The shocking and bizarre story of a 61 year old blind man who was tasered by the police after they mistook his stick for a samurai sword, has once again raised the quesion of the ineptitude and brutality of the force. Colin Farmer thought he was being mugged before realising that he was being attacked by "a thug in a policeman's uniform". Which was indeed the case.
Needless to say the institutional violence, corruption and racism of the police has long been apparent. In the 1970s and 1980s it seemed as though you only had to put a place name and number together to find a miscarriage of justice. The 1990s unfolded beneath the cloud of the brutal murder of Stephen Lawrence, and the fallout from the ensuing Macpherson report. By the start of the new millenium the old bill had revised their modus operandi entirely by cutting out the middleman. No longer fitting up people for crimes they didn't commit or simply ignoring evidence the police took to unlawfully kililng people all by themselves.
These high profile examples are merely the tip of the ice berg. On a daily basis people feel the effects of police bullying, harrassment and intimidation although the outcome is not, thankfully, always as catastrophic as in the cases of the Birmingham Six, Jean Charles de Menezes or Ian Tomlinson. In the past week I've seen the owner of a local sandwich shop sell up after months of the old bill "just popping in for a chat", and a young Asian single mother fined for wasting police time after reporting a mugging. And perhaps most farcically of all a friend of mine was wrongfully arrested for threatening a woman with a knife.
Residents at a block of flats in Portsmouth called the police after seeing a man threaten his girlfriend with a kitchen knife following an especially heated argument. When the police arrived they were looking for a man in his late fifties, balding and with no teeth. My friend - in his forties, elogently coiffured, and with a mouthful of teeth (many of which are still his own) - answered the knock at the door expecting the police to enquire about that evening's events. Instead they grabbed hold of his arm, hauled him out of his home and handcuffed him. All of which took place as his five year old grandson played in the background. Unsurprisingly my friend voiciferously protested his innocence, though it fell on deaf ears. The only time the friendly neighbourhood bobbies spoke was when they warned my friend to "behave" because he was appearing "increasingly agitated".
To be fair to the plod, they had managed to find both the right street and the right block of flats, but it was at this point that their Holmesian powers of deduction failed them. They got the wrong man because they went to the wrong flat. It appears their sense of direction was askew because they had run the criminal records of people in the block and my friend's name had produced a hit. However his record is spotless, and the caution on record belonged to his son who shares his name. The police had arrived full of pre-conceived ideas and nothing was likely to change that - especially the evidence in front of their eyes. Not even the intervention of the couple who had made the original 999 call could dissuade the police from pursuing their error to its illogical conclusion.
Eventually, as my friend was on the verge of being thrown into a meat wagon, the cop in charge asked him to open his mouth. "Oh," said the brains of the operation. "It's not you. You've got teeth." Elementary! An hour after being released, and with his wrists grazed and bruised, my friend answered his front door again to once more be confronted with the police. "Er, yes, well, er, sorry about earlier. Can we ask you some questions about the man with the knife?" Raising his eyebrows in exasperation my friend asked if they were joking before shutting the door in their face.
Still the whole shambolic episode did allow my friend the glimmer of a silver lining. That night he phoned the police himself to report an assault. Could he provide a description of his assailants? "Yes, certainly officer, there were three of them, all wearing police uniforms. I even managed to get their numbers if that would help..."
The truth is that thiis kind of incident is all too commonplace - and even worse if you happen to be from an ethnic minority. The police are held up as the neutral upholders of a neutral law. How far from reality this is! Fundamentally their job is to maintain the status quo. It should come as no surprise that their actions are so often conceived in ignorance and prejudice and executed with arrogant contempt. If you want to know where the institution of the police force stand in class terms, try a simple test. See how much use they are when you have a bike nicked, and compare that to the speed with which thousands of riots cops descend upon London when a bunch of lefties march past McDonalds, Starbucks and Nike.