Monday, 1 June 2009

What’s wrong with the Metropolitan Police

You probably didn’t even notice this remarkable story, about the killing of a child cyclist on Saturday by a police officer.

A 16-year-old boy has been fatally injured by a police patrol car answering an emergency 999 call in Newham.The teenage pedal cyclist was involved in an accident by the marked Vauxhall Astra at the pedestrian crossing in Ron Leighton Way leading to Wakefield Street, East Ham.

This should be a major story, since the streets of London are filled with police cars being driven at lunatic speeds by officers who seem to take their inspiration from the Jason Bourne movies.

And what does ‘at the pedestrian crossing’ mean? It wouldn’t by any chance mean that the child was ‘on’ the pedestrian crossing at the time of the collision, would it? Given the news management (i.e. false innuendo, misrepresentation and blatant lying) at which New Scotland Yard excels, anything is possible.

Only a few days ago

A POLICE car crashed in Walthamstow while responding to an emergency call. The car swerved off Billet Road near to the junction with Sinnott Road at around 11.15am yesterday (Wednesday). The car's driver was taken to hospital but has since been discharged.No other people were injured in the crash and no other vehicles were involved.

This part of Billet Road involves a very sharp bend. It is not unreasonable to conclude that the driver was going far too fast, on a road which is supposed to be a 30 mph zone, in a dense urban area. Of course we’ll never know what happened because the Met is a secretive, arrogant and largely unaccountable public institution.

In April, a pedestrian in nearby Tottenham was run down and seriously injured by a police driver. This epidemic of police violence has a wider context.

Locally, policing is in the hands of a remote, unaccountable figure named Commander Mark Benbow, who has written that A top priority for me is tackling vehicle crime.

No surprise there. The Met, dominated by pudgy white men, is obsessed by what it is pleased to call ‘vehicle crime’ – an Orwellian phrase referring to theft of or damage to vehicles, rather than the crimes committed by vehicle drivers, which are infinitely greater and more serious, except to the car supremacist bigots who determine London’s policing priorities.

Commander Benbow is long overdue for the sack, I’d say. There was the notorious incident when police officers harassed local resident Kevin Lord, who dared to stand in the Town Square with a placard reading NICE BUILDING – WHERE’S THE BOOKS? when Prince Charles was due to arrive on a visit. A local Labour councillor grumbled to the police, and Benbow’s men duly harassed Mr Lord, searched him, then told him to clear off or be arrested. This caused a lot of adverse comment in the local paper, where there has been a lot of criticism of the Council’s destruction of its library stock, but naturally Commander Benbow had nothing to say. He plainly doesn’t give a toss what the public think about anything.

His latest blunder is highlighted here but naturally Benbow has no explanations for this extraordinary failure of policing.

The new Met Commissioner says "My raison d'être as the most senior cop in the country is to save life and to prevent and detect crime.”

It should be, yes. But it blatantly isn’t, because Sir Paul Stephenson is the perfect embodiment of a car supremacist cop. The self-styled ‘Association of British Drivers’ has a list of good cops and bad cops, and Sir Paul is one of the good cops. Sir Paul is anxious about drivers who get speeding tickets becoming alienated from the police and the judicial system.

Let’s once again remember the major form of violent death and injury which occurs on London’s streets:

In 2007 in London there were 23,210 collisions, which resulted in 28,361 casualties Of these, 222 were fatally injured, 3,562 were seriously injured, and 24,577 were slightly injured. 331 children (under 16) were ‘fatal or serious’.

When it comes to cyclists and pedestrians, the Met couldn’t give a toss about detecting or preventing crime against these vulnerable road users. Jenny Jones has provided a brilliant analysis of the Met’s prejudiced policing:

The lack of priority given to road crime is demonstrated by the current reluctance of the police to prosecute drivers who injure cyclists or pedestrians, in the absence of independent witnesses. This dismissive approach is not adopted towards the victims of car theft, burglary, assault and other crimes.

In fact the Met’s obsession with what it is pleased to call ‘car crime’ has now perverted policing in other areas than its day to day discrimination against cyclists and pedestrians: Women are right to be concerned: car crime has been treated as a higher priority than their safety.

Lisa Longstaff identifies a culture of

police incompetence, laziness, prejudice and even hostility. Despite decades of campaigning publicly and privately for the police to take rape seriously, all we have seen is a series of public relations exercises that change nothing. Rape continues to be deprioritised.The truth is that the police are the rapists' best friend.

And the truth is that the police are also the reckless, lawless driver’s best friend, and that the collapse of law and order on London’s streets, and the trail of havoc and blood it results in, is intimately connected with the current condition of the Met.