Merseyside PC Steve Bettley has been fired for being a member of the BNP. He denies being a member, but that's for the appeal process to decide.
What I'm trying to decide is how I feel about membership in the police force being contingent on "approved" political views. It's genuinely something I'm not sure about. On the one hand, I get that the police can't function without the support (or at least the tolerance) of the general public, and that their ability to work would be seriously compromised were individual officers to be known "undesirables". The problem with that line of thought, of course, is that you could find time periods in which I would have been considered an undesirable, at least in (say) the States, and the idea that I shouldn't have been allowed to serve justice because a bunch of other people hated me isn't one I'm particularly keen on.
There's also the fact that the police are charged with following the will of the current government, in combination with the legal framework. Given that, certain political views might prove problematic in a policeman. An anarchist, for example, wouldn't be likely to make much of a constable, but then it's difficult to imagine under what circumstances an anarchist would want to be a policeman. You have to really want the job, after all, (it is not easy to get into the police force in this country, as my associate ChaosGibbon could tell you), and anarchists are less well-known for attempting to bring down the system from within than they are getting up at 3pm and scrawling graffiti across statues.
Nevertheless, the point remains that there are political impulses incompatible with policing. Crucially, though, those views are incompatible with the very mechanics of authority, rather than having a view about what authorities should do that happens to differ significantly from the mean. The implication here is that if the political party you want in charge is different enough from the one that is in charge, you can't be trusted keep the peace. That's a generalisation I'm not comfortable with.
The counter, I guess, is pretty simple. Anyone signed up with a group so viciously stupid as to have to assume that two people with the same skin colour must be essentially indistinguishable cannot possibly have the necessary brain-power to police the streets. You would hope the police would be able to tell that at the time of hiring, though, or at least work it out pretty quckly once this KKKPC starts working a beat. In that sense it's at least arguable that firing people for being in the BNP is a tacit acknowledgement that the police aren't capable of weeding out big old racists from their own ranks, which a worrying thought.
It should go without saying that I despise the BNP and all they stand for. Part of being a (hopefully) reasonably enlightened individual though is realising you have to separate how much you hate someone from your opinion of how they should be treated. This policy, if nothing else, implies we think certain political groups find that a harder thing to do than others. Which might be true, actually (there has been some interesting work done with comparing political affiliations with a person's degree of empathy), but it's something I'd like to see proved before we start deciding who can and can't be trusted to keep us safe.
Anyone else have any thoughts about this? I know if nothing else at least one of you is a policeman, though I have yet to receive any suggestion that I have any racist readers.