Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Interesting Reading

Courtesy of Roger L. Simon, I found the blog of "The Religious Policeman" -- a Saudi expatriate currently living in Britain. (The title is especially ironic -- he makes his disgust with the Saudi religious police quite clear.)

I've been reading some of his recent posts, and frankly I've been fascinated. The guy is a wonderful writer, to begin with... and he offers a perspective we don't see much, told in vernacular we can easily understand. That's rare, and a pleasure to read.

So, in the midst of a gentle diatribe against the war in Iraq (sigh), I found this:
Being very close to the English and the recent events in London has reminded me what nice people they are, but it really is time for "no more Mr. Nice Guy". These are a people who will apologize to you if you bump into them, and it's really your fault. There is a substantial proportion of the UK population who are still concerned about not upsetting the Muslim community here, for example by targetting young Asian men for searches. Well, I have three thoughts on that:

- it's the Muslim community who should be worried about not upsetting the majority, not vice-versa. It's the majority who are getting blown up, and they don't find it funny.

- the suicide bombers have so far been young Asian men, not Scotsmen in kilts or heavily pregnant ladies with small children. It therefore seems a sensible use of police time to concentrate on the former and not the latter.

- they shouldn't let anybody in, and then take an age to expel people who shouldn't be here. They could actually learn something from Saudi Arabia in that respect, or better still, Australia.

Please remember this -- and the source -- next time you're concerned about the effects of "profiling" on minority Muslim populations.

How do I feel about profiling? Thanks, I'm glad you asked. Actually, I am a retired military policeman... and so I approach this from a cop's perspective. And, to be honest, many cops are quite tired of this issue.

Do cops profile? Of course they do. It's their job to keep an eye open for suspicious people, after all... and, after being on the job for a while, cops can get amazingly good at identifying society's troublemakers. It's by no means based on race, or ethnicity, or gender, or age, or any one factor; it's all of those things, along with many far subtler signs, such as posture, clothing, body language, facial expressions, and much more.

When I was on duty, a lifetime ago, I got so that I knew, in advance, who was going to give me trouble and who wasn't. Don't ask me how I knew; after a while it was mostly instinct. But I knew what to expect from the people I confronted professionally... and I was right pretty consistently.

(I once stopped a combat soldier and asked to see his papers, even though I could see absolutely nothing untoward about him. Something about him just seemed wrong to me... and so I checked him out. It turned out that he was a desk-jockey, not a combat soldier at all; he was wearing a full set of combat decorations he had no business wearing, as a way of giving himself airs. So I busted him. How did I know? I just knew.)

Order a cop not to use profiling, and you're ordering him to forget a vital part of his on-the-job training. You're ordering him to ignore what his instincts are telling him... which, to a cop, can be fatal.

I'm reminded of the old joke about a man applying for a job; he's told "Well, your qualifications are excellent -- but, since we don't discriminate in hiring, we're looking for a woman". Now imagine a police car on patrol duty, showing the flag and keeping an eye out for trouble. They see someone who sets off all their subconscious alarm bells... but they hesitate to respond immediately, because he's a member of [insert racial/ethnic grouping here], and they've already arrested someone like that today. They don't want to be accused of profiling.

Do you really want your police to work like that?


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