Police, Preconceptions, Presumptions and Prejudices
Some useful and relevant information first. According to the current code of practice for police in the UK, this is taken from “Stop and account” (different to “Stop and Search”):
“The police can stop anyone in a public place and ask you to account for yourself. For example, you could be asked to account for your actions, behaviour, presence in an area or possession of anything. When the police stop you and ask you for an explanation, you don’t need to provide your personal details. The police do not have to make a record or give you a receipt. But you may be asked to give your ethnicity”
Preconception: An opinion or conception formed in advance of adequate knowledge or experience, especially a prejudice or bias.
Presumption: Behavior or attitude that is boldly arrogant or offensive
Prejudice: Irrational suspicion or hatred of a particular group, race, or religion.
Dave is a cleaning manager. This means he gets up at around 2am, six mornings a week to drive to work. At this hour he is on the road at the same time as others going to work, others who are up to no good, and others who are drunk. He will often come home and share stories of how he has been behind people on the road, who are clearly over the limit because it is obvious from the way they are driving their cars, which is either all over the place, or over-cautiously, applying the brakes unnecessarily often, driving well under the speed limit, it’s just obvious to a sober person behind who just wants to get to work. He will moan and say “Where are the police then?” He says this because he gets pulled over all the time. This is often nothing more than inconvenient and he accepts it comes with the territory of working the shifts at that unearthly hour. Usually the police are fine once they see his uniform, and he explains where he is going, other times they will breathalyze him, and then they are fine. Other times they want to see ID. Other times they have followed him to his place of work before to prove he is going where he says he is going because they don’t believe him. Other times they have just been downright bloody rude, and give clear signals they are just throwing their weight around because they can. He has had it all, he takes it on the chin and just accepts it. He has a more than balanced view of police than your average middle-aged white working class male. He has told me of many a time where he has had a good bit of banter on occasion with some of them. So from this you can see he is happy to comply and has no ill feelings towards the police other than being a bit pissed off that he sees so many drunks on the roads who the police probably should be concentrating on.
When he finishes cleaning he goes window cleaning. This morning he was in a small village doing a long-term customers windows. He had his ladders up to her front upstairs window, a cloth in his hand, and a bucket of water at his feet. Everything you would think you need to convince the average person of what you are doing. But not a passing policeman. It went a little something like this:
Policeman: What are you doing?
Dave: I’m cleaning these windows.
Policeman: (looks around) So where’s your car then?
Dave: (points across road) just there.
Policeman: Where’s your roof rack then?
Dave: I’ve not got a roof rack.
Policeman: So how do you transport your ladders then?
Dave: They are fold up ladders, you can see that if you look at them. They go on the back seat.
Policeman: So where are you from?
Dave: I’m from Harlow (Dave said the policeman then did a face indicating his dislike of people from Harlow, like they are all bad)
Policeman: You got any ID?
Dave: I have my driving licence, but what is this all about? You can see my bucket and stuff, I’m just cleaning windows.
(Dave reaches into his pocket, but then the customer comes out so he leaves his wallet in place)
Customer: You okay Dave? Is everything alright?
Policeman: Do you know this man?
Customer: Of course I do, I’ve known him for about 20 years.
Policeman: (To Dave) You older ones are the ones to watch, you’ve got problems.
Dave: Eh? Excuse me?
Policeman: You think you’re still in the eighties with your haircut and your skinhead jacket, and your ways.
Customer: What does that mean officer?
Policeman: Skinheads. He’s a skinhead and he ought to grow up. (Turns to Dave) You got that ID?
Dave: I’m not showing you my ID. She (points to customer) has just told you she knows me, I’m not showing you anything. Now do one.
Policeman: Do one? See? That’s what sort of person he is. They are all the same. You’ve got two windows up there open, he could get in any of them.
Dave to customer: Have you got a bit of paper? I am taking this policeman’s number because this isn’t right.
At this point policeman starts to walk away, he mutters something about her having to thank him if he had turned out to be a burglar.
There was a bit more towing and throwing, but you get the idea of how it went. Dave and his customer couldn’t really believe how rude this policeman had been and Dave was really wound up that just because of his choice of jacket and haircut it had been presumed that he was either some sort of criminal, or combat 18 member. He had told the policeman why he was there in a civil and polite manner, his customer had confirmed this, and yet the officer still felt the need to basically insult him.
It doesn’t come close to racism, but it does show that prejudices, preconceptions and presumptions are alive and well, and dressed up in a uniform walking along a street near you.