This week, in common with people everywhere, I have been shocked and saddened by the death of George Floyd. My sympathies go to his family and friends. Tragically, he will be remembered forever for the way he died. His dying words: “I can’t breathe” are etched in the memories of people around the world.
In the UK we police by consent. Lockdown has been an excellent example of police discretion and common sense in a difficult situation. By and large officers across the country engaged with people to explain what the rules were, encouraging them to stick to them before enforcement was considered. That’s just the way it should be.
Police brutality in any form - in any country – must never be endorsed. It is entirely unacceptable for police officers in a nation that prides itself on freedom and democracy, to behave in this way.
Sometimes it is necessary to show strength. Nonetheless, I know that policing in the UK is vastly different from the US. Here, the use of force is very much a last resort.
Justice and accountability must surely follow this tragedy. In my view, this should not be restricted to those who have been charged for their actions. Those governing these individuals have many questions to answer. Power and responsibility go hand in hand.
In Leicester, Leicestershire, and Rutland, we are fortunate to have one of the most diverse communities in the country. Our good community relations are not usually damaged by economic inequality or racial injustice. Things aren’t perfect, but I know that on the occasions where there are tensions, we work quickly together to overcome them.
I was horrified at the violence and damage that subsequently engulfed so many US cities.
The strength of feeling triggered by these events is absolutely justified. The right to lawful protest is crucial in any democracy. Here in the UK, the police support and facilitate many peaceful demonstrations and these are taking place as I write. However, it is worth saying that we are still in the midst of a dangerous health emergency. I would urge people to act sensibly and avoid any interaction that may put them, or their family and friends, at risk from Covid-19.
Nearly 200 years ago, Sir Robert Peel said: “The degree of cooperation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.
“The public are the police and the police are the public.”
Thank goodness in our country these words remain true to this day and must always do so.
5 June 2020
Posted on Friday 5th June 2020