Below is the oath of an English or Welsh Police Constable. It indicates discretion and that keeping the peace comes first – as do people before property:
I, … of … do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people; and that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offences against people and property; and that while I continue to hold the said office I will to the best of my skill and knowledge discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law.
Policemen are also not government employees – so legally not only are they forbidden to strike they are also not allowed to accept orders from the government.
Thus Avon and Somerset Police’s decision not to intervene was entirely responsible and within their oath and the government can, I suggest, do sweet fanny adams about it.
At least the Avon and Somerset Police are governing by consent even if Cressida Dick seemed in April to be clapping without social distancing and thus unconvincingly, was yesterday, bemoaning the lack of adhesion to such principles in June.
It is true London has more targets – and it also has more police per head. Whether that makes them better is uncertain.
But what is, I suggest, fairly certain is they are all, in spite of their imperfections better than almost any of the others. After all American police based themselves on the Gendarmes of France – one and the same as the French Military Police who are usually in charge of your twee Dordogne village (if you have one) and if Johnson will allow you to visit in future…
Because the Gendarmes (translation – a man at arms) policing was adopted by the Americans and based, it seems on Lt Col David Galula’s system in Algeria, which was so cruel that the French were, as many know, ashamed and eventually abandoned it. Of course the American police, although starting with the British system of nightwatchmen subsequently, like the British, transferred in an entirely different direction:
In the American South, however, the economics that drove the creation of police forces were centered not on the protection of shipping interests (from where the English Police also originated) but on the preservation of the slavery system.
Britain is decidedly fortunate that it does not have that Police heritage.
I’m fairly sure that the British military police didn’t cover themselves in honour in the empire, and we are very fortunate that, unlike in France, they didn’t come home to police our civilian lives.
Brtitain’s Police are certainly far from perfect but much better than most others – and even introduced the first body worn video on the suggestion and trial of a Plymouth policeman in 2005.
Let us hope that in spite of her rhetoric, the Pritti Dire Home Secretary does not actually lead to any decline in Police standards or especially, independence…