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PCs should get out of cars and walk alone

There’s little in this Times article that I actually agree with. Sir Keith Povey, however experienced and respected he might be, clearly has values that are completely different to anyone else. He’s the kind of person who’d say “If you’ve done nothing wrong, then why do you fear the police?”. It’s actually quite scary to think that people like this are in high positions in the police force.

Sir Keith added that inventions such as DNA profiling would revolutionise policing. He forecast that Britain would have a national database based on samples compulsorily taken at birth within a decade. Police already have a growing database of convicted and suspected criminals.

This is scary stuff. There’s no way I want to live in a society where my DNA is kept on file from birth. I’m not really happy with the current situation of keeping convicted criminals’ DNA records on file for life (in fact, in many ways that’s less satisfactory than doing it for the whole country). The consequences of such a move could be absolutely terrible.

I know the civil liberties people will argue against it but it’s not just an enforcement tool; it’s an identification showing people are innocent as well as guilty,” he said. “I think we are talking about something in the next ten years. I don’t think it’s a big step because where are the objections in a lot of areas? “The benefits of DNA are so great and go well beyond law enforcement and it’s not that intrusive.

So not only does he want to keep my DNA on file, he wants to use it as evidence that I’m guilty of a crime. DNA should certainly not be used in this situation if a national database is implemented, since it is only about 99.999975% accurate (meaning that DNA found at a crime scene could match about 15 people in the country – which is also why it’s a bad idea to convict known criminals in a database based solely on DNA evidence, since the DNA would only narrow the field to 15 people (the other 14 of whom are unknown in this situation), and would not pin the crime to one person. In a national database scenario, this could get very messy – imagine finding, through a crime investigation your DNA gets you involved in, that the person you think is your father actually is not. This is a remarkably common scenario in Britain today. What greater intrusion of civil liberties than to become one of the top suspects in a murder you didn’t even know about, and have your perception of your familial relationships blown apart, on the basis of flawed DNA evidence? And yet Sir Kieth thinks this isn’t intrusive. I’d hate to see what he thought was intrusive!

“If you are really serious about ID cards, it’s got to be compulsory, mandatory to carry it and it has to be produced on demand to a police officer.”

Thousands of bags and wallets are stolen each year. What if yours was in this situation? Not only would you, under the current plans, be unable to claim the benefits and public services to which you are entitled (What if you were hurt in the mugging, needed to see a doctor, but couldn’t do so without your card?), but now Sir Keith wants to arrest you for not having your card. It’d be laughable if he wasn’t so serious.

Sir Keith pointed out that a few years ago closed-circuit television cameras were attacked as a threat to civil liberties, but now communities demanded them.

This is because cameras are of such poor quality that the pictures are rarely used as evidence, and I’m not aware of any case where somebody has been convicted solely through the use of CCTV. But they still manage to cut crime, because they act as a deterrent to petty criminals. And they therefore make people feel safer, which is why they are ‘demanded’. If there had been some widely publicised cases of people being wrongly convicted by virtue of CCTV pictures, then I expected they wouldn’t be quite so welcomed.

Sir Keith said he started on the beat 42 years ago in Sheffield and made his first arrest catching two men stealing scrap metal.

“In those days I always patrolled alone. In fact it was a disciplinary offence if you were caught talking to the man on the next beat, whereas now everybody patrols in pairs.

“I firmly believe there is far too much double-crewing, as we call it, whether on patrol or in vehicles. When you think officers have got sprays, side-handled batons — they don’t need to be in pairs most of the time,” he said.

He may feel that way, but at a time when police-public relations are at an all time low, and violent crime is on the rise, I certainly wouldn’t want to walk around on my own in a police uniform. Would you?

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

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Comments and responses

Comment from Ian

    15.48, 26/03/2007

i think sir keith is wrong to say that and i agree with you. my da is a cop but he goes out alone, and i’m scared he won’t come home again ’cause there’s no one to back him up!

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