Peter Rhodes on bad cops, too much heat and the illusion that racism is growing

The eldest daughter of Nelson Mandela, Dr Makaziwe Mandela says: “My father would be repeating what he said when he was alive, that the struggle is not complete and that we should not tire, we should press on to fight racism with everything we have in our might.”

Peter Rhodes on bad cops, too much heat and the illusion that racism is growing

Yet is racism really growing? Racism has always been with us and always will be, because it is in the nature of some people to fear or despise difference. But sometimes, the problem is not so much racism as the ease with which racism can be spread.

Not so long ago, if you shared the views of today's racists, you might have expressed your opinions in secretive pubs. At worst, you could have joined a far-right movement, handing out leaflets condemning racial mixing. But these were minority activities, easily policed. And then along came social media. Racists, who may make up only 10 per cent of our population, now have the means of spreading and re-spreading their poison endlessly and anonymously. Our society is less racist than it was 30 years ago, but we are steadily convincing ourselves it is getting worse. It's the same 10 per cent but, thanks to social media, they possess the voice of millions. A more truthful guide to the state of our nation can be seen in recent racist graffiti. One solitary bigot daubs a wall but dozens of local people paint out the words of hate. Nelson Mandela would approve.

What sort of cops will lead us in the 21st century fight against wickedness? You may not be shocked to hear that a thuggish woman punched and headbutted a police officer. You may be shocked to learn that the woman in question, allegedly under the influence of booze and drugs, was a recruit at Hendon Police College.

According to the Guardian, sources within the police college allege that the standard of trainees has been allowed to slip to the state where violent disorder, cheating and dishonesty have been reported among recruits. If cops are corrupt, violent and untruthful during training, what sort of dodgy, immoral and plain bent cops will they become?

I am reminded of an after-dinner speech by a jolly old defence barrister many years ago who related the story of how, as a junior brief, he “invested” £5 in a young police constable. The Pc rose to become a senior officer. “And do you know,” said the lawyer, “over the years, I've had that fiver back many times over.” Back then, we all laughed at the very idea of a corrupt cop. Today, not so much.

“At least the sun's got us smiling again” proclaims one of the London newspapers. Really? Then the sun in the capital must be a different sun from the one in the provinces where we went from perishing cold to too darn hot in a single sticky day. Smiling is not the same as sweating.

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