Saturday, 20 October 2012

Andrew Mitchell was right about the modern police

This is a guest post by Rev. Julian Mann

With the expletive deleted, former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell's parting remark to police officers is a cri de coeur that is echoed by many law-abiding members of the public: "I thought you guys were supposed to help us."

Political correctness and its ugly sister, bureaucratisation, have changed the moral face of Britain's police very markedly over the past decade.  The prosecution of Christian street preachers for alleged hate speech crimes is indicative of that profound moral change, as was the political manoeuvering by police lobbyists in the run-up to Mr Mitchell's resignation.

Britain's police force, founded as it was during the remoralisation of society in the 19th century following the 18th century Evangelical revival, was the product of a Christian culture. Of course, as with every institution including especially the Church, it reflected human sinfulness, and one of the scandalous moral weaknesses of English-speaking Protestant countries was their toleration of racism.

But the public service ethos of Britain's police force did reflect the words of the founder of the Christian Faith about His own mission to a lost world: "For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10v45 - NIV)."

In his resignation letter, the point Mr Mitchell has admitted to making, with unacceptable language, to police officers on the Downing Street gate was that excessive officiousness toward law-abiding citizens is alien to that ethos of public service.

Ironically, the Mitchell episode highlights the importance of removing the reference to  'insulting words' from Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. A police force that has been corrupted by politically-correct ideology sadly cannot be trusted with that provision in law. It cannot be trusted not to use the outlawing of  'insulting words' to suppress legitimate free speech for the sake of politically-correct posturing.

It is never acceptable to swear at a police officer. But, as a preacher of the gospel of Christ, I would rather myself be sworn at with impunity than sacrifice the right to proclaim counter-cultural Christian truth that flies in the face of the political correctness that has undermined Britain's police force.

Julian Mann is vicar Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire.