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Just a little taster

Travelling to distant lands often has the effect of changing your perspectives about your own country to some degree or other. After returning to Britain from my trip to the USA earlier this week, I was struck by how leaden and grey London appears in November compared to the pastel, azure balminess of the California coast.

But, that said, I was born here in Blighty and I have had a lifetime of getting used to its forbidding and dismal winter skies. Besides, there are other and newer characteristics that make me wonder exactly what type of country I have returned to. They are altogether more pernicious and have nothing to do with the climate:

In the aftermath of my experience, I started some purely anecdotal research on the type of behaviour and attitude displayed by the police towards me. In speaking to friends, acquaintances, tradesmen, cab drivers and people in the pub I rapidly came to realise that a quite staggering number of ordinary, law-abiding people had endured similar experiences.

To discover precisely what ‘experiences’ the author was forced to endure, you will need to read the entire article. I recommend it in particular to our non-British readers so that they can get some idea of what is happening to this country.

The account of the ordeal left me with a ball of cold mercury in the pit of my stomach. For what happened to him could just as easily happen to me or any number of my friends, relations or colleagues.

And this is merely a taste of things to come. The hors d’oeuvres before the main course. We will not enjoy this meal.

55 comments to Just a little taster

  • eoin

    California is crawling with cops. That kind of stop is more common in America than here, for any kind of traffic infringement, or minor violation. In fact rush hour is policed, not to keep traffic flowing, but to catch people with any kind of minor infringement. Rush hour, is easy pickings. Libertarianism is ok, the feitishisation of America is bizare. They do have more people in prison than here,
    and pop over to see overcriminalized.com and see exactly how free it is. Or try living there, rather than visiting.

  • eoin,

    My only comparison to California was in relation to the climate.

    May I suggest you read what is actually said rather than what you assume I have said. That way, you are less likely to make an ass of yourself.

  • Verity

    David, I posted a link on another thread below, but it was already so far down the screen, you may not have seen it. It addressed precisely what you’re talking about and it left me with raised goosebumps. It’s the lead article in this week’s Speccie, and is the first-person account of a man in London innocently making his way to a meeting when he was stopped by the police … Go to the Speccie and read the whole thing if you have the stomach for it.

    As in your piece above, I highly recommend it to Americans.

  • RonG

    Verity: the article was linked to in the post.

    It does all seem so A Clockwork Orangish.

  • Verity

    Oh no! Guilty of not following a link and joining the prat’s club. Thank you, RonG.

    Re the Speccie piece, I think it’s more Stazi-esque than Clockwork Orange. And more Kafka-esque than Orwell, say.

  • Ian Grey

    This is a very disturbing story, although I can remember one or two similar anecdotes from others over the years where uniformed officers have apparently chosen to be deliberately unpleasant in the absence of any reason to do so. I found the tone of the serving officers rather offensive as conveyed by the writer & had it happened to me I would be seriously looking at complaints procedures as they would have failed miserably to retain my respect. Then again, maybe I’m naive….

  • What is missing here is that an offence is an offence and the police don’t care how it occurs so long as it makes the arrest statistics.This case wasn’t very far off the planting of evidence stage and lets face it if the bloke had been an ordinary joe the police would have got away with it.
    There is nothing until the High Courts which prevents the police from abusing and misusing laws which were introduced for totally different purposes,the latter usually brought in without any consideration or safeguards
    You might want to check out the Bramshill Strategic Command Course for senior police officers.
    “If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.”

  • Verity

    Ian Grey - Then again, maybe I’m naive.

    Then again, maybe you missed the entire point of David’s post.

  • Della

    After returning to Britain from my trip to the USA earlier this week, I was struck by how leaden and grey London appears in November compared to the pastel, azure balminess of the California coast.

    Well yes, but that’s due to the relatively southerly location of California rather than some deep malaise in the British spirit. I sometimes get the impression particularly in relation to Europe that some British people believe that if they behave in a different (e.g., a more European) fashion then somehow the weather will improve, I know it sounds silly but I get a very strong impression that some people think like that.

    I’m currently in Hawaii, and California when I was there seemed a relatively grim, I think it got dark at 4:45pm, and the sunlight had the orangish “evening” look of winter compared to here, it was also relatively cold in L.A. I havn’t read the speccy artlicle because I can’t remember my registration details but from the sound of it seemed similar to things I have seen here with fairly arbitrary stops.

