ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Why Global Terrorism cannot be allowed to threaten UK Local Policing

Updated on August 2, 2016
The author on patrol at Slough Vaisakhi celebrations
The author on patrol at Slough Vaisakhi celebrations
Brexit Xenophobia in action
Brexit Xenophobia in action

The UK's Secret Weapon

The recent terrorist atrocities in Paris, Nice and Rouen have left France reeling and have led to call for changes in security policy and policing. Tension between disenfranchised young people and the police continues to grow, and racial attacks have escalated creating further distrust and alienation of the police by minority communities. This has resulted in further protests about policing which has been met with an increasing use of force - and so the downward spiral continues. As well as trying to meet the threat of terrorism, the police are having to deal with growing disorder which they tackle by driving young people further towards the open arms of the Islamist violent extremists.

I once asked a French police commander why they did not sit down with the community and talk about their grievances. After pausing momentarily to confirm my question was not a joke, he patted his side-arm and said “Why would we want to talk to them? We are not interested in their needs. They do as we say!”

This simple example illustrates the yawning chasm between the unique community policing style in the UK and the policing carried out in the rest of the world.

We have one under-utilised tool in our counter-terrorism armoury that exists nowhere else on earth. We have the best community police service in the world bar none. It has thrived and prospered despite everything that has been thrown at it for 180 years including the demands of international suicide terrorism that arrived with the new millennium. The British police service continues to deliver an unarmed, community-based service with the highest levels of integrity. It is the envy of the world everywhere- except Britain.

Increase in Hate Crime

The aim of the terrorist is to fracture society with fear, mistrust and hatred. They are aided in their endeavours by the far-right who exploit the climate of terror by turning neighbour against neighbour to create disharmony and disorder to further their political agenda of driving out anyone they consider to be undesirable.

In the middle of this heady mix, UK policing leads the way in building and maintaining community cohesion, a policing role which is absent most other societies. In much of the rest of the world, calling the police to help them with a problem is the very last thing a citizen would do. In the UK it is usually the very first.

A feature of all Islamist terror outrages is an increase in community tension in areas of high ethnic minority population, often accompanied by a spike in reported hate crime. In variably the far-right try to capitalise upon this fear by inflammatory activity which further diverts the police from providing much-needed reassurance. In a cohesive community this can quickly be defused by sensitive policing, but this is reliant on trust and resources. The UK recently saw a variation on this theme by the wave of xenophobia which accompanied the Brexit vote, created largely by shameful exaggerations and deliberate misinformation by politicians and press about the tenuous links between immigration and criminality. Misguided and ill-educated racists need little encouragement to turn their vile prejudices into active discrimination and violence, and the tension still latent after Brexit will need little to inflame it further.

Racists are indiscriminate in their targeting. During a time of heightened tension not only is any ‘foreigner’ treated with suspicion and contempt, but anyone who looks like a foreigner is subjected to the same treatment. To the far-right it, a terrorist attack heralds the start of the open-season on Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, in fact all those ethnic minorities who they have never really liked being here anyway. And yet it is the police who are asked to account for the increase in hate crime.

Inflammatory UKIP propaganda in advance of the Brexit vote
Inflammatory UKIP propaganda in advance of the Brexit vote

Community Policing UK Style

Thames Valley Police Officers engage with the community in Slough
Thames Valley Police Officers engage with the community in Slough
Germaine Lindsay 7/7 Suicide bomber from Aylesbury, Bucks
Germaine Lindsay 7/7 Suicide bomber from Aylesbury, Bucks

Community Policing UK Style

Thames Valley Police Officers engaging with the local community in Slough
Thames Valley Police Officers engaging with the local community in Slough

Community engagement not air strikes is the key

Despite the commendable success of the police and security services in thwarting plot after plot, we can safely assume that IS will get lucky at some stage in the future and there will be another terrorist outrage in the UK. The threat of global terrorism will remain with us for at least the next generation and probably beyond. No amount of air strikes on distant desert strongholds will address the problem of why some Muslim young people, born in the UK, are willing to kill themselves for their twisted ideology. Indeed, quite the opposite is true, for every air strike and civilian casualty, how many incensed and alienated British Muslim youngsters will be spurred on to Googling their local IS recruitment office?

