Hugh Muir is unhappy:
It is a question bedevilling every liberal democracy. People must be free to think as they choose, but how to police hate?
Simple, you police the expression of it. Which is what we do. Next!
Consider the latest plan for policing hate in Merseyside. Staff in ethnic minority shops, notably Chinese and Indian takeaway restaurants who have been targeted by racists, will be kitted out with body cameras to record evidence of racially motivated crimes against them. A £35,000 grant will pay for 48 miniature cameras, charging stations and data storage units. Workers will wear lanyards around their necks, fitted with miniature cameras. As trouble starts, they hit the switch and the device lights up to indicate that it is recording.
Marvellous! And Hugh is forced to agree.
It’s a very modern solution to a very old problem, for in towns and cities up and down the land, yobs have long claimed the right to cause drunken mayhem in shops and restaurants run by visible minorities. Proprietors have long learned to endure the predilection as an occupational hazard. If this plan gives arrogant racist thugs pause for thought, few will be sorry about that.
But, it seems, only up to a point:
But it says much that the shop and restaurant workers – who pay their taxes and business rates and are as entitled as anyone else to protection from the state – are effectively being obliged to self-police.
Eh..? No, they aren’t. They are being asked to help the police provide evidence.
Are shopkeepers who put up CCTV being asked to ‘self police’? If I report a burglary & the police ask me to provide receipts to proved I owned the missing items, am I being asked to ‘self police’?
What next? Should women wear video cameras walking home late at night through the high street? Should the sensible wheelchair user stick a camera on a lapel before venturing out?
If they want to. They might find it hard to prove an offence against them if there are no witnesses & no CCTV, after all.
… what does it say about the financial position of our police forces if they now don’t have the resources to attend to the public’s number one bugbear – antisocial crime?
But…they are attending and dealing with it. This is how they are dealing with it!
But Hugh has another agenda, of course:
How can we deal with ritual yobbery? At its root it is born of ignorance and bigotry that society should be challenging. But we have stepped back from that too. It didn’t take the coalition very long, for instance, to hack away at the network of anti-racist and community relations organisations that fought against this sort of behaviour.
Aha! How dare the police use technology to prove racism, when ‘proving racism’ used to be the job of all the race-baiters and progressives in all these little quangos up & down the country!
The Commission for Racial Equality was abolished. Its successor body speaks in whispers when it speaks at all. The result is a significant diminution of our ability to challenge the stereotyping and assumptions underpinning this behaviour. As we sowed, we reap.
Really? Because it seems to me that we have the same old talking heads rolling out the same old PC-boilerplate at every opportunity regardless of the non-existence of the CRE. CiF & the ‘Indy’ is full of this sort of thing.
There is a place for law enforcement. It is the place of last resort. And there is a place for technology. It might accord us more time, make us safer, allow us to use finite resources more efficiently. But the role for technology in the conduct of human affairs should not be primary, it should be complementary. Law and technology cannot, even taken together, act as substitutes for the reasonable demand that human beings act decently. That should be our default position.
You can demand all you want. But without sanction to back that demand up, you’re whistling up a tree and you know it.