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  Opinion   Columnists  08 Apr 2023  Farrukh Dhondy | Of ‘bad apples’ and ‘good apples’: Why UK police needs a makeover

Farrukh Dhondy | Of ‘bad apples’ and ‘good apples’: Why UK police needs a makeover

In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."
Published : Apr 8, 2023, 1:09 am IST
Updated : Apr 8, 2023, 1:09 am IST

Only with root and branch reform will public faith in the Met be restored

The Met’s publicity department will undoubtedly attempt to inform the public about the purges and reforms of systems that it’s implementing in the post-Casey era.  (Photo: Twitter)
 The Met’s publicity department will undoubtedly attempt to inform the public about the purges and reforms of systems that it’s implementing in the post-Casey era. (Photo: Twitter)

“O Bachchoo the eye of heaven glares
Unblinking through the trees —
Stare back at it any who dares
To embrace blindness with ease.”
“What’s all this about heaven’s eye
I thought you didn’t believe?”
“God’s sake, I know it’s all a lie
But what else can relieve
The pain of that which stalks the day
We sceptics must regret!”
“Ah! So now you’re ready to pray?”
“O Bachchoo — No! Not yet!”

— From Faith Ki Pooja, by Bachchoo

Wayne Couzens was a Metropolitan Police officer who, in March 2021, accosted the 33-year-old Sarah Everard, “arrested”, handcuffed and pushed her into a hired car. He drove her to a secluded forest in Kent where he raped and strangled her.

The murder became a crucial national issue. Thousands of women demonstrated, demanding that the streets be made safe for them. Couzens was finally apprehended, tried and sentenced to life imprisonment.

A report into criminality and untenable attitudes in the Metropolitan Police was commissioned under the chairwomanship of Baroness Louise Casey.

The idea that there were a few “bad apples” in the by-and-large decent force was dismissed. More like an orchard full of them — bred in poisonous, fungoid soil.
Casey’s report says: “The Metropolitan Police is broken and rotten, suffering collapsing public trust and is guilty of institutional racism, misogyny and homophobia.”

The Met Police commissioner accepted the report with one caveat. He says he will solemnly set out to implement its recommendations, even though he doesn’t accept that his force is “institutionally racist”. But that’s a quibble. What’s important is that all traces — which means police conduct in action and in the culture of police stations — be rid of racism, misogyny, homophobia and the other ills that Casey has said the institution is heir to.

Only with root and branch reform will public faith in the Met be restored.
Acting on his stated determination, the Met Police last week arrested two policemen of the Met who were tried, convicted and sentenced for the rape of women whose acquaintance they had made through being assigned to them on official duties.

The Met’s publicity department will undoubtedly attempt to inform the public about the purges and reforms of systems that it’s implementing in the post-Casey era. Earlier this week, the Met even announced that hundreds of police officers will face the sack over the next year as the investigation proceeds. Whether that will restore the Met to being a barrel-full of beaming apples is unlikely, but infinitely desirable.

My own experience tells me, through reportage and one encounter, that the reforms will have to be very deep and wide to gain the trust, for instance, of the young black men and women of the city. For decades there have been constant reports, complaints and political resistance to the police implementing “stop and search” powers on young blacks walking the streets. The police officers say they are looking for drugs, knives and guns, but the reported experience of the community and of some horrific cases of the killing of unarmed black men, of the body-searches of very young pre-pubic girls, the stopping of an Olympic athlete because she is black and was in an expensive car… I could go on, but I presume, gentle reader, that the picture is clear. These bad apples are attracted to young black faces as Newton’s apple was attracted to earth.

What about the good apples, as surely there are some? Well, my only experience of being arrested was decades ago, when I was with a political organisation to which I belonged, exercising my right to free speech in a demonstration outside a factory in London which had dismissed its almost 100 per cent Asian workforce for attempting to form a trade union branch.

The very powerful and numerous National Union of Miners (NUM) had also rallied to the cause of the Grunwick factory workers and their absolute right to join a trade union. The day the NUM had chosen to voice their support, they brought down literally thousands of miners from the north of England, Wales and Scotland to demonstrate solidarity.

The picket line faced a massive force of police. A cry went up: “Arthur’s been arrested!” The miners surged forward to release their NUM leader. I was caught in the crush and three coppers threw me to the ground. Then, still chained to a constable, I was dragged to a police van and driven to Willesden police station.

I was charged with assaulting three policemen. Weeks later, in court, I defended myself and played in my cross-examination on my weight and size compared to that of my supposed victims. The police gallery burst out laughing when I finally asked one burly supposed victim: “Are you telling this court that the likes of me assaulted three of the likes of you?” The judge stopped the case and told me I was discharged, but not to go near Grunwick again.

And another “good apple” experience? After Islamist terrorist bombings on the London Underground in 2005, I was, obliviously, walking down Edgware Road a few hundred yards from where one of the bombs had gone off. There was a mob gathered there and a police cordon. An authoritative policeman grabbed me by the arm and led me with another cop down the road. I protested. I really thought they were leading me to their van.

“Not arresting you,” he said. “But you look Asian and there’s a nasty mob out there — baying for blood. Just ‘f’ off as fast as you can!”

Tags: wayne couzens, baroness louise casey, national union of miners