  • Verity

    No, Della. It is not similar to anything you have seen where you are with ‘fairly arbitrary stops’.

    That is why David did a post on it.

  • Jake

    I carry both a baton and a all-in-one pocket knife in my car in the US. It is hard for me to believe that they are considered illegal weapons in the UK.

    I was showing my baton to my friends in a parking lot and a cop came up to me, He wanted to show me his baton and that it was much better than mine. I asked him where I could get one like his and he told me. I bought one the next week.

  • Julian Morrison

    Jake: it’s worse than you think. In the UK, any object intended for use as an “offensive weapon”, becomes illegal. So even carrying your house-keys with the avowed intent to scratch a mugger would put you in jail (or fined at least).

  • It appears that England has reached the stage where the only rational response to being stopped by the police is to kill them. America isn’t far behind.

  • Julian;

    Is there a defined difference between “offensive” weapons and “defensive” weapons? Or are the defensive kind outlawed too? And how on earth could a weapon used for defense NOT also be used for offense? Sorry for the dumb questions, but suddenly I’m very curious as to how Britons might defend themselves, other than with bare hands. Last dumb question: Is this a big boon for kung-fu schools, or are they illegal too?

  • If it is in fact the case that even transporting ‘bladed’ instruments in one’s car is illegal. How is one supposed to take a kitchen knife one has bought in a shop home, or a workman carry his tools or any manner of ordinary behaviour. Can this be right, does anyone know what the law actually says about this?

  • Della

    No, Della. It is not similar to anything you have seen where you are with ‘fairly arbitrary stops’.

    That is why David did a post on it.

    I have read the article now,and I think that’s just what you get when you give a facist a badge, the guy writing the article also seemed to be rather rude and undiplomatic and probably could have gotten himself out of trouble if he acted differently.

    That said I don’t approve of this random stopping or pretty much anything else the stupid labour goverment has done. I hope the labour goverment is kicked out of office soon, however I think it is less likely than one would hope even with their crappy poll numbers.

  • Yes, at least American cops have the good sense to size someone up to figure out whether they can afford a good lawyer or not.

    A brief anecdote from the “War on Drugs”:

    When I was a teenager a couple of friends of mine 15 and 17 respectively once stopped a uniform policeman and asked him if he had change for a $20 bill. They were immediately set upon by the policeman and a few partners and beaten to a pulp. The 15 year old was unrecognisable two days later.

    They were taken to jail and the next morning the judge dismissed whatever the case against them was. When they wanted to make a complaint, the judge told them not to bother, they were the drugs squad and they could do whatever they like. This was in 1987.

    The author of the article would have had handcuffs on him and handguns pointed at him the first time he questioned the cop in some places back home.

    One thing that always struck me about the British police was how helpful, for instance, they could be to people who are out for a night on the tiles, but who pose no other threat. Helping them to the train, giving directions, etc. A slightly drunk person on foot asking a policeman for directions in the States would spend the night in jail, no questions asked.

    Looks like those days may soon be over. But then again, they may adapt the American police habit of sizing you up on whether you can afford a good lawyer or not.

    Regards,
    James

  • Pete_London

    James

    Those days are over. The British Police are now not on the side of the British people. They are not even a Force anymore, they are a Police Service. The institution has been taken over by liberals, entering the Police from University or via the Home Office. It won’t change soon, either. It will be years before the country realises that the Police now regard themselves as neutral, there to arbitrate in disputes between offenders and non-offenders.

  • Pete,
    In that case, it’s a good thing that they’re not all armed like they are in the States. It’s really funny but thinking about things here in Blighty, I have two seemingly contradictory feelings regarding law and order and policing.

    One is the libertarian strand which finds things like the situation in the article utterly offensive, and the other is almost a completely reactionary belief that perhaps crime would go down if the laws had teeth and the police were more agressive in arresting lawbreakers (kind of like the whole Giulliani New York thing).

    And, although I don’t believe in guns for myself, I do think that the instances of violent crime against strangers would go way down if mugging or burgling someone turned into a game of Russian Roulette rather than the current no-fault system.

