Monday, May 17, 2010

Peter Hitchens, Police and 'Civilians'

I have been objecting for years to the stupid use of the term 'civilians' by some police officers, to describe the public. It reflects a growing and mistaken view in the police that they are a separate semi-military body, rather than - as they were intended to be - citizens in uniform. This is explored in my book 'The Abolition of Liberty' (and by the way, readers seeking to find my books in bookshops, as one says she sought to do, will generally be disappointed. Few bookshops will stock them, as the publishing and bookselling industry is almost completely dominated by left-wing persons. But they can be got by ordering them, provided you spell my name right, or you can go to the internet booksellers).

So I object to the term being used to describe a growing and worrying problem - the quiet replacement of proper, sworn constables with feebler and less effective 'PCSO's - 'Community Support Officers'. Even so it is a real problem. The sworn constable is not a civil servant. He is a directly appointed officer of the law, bound by oath to uphold and enforce the law without fear or favour - which for instance means he must refuse an illegal or unlawful order, and derives his powers from the local magistracy rather than from the central government.

The PCSO, whose powers are limited but will grow as time goes by, is a civil servant ultimately controlled by the state rather than the law (as are gendarmes in non-Common Law countries). This may seem a technical difference, but it is in fact essential to our liberty that the police are not an arm of government. In the English-speaking countries, we have the rule of law. In the civil code countries, they have the inferior rule of power.

I don't doubt that there is an important distinction between the police and the PCSOs. But is it just English/Whig propaganda to claim the civil code countries have the inferior rule of power?

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BARWELL, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 30: A police community support officer patrols Bardon Road on September 30, 2009 in Barwell, United Kingdom. An inquest jury has returned a verdict of suicide on Fiona Pilkington and unlawful killing on her 18-year-old daughter Francecca who were plagued by boisterous youths on the estate where they live. An inquest jury found the family's cries for help to the authorities had been ignored. (Getty/Daylife)

LONDON - MAY 13: Home Secretary Theresa May and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephens visit the York Road Estate, Clapham on May 13, 2010 in South West London, England. The Home Secretary said today that putting police back on the streets and slashing bureaucracy are among the Government's top priorities. (Getty/Daylife)

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