Policing with accountability or policing with impunity?


“Media stigmatisation of poor multicultural neighbourhoods of Europe as strongholds of Islamist terrorism and organised crime is lending legitimacy to a more coercive, more militarised style of policing.
“The Home Office is currently reviewing legal protection for police officers who shoot to kill as well as considering whether to transfer the lead role in fighting terrorism from Scotland Yard to the National Crime Agency. And a review of the rules on the use of lethal force is underway in France, where, in a separate move, President Hollande has asked parliament to approve changes to the French constitution, to deprive French-born dual nationals convicted of terrorist offences of their citizenship and to allow the indefinite renewal of the state of emergency.
Policing by consent, articulated as such, may be a British policing concept, emerging as it did as a philosophy (its practice is another matter) from Sir Robert Peel’s 1829 ‘Bill for Improving the Police in and Near the Metropolis’ which was followed by instructions to the newly-formed Metropolitan police to act as ‘servants and guardians of the public and to treat all citizens with civility and respect’. Nonetheless, and certainly since the second world war, European states (outside the southern European countries where dictatorship continued until the mid-1970s) were sensitive to the demand that civilian police forces should abide by democratic principles. But is this changing? Are liberal principles like the rule of law, community cohesion, racial equality and police accountability to the communities they serve now obsolete across much of Europe, as the war on terror hits neighbourhoods, particularly the ‘quartiers sensibles’ of France and certain inner cities of Belgium?
Read the rest of Liz Fekete’s penetrating account of the demonization of whole neighbourhoods