    Ah well, we are considering returning to the States eventually, if the general trend keeps up; i.e. more taxes for more intrusion (of all sorts) and less benefit. At least the tax bill will be cheaper!

    For a while, this was a nicer place to live. But the country seems to be stuck in some sort of entropic trend (just try planning a train journey on a weekend).

    Harrumph, grumble, grumble….Just on a negative vibe today about the general state of things…Never mind me. I think the world has always been going to hell in a handbasket, I’ve just never noticed it as much before! :-)

    Regards,
    James

  • “…the other is almost a completely reactionary belief that perhaps crime would go down if the laws had teeth and the police were more agressive in arresting lawbreakers…”

    What kind of “laws”? Real, lawful laws that involve harm to another? Or unlawful usurpations and abrogations of rights masquerading under color of law?

    Most “tough on crime” types apparently believe that law is whatever the State says it is.

  • ThePresentOccupier

    That is, I’m sorry to say, about the level of behaviour I would expect from the paramilitary wing of the Labour party.

    It is disgusting, but no real surprise.

  • What kind of “laws”? Real, lawful laws that involve harm to another? Or unlawful usurpations and abrogations of rights masquerading under color of law?

    I’m talking about real laws that involve harm to another, but on top of that, harm to another’s property. One can argue, for instance, that grafitti doesn’t harm anyone, but it does have an affect on property.

    And then we get into the prickly area regarding things like drug use/abuse. You can say that it is a strictly consensual act, but how about if the heroin junky decides to raise children, (or rather, ejaculates into a fertile womb)? I reserve the same degree of derision toward alcoholic parents, as well, too. No one holds a gun to anyone’s head to get them hooked on either substance.

    Society’s attitudes toward personal responsibility and duty would have to change dramatically, especially here in the UK and Europe, in order for drug liberalisation policy to be effective. For instance, the Welfare State should not be there to pick up the pieces if someone decides to kill themselves the slow way via drugs and/or alcohol. And such people who choose to take innocent children with them on their downward spiral deserve jail and not just treatment and free housing.

    So yeah, sterilisation sounds about right to me when I hear of all the F***ed up stuff zonked out adults can do to children. Whether it abrogates their “rights”? So what?

    Regards,
    James

  • ThePresentOccupier

    OK, playing devil’s advocate here (as opposed to advocaat, dreadful stuff):

    James, I have decided that your IQ is too low/you are too ugly/you watch football, therefore it is imperative that are prevented from raising children lest you inflict similar harm upon them too. Being ugly (or too attractive) disadvantages a child. Being thick likewise. As for football, well that’s a personal bete noire, so I thought I’d chuck that into the mix.

    Hell, why stop at sterilisation? Grab a table leg and get out onto the streets for some state-sponsored euthenasia!

    (Just in case this is neccessary – no, it isn’t meant as a personal dig, simply a slight twist on what you’ve just said)

  • Verity

    Pete – and they no longer swear allegiance to the Queen.

    Della – “the guy writing the article also seemed to be rather rude and undiplomatic and probably could have gotten himself out of trouble if he acted differently.”

    Please forgive me. I am honestly not trying to pick a fight with you, but I find the above statement breathtaking. Here is a man who, thinking he was fulfilling his duty as a citizen, agreed to having his car searched WITHOUT GOOD CAUSE, when he was stopped randomly. The men who searched his car, tutored in the Tony Blair School of Fascism arrested him without good cause but just because they felt like teaching someone a little lesson (just a guess, but I’ll bet he was driving a nice car). They bullied and intimidated him, telling him he was going to be ‘sent up’ (or was it ‘sent down’ – whatever, it was some slang phrase, not a formal phrase) when he hadn’t even had a chance to have legal representation and he hadn’t even appeared before a magistrate.

    When I was reading the piece, my first thought was horror, of course, but I was also surprised at how passive the writer had been. He only said something rude – we used to have free speech in this country; calling someone a prat or a wanker was not against the law – at the end of several hours of unwarranted victimisation. These guardians of the peace then assaulted him.

    And you suggest that he should have been ‘more diplomatic’? Why? He was, essentially, abducted, threatened, mistreated, insulted and assaulted. I think he was remarkably self-controlled.

