So says Ralph Waldo Emerson, but what do the police and bureaucracy say in Australia? Well it’s something like:
“If you don’t give us the respect we believe you owe us, we’ll fit you up”
Respect is becoming an ever increasing theme on the lips of the police and the bureaucracy. What started out as a whisper is reaching a crescendo. What has changed? To answer this, we need to look at who makes up the chorus.
On Saturday evening 16 October, 2010 after twenty-six years on the air the last episode of the police series The Bill aired on the ABC. While it was obvious that the script writers were at a loss on how to end the series on short notice, they evidently stumbled onto the respect chorus. In the final scene of the final episode we were regaled with a diatribe on respect by actor Simon Rouse playing Superintendent Jack Meadows.
In a nutshell, we the audience were asked to accept the premise that police were entitled to respect. Why? Because they wear a uniform seemed the only reason the script writers could come up with.
This was followed by an article in the Sydney Sun-Herald titled Judges fed up with drunken violence clogging our courts, in which journalists Geesche Jacobsen, Joel Gibson and Deborah Snow noted that of the 10,400 prisoners currently incarcerated in NSW prisons, 2,600 are on remand and on a statistical average 780 of these will be acquitted. So the police lock you up, the DPP prosecute you and your peers acquit you! Is this respect?
On acquittal, you, the former prisoner, would have spent up to six months in jail during which time you have lost your job, reputation, relationships and possibly dignity. Is this respect?
Without a job and income you can’t afford to sue the government for damages. The charges remain on your record, a social stigma for all times and preclude you from certain types of employment. Generally you eventually become a suicide statistic. Is this respect?
The DPP and police have a legal obligation to ensure a fair trial. If this duty is followed, why are so many innocent people incarcerated pending trial? Usually the answer lays somewhere between police corruption and bureaucratic incompetence, which under the Public Sector Management Act is corruption. When was the last time you saw a bureaucrat incarcerated for corruption? Very rarely. Is this respect?
A well publicised case comes from the ACT, that of Frank Del Castillo, a US citizen of Hispanic extraction married to a blond, blue eyed ‘Irish’ lass. Mr. Del Castillo was accused of murdering his wife’s lover, incarcerated for six months pending trial and was acquitted. Why? Because it was proved that the Australian Federal Police tampered with and invented evidence. Mr. Del Castillo, an innocent man victimised by the AFP because of his ethnicity, suffered the indignity of loss of freedom, loss of employment, income and the mental torment that is part of a criminal trial. Is this respect?
In another well publicised case from the ACT a senior Department of Treasury employee who was also an Indigenous Australian and member of the Stolen Generation(s) was racially vilified on a daily basis by one of his subordinate staff. Although the matters were raised with the Department at the highest level nothing was done. When the Indigenous Officer advised the Department that matters had progressed to the point that he felt he had no other option than to take the matter to the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission (HREOC) he was fitted-up and sacked while his vilifier was given a pay rise. Is this respect?
The point of all of this is that the chorus clamouring for respect are those who respect others the least.
If the police, the politicians and the bureaucrats want respect, they first have to treat the public with respect. Instead of hiding behind semantics, the police and the bureaucracy have to step up and accept responsibility. At the moment we seem to live in a culture where dribble and waffle have become acceptable alternatives to responsibility; where the public service motto is: line my own pocket, damn the public.
If the police genuinely deserve respect we would not have the unacceptable situation where innocent people are incarcerated for lengthy periods of time only to be acquitted and then left to rot by the system, while the police and bureaucrats threaten industrial action for more pay. Is this respect?
Respect must be earned!