Forced to be different… by the police

In this nanny state of ours, the government often offers citizens rights, most of which are gimmicks and not worth taking seriously.

But last week the Metropolitan Police offered us a “right” so short-sighted and so potentially dangerous that it should be rejected outright.

Apparently crime victims from minority groups — which includes Jews, Muslim, Hindus, black people and homosexuals — may soon be entitled to request that an officer of their own religion, colour or sexuality become involved in their case.

A pilot project is currently being conducted in the Sikh community. According to the Daily Telegraph, “Sikh police officers act as go-betweens, offering support to victims and advising investigating officers on cultural issues deemed important to solving crimes”.

Rank-and-file officers are understandably apoplectic, calling the scheme “political correctness gone mad”, raising fears it could create a “force within a force” and complaining that they are already madly overstretched.

There are surely other practical considerations.

The scheme is clearly open to incredible abuse, with victims and witnesses able to refuse to cooperate with the police until an officer is found to their liking.

Many minority groups are very close-knit and officers from those communities, investigating cases involving their own neighbours or clan, can be subjected to massive social pressure which could compromise their impartiality.

And while the Metropolitan Sikh Police Association argues that their officers are more likely to notice and pursue crimes such as so-called “honour killings” and forced marriages, the opposite is also true: they are also more likely to “understand” and excuse them. Thankfully, the Jewish Police Association appears to be opting out of the scheme — not on principle, but because of the role already carried out by the CST.
But I am still really offended by it, on the civic level.

I may be a Jew, but as far as I am concerned, I am a British citizen like any other. I want to be treated like any other Londoner. Justice must be blind.

By suggesting I have the right to request a Jewish officer, the Met is forcing me into the category of “minority” — thinking of me as, and forcibly making me, “different”. Despite my religious practices, in legal terms I am not “different”. And I resent the police implying that I need to be dealt with more sensitively than my Protestant neighbour.

It is also deeply unfair to police officers from ethnic backgrounds, who should be serving the community — but suddenly find themselves serving “their” community. Why should they be boxed in like this?
Now, don’t get me wrong — there are times when it would be useful for officers to understand more about the various groups on this island, particularly the more isolated elements, and get help dealing with them effectively.

But the solution is not to give individuals the “right” to deal with officers of their own religion or ethnicity. The police must do more to train all its officers about common problems in society, and bring in experts where necessary — at its own discretion.

The irony of all this is that the Met is acting from the best of intentions, trying to be “sensitive”. But they are deeply misguided and their efforts can only deepen the segregation already plaguing British society.

Miriam Shaviv blogs at thejc.com/miriam_shaviv

    Last updated: 1:49pm, July 30 2009