Fuel to the Fire.

A blurred city-scape at night.

Trigger Warning: references to police brutality.

Faith in the police is at an all-time low in the UK following the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a police officer in 2021, as well as the Metropolitan police’s choice to willingly ignore illegal gatherings in Downing Street during the strict lockdowns of 2020, on top of their long history of racially-motivated brutality and utter incompetence when it comes to preventing and resolving crime. The situation can only be escalated as a bill essentially out-lawing peaceful protest gets closer and closer to being implemented. You would think the police would want to do everything in their power to improve public opinion, but sadly that is not the case. Instead, fuel is being added to the fire.

Almost every encounter I have had with police has been negative. When I reached out to them on non-emergency lines to resolve a noise disturbance that had prevented me from getting any sleep for almost 24 hours, I was told it was not their responsibility and to contact the council, despite me explaining that I was directed to the police by the council. When they were called (by a neighbour) to resolve a violent dispute on our street, they sat in the car for a couple of minutes until the perpetrators had dispersed, then drove away again. They didn’t even leave the vehicle to collect the weapons that had been dropped. On multiple occasions I have seen armed police (a rare sight in the UK) wandering shopping malls in response to vague “terrorist threats”; threats that did not require the public to be evacuated to a safe distance, of course. Suffice it to say that I was distrustful of police before the event I am about to describe.

It was a Saturday in late January when myself and my husband decided to visit a local coffee shop and have lunch while we caught each other up on the week’s events (we’re both busy people). Storm Malik had mostly passed over but had done damage to several buildings in the area, including our own. As we progressed down the road discussing the mess of broken glass we had seen, I spotted a police car parked outside the shopping mall but didn’t think much of it.

About half-way down the road a (unmasked) police officer barked at us to cross the road, giving no explanation as to why. Nothing was cordoned off and there was no indication that it was unsafe to proceed, so in an attempt to lighten the mood, I quipped that I couldn’t levitate off of the pavement but would cross at the level area a few meters ahead of us. I carried on but was jolted as he grabbed the back of my wheelchair. While this is not remotely comparable to the violence Black people in particular are frequently exposed to, I do consider my wheelchair to be an extension of my own body, and I expect people not to touch it without my permission. By a stroke of good luck my wheelchair was not damaged and neither of us hurt, but he only let go when my husband shouted at him to do so. It takes a lot to make my husband that angry.

The police officer came around to stand directly in front of me, altogether too close, especially in a pandemic. We tried to explain that I could not physically cross the road at our current location, nor could we go back and use the other side of the road since cars were blocking the entrance of a car park which I would need to cross. Much like his fellow officers, he couldn’t have cared less that people were breaking traffic laws right in front of him. We couldn’t get a sentence out without being interrupted. Eventually, he explained to us (still shouting) that a window on a tower had been damaged in the storm and was at risk of falling; he was apparently trying to keep us safe, which I found hard to believe considering his apparent disregard for a deadly virus.

Eventually, we turned around and decided to go elsewhere. As we left, the delightful gentleman decided to hurl one more verbal jab at us, a definite indication of his professionalism; “Make a complaint if you want”. Clearly, he knew his conduct was less than stellar, but he also knew that complaining wouldn’t make a difference.

Undoubtedly, some people will try to blame this incident on me, saying I should have complied. Had the conversation been civil, the danger indicated, and a safe way for me to traverse the road made available, I would have happily done so. It was undoubtedly my white privilege, and the presence of my husband, that gave me the confidence to try and advocate for my own right to cross the road safely in the first place. However, for the truly criminal act of not being able to levitate, I was denied the right to peacefully go about my business. My only regret is that I did not think to film the encounter.

I came away from the incident shaken. While I had heard similar stories about the police from other disabled people, I had been lucky enough to only be a victim of their incompetence. I now know for certain that I can never trust the police again.

And for those wondering, we saw no indication that the damaged window was repaired (it is visible from our apartment) but the police eventually got bored and left. I guess the risk of it falling and killing us all wasn’t so great after all.

3 thoughts on “Fuel to the Fire.

  1. Hello from the UK
    Many thanks indeed for writing about this, I am very sorry such stupidity occurred.
    Nowadays the police are substantially the most useless bunch of nincompoops I have ever had to encounter. You may know of the ‘Thought police’ from George Orwell’s 1984. Well, in the UK we have the ‘No thought police’!
    I have yet to write about it in full yet, but I was arrested on my driveway about to do some gardening, when 5 youngish (I was 60 at the time) police persons (all wearing surgical masks!) turned up.
    It would be a very long comment to explain the circumstances, but suffice to say I was told to put my secateurs down (closed up) as though I was holding a lethal weapon. They then gave the usual spiel then proceeded to cuff me behind my back. I did explain I was technically extremely vulnerable to Covid 19 as per the NHS (a diagnosis of cancer). The also touched me with bare hands, shock horror!!!
    I actually knew by now this wouldn’t matter in the slightest but I had hoped they might have taken this into consideration, but sadly they were rather dim, nice but dim.
    Two of them took me to the car (I was rather bemused, but didn’t put up a fight, I just thought it all very odd). In the car they took off their masks!!!
    This by no means the end of police stupidity. Clearly the police have completely lost the plot and deserve to be thrown into a mental asylum until they learn some common sense and better manners, and that they serve the public, not the other way round.
    Kind regards
    Baldmichael Theresoluteprotector’sson
    Please excuse the nom-de-plume, this is as much for fun as a riddle for people to solve if they wish. And given the world has gone mad in the last 2 years I think this is quite reasonable in the circumstances.

    Like

      1. Thank you, I was never actually formally charged, I will explain one my site one day, but there are more important things right now.

        Re the police, I knew that in fact they were exempt from mask wearing as per gov.uk website so it made me extremely suspicious as to what their agenda was/is, the whole mask business etc was ‘Illogical, Captain’ as Spock would say.

        I know you are fan of Star trek!

        Like

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