Unfailingly, whenever police act violently, as in Memphis, there are calls for legislative reform by the Democrats in the US. This usually consist of measures to rein in police, banning choke holds and the like, increasing the threshold for the use of force, and making individual cops open to being personally sued for perceived misconduct. The proposed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is the current legislative measure du jour.
In the US, of course, race complicates an already complicated issue. Race hustler Al Sharpton, faced with the unpalatable fact that all of the cops indicted for beating Tyre Nichols were black, claimed that it would not have happened if Nichols had been white. Sad to say, he may be right; for once. Blacks commit a grossly disproportionate amount of violent crime. Why then wouldn’t police of any colour be wary and prejudiced in their outlook? It’s unfortunate. People should be dealt with as individuals, equally and civilly. But we don’t live in a perfect world. And we, law abiding citizens, depend on police to protect us.
As Det. Frank Keller (Al Pacino) says to his love interest Helen Kruger (Ellen Barkin) in the movie Sea of Love: “Come the wet ass hour, I’m everybody’s daddy!”
So what to do? We want the bad guys off the street. We don’t want to hamstring the police. We don’t want violent police.
When young, aged about eighteen, waiting in the early hours for a train on a section of deserted platform at Euston Station in London, I saw two policemen beat up a man who had been sleeping on a bench seat. I saw no provocation. Interfering would have been foolhardy; but, in fact, it didn’t cross my mind at the time. I sat up straight and checked that I didn’t look dishevelled.
Legislated rules of conduct are no answer. The only partial answer is to get the right people at the top; to create a culture of restraint and respect. And to harden recruitment. Police forces attract thugs and those of intemperate disposition. If they are not weeded out at the start, there’s half a chance they’ll run amok at some stage, whatever are the rules.