Are the Police Being Over-Authoritarian?

4 April 2020. Updated 22 April 2020.

The British police seem to be engaged in a competition to see who can be the most zealous when it comes to enforcing the Government’s prescribed social distancing measures. First, Derbyshire Police launched a drone to monitor people walking in the Peak District, even though that’s not contrary the official guidance provided you’re with members of your own household and you’re doing it as part of your once-a-day exercise regime. Not to be outdone, Humberside Police then set up a ‘hotline’ for wannabe members of the Stasi to dob in their fellow citizens. But the Chief Wiggum Prize for Dumb-Ass Policing must go to Buxton Police for vandalising a local beauty spot to discourage members of the public from visiting it. They poured black ink into a blue lagoon, apparently in the belief that this would mean fewer people taking selfies of themselves standing in front of it.

Jonathan Sumption, the ex-Supreme Court Justice, has emerged as the most authoritative critic of the police’s role in enforcing social distancing. In the Sunday Times on April 5th he wrote: “We have given the police powers that, even if they respect the limits, will create an authoritarian pattern of life utterly inconsistent with our traditions.”

Further Reading

Coronavirus: Lord Sumption brands Derbyshire Police “disgraceful”‘, BBC News, March 30th 2020

What the police are getting wrong about the coronavirus regulations‘ by David Allen Green, Law and Policy Blog, March 31st 2020

Coronavirus lockdown: we are so afraid of death, no one even asks whether this “cure” is actually worse‘ by Jonathan Sumption, The Sunday Times, April 5th 2020

Police across the country are wielding powers they do not have – with vanishingly little public scrutiny‘ by Francis Hoar, The Telegraph, April 5th 2020

The Government should be “calling off the dogs” and relaxing lockdown rules, scientific adviser says‘ by Robert Mendick, The Telegraph, April 13th 2020

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KurtGeek
KurtGeek
1 month ago

In fairness to the Buxton police, they do this everytime there’s a bit of a heatwave, because the site does attract people and it is, at the very least, unwise to bathe there, perhaps even dangerous. The water looks like the Caribbean, but it is a very unpleasant brew in there.

Harry
Harry
1 month ago
Reply to  KurtGeek

As “incidents” go, cops pouring some black dye in a blue alkaline lake isn’t a very big one. Putting it in the list does rather detract from the reports of real abuses: drones to spy on walkers, threats to “make something up” to arrest someone for, neighbourhood Stasi snitching webpages, road checkpoints, various harassment of workers going about their jobs, harassment of medical workers going to and from their jobs, threats to search supermarket trolleys, arresting people who dropped off supplies, shouting through megaphones at sunbathers from 3 metres away, breaching social distancing themselves so as to harass members of the public, breaching the peace and their own rules to have noisy, closely-packed siren and blue-lights parades, rewriting the law as they see fit on the spot, drones to bellow audio recordings at crowds below, jumping straight to arresting people who are out rather than politely encouraging them to go home or ignoring them and dealing with real crimes instead, illegally demanding proof that someone is out for work purposes, illegally demanding personal details of non-motorists who they stop…

Simon Ward
Simon Ward
15 days ago
Reply to  Harry

I wholeheartedly agree with your admirably comprehensive litany of the reprehensible abuses of their traditional range of authority that they have been all too eagerly engaging in of late, Harry, but I also think that sullying this formerly crystal clear pool with the ugly black stain resulting from their pouring in black dye is also a pretty reprehensible act in itself. I view it as scarcely any less boorish and offensive as all the actions you listed above. Imagine the hoo-hah that would have ensued had an act of wanton vandalism like this been perpetrated by a member or members of the general public. Joe Public can be penalized for scattering litter or trash in a natural beauty spot, but it’s somehow ok if the offending party is Plod ?

Simon Ward
Simon Ward
15 days ago
Reply to  KurtGeek

Well, why not just put one or two signs up warning people that no matter how inviting it might look as a pool to take a dip in, it’s not advisable owing to the high alkaline concentration ?

Sara
Sara
8 days ago
Reply to  Simon Ward

Because some people will always be idiots and ignore it.

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