Police selection just political correctness gone mad
Jul 11 2008 Agenda
We might all be equal in the eyes of God, but when it comes to the real world treating people fairly rather than equally is more important says Roshan Doug.
You might remember last year an Iranian-born, Chief Supt Ali Dizaei, provoked a row between the Metropolitan Police when he claimed bosses denied him promotion.
Then an Asian police officer, Det Sgt Gurpal Virdi, similarly won substantial compensation from Scotland Yard for racial discrimination.
It was no wonder last year the Commission for Race and Equality found 14 out of the 15 selection/promotion schemes used by police authorities in England and Wales did not meet the required standard. In other words, they denied opportunities to black and Asian people in the police force.
Forces were compelled to re-write their schemes under the Race Relations Amendment Act (2000), and last month saw the re-publication of these.
This was welcomed by Peter Fahy, the outspoken Chief Constable of Cheshire Police and a former Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead on Race and Diversity.
He has criticised the police for institutional racism.
He refers to the ‘whispering’ campaign that denies promotion to black and Asian officers (on the basis they ‘just don’t look right’) and agrees with the CRE fairer selection procedures are needed because some officers’ – not unlike Chief Supt Ali Dizaei and Det Sgt Gurpal Virdi – promotion has been thwarted on the basis of the colour of their skin.
Moreover, he would like to see fixed quotas for Black and Asian officers, a monitoring system that ensures good representation of ethnic minority groups especially in senior ranks.
So irrespective of the calibre of candidates, the police must put forward a certain number of black and Asian officers. It’s what many on the left would call ‘positive discrimination’.
At the same time, as if it’s not an oxymoronic way of thinking, he insists the police must ensure all candidates are treated fairly.
I’m pleased he’s used the word ‘fairly’ and not ‘equally’. In my opinion ‘equality’ is used rather too loosely in today’s politically correct world. We’re all ‘equal’, we’re told as if it’s a fact that cannot be challenged.
A few months ago while sitting as magistrate in our local court, we were discussing this – how certain ideas are presented to us as if they’re the whole truth like the gospel.
I remember a colleague – a wise, elderly magistrate – stating although we must treat people fairly we don’t have any obligations to treat them as equals. Fairness is one thing, but equality is a different ball game.
In his view, it was clear people are not equal because we have different skills, cultural values, morality, ethics, skills and personality. Surely a skilled person, for instance, is not equal to an unskilled one. An unemployed university educated person with a degree in engineering is not equal to a person who has lived on benefits and has neither a skill nor an education.
But more importantly, what’s right in the eyes of one person might not be so in the eyes of another. It’s a matter of perspective – about our background and upbringing – about the way we see right and wrong.
Therefore, our standpoint cannot be generic whether it’s social or political. We are all creatures of subjectivity and thus unequal.
Some people – perhaps not unlike myself – might find the idea of a carrying weapon nothing but abhorrent. It wouldn’t even cross our minds and yet, there are young people for whom weapons such as blades are part and parcel of everyday life. I’m sorry, but they are not equal to us.
In particular, what being a magistrate makes clear – and perhaps this is the case for police officers too – is we live in different worlds.
Criminal behaviour which most of us would reject is common in some quarters of society, as common as fish and chips on a Friday.
Driving a car without a licence, or insurance or MOT might seem unbelievable to many but there is a sizeable, reckless element who have no regard for their own safety, let alone others. Clearly we’re not equal. Their standards of decency, respect and good behaviour do not coincide with ours.
A group of young thugs who stab a hard-working family man outside his home because he complained about their rowdy, anti-social behaviour are not in my opinion, his equals.
Or a burglar who gets shot whilst carrying out a burglary in a dwelling place of an elderly man, is not his equal. Similarly a psychopath who throws chips at a young couple and fatally stabs one of them, is not their equal.
And hooded thugs who rob a promising, hard working a solicitor and stab him to death – all for the sake of a mobile phone and twenty odd quid – are not, I’m sorry, his equals.
It would be a travesty of justice if we thought that a primary school pupil, a young girl who is a part-time carer of her disabled single mother in a wheel-chair, who cooks and cleans for her and looks after her general welfare, is nothing but equal to some of her peers who can’t even boil an egg.
We must not get wrapped up in a politically correct social philosophy of thinking we’re all equal.
We are not equal especially as we’re living in a capitalist society that believes in competition, ambition, privilege, materialism, power, class and status.
But fairness is very different.
As far as the police selection procedures are concerned, I’m sure – as Chief Supt Ali Dizaei and Det Sgt Gurpal Virdi have proved – there have been covert discriminatory practices.
I’m not denying it. In fact, they’re all around in all aspects of large organisations.
Take, for instance, when full time jobs come up in a company: more often than not, the company will offer the post to their internal candidate.
And although by law the company has to advertise, the post is usually banked way before they start interviewing. And so, in effect, the whole process for everyone concerned – except, of course, the internal candidate – is nothing but a waste of time, effort and money.
And it’s all because of very time-consuming, ineffectual monitoring procedures.
But at the same time, unlike Peter Fahy, I don’t want people promoted purely on the basis of the colour of their skin – call it ‘positive discrimination’ or something else.
To me that’s rather patronising – as if Asians and blacks are a little more than token staff to appease the CRE. I’m sure Chief Supt Ali Dizaei and Det Sgt Gurpal Virdi would agree.
I would like to see the best men and women for the job.
Quite often it seems that political correctness gets in the way of common sense. How many times have I seen diminutive police officers – voluntary and professional – walking about in the streets no more confident or stronger than children in our local primary schools.
It does not fill me with confidence to know that when tall, burly dangerous thugs – well armed – are rampaging in our cities at least the police authorities are regarding all candidates as equal and giving everyone the opportunity to wear the uniform.
The same trait seems to apply to education, where schools and colleges employ black and Asian support staff and learning assistants even when their English is not quite up to the standard.
And in a local college where my friend teaches, there’s a severely dyslexic white member of staff who teaches literacy to students with learning difficulties.
The college has to offer this member of staff a personal assistant so that the PA can do all the paperwork for him.
That, to me, is hideous and bizarre – it’s that clichéd case of political correctness gone mad.
We have to by lead by our common sense and a compulsion to exercise fairness but not by a legislative imperative to regard everyone as an equal.