On a local level the same is true of the policing response to tension and disorder. It is not the short-term tactics of enforcement and stop and search that will achieve lasting results, but a long-term strategy of building trust, dialogue and positive community engagement at schools, community centres and places of worship. Only when the whole of the community can see the human face of policing and experience policing delivered by positive role models that they can identify with, will people trust them enough to actively support them, share their suspicions, and join their ranks.

UK Policing plc is world-class at community engagement if they are given the resourcing to do it and allowed to get on with it. There are hundreds of examples of community cohesion projects all over the country which would be unthinkable in France in the current climate.

Unfortunately, they are just that, projects; not business-as-usual. The problem is that projects are reliant on funding and are vulnerable when the public sector funding screw is turned, particularly if they cannot show short-term results. As a local Commander in Slough, I resisted a great deal of governmental pressure to remove my police officers from schools and community projects where I knew they were doing more to prevent crime in the next generation, than a dozen of their colleagues were doing in the anti-robbery patrols which were then flavour of the month. Weekly calls from the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit were an occupational hazard.

Securing the hard evidence for this community-based approach takes years, and often an indication of success is something not happening, ie no riots, no local bomb factories and no teenage suicide bombers. Regrettably it is only when these things do happen in the most unlikely of towns that the inevitable question is asked ‘How could that happen here?’ I was a young PC in Aylesbury in 1985 when home-grown 7/7 bomber Germaine Lindsay was born in the quiet Buckinghamshire town. What drove him to blow himself up 19 years later in one of the UKs worst terror attacks? What warning signs were missed in those intervening years? What caused his extreme disenfranchisement? Was it avoidable?

Prevention-based initiatives with their roots in the community have the greatest chance of success. These should be targeted towards engaging the young people who are at the highest risk of succumbing to the powerful IS propaganda machine and becoming the violent extremists of the next generation. The children of today need to be immunised from becoming the terrorists of tomorrow.

Thames Valley Police Officers engaging with the local community in Slough
Thames Valley Police Officers engaging with the local community in Slough
French riot police responding to disorder in Lyon
French riot police responding to disorder in Lyon

Society gets the police it deserves

It is often said that a society gets the police it deserves. Until there is greater recognition that, for all its faults, the UK still has the best police service in the world, there is a danger that British policing will descend into the continental model and consist largely of enforcement and coercion. The lack of investment in community policing will lead to a response policing only service. Opportunities for informal interaction with the public and long-term partnership problem solving, currently seen by the government as ‘nice-to-do’ rather than ‘need-to-do’, will diminish as the police withdraw behind ever-more protective equipment. Hostility and mistrust on both sides will increase as the police become less approachable and responsive. Initially this will begin with minority communities but the lack of trust and confidence will quickly spread to the traditional supporters of the police until our grandchildren can look forward to the sight of armoured land-rovers cruising the streets laden with heavily-armed paramilitaries grimacing out at them though bullet-proof glass. Welcome to France 2016.


Public disorder in Paris August 2016
Public disorder in Paris August 2016

Brian Langston QPM LLB(Hons) MBA is a writer and consultant on leadership and diversity. He is the former Assistant Chief Constable (Operations) for Thames Valley Police and pioneered a community-based approach to building trust and confidence within minority communities.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Brian Langston profile imageAUTHOR

      Brian Langston 

      2 years ago from Languedoc Roussillon

      Thanks for your comments Jodah. I've had the opportunity to study policing models all around the world and there is no doubt that the UK model is the best one. As the old joke goes, in Heaven the cooks are French, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian and the police are British. It is just a shame that they are taken for granted by the Brits and are used as a punch-bag at every opportunity by the media. If they had a taste of the policing delivered in some countries, they might appreciate more the dedication of the vast majority of men and women who work in very dangerous situations every day to keep them safe.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      This was an interesting and engaging hub, Brian. Your opinion of the situation is important as I know you speak from experience. I feel you are right about the British police force and that they are one of the best in the world, policing without the use of guns in most situations. I used to be an avid watcher of The Bill and was disappointed when that ended. It is important we don't let IS win the battle by making us all live in a fearful divided society.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)