The Best Laid Cuts of Mice and Men: The Met Police Goes Middle-Class

Good morning all.

Regular readers (yes, both of you… hi Katie and Donna) might remember that I blogged here about the threat posed to social mobility and democratic legitimacy by the practice of employing unpaid interns as a first step on a political career path. This is a bad thing, I argued, because only the members of the middle and upper classes who have parents wealthy enough to support them can afford to live in London whilst doing so. Well now, it appears that the Metropolitan Police have decided to follow suit.

The Met Police are considering a budget cut of monumental stupidity- to cut the payment during training for new officers. Now, this may save £50m, at a time when money is definitely tight. But, forget about paying political interns, if this were to be cut, then the consequences for law and order and even counter-terrorism could be severe.

The British model of policing, when it works well, is rightly seen throughout the world as one to be emulated, since to a large degree it relies on the consent of the governed. I have been to countries- such as Syria and Egypt- which do literally have a policeman on every street corner, but in these countries, soldiers seem and behave, at times, more like an occupying power than an agency of law. While, of course, the UK police are not always blameless- ask Ian Tomlinson or the Climate Camp Protesters– in their day-to-day work, the vast majority of officers are honest in their public dealings, and crucially are supported by the vast majority of the great British public.

But what if most or all of the police officers in, say, a housing estate, came from middle-class families with no experience of living in that part of town? What, indeed, would happen, if officers patrolling a poor Pakistani Muslim area were largely white, and had very few non-specialist officers who had grown up in the area? You can see where this is heading. It might be unfair and illogical to do so, but you can see how this could give rise to an idea of ‘us and them’- both from the police, and the policed. All you have to do is look at inner-city LA to guess what kind of attitude towards law enforcement that could foster.

So please, in the drive for cuts, don’t cut payment for police recruits. Nothing less than the basis of the British model of policing is potentially at stake.