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SecularDetective @SecDetective
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Some thoughts on this “degrading” and “embarrassing” encounter, and #stopandsearch more generally...…
Police have been condemned again for “racial profiling” following this interruption of a drill video. Armed officers engaged the group with air support, and again, the variable of culture has been overlooked by some who can’t see past race.
Watch the Instagram video in the link and you’ll actually hear the lyric: “we got guns”.

If you were to walk down the street, wearing a balaclava and saying this, I don’t think you’d have grounds to be shocked if the police stopped you, whatever colour you were.
It reminds me of a specific interaction of mine from a few years ago in the aftermath of 2011’s riots.

Cladded in full public order gear (sans the NATOs), my carrier engaged two teenagers on the promenade of a London shopping centre and searched them for weapons.
We were approached by a young, well-intentioned woman demanding answers for what she called “clear racial profiling and discrimination”. She asserted that we’d “only stopped the young men because they were black”.

Never one to turn down an opportunity for discourse, I spoke.
I informed her of the specific intelligence regarding an unsettled score between two rival gangs in the area, and that this intelligence was partly-led by the online boastings of the groups themselves.
I drew her attention to the trouser-bottoms of one of the gentlemen in the pair, and the particular fact that one leg was rolled up to the knee.

I pointed out that this had of late been an indication that such an individual was sporting a knife tucked into the sock of the other.
I asked her to take notice of the bulky stature of the shorter gentleman under his padded coat on a hot summer’s evening, and made sure she spotted the stab-vest he was wearing underneath it when the jacket was removed by my colleague.
I mentioned the fact that the pair had initially spotted our colleagues at the promenade’s far end after exiting the mall minutes earlier, only to run into us when they promptly turned about and ran in the opposite direction.

We closed the gap after receiving their descriptions.
I informed her that a key part of the description involved the coloured bandana on one of the gentlemen, which I pointed out as I informed her of its affiliation with one of the gangs mentioned earlier.

She listened with acknowledging nods as she filmed the search on her phone.
I suggested to her, respectfully as always, that perhaps she needed to lift her vision past the colour of the stopped pair’s skin, and open her eyes and ears to the myriad factors which culminated in this engagement, which she had condemned so confidently as “racial profiling”.
I suggested that her race-myopia had obscured the periphery of her vision on the wider issue.

These gentlemen had not been stopped “just because they [were] black”. The hadn’t been stopped because they were black at all.
The had been stopped and searched because of the numerous factors, indicative of violence, and their responses to initial questioning by the officers stopping them.

These are just some of the variables which constitute an officer’s mindset of “reasonable grounds to suspect”.
The colour of an individual’s skin doesn’t form part of this unless it is informed by specific information about a particular individual.

The woman, in a very classy show of character and maturity, acknowledged my points and conceded that her judgement was ill-informed.
And in doing so, she demonstrated herself to be an honest interlocutor, more than worthy of the time spent with her, explaining these nuances.

Society must do the same.
We have to stop taking the easy (sometimes lazy, sometimes agenda-led) option, and lift our vision past race to perceive actions and intentions properly, and give according weight to the other variables that play a role.

This applies to many fronts, not least stop and search.
As for drill music and this interrupted video, the director loses all rights to shock in his admission that he sought no permission from the local council to film his project involving balaclava-clad men rapping about gangs and violence.
Had the proper authorities been in place, the police would have likely been informed through more conventional channels and the necessity for an armed stop could have been mitigated.
I’m not one for calling for any form of art which infringes the rights of nobody to be banned, that’s just not my bag.

But it’s quite a different—and somewhat naive—position to expect public displays advocating and glamorising violence to not warrant a closer investigative look.
This is a question of culture, not race.

It happens to be a fact that the gang culture riddling our headlines with news of slain teenagers is disproportionately represented by young, black men.
But—and this is the crucial point here—if it’s wrong for the police to lazily profile race (something we don’t choose) instead of culture, it’s just as wrong for anybody else to do the same.

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