Today’s title refers to an Alexi Sayle line from his 1980s era (when he was funny and radical, rather than boring and radical):
I write for a newspaper called ‘Things to do in Stoke Newington’. You may have seen it; it’s a big sheet of paper with ‘FUCK ALL’ written on it.
Stoke Newington in the 1980s was an utter shithole, replete with slums, gangs, drugs and corrupt police.
The corrupt police are the focus of our interest today. A culture of planting evidence, re-selling seized drugs, racism and heavy-handed policing was exposed by Operation Jackpot in the mid-90s.
Obviously, a healthy distrust of the police by almost everyone in the area was the result of this failure. It remained a limiting feature of Stoke Newington for years.
Perhaps a similar situation is developing before our eyes in Melbourne. Maybe not so much corruption but certainly a frightening willingness of the police to leverage their monopoly on the use of violence to enforce nascent laws, yet to be tested in the law courts or, indeed, the court of public opinion.
The increasing number of videos circulating on social media showing Melbourne police arresting citizens for social media transgressions, standing in their neighbours’ gardens or breaking curfews are redolent of South American juntas, not a democracy with the long precedents of Common Law.
The most worrying aspect is the enthusiasm of the police force for these brand new laws. I may be mistaken, but no senior member of the force has felt it necessary to speak up on the subject of the risk to the relationship between the public and the police by criminalising much of what was considered everyday life 6 months ago.
What can we infer from this silence?
It’s very subjective but, to me, it seems like the high tide of personal freedoms is far behind us on the rear view mirror.
In fact, the trend that became evident during those halcyon days of The War on Terror, has intensified in 2020.
The Peelian tradition of policing by consent must feel a very ancient and lost concept to my friends in Melbourne.
How do the Victorian Police recover their respect and credibility after this phase? Worse; do they even want to?