Saturday 19 October, 5.30pm until 6.45pm, Cinema 2 Institutions in crisis?
From ‘Plebgate’ to the police cover-up of their role in the Hillsborough disaster, the phone-hacking affair and the revelations of police spying on the Lawrence family, trust in the police seems at an all-time low. When police officer Simon Harwood was found not guilty of killing newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson, one broadsheet argued the Police Complaints Commission needed greater ‘teeth, guts, autonomy and drive’ to correct a ‘moral crisis’ at the heart of policing. Most recently, the seemingly unethical behaviour of undercover officers working for the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad has led Theresa May to announce new vetting procedures as part of a new ‘integrity charter’, and Prime Minister David Cameron raised eyebrows when he described the British police as only ‘relatively honest’.
Traditionally, the role of the police was to protect individuals from crime and disorder. Today, they not only stand accused of restricting free speech and free assembly by arresting tweeters and kettling protestors, but seem embarrassingly inept at dealing with public order situations. During the August 2011 riots, with a risk-averse police force failing to provide basic security, members of the public took to the streets to defend their livelihoods and communities; even the pro-police Tories denounced their ‘timid’ response. In other areas of life however, the police seem to be reaching far beyond their historic brief, whether by arresting football fans for singing offensive chants, or issuing on-the-spot fines to people drinking in public places or dropping cigarette butts. Wider powers to intervene in domestic disputes and the extraordinary amount of energy the police are devoting to investigating historical sex abuse also seem to indicate a new focus for policing.
Is this the worst of both worlds; draconian and petty regarding individual behaviour, strangely fearful and absent when maintaining public order? How can it be that that police have simultaneously hollowed out as an institution, no longer representing the moral order of the crown and state, and yet established completely new forms of social control? With increasingly confusion about what the police are for, how should their role be defined?
emeritus professor, English and American studies, Middlesex University; author, Riot City: protest and rebellion in the capital
Professor Roger Graef
CEO, Films of Record; award-winning filmmaker, including the Bafta winning Police series, Police 2001, Turning the Screws, and The Secret Policeman's Ball; visiting professor, Mannheim Centre for Criminology, LSE
interim director, European Animal Research Campaign Centre; government affairs, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry
retired commissioner, Independent Police Complaints Commission
Dr Jacki Tapley
principal lecturer and associate head (academic), Institute of Criminal Justice Studies, University of Portsmouth
sociology and politics teacher; writer on culture; former music journalist
Hate crime laws have made the punishment of thoughtcrime a reality.Jon Holbrook, spiked, 9 July 2013
Twenty years on from the murder case that has become emblematic of police failure and racially-aggravated violence, Duwayne Brooks looks back.Catherine Lafferty, New Statesman, 23 April 2013
Only a third of Metropolitan Police (Met) staff would feel confident of receiving a good service if they approached the force as a member of the public, a staff survey has revealed.BBC, 5 November 2012
A recent publication on policing from rightwing think-tank Civitas extends its attack on anti-racism into a ‘white victimhood’ thesis.Ryan Erfani-Ghettani, Institute Of Race Relations, 13 September 2012
A tweeter's right to make a fool of themselves must be defended to the deathAlan Rusbridger, Guardian, 29 July 2012
In search of originality: navigating the artistic canon
"Battle of Ideas could be called Search for Truth. Mundane consensus and conventional wisdom are the enemies of truth. Happily, neither of those are available at the Battle."
George Pitcher, journalist; Anglican priest, St Bride's Church, Fleet Street