    Second, I think you don’t know the type of petty, spiteful officiousness we are talking about here. Had he been diplomatic, as you suggest, they would have interpreted it as a sign of weakness and victimised him even further. Thank heavens his lawyer had the quickness of mind to shout, “You’ve just assaulted my client!”

    This man will probably never willingly cooperate with the police again as long as he lives. Had he been a terrorist knowingly carried a banned ‘weapon’, would he really have given permission for them to search his car? Duh.

    I hope he sues them viciously and maliciously on several counts and I hope he wins.

  • Ian Grey

    Verity, there were several points to the post, I didn’t miss the main point at all, just chose to comment on one particular aspect.

    I totally agree with your points immediately above.

  • Paul,

    In answer to your query above, being in possession of any bladed instrument in any public place constitutes an offence unless you have ‘reasonable excuse’. Thus, if you were merely transporting home your new set of chef’s knives that would be reasonable excuse. Similarly, a workmen carrying his tools to and from work.

    However, self-defence (however justifiable) is NOT a reasonable excuse. So, and in answer as well to Sam_s above, there is no legal distinction between ‘offensive’ and ‘defensive’. Anything that is made or can be adapted to cause injury is either offensive or potentially offensive and that’s that.

  • JT

    Judging from the comments here, one would think that this kind of behaviour from the police is something new. It’s not. The only difference is that in this case the victim is a businessman, and not a random black driver or a ‘suspicious’ looking youth.

  • Verity

    Ian Grey – apologies. I am just so incensed that these free range petty tyrants have been given, and make no mistake – they have – the right to victimise their bosses, the taxpayers. The towering arrogance of this army of taxpayer financed little dictators is alarming.

    The entire British police service is corroded beyond use. They should dump the whole thing and start law enforcement anew, with there being absolutely no role for the government. It could be financed as the BBC is financed, by a user fee. In fact, here’s a thought! Privatise the BBC and transfer the annual license fee to a new law enforcement agency.

  • James, I have decided that your IQ is too low/you are too ugly/you watch football, therefore it is imperative that are prevented from raising children lest you inflict similar harm upon them too. Being ugly (or too attractive) disadvantages a child. Being thick likewise. As for football, well that’s a personal bete noire, so I thought I’d chuck that into the mix.

    PresentOccupier,
    Not taken as a personal dig at all. But all of those traits are things that a person has no choice about, except for the football (which, although not quite on the level of a bete noire for me, really annoys the heck of me.)

    Drug and alcohol abuse are actions someone can choose to do or not do (some people do use alcohol and drugs responsibly). As a result of these sorts of actions, children get neglected and turned into the next generation of psychos and football fans [tongue firmly in cheek :-)]. This is making someone who has no choice abide by the actions of someone who does. As I said, until there is a fundamental cultural change with regards to the consequences (and a focus on responsibility and duty, as well as rights) of excessive drug and alcohol abuse, legalisation/liberalisation will probably exacerbate these problems rather than solve them. And children do end up paying the price of the mistakes that adults make. At the moment, other than the direct human costs, the only consequences to most of this sort of monstrous behaviour is extra points on the housing register.

    And I do think it is a crime and should be a crime to bring a child into the world and submit it to one’s drug- and alcohol-addled neglect. I am not a fan of prohibition. But if Alcohol and hard drugs did not exist, (other than people finding something to replace them with), half of the f***ed up stuff that happens to children in the developed world probably wouldn’t happen.

    I believe in the values of basic human rights, but if everyone demands rights without the responsibilities and duties that go hand-in-hand with those rights, i.e. of being a fully functioning adult in a society of adults, then we get a mess on the social front.

    (Mass sterilisation of football fans, though…hmmm….)

    Regards,
    James

  • ThePresentOccupier

    “Reasonable excuse” is an iffy concept anyway – you are guilty until proven innocent. The onus is on you to prove that you *do* have a reason to carry a bladed object. It is then for the magistrates to decide if it is reasonable, when they themselves so rarely are. I carry a Leatherman almost everywhere – it has locking blades, so if some scumbag decided he wanted to cause trouble I have almost no chance (despite the fact that I am an engineer with a Land Rover).

