Letter: Tilting at windmills

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IN HIS contribution in the County Times on December 29, Philip Circus draws attention to scepticism amongst local authorities about the forthcoming election of local police and crime commissioners.

Small wonder if that should be the case; the idea was strongly contested from the beginning. Trailed as a welcome addition to police accountability, it comes with a hefty price tag and uncertainty about what it might deliver. Even the title of the post, Police and Crime Commissioner, conveys ambiguity.

It is entirely fortuitous that the election process is taking place against the background of the recently available Cabinet papers dealing with the inner-city riots at the beginning of the 1980s. A prospective candidate might usefully make a comparison between the events then and those in the last few months.

“If we are to save ourselves from incessant conflict, we must start talking hearts and minds.” Sir John Alderson, Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall, giving evidence to the Scarman Inquiry, was rowing against the clamour for CS gas and baton rounds and increased police powers, in the wake of the riots 30 years ago.

Views like these were heeded then but what of now and the response to the recent unrest?

Leading Government figures pitched in with snap analysis, were quick to lay blame and surfed the tide of fear and anger which greeted the riots to launch a regime of ‘robust policing’. What is meant by the term? Does it contain seeds for further division and unrest, in months not years?

Mr Circus rails at the idea of the police ‘celebrating diversity’. He is tilting at windmills. Whatever tag is applied, this is an important element for agencies engaged in delivering services to the public.

He makes reference to ‘political correctness’; a common complaint but does it bear scrutiny? Is it being used, in the words of a former colleague, as a stick to beat those whose views you do not want to hear? Is it a ruse to gull those who prefer not to look beyond slogans?

ERIK SHOPLAND

Denne Road, Horsham