

ATNS, I missed your original post, so apologies for the delay. I recall a fellow police officer being racially verbally abused by a prisoner that she had just managed to tie up in a neat little package. The tirade of abuse from the prisoner was non-stop but my colleague was not fazed and remained competely professional throughout. The prisoner was further arrested (by another officer) for S4 racially aggravated public order. I'll never forget my black colleagues quip to the arresting officer that "you whites take this racisim shit far too seriously".

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Defence Brief said...

Forgive me for seeming stupid, but where were they worried about the risk of racism arising?

Could anyone perceive it as racist to say, "I saw a 6' tall white man with brown hair enter a shop at the time money from the til was stolen"? I can't imagine any circumstance in whcih that would be perceived as racist, so what was worrying about your example?

Do the police now consider it racist to describe a suspect according to his ethnicity... if so then why do they record a suspects perceived enthnicity when booking in at the station?

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