The death of George Floyd following his arrest by Minneapolis police was completely unacceptable and I welcome the fact that the ex-officers involved have been charged. Yet my inbox is filled with emails from people critical of the British police because of the actions of one or more American officers.
I do not know a great deal about policing in America but having spent nine years as a special constable - during which time I made numerous arrests, including for possession of a firearm and attempted murder - I think I know a little of policing in Britain. I am proud to say British police officers operate to exceptionally high standards. Every officer knows they must avoid causing any injury at all costs to someone when carrying out an arrest. Custody suites in police stations are fully covered with CCTV and body cameras are now becoming standard issue.
The British Transport Police, in which I served, included officers of all races and religions. I can honestly say I never once saw an example of racist behaviour. I did see a lot of hardworking and underappreciated individuals who face a great deal of hostility while trying to keep the public safe.
Of course, there are a few loose cannons in the British police and in the NHS, the public sector and any other group of people you might wish to name – including politicians! But we should avoid judging a profession due to the idiotic actions of a tiny unrepresentative minority.
The vast majority of the weekend’s Black Lives Matter rallies were peaceful. People simply want to make a point, which they have every right to do, although mass gatherings clearly run the risk of spreading Covid-19. Unfortunately, a small number of protestors in London became violent and tried to assault police officers. I think we should judge the marchers by the behaviour of the peaceful majority. I therefore hope the marchers themselves and those who are emailing me will judge the British police by the behaviour of the hardworking and dedicated majority.
We now find ourselves marking national Carers Week (8-14 June). Awareness of carers has never been so prominent as during the coronavirus crisis with Clap for Carers, which ended after 10 weeks. But let’s not forget that alongside the frontline NHS staff and key workers we applauded every Thursday, the police have also been there for us throughout this pandemic. We should not allow the good name of British police officers to be tarnished because of what is happening in the United States.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 10 June 2020 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 11 June 2020*