    There is also the issue of the baton – as of June this year, they became classified as offensive weapons such that the sale, purchase, lending, hire or manufacture became illegal. Carrying one in a public place is now a heinous offence mandating a jail sentence, hefty fine or both. There were a number of other items on the new list too, which defies belief.

  • When will the nannies realize that the most formidable weapon we have at our disposal is the human mind? Oops. Shouldn’t say that. They’ll get the message and mandate drugging us all into a harmless stupor.

  • I’ve heard that things were getting pretty bad over there, but this is beyond belief. Here in paradise – Hawaii – tnere is no “concealed carry” allowed, but I can purchase a cap and ball revolver – ballistics similar to a 44 magnum – without a permit or any paperwork at all. If I am willing to take a training course and apply for a permit,I may buy a pistol of any sort, and long guns may be bought just with a permit. Seems like you people need to take back your streets and country from the socialists and euroweenies. Aloha

  • David Gillies

    In the piece, the author says that the police asked ‘would you mind if we searched your vehicle?’ What if he had said yes, he did mind and he was late for a meeting? It would seem the way the question was constructed allowed for this response. However, I have a feeling that that was not really the case and had he declined, the author would have experienced pretty much the same sequence of events.

    In the light of this article, I do think it is incumbent on us libertarians to cooperate to the minimum degree possible with these impositions. I don’t know to what extent these days one is obliged under the law to identify oneself to a policeman, but it certainly used to be the case that if one were about one’s lawful business, the police were not even allowed to ask the question.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    The picture on the front of the Spectator says it all.

    JT writes that the only reason for the article is that the person stopped is a businessman. Rubbish. The whole point is that the police carried out a random search and made life very hard for a law abiding man who gave no reason to suppose he was up to no good.

    The police are now widely dispised by a growing and influential part of the middle class electorate. If the Tories had any sense they would push ahead with their idea of elected chief officers, borrowing from the idea of elected sherrifs in the states. They should also be brave enough to push ahead with defending the right to self defence and restoring the checks and balances in our Common Law.

    What I would like to know is this – do the more decent, intelligent police officers, particularly at the higher ranks, have any worries about what is happening to their roles? I have met in the course of my job a lot of highly intelligent, dedicated officers who must be alarmed at what is happening. I would be interested to know if there is any hope for the Boys in Blue.

  • anonymous coward

    David Gillies raises an interesting point in current British law. In the US the police may not stop you except for “probable cause,” which they must state to you (you may have to ask for it as they play cat and mouse and look you and your possessions over, hoping to find “probable cause”). Without “probable cause” they cannot search you or your car without permission. So the good citizen goes on the record as refusing permission for a search so that if the search takes place, the judge may find that any evidence was illegally obtained.

    Whether Britons (may I use the term?) now have such a right I do not know.

    The police said they were doing a truly random search (every 25th person); we do it a little differently over here by stating that certain suspicious types may only be a certain portion (the unfashionable word is quota) of a sample. That leaves a lot of old white folks to stop for every stopped terrorist-lookalike. In terms of the British police described in the article, since they cannot (for political reasons) stop the terrorist-lookalikes and make a fair cop, then they have to make do with finding wrong whatever they can with the 25th person so as to keep the statistics up.

    David Carr sums up the “weapons” situation nicely (I have learned about it through following many Samizdata links), and ThePresentOccupier is quite right: it’s up to you to prove your innocent intent.

  • Michael Farris

    First, in theory, I agree that the author was completely in the right and the police in the wrong (combination of dangerously stupid laws and lack of common sense).

    Second, the first notwithstanding, it’s never a good idea to openly challenge a police officer, they are trained to believe they have to be in control of every situation they find themselves in and you challenge that belief at your peril (no matter how honest or full of integrity the police officer in question is). I’m not talking about right and wrong here, just the way things are, don’t wave a cape in front of a bull and expect it not to charge.

    Third, the only exception to the second is if you can goad them into attacking you in front of an unimpeachable witness who can do them damage (as the author managed thru sheer dumb luck).

  • Della

    Della – “the guy writing the article also seemed to be rather rude and undiplomatic and probably could have gotten himself out of trouble if he acted differently.”

    Please forgive me. I am honestly not trying to pick a fight with you, but I find the above statement breathtaking.

