A couple of days ago, the Met Police released a brief series of film clips that showed officers targeting moped criminals. In several instances, suspects were seen being deliberately knocked off their bikes by the police vehicles that were pursuing them. Predictably, the footage went viral. In the accompanying press release, the police had this to say:
â€œIt is hoped that by demonstrating the full range of tactics that officers are prepared to use against moped and motorcycle criminals, potential offenders will think twice about their actions.â€Â
Overwhelmingly, the response – from police colleagues and public alike – was positive. At last, people said, something was being done about the violent criminals who had previously been operating with apparent impunity. But there were some who disagreed.
From January to October last year, there were more than 19,000 crimes committed in London by suspects on mopeds. Thatâ€™s a heck of a lot of very serious offences. The first (though far from only) duty of the police is the prevention and detection of crime. And they were being criticised for not doing enough.
Now though, some people are taking issue with them for what they are doing.
So here are my four simple thoughts on the subject:
First & Second Things
There is an order to everything that happens in life. In each of the clips shown, a crime has been committed before the police ever get involved. The crime is the first thing. The police response is the second thing.
If the crime hadnâ€™t been committed, there would be no need for the police to act.
If the rider hadnâ€™t failed to stop, there would be no need for the police to intervene.
Itâ€™s strange how easily we can forget these things sometimes.
Damned if you do & damned if you donâ€™t
Iâ€™ve alluded to it already but, sometimes as a police officer, it can begin to feel as though you just canâ€™t win.
You can be castigated for failing to take action.
You can be lambasted for the action you do take.
Well, which is it to be? Thatâ€™s what the rest of us need to decide. Because it canâ€™t be both.
Rights & Responsibilities
All sorts of talk about rights. But whose rights do we mean?
Those of the law abiding majority – or those of the lawless minority? Those of the victims – or those of the perpetrators? Because these things donâ€™t always coincide.Â
And you cannot have rights without also having responsibilities:
The responsibility that every single citizen has to obey the law of the land.
The responsibility that the police have to protect the rest of us.
The responsibility that every decent citizen has to support the lawful actions of every decent police officer.
And the responsibility that every critic has to suggest alternatives to the things they donâ€™t like. It isnâ€™t enough to sit back and tell the rest of us what you are against. You need to tell us what you are for. If youâ€™re not keen on the idea of suspects being knocked off mopeds, you need to come up with a better alternative.
Because doing nothing is not an option.Â
(Incidentally, that same principle applies to the views people hold about Stop & Search, about spit guards and about every other policing headline of recent times.)
Choices & Consequences
We live at a time and in a society where we celebrate the freedom that each one of us has to choose: what to eat, what to wear, how to spend our time, who to spend it with, and so on. It is a precious, precious thing.
But you cannot have choices without also having consequences.
If you choose to steal a moped, then you are choosing the consequences of doing so.
If you choose to steal and snatch and mug and stab and harm, then you are choosing the consequences of doing so.
If you choose to fail to stop for the police, you are choosing the consequences of doing so.Â
I would far rather live in a world where these things were not up for debate. I would far rather live in a world where police officers (knowing that they remain entirely accountable for the actions they take) were never placed in a position where they had to make the split-second decision to knock a suspect off a bike – because it was the least worst option available to them.
But then I would far rather live in a world where people didnâ€™t steal mopeds and commit crimes and damn the rest of us.