On the radio the other day, I heard a stat that in the UK around 3 people per year die in police custody while in the same situation in the USA it’s more like 3,000 people. Even if you adjust that per million population, the USA number is still way out of whack. I decided to dig a little – turns out that the radio lied to me, or at least I couldn’t find the same stats. This is what I found:
|Country||Current populations||Deaths in police custody (or immediately following)||Deaths in police custody per million pop|
The above is by no means perfect, for example, there are no official stats for the USA. A few years ago, congress passed a law to ensure the police forces report these numbers but they have failed to comply. We could assume that the actual numbers are higher.
You’ll also note that there are only three countries that maintain a constitutional right to keep and bear arms: Mexico, Guatemala, and the United States. I didn’t compare these three countries in the above table because, well let’s face it, these countries are in a different class to the US. Mexico and Guatemala – we hear they are more corrupt, is it too far to say “more violent”? So you’d expect their numbers to be high. The US should be more disciplined, or so you would hope.
What the above stats undeniably show is that the deaths in police custody per million population in the States are double than that of other developed, peaceful countries – and I deliberately chose countries where guns were more prolific and the cultures more aligned than say, Ireland (I was 17 years old first time I saw a gun and that was when I wasn’t in Ireland) or Germany, where the gun laws are famously heavily regulated. Think about it – you are twice as likely to die in police custody in the US than in other Western democracies. Wow.
There could be so many reasons for this, and some genius military or security expert can fill us in with a 322 page powerpoint presentation. The one thing I know from experience is that when I chat to the US police, they rarely seem to actually listen. They kind of half listen with a condescending smile. It’s their way or the high way, even if they don’t know all the facts. They’re just not down to earth or personable. The Irish, the UK, the Aussie police – for the most part (and there is always an exception to every rule), they feel like one of us, but in a uniform. You get the sense that they can see your point of view, can empathise; but they are doing their job. US police don’t feel like they are one of us at all.
I’m lucky enough (or too goodytwo shoes and white), to never have been in a very acrimonious position with the police. I’ve been told to leave student parties and lock- ins (for those who don’t know – that’s when a pub shuts its doors and shutters its windows after hours and illegally lets a few people stay), but I never ever felt intimidated – not in UK, Ireland, France, Belgium, Singapore, Hong Kong or Argentina. However I have in the US, and that was just asking for directions.
A side note – in Rome, my friend, like a squiffy eejit, asked for a photo of herself with the Italian police and had her bottom pinched. She told them to get lost and we wandered on our way unharmed and un-impinged. Actually, we wandered on in fits of giggles because her face is hysterically funny in that photo. That’s doesn’t reflect well for the Roman authorities.
Anywho, what you got to do is ask yourself, what is it that the US police chiefs are doing or not doing that other countries are doing or not doing? Someone said on twitter the US police behave this way because they carry guns at all times; but I don’t buy that. This is a mindset issue which can be redressed in training and hiring. Maybe it’s because they have to strictly follow orders and aren’t allowed to make their own on-the-spot decisions? I don’t know but It reminds me of times I bump into the Oxbridge-educated set. At forty years of age, they still try find out to which University or school you went, which to me is just barmy behaviour. I mean seriously, they may as well ask where my mother bought my socks when I was ten. It should have no real relevance to life anymore. But it does. And then the superior glint in their eye when they find you aren’t part of their elite. This is ingrained behaviour because these poor kids are constantly told in these forums that they are “the best of the best” – ignoring that the really best of us – Gandhi, Mandela, Mother Teresa etc – felt equals to us all.