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10-03-2010

Helmet

Dave Woodhall offers up a few thoughts on police powers and how effective they are.

I was walking through Stourbridge town centre last Saturday afternoon, after watching the Magnificent Glassboys beat Clevedon Town 4-1. That’s got nothing to do with the story but does give a bit of coverage to a team who need it.

Anyway, I was looking in a shop window and there was a sign saying something like “West Midlands Police welcome you to Stourbridge”. Nice of them, I thought. The sign went on to say, basically, behave yourself or you’re nicked.

And this annoyed me a bit. First, why should it be presumed that anyone’s main purpose in visiting a shopping centre should be to break the law? Second, why should the police act as judge and jury towards law-abiding citizens? By saying such a thing they’re implying that they are the sole arbiters of what constitutes acceptable behaviour, and what might be perfectly normal behaviour to a group of teenagers spending their pocket money might not be tolerated by a ‘because I can’ bobby on the beat.

Anyway, signs like that are counter-productive. People might see them and think there are problems occurring on the mean streets of Stourbridge which mean the police have to monitor the area constantly.

It strikes me that yet again it’s an example of the police overstepping their role. They are servants of the public, there to prevent the law from being broken when it appears that such an occurrence might take place and to apprehend those who do so. I don’t think it’s their job to issue warnings to anyone who they think ‘might’ cause a problem.

There’s also a more serious side issue here. The recent stories about Jon Venables have aroused much comment, and a lot of it has been to criticise the state of the nation for creating a do-gooder society where the guilty go free and the innocent suffer.

You can use any of the stock phrases here – nanny state, liberals, do-gooders, PC brigade. Any one will do. But while you’re doing it, you can explain something that’s been puzzling me for a while.

How can you say that we live in such a society when the reality is that our police have more powers than ever? And given this state of affairs, who’s really at fault if crime is rising?

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