Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/551/6476
The sacking of Blair, London's police chief
LONDON MAYOR Boris Johnson's sacking of Sir Ian Blair, chief police officer of the Metropolitan Police force, has been described by Blair's supporters as a move to drag the capital's police service backwards, away from perceived 'politically correct' policing.
It is still not clear if Johnson blundered into the sacking with a show of strength, hours after he took the chair of London's Police Authority, or if this was a calculated political removal.
New Labour, particularly ex-mayor Ken Livingstone, sprung to Blair's defence. Blair was widely seen as 'their man', openly campaigning for New Labour policies such as Identity Cards and for the extension to 42 days' detention of suspects without trial, which a section of Tories oppose, though purely for opportunistic reasons.
Blair will get little sympathy from London's working people, especially black and Asian people and others from minority ethnic communities. Livingstone claims Blair is the progressive face of policing and the best police officer to improve the number of black and minority ethnic police.
This was a recommendation of the Lawrence inquiry, which branded the Met 'institutionally racist'. But Blair has consistently defended the officers who shot Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian working in London, after the 7/7 tube bombings. This completely undermined any chance of improving relations between the Met and these communities. Many will have seen no changes in police tactics following this shooting.
Blair's toothless actions within the police further undermined any chance of attracting more black or Asian youth into the force. 'Stop and search' figures show the chance of black or Asian youths being stopped rose under his watch to seven times that for whites. Many youth see this as an increase in racist state harassment.
The National Black Police Association (NBPA) also highlights the racist treatment of people from minority ethnic communities who join the Met, saying promotion through the ranks is very difficult and black officers are at greater risk of facing disciplinary action. The NBPA placed adverts in the minority press, advising blacks not to join the Met.
Johnson's intervention prompted Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to say policing should not be 'party political'. True, Johnson has acted like a tin-pot dictator, but with the Met about to be unleashed more repressively on the working class and poor in London, who should control them?
In many black communities, gun and knife crime is causing concern and there are calls for more police action. But police operations cannot work in the interest of working people when they are governed by politicians who are in thrall to big business.
Local committees of democratically elected trade unionists and community representatives should decide how the police operate and make sure they act in the interest of their communities and help protect them from crime.
In The Socialist 8 October 2008:
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