    Whilst I don’t particularly think it should be the case that you have to treat a police officer as politely as you would treat a dangerous nutter one has to be practical about these things. In my own experience I have found that being diplomatic and pleasent means I never set off nutters no matter how dangerous they are and police men seem to take a liking to me.

    Aloha,

  • Verity

    Well, Della, aloha and all that, but in Britain we don’t (didn’t) expect to find dangerous nutters on the police force so had no need to be ‘diplomatic’ – beyond normal human courtesy, which the author of the piece seems to have offered as a matter of course – so as not to set them off. Rather, the onus was on the police to be ‘diplomatic’ with us, the public paymaster they were pledged to protect. Now you’re suggesting that we should deal with the police warily in case we set off their state-sponsored lunatic tendency. Actually, you may have hit on a point.

  • Now you’re suggesting that we should deal with the police warily in case we set off their state-sponsored lunatic tendency. Actually, you may have hit on a point.

    Verity,
    If someone in the states called a policeman a “wanker” or its American equivalent, that person would probably have been shot for “resisting arrest” or something like that. Then, it would be 40 eyewitness policemen against one lawyer and a “suspect” as to what “truly” went on.

  • Verity

    James – You are talking absolute rubbish. Please let us know what state you live in so we can avoid it.

  • David Mercer

    As Bill said above:

    When will the nannies realize that the most formidable weapon we have at our disposal is the human mind? Oops. Shouldn’t say that. They’ll get the message and mandate drugging us all into a harmless stupor.

    They are already half-way there. As our brains are electro-chemical in nature, restricting the range of foods and drugs we may consume already limits the spectrum of possible thoughts and emotions we may experience. THAT is the dirty little secret of all food and drug regulation that no one dares admit to.

    For a look at the best dystopia I’ve ever seen where they next step, to mandatory chemical consumption, is taken, go get the newly remastered DVD of George Lucas’ actual masterpiece, THX-1138. It’s kind of a “Brave New World” meets “Logans Run”, and is some of the most potent anti-authoritarian fiction I’ve seen.

  • Actually, I’ve been struck by how damn polite U.S policemen are. (Of course, I grew up in apartheid South Africa, but nevertheless.)

    Many’s the time on TV I’ve seen some moron threatening a cop with a knife, and the cop continues to call him “Sir”, instead of asking him if he’d like another hole in his chest…

    On the topic of knives: it’s a good thing I was never stopped or searched the last time I was in Blighty (October last). Not only is the razor-sharp blade half-serrated, it has “Smith & Wesson” engraved on the handle.

    I never leave home without it. And thank goodness, I don’t need a “reasonable excuse” to carry it, nor my Springfield 1911 either.

    “Just because” is sufficient reason for any government flunky.

  • Verity,
    I have seen, with my own eyes, people get handcuffed, told to cross their legs and gently pushed from behind by Atlanta’s finest, for a bite of asphalt (mind you that was about 15-20 years ago, but I don’t imagine things have changed that much).

    I and some of my teenaged high-spirited friends, on another occasion, when we decided to stop for an outdoor potty break while out and about were surrounded by 5 Gwinnett County police cars and 10 weapons pointed at us, and told to step away from the wall whilst in mid-flow. Although a bit comical thinking of it now, we were all handcuffed with hands behind our backs and the metal digging into our wrists as tight as they would go (next to my Naval training exposure to tear gas, one of the most unpleasant sensations ever deliberately inflicted upon me by someone else) while we were made to sit in the back of the car. When it turned out that all three of us sitting in the back of the car had been born overseas, the policeman thought we were taking the proverbial, and we even had to spell Spain and Republic of South Africa out to him, he got a little miffed and there was a bit of threatening going on. So, yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir, after that. That was probably one of the more civilised exchanges many of my friends had with police when we were teenagers.

    My own brother was given possible brain-damage and at the very least, a concussion, by police in Alabama, about two years ago, and charged with resisting arrest, held in jail for two nights without medical attention or the ability to call a lawyer. His court-appointed lawyer told him to plea-bargain and cop to something he did not do. My parents spoke to a family friend who knew someone who knew someone in Alabama, and managed to get the following deal: no lawsuit for police brutality and they drop all charges. But he has not been the same since. Unfortunately, they can not afford the calibre of lawyer it takes to fight these sorts of cases, so it was done informally. Y’see, civil rights lawyers don’t really care so much about pro bono work if you are po’ white trash.

