Wow, I’ve just looked at my blog site and I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t blogged since the 16th February, that’s terrible! Lot’s of things have happened, my personal life has been busy, and, of course, we’ve had the Olympics, so that was a crazy four months for us in London! Any hoo, no excuses but I’m back, and hopefully this will be me getting back on the blogging bandwagon.
The idea for this blog first came about when I was on a carrier of officers working in a part of London that I don’t normally work in, we were assisting some borough officers in South London with stopping and searching a group of young lads late one afternoon over Notting Hill Carnival weekend.
As most of you will know, Notting Hill Carnival is renowned for gangs from all over London converging at carnival and fighting with each other. This day in particular we were asked over our radio channel to go to an estate in South London (I forget which borough it was), where officers had seen members of a known gang hanging around, possibly getting ready to go to carnival. We were then told that this group had been searched an hour ago, and a number of knives and weapons were recovered from close to where they were sitting. These were all seized by police.
So, we then arrive to help the officers search the group again, needless to say their grounds for wanting to search the group were very present and we were justified in doing so. Straight away the group were confrontational, trying to walk behind us and surround us, saying all the usual ‘this is our area’ etc… etc… as we always get. The group were searched and nothing was found, however just across from where they were and hidden in the bushes were some very large knives and an assortment of other weapons. Remember that this area was cleared out of it’s weapons an hour ago, so somehow more weapons had suddenly appeared as if David Blaine had put them there himself! Even though we were pretty sure that this group had put the weapons there, it was one of these situations that ‘It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove’ (the eagle eyed among you will recognise that as a quote from the legendary ‘Training Day’). We had nothing to link these weapons to the boys so they were seized and the group was sent on their way. Just before they left, I did ask a few them if they were in a gang, to which I was told ‘No, but this is our area’, I knew they were annoyed that we were being searched, so I tried to explain why we did it, and that we were there to help rid their community of knives and guns so it’s safer for them, but they didn’t care about and it was falling on deaf ears.
Where my issue comes from, is that whilst we were dealing with these lads, a female, in her 40’s, came out of a house in her dressing gown, and started shouting abuse at us ‘So they fuck you up if you go to carnival, now they’re coming to your home to fuck you up’. Our job is hard enough on the street trying to earn the respect of members of the public, especially in certain parts of London where hating the police is so deeply entrenched in their attitudes and lives that nothing I saw will ever change that. These young lads, some of them only 14 or 15, I think are still at an age where we can talk to them and hopefully change their attitude towards us, showing them that we’re trying to do a good job and protect them in their local communities, however naïve that might sound. How are we supposed to do this when said woman is shouting abuse at us in front of these impressionable young guys?
I am fully aware that 30 or 40 years ago when she may have been growing up in that area the police probably treated people very differently, so that probably influenced her opinions of the police, and no doubt she was influenced by the older people around her as she grew up, but what I’m trying to say is that police culture has changed so much in the past 3 decades that it’s not like it used to be. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the attitudes of some parts of the community. It makes me wonder whether it’s not always the police’s actions that makes people so anti-police, but how they are influenced by the older people in their own community and how that nurtures their hatred towards us.
I hear stories of how it used to be in the 70’s and into the 80’s and it’s unbelievable. I couldn’t have imagined working in a police force like that, but it’s now 2012 not the 80’s, we have moved forward and changed the way we work. Can someone suggest how we now go forward and attempt to show local people that it’s not like it used to be.
I’m worried that todays youth are going to grow up being influenced by their elders around them, so they will have that hatred engrained into them right from a young age, then they are going to have children and push that same attitude onto their children and nothing will ever change, this hatred of the police will continue throughout generations to come unless we can do something about it.
At the moment I feel like we are fighting a losing battle and I honestly don’t know what we can do to change the attitudes of the next generation.
I do however, think one option may rest with education. We should be going into schools and interacting with them a little bit more. Not out on the street, where passers-by are eyeing them up and down, but in a class room environment where they don’t have to feel threatened and outnumbered by people in a uniform. A chance for them to ask questions and get their opinion over in a constructive way. We should be finding out what it is that they hate about it, is there a way that the police could do it better and ensuring they understand the reasons behind why it’s such an important tool. And then maybe, just maybe these kids might not grow up being so anti-police and passing on their hatred to the next generation.
I don’t have the answers, so as always, I’m interested to hear your views. Remember, these are just my opinions and how I see it from my point of view.
As a side note….I’m not so naïve to think that we’re there to be liked by everyone, and that not everyone will always support us, that’s just the nature of our work, but I do think it could be a lot better than it presently is.