From today’s Guardian: Police should be harassing badly behaved youths by openly filming them and hounding them at home to make their lives as uncomfortable as possible, the home secretary will say today.
Smith will apparently say: ” I want police and local agencies to focus on them by giving them a taste of their own medicine.”
Now, on one level, this solution is certainly satisfying. A friend of mine is currently dealing with a gang of local teenagers shouting homophobic epithets at him and throwing things at his dogs – all of whom were rescued from abusive homes and are easily upset by such behaviour as a result.
But, then after about 5 seconds, I do what any sensible adult does: realise that two wrongs do not make a right. And that emotionally disturbed teenagers should not be the role model for people running the country.
All this approach proves is that bullying is a good idea – providing you are the biggest kid (or government minister) on the block. While teenagers may be temporarily bullied into better behaviour, will they really decide to turn their lives around and become well-adjusted, friendly, adults? Or will they just wait until they are a bit older, and then take out their emotional issues on people who can’t fight back.
There’s also some very unpleasant class and race implications to all this. Do you think rich young men trashing hotel rooms out of boredom are going to be affected by this? Me neither. I bet all of the “thugs” the police decide to “harass” are on council estates.
In addition, the decision to allow cops to harass thugs comes at a time when there’s been a marked upswing in policing of Muslim communities – Gareth Peirce in the London Review of Books discusses the civil liberty violations one can now be subject to for being Muslim. Plus, lawmakers are now discussing the need to resume intense policing of Black communities – for their own good, of course. Smith relaxed the laws on stop and search this year, and David Cameron has promised “to increase police powers by empowering sergeants to authorise stop and search of any pedestrian and vehicle in a specified area for up to six hours, if they reasonably believe a serious crime has occurred or is about to occur.”
There’s a serious problem with some – some – young people in the UK today. When teenagers are getting drunk every day and beating people to death – to me, that suggests despair and nihilism. No one is born bad, and if drugs and violence become a way of life for people as young as 13, I think it’s fair to say there are underlying psychological, emotional and social issues.
Rather than having police harassing thugs – and thereby proving that bullying is a completely valid tactic for dealing with something unpleasant – maybe we should be offering these kids an intensive course of therapy. It will be a lot more successful and less expensive in the long run.