The standard police defence

Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.

You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty.

We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

Colonel Jessop, A Few Good Men. You hear something similar from an alarming number of police officers should you have the temerity to question shootings, racism, deaths in custody. The police service has to start to recognise that while we are grateful for the protection they offer, that protection does not mean we are not allowed to question when they act beyond the bounds of what they are charged to do.

The police service wants us to respect the difficult job they do. While the Jessop attitude pervades, that respect is a long way off.

10 thoughts on “The standard police defence

  1. The Met?

    Craig Mackey’s hardly Col Jessop.

    Are you suggesting most cops are as blindly loyal to the cause and stupid as Dawson & Downey?

    Are all suspects Santiago?

    Is this why why need the Winsor officer class plastic Inspectors to tell thicko ploddy how to do the job properly?

    The truth is there are 30,000 warranted officers in the Met.

    5 out of that 30K have made the news for recent racist complaints.


    I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank the remaining 29,995 officers who do their jobs properly for volunteering to stand between my family and criminals.

  2. As I say above, I am, and I believe most are, grateful for the protection we are afforded by the police. However, doing a difficult, dangerous job does not put them out of the reach of question.

    I am tired of being told that if we seek to question the actions of the police we must walk a mile in their shoes, or shut up and display gratitude. No service entitled to use force is entitled to that defence – their actions have to be able to be scutinised, and stand up to scrutiny. That is the point I am making.

  3. <>

    Strange how this vast vast and highly professional majority seem to have little impact on curbing the behaviour of the unprofessional minority that most young black men seem to come into contact with – or should I say seem to come into contact with young black men.

    And after all this time too…

    • Do you think it’s all one way, then?

      Do you not think it might, just might, be a case of ‘six of one, half a dozen of the other’ and that maybe some ‘young black men’ should maybe take a good, hard look at the way they conduct themselves when interacting with police?

  4. I have to agree with what you are saying. The Police do a difficult and dangerous job and most of them manage to do that fairly, justly and within the boundaries that the law places upon them. However, some do not and some police officers do fail o recognise this. There seems to be, for some, a pack mentality that forms and they will not denounce one of their colleagues and will jump on anyone who does, especially those who have not served as a police officer. They will argue that nobody can comment unless they’ve been there themselves.

    PC Simon Harwood is a prime example of this. We all know who he is and the circumstances surrounding it so I do not feel as though I ought to repeat them. However, some officers (usually hiding behind pseudonyms on the internet) jumped straight to his defence and could not even contemplate the possibility that he had done anything wrong. They condemned the investigations launched to uncover what had happened; the investigations that would discover whether one of their fellow officers had gone outside of the boundaries placed upon them by the law and had committed an offence. No police officer should stand for people committing an offence. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Chief Constable or a member of the public: if an offence has been committed (or may have been committed) then that must be investigated and the perpetrator brought to justice.

    As public servants the police should expect to be accountable to those that they serve: the public. The public have every right to question behaviour of officers that they believe is inappropriate (especially where the inappropriate behaviour might also be criminal). Yes, the police get a hard time from certain sections of the public and one can understand why some of them might feel as though the public are always against them. However, there is little doubt that the vast majority of law abiding people in this country are grateful for the work that they do and are supportive of what they do. Those same people questioning the behaviour of one or a small number of officers does not detract from that. Public confidence in the police does diminish when the conduct of the police falls below the standard expected (as with any profession or vocation). However, the police can counter this diminishing in public confidence themselves by publically supporting (and not criticising) investigations into the conduct. Yes, when you’re on the frontline of a riot you want to feel as though your colleagues are backing you up and undoubtedly they will. That does not (and should not) diminish by supporting investigations into alleged inappropriate conduct.

  5. @Malcolm

    As someone married to the Job, so to speak, I hope you will find some comfort in my relaying that sexist, homophobic and racist behaviour is challenged – and taken quite seriously.

    Consider that this isn’t the 80s and with a diverse service, people aren’t scared to report these matters as they once might have been. If nothing else, any ism is deeply corrosive and will tear a team apart if unchallenged.

    Consider also that we’ve had the Bristol Seminars and the McPherson Report.

    Of course there are people serving that don’t get the message – but as someone whose served in the US military, even I struggle to recognise a real life Col Jessup in my 8 years’ service in that organisation.

    To suggest that the Metropolitan Police operates in a Rumsfeldian universe where racist abuse is given an official nod and runs like a corrosive thread throughout the service is, with respect, unhelpful in rooting out people like PC Racist Idiot.

  6. A surprising lack of complexity in the above Wiggy, which is a massive shame, because I usually really enjoy your posts. Your recent ones regarding victims of rape were spot-on.

    Aaron Sorkin (writer of A Few Good Men) is probably the best American writer alive today for my money and what I love most about his work, is that, despite being clearly from the Left of the political divide, he writes compellingly and with great nuance from both sides. Col. Jessup was so impactive because the point he makes is clear, even though he is clearly a deeply flawed character. See also John Goodman’s characters in both The West Wing and Studio 60.

    I am a serving, frontline officer with ten years in. I agree with and fully support great public scrutiny for the police, as we hold immense power and responsibility. I hate it when police are found to be racist, corrupt or excessively violent and so do the vast majority of my colleagues. I’ve never seen or heard anyone suggest that thuggish behaviour by a bobby should be tolerated or covered up.

    >Colonel Jessop, A Few Good Men. You hear something similar from an alarming number of police officers should you have the temerity to question shootings, racism, deaths in custody.

    Really? Well, this may depend on how you raise it of course, without specifics, it’s hard to judge. This is of course, your blog, and you have the right to say anything you want to, but I make the point that there is no supporting evidence for what you have said here and an alarming number of officers could be just two if you are easily alarmed.

    >The police service has to start to recognise that while we are grateful for the protection they offer, that protection does not mean we are not allowed to question when they act beyond the bounds of what they are charged to do.

    We have to start to recognise this do we? With respect, this is just silly. You talk about an ‘alarming number’ of officers and then conflate this with the whole police service not recognising at all (or it wouldn’t have to start to recognise) that the public can question when we break the rules. I have never met a bobby who did not think we should be held to a higher standard, it is the manner of the questioning on occasion which causes issues, with what seems sometimes like a constant barrage of unjustified abuse from the Guardian (a paper I read) and the Left in general (a group I would generally identify myself as belonging to). There is no doubt that a certain political class of people think that the police are all stupid, racist apologists for each other and this causes a bit of a seige mentality sometimes I think and prevents an honest debate about what improve,ends need to be made. This is particularly bad at the moment because the police service is being attacked on all fronts with regards to pay and conditions amongst everything else.

    >The police service wants us to respect the difficult job they do. While the Jessop attitude pervades, that respect is a long way off.

    A cheap shot which would not stand up in Court. Even if the Jessop attitude does exist as widely as you speculate, what would stop people from respecting the difficult job the police do, whilst disagreeing with that particular stance? As I said, not up to your usual standard, must try harder.

    • I have written about this before, here in response to a blog which used it, and yes, it does seem to me to be the standard response to anything raised with the police. It was said to me yet again on Thursday night, hence this post. It seems to me, drawn from the officers I have contact with, that even those who agree that the police should be held to a higher standard, still trot out this line. I can only write from experience, but am happy to take your views and position on board.

    • I’m quite looking forward to Sorkin’s new series. I enjoyed both ‘West Wing’ and ‘Studio 60′, and ‘A Few Good Men’ is one of my favourite films.

      He does have a gift for complicated characters.

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