2016 could be a year of fear and suspicion

Mick Gradwell
Mick Gradwell
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Every New Year provides its own special challenges for the police service but there is, unfortunately, every chance that 2016 will be a critical and pivotal year for policing in this country, unlike any other.

There is an increased risk that this country will suffer a terrorist attack similar to those that have occurred in Paris and America.

This current threat on its own should be leading to even more police officers being trained in the use of firearms. If an actual terrorist atrocity takes place, this will lead to widespread calls for all police officers to be armed, and I am now resigned to the fact that we need a fully armed police service in this country, as a matter of priority.

I also see it as inevitable that more and more police resources are going to be focused towards minority communities and, in particular, Muslim communities.

This on its own will cause resentment and the development of further problems.

Recently, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Tom Winsor, published his first ever document focusing on honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Few police forces passed this inspection with flying colours and a strict timescale has been set for 2016 to improve the police response to these issues.

This type of work is important and essential, but it will take place at a time when members of these same communities, where these criminal acts tend to occur the most, will also be subjected to increased scrutiny in attempts to identify those who have been radicalised or who are at the greatest threat of radicalisation.

The honour-based violence review is also likely to focus a brighter spotlight on the use of Sharia Courts and Sharia Law within these communities and the allegations that they do little to help female victims of domestic violence.

These policing activities, coupled with the current regular flow of negative headlines about Muslims, if not carefully managed, may create even deeper splits in our society. The concern must be that 2016 will become a year focused on fear, suspicion and oppression, as a result of the conflict in Syria and an apparent change in policing priorities.

The situation would obviously deteriorate even further should Donald Trump actually be elected as President of the USA and continue with his ill-informed knee jerk diatribe. Surely 2016 couldn’t get that bad – could it?