It’s been difficult to avoid talk of ‘Plebgate’, a scandal from last year involving Andrew Mitchell MP and three Downing Street police officers. With the media being so willing to attack MPs at every turn, it’s not difficult to see why this issue is still being discussed, even a year later. ‘Plebgate’ first came to light after Mitchell got into a dispute about his bike with the officers at the gates of Downing Street, and according to the latter, resorted to calling the three of them “f***ing plebs”. The three officers have since apologised for their conduct and are now under pressure to apologise to Mitchell directly, but what does this new scandal show about our trust for politicians, and more importantly, our trust in the police?
Trust in the police has diminished somewhat over the years, since the ‘sus laws’ in the 1980s and the increasing cases of institutionalised racism and hostility, it could be argued that people in the UK are actually become afraid of them. The three Downing Street officers have claimed that public trust in the police is paramount to them, but little seems to be happening to actively recover and build this trust. The key issue is that there is no recorded evidence that Andrew Mitchell actually used that phrase, but through the media hype, the officers were instantly trusted. However, the revelation that there was no real evidence strikes another blow against public trust in the police.
After the expenses scandals and increasing numbers of policies which are directly detrimental to the poorest in Britain, it’s understandable to see why public trust in politicians has decreased. When it comes to the police however, their entire existence is based on public safety and security. British residents are supposed to feel a sense of safety and trust when it comes to the police, but as we have seen from many cases, including that of Stephen Lawrence, this often isn’t the case. Racial bias and the demonisation of young people seem to be entrenched in the way the police conduct most cases. Lawrence’s family were understandably outraged by the way their case was handled, and the bias of the police force.
The neglect of domestic violence victims is also a major issue when it comes to trust in the police, and there have been cases where women have died at the hands of a partner, when it could have easily have been prevented. Why? Claims are often brushed to one side with the view that victims are ‘seeking attention’. If these disgraceful attitudes exist in a supposedly trustworthy institution, then it must be very easy to accuse an MP of classism.
Even in the rural area I grew up in, where crime rates were statistically low, the police still weren’t entirely trusted. Since coming to university, I have heard many stories from those who come from more metropolitan areas, and the trust in the police is much worse. Steps need to be made to reinstate public confidence in the police force, as without this trust or communication, we can hardly expect our society to function as it should.