    For me, and many of my friends, the real shock about Rodney King and the other police brutality issues of the 80s and 90s wasn’t so much that it happened, but that no one reported on how common it was for people of all races. And God forbid, someone ever tells the police you have anything to do with drugs, you can be killed by the police and the police pardoned for anything that happens to you, drugs being good enough probable cause for any breach of civil rights.

    There are many polite, caring, dedicated policemen out there, but if you run up against one of the “fascists-with-a-badge”-types, his buddies will stick by his story.

    Mind you, I haven’t been back to live in the States for any significant period of time since about 1995 (except for my last six months in the Navy in Norfolk, Virginia in 1998), so maybe there has been a general change of police culture below the Manson-Nixon line, but I doubt it, as my brother’s recent case can attest to.

    Also, when one is arrested, anywhere, by the police, it is probably best just to shut the f*** up most of the time, cuz chances are, no one is going to build a memorial to the martyr who was wrongfully accused. The general culture will just tell you you should have stayed down when they threw you down. And no one wants to know about lippy lower middle class blue collar white kids.

    And I dare anyone to walk up to a cop in the States and call him a “wanker” (or a “jackoff”, to use the American expression) and tell me what happens, at the very least you will get charged with assaulting a police officer. At the worst? Why don’t you find out?

  • Michael Farris

    Slightly OT. How offensive is “wanker”, anyway? To me, it sounds pretty weak, but British and American terms like this often differ dramatically in strength (cunt seems to be far more inoffensive in the UK than in the US, for example).

  • Michael,
    “Jackoff” or “asshole” in the US are probably about the equivalent of “wanker”. Although, sometimes, it depends on the context and conviction with which it is said. If wanker was in common usage in the States, it would probably make George Carlin’s list, but probably closer to the bottom in degree of offensiveness. Anyone feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

    Regards,
    James

  • Verity

    James, a bunch of drunken, obnoxious teenage boys 25 years ago hardly makes your case. You still haven’t told us what state you are in.

    I lived in Texas (a state I am sure you would classify as redneck, although it’s not, and therefore a hotbed of dumb s’uthe’n moron cops) and never witnessed nor heard about a single instance of police brutality – although I’m sure there was some, somewhere when perps were caught red-handed turning over a 7-11 and threatening to shoot the Vietnamese kid behind the counter or the like.

    And I dare anyone to walk up to a cop in the States and call him a “wanker”

    Well, yes, such an act of unprovoked rudeness would probably generate an angry response. Did you actually read the article on which you’re commenting? I recommend that you do so.

    It’s been reprinted in The Telegraph today, btw.

  • Verity

    I would also suggest it is not a good idea for a member of the police “service” to address his paymaster, as “mate”. “Sir” or “Madam” are the preferred terms of address from public servants.

    I would also suggest that these public servants, by threatening, “You’re going down, mate” are misrepresenting themselves to the public, as, not being magistrates or other members of the judiciary, they have absolutely no power to send anyone “down”. I think Mr Samengo-Turner has an excellent case. I hope he gets loads of publicity for it, so that when he wins millions of pounds in damages, the local populace will know where their tax pounds have gone, and why.

  • llamas

    Jame wrote:

    ‘If someone in the states called a policeman a “wanker” or its American equivalent, that person would probably have been shot for “resisting arrest” or something like that. Then, it would be 40 eyewitness policemen against one lawyer and a “suspect” as to what “truly” went on.’

    Pardon me, but as one who has actually served as a LEO in the US – this is rubbish. Garbage.

    LEO’s in the US are trained to tolerate levels of verbal abuse which would make you blush, and a volume of case-law supports the position that being verbally abused is part of the job. In one famous case in this area, a superior court judge handed down his opinion, now enshrined as the standard, that instructed an officer that being called (a certain epithet involving an incestous relationship with his mother) was not assault and was no grounds for him to arrest the suspect.

    Most every LEO I know will stand there and be cussed at with names that would curl your ears with no more than a mixture of boredom and amusement. This is not a civil-liberties thing, it is a police training thing, the principle being that if a LEO reacts to the verbal taunts of a citizen, he loses both his good judgement and some part of his control over the situation.

