I’m not offering this as an explanation for the recent English street violence. I’m setting it down now because some of the media comments reminded me. You see, the idea that different people and different age groups might not have a shared view of the police is hardly novel. Indeed it’s not an insight at all but it illustrates the need for policing that is close to impeccable. Here’s the story:
I was fortunate to have been reared in Inchicore. In my teens in the 60s we socialised in the city, or “town”, as we called it. Late at night we walked home (Dublin City centre to Inchicore isn’t a long walk but it takes time.) in groups, ate chips, talked into the early hours about music and putting the world to rights. Those walks are very happy memories to me.
There was, however, a problem. Not all of the groups on the streets at night were walking and talking. Some were involved in thuggery. We had to be careful to avoid certain gangs and to be prepared to run when necessary. One of the “gangs” to be given a wide berth was Gardaí who to us were normally antagonistic and occasionally violent. They certainly were a not a force that kept us safe on the streets at night.
Now, I guess they saw all groups on the street as potential trouble and they couldn’t tell the difference between one group on a street corner having a conversation and another group up to no good. However, we could tell the difference (I like to think I still can!) and they should have been able to tell the difference too. That is an essential skill for a police officer if the force is to enjoy popular support.