Friday, October 06, 2006

PC or not PC

I totally agree with Iain Dale's post this morning about that "policeman" who refused to guard the Israeli embassy. Iain's old political boss David Davis wrote a brilliant article which appears in today's electronic Telegraph................Here it is in full..........

Police can't pick and choose which duties they will fulfil By David Davis

The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police yesterday called for an "urgent review" of the decision to excuse a Muslim police officer from guarding the Israeli embassy. The details of the case are not known to the public, and so at this stage the individual decision must be solely a matter for Sir Ian Blair.
But the conclusion the Commissioner draws could have widespread consequences throughout the police forces of the United Kingdom.

Every policeman or woman takes an oath when they become a constable:

I … do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people; and that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offences against people and property; and discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law.

The requirements to serve with "fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality" and accord "equal respect to all people" are there for a reason – so that every citizen, and every visitor here, can rely absolutely on every police officer to do his duty and protect us whenever we need him and whoever we are. There are absolutely no exceptions, certainly not on grounds of religion, politics, race or nationality.

Otherwise, where do we draw the line? The most famous act of diplomatic protection in modern times was the resolution of the Iranian Embassy siege in the 1980s. Should we not have acted because many people disapproved of the Iranian regime at the time? Hardly. Should we accept that Sikh and Hindu officers can choose not to police the Pakistani High Commission? Or should we accept that police officers with strong religious beliefs against homosexuality should be able to exempt themselves from policing a Gay Pride march? Of course not.

There can be no exemption on "moral grounds". The single most important job of the Diplomatic Protection Group is to protect the lives of the staff of the embassies, from the ambassador to the locally employed cleaner, from attack. That is why they are armed. What sort of morality is it that is unwilling to protect life, whoever's it is?

This is compounded by the fact that there is a conflict in the Middle East. It is precisely those countries involved in conflict whose diplomatic staff are at risk.
So it is vital that Sir Ian Blair's conclusion allows no ambiguity. The police force is a disciplined force for a reason. Policemen, like soldiers, have to take orders and act, without hesitation and without debate, often at risk to themselves, because that is necessary to protect the public.

There is no room for conscientious objectors in the discharge of the immensely important responsibilities owed to the public. When Fl Lt Malcolm Kendall-Smith refused to serve in Iraq in 2005, he was court-martialled and sent to prison for eight months. The same principle should apply to the police. If not, are the other emergency services offered the same exemption? Can ambulance drivers and firefighters refuse to attend some emergencies on the basis of personal conviction? Surely not. Obedience to the demands of public safety should never be an optional matter.

This is true even in the area of safety. Many police officers accept serious risk of harm as part of their daily job. We cannot accept that one officer can opt out, leaving another to shoulder the risk. If on the other hand, the risk is from other Muslims – which I find implausible – this in some ways is even worse. Surely, the last organisation on earth to accept that its members should be able to be intimidated out of doing their job is the police force.
Welfare arguments apply, of course, to policing as much as to any other well-managed organisation. A policeman whose daughter has been raped would not normally be put on a rape case in the immediate aftermath; a police office who had lost a child to cot death would not be sent to a cot death inquest.

But the nature of policing means that these cases must be very narrowly drawn. They cannot be allowed to be a general get-out clause. Sometimes policing can be psychologically extremely uncomfortable. There are numerous examples of the police discharging their duties in the most difficult of circumstances – during the miners' strike, the poll tax riots and racial unrest – which pitched police officers against relatives or people with whom they felt some sympathy or affinity. Brian McCargo, a Roman Catholic Chief Superintendent in the RUC, provides a striking example. During an interview in 2001, he explained:
Not only was I reared in a nationalistic area, but … I played Gaelic football for Ardoyne. The day I started my training was Bloody Sunday … I was discouraged from living in the area by the paramilitaries. Had I persisted in living there, the chances are I'd have been shot dead… You can imagine the emotions that accompanied me when I went in, but never did I think: 'Why did I join the RUC'?... I respect people for what they are, irrespective of where they come from, and expect them to take me for what I am.
This was despite the risk to his life, the threat to his family and the "double points" the IRA offered for killing a Catholic police officer.

If we allow exceptions to be made on the grounds of religion, race, politics or nationality, it would be a disaster for our attempts to achieve diversity in our police forces. The implications for our society would be even worse. A real risk our nation faces today is a splintering of loyalties, a feeling that different parts of society can have an opt-out from the duties and responsibilities of being a British citizen. What hope do we have of promoting integration and community cohesion if our public servants can opt out of some of their duties?

Of all institutions, the police must be absolutely immune to this. They must be blind to colour, deaf to religious difference and silent as to political persuasion. They must be oblivious to nationality, and their personal beliefs must be entirely subordinate to their duties. And there must be no exceptions.

David Davis is Shadow Home Secretary.

This PC or not PC issue really makes my blood boil. We've had 30 years of political correctness. Isn't it about time we turned the tide?

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