    That is not to say that expansive verbal abuse will not earn the abuser less-than-favourable treatment in the matter of those little comforts which make a night in the cells less unpleasant. Ask me and I’ll tell you about ‘food-loaf’, or the joys of a suicide watch for your own safety. But any LEO who assaults a suspect who cusses at him is going to have his case thown out and face disciplinary action if not a criminal and/or civil prosecution.

    Trust me, what you see on US TV cops shows is about as much like real-life law-enforcement as – oh, like what you see on US ‘reality’ TV shows is like real life.

    llater,

    llamas

  • The story is slightly odd, because folding knives with blades of less than 3″ are exempt. Hence it is perfectly legal to carry a penknife. Even the most stupid plod would know this. If the author of the story was indeed arrested on this basis, then the arrest is plainly unlawful and the author would be entitled to sue for wrongful arrest.

    It will be interesting to see what the outcome is.

  • Mary in LA

    James, for what it’s worth, I am sincerely sorry about what happened to you, your friends, and your brother.

  • DavidBruno

    It sounds as though this was a ridiculous waste of police time. However, sadly, this is still the type of thing that is far more likely to happen to the poor and badly educated and those from ethnic minorities than to articulate members of the middle class in Britain. I guess the incident shows the start of a trend towards the police becoming more ‘equal opportunities’ employers of rough justice!

    It was extremely unwise of this gentleman to have lost his cool at the end and I think he could learn something about being cool in the face of adversity by watching film footage of black civil rights protesters in Alabama c. 1963 trying to go to college and being hosed and beaten by the police but always retaining their dignity and never losing their cool. These people lived through daily injustice and not just an afternoon’s worth that resulted in missing a meeting.

    The British police hate a ‘smart Alec’ and I sense that there may have been more antipathy (and lip?) between this gentlemen and the police from the beginning of the encounter than actually came over in his recollection of the episode.

  • DavidBruno

    It sounds as though this was a ridiculous waste of police time. However, sadly, this is still the type of thing that is far more likely to happen to the poor and badly educated and those from ethnic minorities than to articulate members of the middle class in Britain. I guess the incident shows the start of a trend towards the police becoming more ‘equal opportunities’ employers of rough justice!

    It was extremely unwise of this gentleman to have lost his cool at the end and I think he could learn something about being cool in the face of adversity by watching film footage of black civil rights protesters in Alabama c. 1963 trying to go to college and being hosed and beaten by the police but always retaining their dignity and never losing their cool. These people lived through daily injustice and not just an afternoon’s worth that resulted in missing a meeting.

    The British police hate a ‘smart Alec’ and I sense that there may have been more antipathy (and lip?) between this gentlemen and the police from the beginning of the encounter than actually came over in his recollection of the episode.

  • DavidBruno

    It sounds as though this was a ridiculous waste of police time. However, sadly, this is still the type of thing that is far more likely to happen to the poor and badly educated and those from ethnic minorities than to articulate members of the middle class in Britain. I guess the incident shows the start of a trend towards the police becoming more ‘equal opportunities’ employers of rough justice!

    It was extremely unwise of this gentleman to have lost his cool at the end and I think he could learn something about being cool in the face of adversity by watching film footage of black civil rights protesters in Alabama c. 1963 trying to go to college and being hosed and beaten by the police but always retaining their dignity and never losing their cool. These people lived through daily injustice and not just an afternoon’s worth that resulted in missing a meeting.

    The British police hate a ‘smart Alec’ and I sense that there may have been more antipathy (and lip?) between this gentlemen and the police from the beginning of the encounter than actually came over in his recollection of the episode.

  • DavidBruno

    Dear Webmaster,

    Could you please delete two of the three identical posts I made above due to a slow response time that made me think I had not posted and try again…SORRY!

  • Paul Marks

    I can remember being shocked the first time a policeman spoke rudely to me.

    I have certainly never played a “smart Alac” with any policeman.

    The bitter truth is that some policemen are rather nasty and not very interested in dealing with criminals, and this sort of policeman is on the rise (they are the ones who get promoted).

    Yes I am a security guard, but I am not seeking any commercial advantage here. I would certainly never suggest to anyone that they hire Chubb Security.