In a recent Green Party newsletter I called for more local police and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs). To me, this means more grass roots policing – PCSOs have no power of arrest or stop and search, and the ideal thing is to have police who are part of the locality and have local connections. In other words, I am in favour of effective policing that serves the interests of the community from which its personnel are drawn.
Regrettably, since I made this innocuous comment there has commenced an invidious whispering campaign amongst those who see me as a rival for votes. Their charge is that I am ‘pro-police’, whilst they ignore what I actually said in the rest of the newsletter – that the police should only be used in the minority of cases to deal with serious crime and that any real solutions to crime can be found in all our policies on education, welfare, etc.
I stand by my strong track record of holding the police to account, and I have seen at first hand overly robust policing in action. Indeed, I have some scars to prove it. Nevertheless, as a serious electoral candidate, I feel it is important and realistic to reflect the views that I am hearing on the doorsteps in Hulme when I’m knocking on doors in my neighbourhood.
The best strategy for tackling crime is one that focuses not only on preventing crime, but also attempts to tackle the causes, not just the symptoms. We cannot ignore the very real effects crime has on people. Crime is a huge problem in Hulme. Burglaries have increased recently, probably due to the recession, and in the short term I am concerned about the elderly in Hulme who are becoming the targets of burglars. It is important that we lend support to the police who are trying to catch these most anti-social of people in our midst.
Sadly, we live in an unequal, profit driven society with huge social problems such domestic violence, drug abuse, rape, child abuse and violence. My awareness of this was heightened during several years of work in a refuge for women and children escaping domestic violence. I also worked with the Irish Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC). Violence against women is a huge social problem today, and one in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime – many on a number of occasions – and we are now at the stage where three women per week are killed by male partners or ex-partners in the UK. This is an ongoing tragedy that must be confronted by us all, and the police must play their part in a multi-agency approach.
The election will take place in May and I don’t see an anarchist or ecosocialist Utopia happening in the next fifteen weeks. So, prefiguring a sustainable society, I am advocating community led policing, the introduction of CLIPs, and the abolition of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs). I support policies of restorative justice; and if elected I will look to improve the design of Hulme to help provide safer streets and public spaces. Furthermore, I oppose any further privatisation of the prison system, as it is vital that where custody is used it is effective in preventing offenders from re-offending. I note that Manchester College has just announced cuts and job losses in its Offender Learning provision, which is a very retrograde step and one which I strongly condemn (especially in light of the 10 percent pay rise being awarded to the College’s Principal). Education of the prisoners must surely be a key part of any strategy to reduce recidivism.
Adopting a mature and sensible approach to policing policy should not result in infantile accusations that imply some huge shift in ideological outlook on my part, or on the part of any other Green candidate. Nothing could be further from the truth. The root causes of crime are inequality, unemployment and the systemic under-employment of our young people. The package of radical policies we advocate aims to tackle these, but the Green Party cannot do this alone and we need support for our policies, which are firmly rooted in social justice and economic fairness. You can debate these policies with us, by all means, but don’t just sling mud.
Want to know how much would it cost to buy a high-pressure water-cannon? And how much would it cost to train a person to use it?
This Greater Manchester Police document has the answer to both:
Greens in London and Manchester today blasted a “ridiculous right-wing plan” to introduce water cannon to the Metropolitan and Greater Manchester Police(1).
The plan for the two forces to introduce water cannon was revealed yesterday in the Independent on Sunday (2). Jenny Jones, a Green Party member of the London Assembly who sits on the Metropolitan Police Authority, said: “There are other, more peaceful ways, to restrain rare violent protest… The police currently seem to confuse the word ‘protester’ with the word ‘criminal’ and go to police public order events in the wrong frame of mind – aggressive and confrontational.”
“We need more police officers on the beat. We need our police service to be properly resourced and supported, in order to keep officers safe while they’re reducing crime. But we certainly don’t want to see British constabularies evolve into aggressive gendarmeries who look for a fight at every opportunity and think they need plastic bullets and water cannon.”
Greens in Manchester echoed Jenny Jones’s sentiment. Gayle O’Donovan, secretary of the Manchester Green Party, said: “Recently, we have seen video footage of British police officers beating innocent peaceful protestors with batons. We’ve seen film of police officers repeatedly using tasers on a man lying on the ground. This kind of incident is a national disgrace. Clearly there are too many police officers imbued with a macho, aggressive attitude that has no place in law enforcement in a decent society like Britain. Greater Manchester Police should be putting its efforts into reducing crime, not dreaming up ways of wasting money on gung-ho tactics reminiscent of 1960s South American dictatorships.”
1. The proposals have been estimated at £5m for London and £1.2m for Greater Manchester. See http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/police-want-water-cannons-to-beat-back-city-rioters-1732194.html.