The Watchmen : State Violence in a Democracy

French Riot Policesource: Bella Caledonia
published: 4 April 2021

The role of the police in western society is beginning to be understood and challenged in ways that were inconceivable only a decade ago. The belief in ‘law and order’ and the infallibility of the police – or at least their role as a force for moral good in a system designed to uphold basic rights was deeply held.

But the deluge of state violence now routinely witnessed and shared has fatally undermined that belief system and exposed as being based on a set of myths. ‘Policing by consensus’ – the idea that you can only police a society if a level of good relations is maintained is under threat and new radical notions of abolishing the police system as we understand it are emerging.

How did this happen?
Police forces in the US and Europe work in different social contexts, with different histories and different gun laws, but for many years now people have witnessed and shared police violence and gained an insight into how they operate.

Context-free clips can act as clickbait and can be deceptive but the cumulative picture emerges of police acting with impunity, acting with overt and systemic racism, and acting with politicised violence has steadily eroded public faith.

Anyone who remembers the death of Blair Peach (1979) after he was hit on the head by a member of the Special Patrol Group, the handling of the Stephen Lawrence murder (1993), the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes (2005) or the death of Ian Tomlinson after he was struck from behind by a member of the Territorial Support Group, – the SPG’s successor organisation – (2009) – will not be surprised by any of this. Nor will anyone who witnessed the policing of Orgreave or the Battle of the Beanfield, but the collapse in public faith has accelerated and deepened.

To measure this it’s worth noting that the prosecution team in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the officer accused of murdering George Floyd, have called none other than the most senior member of that police department, Chief Medaria Arradondo.

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