THERESA May could not have been clearer when she addressed the Police Federation in the aftermath of the Hillsborough inquest, a no-holds-barred speech which confirmed her status as David Cameron’s most likely successor.
“Remember Hillsborough. Let it be a touchstone for everything you do,” said the Home Secretary after the gravest miscarriage of justice in British legal history.
Desperately difficult times for the police – the flawed investigation into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final is just one of several scandals to besmirch the reputation of this once respected profession – Mrs May’s warning is reinforced by a hard-hitting Home Affairs Select Committee report. It is so perturbed at variations in the enforcement of the College of Policing’s Code of Ethics that it wants national standards introduced so this protocol has the same importance as the Hippocratic Oath which underpins the work of the medical profession.
Though it is regrettable that such a step might now be necessary, the Parliamentary inquiry admits that this sad state of affairs is an enduring legacy of Hillsborough, and the tragic events which unfolded at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground in April 1989, and that the police need to signal their intent to win back the public’s lost trust.
This cannot be delayed any longer. Even though the overwhelming majority of officers are untainted by scandal, and continue to uphold the highest standards of integrity in spite of provocation from some criminals, their reputation – and unstinting work in local communities – continues to be compromised by those controversies which pre-date their careers.
They will also know that the only individuals who will have anything to fear from stricter procedures are the tiny handful of rogue officers who, frankly, should not be in the police service because their conduct discredits a whole profession. Identifying, and then eradicating those concerned, remains a top priority if one of the lessons of Hillsborough is to not only be learned but also put into practice.
FOR all the faults with British policing, it is a strength of this society that the majority of officers are unarmed. Contrast this with the desperate events in United States which is struggling to come to terms with the shooting dead of several officers in Dallas as protests mount about the use of police lethal force against two African Americans after detectives killed two men in separate incidents caught on camera.
It’s chilling just to think that more than 50 American police officers have been killed this year alone as the US comes to terms with the worst attack on law enforcement officers since 9/11. Just what has happened to the message of ‘hope’ that Barack Obama preached prior to his election as President of the United States? His election in 2008 was, after all, intended to change the course of political and social history as he became the first African American to win the keys to the White House.
From this perspective, the ‘Land of the Free’ appears to be as racially divided as ever while President Obama, supposedly the most powerful leader in the world, is so enfeebled that he can’t act on gun control. As time ticks on his presidency, one of the most disappointing in modern times, he becomes weaker with each atrocity. It’s been asked before, and it will be asked after the inevitable next tragedy, but what will it take for America to be brought to its senses?
The ebb and flow
IT is, in many respects, the ebb and flow of local communities, at times of great social change and upheaval, which remains one of the most enduring features of seaside life.
Yet not all change is for the better. Take Filey, a proud community which continues to reinvent itself as a North Yorkshire tourism hotspot because of the steady decline of its once mighty fishing fleet.
The acclaimed Filey Fishermen’s Choir, which has raised the roof on many an occasion for the RNLI and other charities, is in danger of disappearing into the mists of time due to a shortage of choristers – one of its youngest members is 76-year-old Roger Carr.
However, given how so many evenings in Filey have been enlivened by sea shanty songs performed in front of a raging log fire in a local hostelry packed to the rafters, it would be regrettable if such traditions – the heart and soul of coastal communities – were lost in the seas of change swirling about in contemporary society.