What a mess the police are in. Forget PC Plod. Today, ‘Politically Correct Constable’ is more like it.
Last week, the diversity-genuflecting Chief Constable of West Midlands Police said the force would consider allowing a Muslim recruit to wear a burka if she so requested.
We could just laugh this off. Bobbies in burkas could be the latest Police Academy sequel – a burka’d up lady cop entraps suspect in her voluminous folds, or frightens him into submission.
But it’s not a spoof. The West Midlands’s top copper is serious. His burka concession may be in defiance of common sense, but it follows the immutable logic of diversity. If he has already agreed to hijabs and to Sikh turbans, what reason has he to reject the burka?
Where do you draw the line once you start compromise over culture or religion? What will be left of police uniform as we recognise it?
Of course, the police should never have agreed to hijabs in the first place. Neither the hijab nor the burka is a religious requirement of the Koran so the comparison with the Sikh turban should have been a non-starter. Not cutting one’s hair is one of the five essentials to the Sikh religion as required of a Sikh male. That is where it should begin and end.
Nehru’s comment in the movie Gandhi, if I remember correctly, during the Hindu-Muslim riots, was along the lines of, ‘Police is police. There is no Hindu police or Muslim police.’ Quite so, and that is how it should be here.
What will be the next request he will dare not refuse? That his force should help enforce local Sharia law, in the name of good community relations too?
Far-fetched? Well there are already between 30 Sharia councils (that the University of Reading has identified) and “85 at least” (that a 2009 report by the think tank Civitas identified) across the country.
This weekend, the Metropolitan Police were reported to have turned a blind eye to Muslim officers who believe that female genital mutilation is ‘a clean and honourable practice’ which should not be criminalised; that female victims of domestic violence should have their cases resolved in Sharia courts; and who hold racist views towards their white colleagues and sexist views towards females.
This is the substance of complaints made by the former counter-terrorism sergeant, Javaria Saeed, to her superiors at the Met which she says have been ignored.
How ironic that after years of attempts to fend off institutional racism and endless attempts to prove it is not racist, that a practising Muslim female officer finds herself resigning in disgust at the Met’s political correctness, driven – she says – by its fear of being accused of racism.
The Met, she explains, has allowed an ‘us and them’ culture to thrive amongst some Muslim officers, who consider themselves to be beyond the law.
Was this the subject of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s latest report criticising the police published last week? No, not at all. It was just the same old stick they’ve used to beat the police with for years – despite next to no substantive evidence – that discrimination is still rampant in their midst.
The need to fend off such accusations of institutional racism, that started with the Macpherson Report in 1999, has both defined and constrained the police – tying it into knots ever since.
Though endemic corruption as much as racism was at fault at the time, no alternative account held such sway. Commissioning this report was, former Home Secretary Jack Straw said, his finest hour.
But did it do us – the public – or the police any good?
For after Macpherson, police morale fell and the use of stop and search dropped while street crime rose. Terrified of being accused of racism too, the Home Office added to police discomfort, claiming that searches were used “disproportionately” against black people, though studies of street populations “available” to be searched suggested that the disproportion was not broadly discriminatory. There was also evidence of disproportionate involvement of young black males in muggings in London. But tarred with the institutional racism accusation, the police could not defend themselves.
No wonder the police today dare not even enforce conformity with regard to uniform.
Yet kow-towing to cultural symbols is no way to build an integrated and effective police force. Police should be British first and foremost. Whether they are white or black, Christian, Jewish, or Muslim should be irrelevant.
Achieving this means celebrating the virtues of ‘homogeneity’ for a change – the coming together that a clearly identifiable common uniform brings, which signifies a common purpose and identity necessary for internal teamwork and external authority.
Conforming, not competing, identities are what a cohesive and well run force needs in order to win back respect and establish authority.
(Image: Joe Bailes)