There are some places you expect to find a lot of police brutality. Brazil, for example, where the police are often more feared and hated than the criminals–indeed, often more criminal than the criminals. You expect such things in the slums of Rio, where the Third World encroaches around the fringes of the First. Until recently, though, London wasn’t one of them.
Yes, I said London. Where most police officers don’t carry service revolvers and seldom even need to use their nightsticks. Until recently, London was a truly first-rate First World city, and the British bobbies were the gold standard of good police conduct: civil, helpful, exceptionally kind. And all the same effective at their job. Which was to keep a peaceful, civilized city eminently so…so much so, in fact, that exiles from Brazil’s hated military dictatorship of over 20 years often took refuge in London. One, the great Caetano Veloso, even wrote a song praising the peacefulness of it…
Now, thanks to the shooting of an innocent man–a Brazilian–all that has changed. We see that the gold standard has feet of the same Third World clay as any brutal raider of the suburbs of Rio.
The police in London have committed the inexcusable, but there are all too many who are willing to excuse it in the name of the ill-named and even more ill-conceived War on Terror–or, as I prefer to call it, because it’s much more accurate to do so, the War on Terra. What they have done has not only failed to solve this crime, it has deepened the already festering social tensions around the world that, left unresolved, can so easily lead to violence.
If plainclothes officers have carte blanche to shoot and kill anyone they even only suspect of being a terrorist–with no proof–what’s to save even the most law-abiding citizen’s hide?
I don’t have a criminal record; not even so much as a jaywalking ticket (I don’t drive), and I guess I can still thank my lucky stars that Canada isn’t London, but I’m frankly scared shitless over this. Hell, who wouldn’t be? Only a smug, arrogant fool, the kind who is likely to blow this off as just a necessary or at least unavoidable bit of collateral damage in the War on Terra!
And the apologies we’ve seen so far–from Prime Minister Tony Blair, from London Mayor “Red Ken” Livingstone, and Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair (no relation to the PM), have all been lame and utterly inadequate. No taking responsibility at all; they’ve all been too happy to shove this into the terrorists’ shoes. Where is the accountability?
Meanwhile, the shoot-to-kill policy that resulted in the death of Jean Charles Menezes remains. The police need to be able to get in a head shot at anyone they suspect of being a suicide bomber, the excuse-makers say, tripping over themselves to justify the unjust. Exactly how many times that’s worked elsewhere, or how many disasters it’s prevented, they can’t tell you. Probably because that policy is questionable at best, and in practice, like so much else in the War on Terra, it’s proven a dismal failure. The same Londoners who are not afraid of terrorists, could well have something to fear when it comes to their city’s (former) “finest”, whose job is to stop the terrorists, not become them. It’s a helluva comedown, wouldn’t you say?
Meanwhile, as a gentle reminder that First World and first-rate cities also suffer from police brutality (which only rends the fabric of society, and never reinforces it), I’ll give you a little musical interlude here, courtesy of the Pukka Orchestra:
I’ve got a bone to pick with you,not so friendly boys in blue;you come out of the stationand into the street–everybody beats a hasty retreat.
Well it was late one Friday,I’m a little bit wrecked:you’re on your way to serve and protect.You buzz out of a cruiserlike bees from a hive,and ask me if I want togo for a drive…
Go for a drive?!
That’s why I’m riding onthe Cherry Beach Express;my ribs are brokenand my face is in a mess…and I made all my statementsunder duress!
52 Divisionhandcuffed to a chair–I’m joining the lineupto fall down the stairs.I tell you I’m innocent;I try to explain…“We’re just making sureyou don’t do it again!”
Do what again?!
“That’s why you’re riding onthe Cherry Beach Express–your ribs are brokenand your face is in a messand we strongly suggest you confess!”
Stop! I confess!
I confess I’m mystifiedby the way you’re occupied;I confess I’m horrified–why are you so terrified?Does the pain get any lessif I confess?
52 Divisionhandcuffed to a chair–I’m joining the lineupto fall down the stairs.I tell you I’m innocent;I try to explain…“We’re just making sure
you don’t do it again!”
That’s why I’m riding onthe Cherry Beach Express;my ribs are brokenand my face is in a mess…
And I never dreamed it would be like this;I never dreamed it would be like this…
I confess I’m mystified by all of this too–particularly the stubborn insistence, against all evidence to the contrary, that the War on Terra is anything but a flat failure. That it is anything but the sort of thing you’d expect of a Third-World military dictator. That it is anything but back-door fascism.
I never dreamed it would be like this, either.