Kevin Hurley is the former Head of Counter Terrorism at the City of London Police and a reservist army officer. He has spent two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan addressing insurgency as both a police specialist and a soldier.
One of the founding and, until today, enduring principles of the British ‘bobby’ was that he or she went about their business of protecting the public in an impartial manner. Not openly showing favouritism towards one group.
A couple of days ago, I took the risk of responding to an official tweet by the South Wales Police Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender association after they proudly announced that they were “giving our officers and staff the ability to show their support by wearing trans epaulettes and LGBT+ ‘thin blue line’ patches on their uniforms.”
At the peril of being labelled reactionary or worse, I tweeted back stating that it was an “appalling misjudgement”, adding: “It is not for serving police officers to visibly display support for any political or special interest group. They must be apolitical.”.
I expected this to be greeted by an inevitable ‘pile on’ of virtue-signallers who think it is their right to display their sexual orientation, or those who wished to support the wearing such a badge on Her Majesty’s police uniform.
One reply, from @geekcopuk, admonished me (without proper grammar): “How do you define special interest group Kevin. I don’t believe I’m expressing any political views by having an LGBT Pin on my jacket as a openly gay serving officer.”
Other tweets spoke of wearing the rainbow insignia with the full support of London’s Metropolitan Police Service, and told of even Chief Constables wearing LGBT adornments on their uniforms.
But what stuck me (pleasingly, I admit) was that the vast majority of replies were not just against, but openly hostile, to the idea of officers displaying such insignia.
It was summed up by @LenoreNuit, who asked: “I don’t understand why the public’s money is being spent on this. How will it prevent crime?”
Another, @Monkbythesea, added: “I don’t really think the police should be supporting anything. Completely neutral in work would be nice.”
Others condemned it as “pathetic”, “insanity”, “an insult” and as undermining at least one of the nine principles of law enforcement that have made our police unique in the world for 200 years, since they were first set out by Robert Peel back in 1829. Principle number five begins: “The police seek and preserve public favor, not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to the law… ”
I would like to make it clear that I have no issues with anyone who is LGBT. I know many fine people who are, including some outstanding police officers. Some of whom I count amongst my friends.
While I was an elected Police and Crime Commissioner in Surrey, I lent my support for freedom of choice and lifestyle by attending the 2014 Brighton Pride march, riding at the front of an open-topped rainbow bus complete with a matching tie and hat band on my Panama hat.
However, I do have issues with police officers or any other public servants wearing any adornment during their work hours that could be seen to be giving preference to one section of society over another, or, perhaps more importantly, offend some of them.
Policing can be a challenging job; how might a committed Muslim or Christian or East African who does not approve of LGBT orientation react to being dealt with by a police officer wearing a rainbow badge? Perhaps that member of the public is a victim or witness. Do the police really need to risk offending them or disturbing them or even creating an unnecessary distraction by wearing the rainbow colours? It certainly is not going to help.
How welcome would a neighbourhood officer who is attempting to build a close relationship with the Muslim community be if he or she enters a Sunni Mosque displaying open support for values which many Muslims find abhorrent? It will almost certainly militate against that officer having a productive interaction with either the Imam or the congregation.
Moreover, it is concerning that the officer himself or herself feels it is appropriate for them to make a visible demonstration of their view or leanings as they go about their job. I sometimes wonder what some senior police officers are trying to do in encouraging these displays.
Yes, of course, the LGBT community has suffered abuse, assault and unfairness because of who they are. But then so have many other sections of society. Yet the police do not (and should not) go around with motifs or colours about old people, battered women, abused children, or in support of a host of different ethnic or religious minorities.
That is because it is the job of the police to look after all of us regardless of who or what we are. As Sir Robert Peel rightly said back in 1829.
I can tell you that all 46 major police forces in the United Kingdom have LGBT, Black, Muslim, Christian, even in some cases Asian, police associations. All are staffed by paid officers and civilian staff. They receive public funding for their activities and the officers get extra time to manage them. All very laudable, I am sure, but what does this do for victims of burglary? How do they improve the lot of a battered and abused victim of domestic violence? How do they stop anti-social yobs on our streets? The answer is they do not, but they do enable lots of virtue signalling to publicised to an increasingly disappointed and bemused public.
We just want the police to turn up if louts are causing trouble on our housing estates, or our homes get burgled, or we get assaulted on the street. For the police to do something (some policing, perhaps), not grandstand their support for LGBT rights or those of any other interest group.
I hope the Chief Constables will listen to the majority of the public over this. The people who their forces are here to serve and protect, who are their witnesses in court and the ones who will help when officers get into difficulty. Most people are not impressed by rainbow epaulettes any more than they would be by a Black Lives Matter symbol, an Aryan fist, or a hammer & sickle embroidered on officer’s uniforms. In fact, they are bitterly disappointed by such displays.
If your officers want to wear rainbow colours, they can do so with pride. When they are off duty.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.