Racial profiling, the Lib-Dems and the Met

It seems that the government has announced that under certain restricted circumstances, the Police may take into account the ethnicity of members of the public when considering whom to stop and search.  This is known in the jargon as racial profiling.  Naturally the question also arises when those responsible (say) for the safety of aircraft consider the possible identity of potential terrorists and suicide bombers.
Yesterday morning we were treated to several minutes of debate on the Today Programme on Radio Four, on this very topic.  They had some leftist/liberal commentator, along with Brian Paddick, an ornament of the Liberal-Democratic Party and former London Mayoral candidate, and sometime Assistant Deputy Commissioner of the Met.  He’s an interesting character.  As a Lib-Dem, he is (or might be expected to be) at one with the politically-correct tendency, and passionately opposed to any hint of racial profiling.  On the other hand, we have all been indoctrinated by the media and the Macpherson Report to know that the Met is “institutionally racist” (absurd phrase), so that almost by definition any former senior officer of the Met just about has to be second cousin to the Ku Klux Klan.  Perhaps a debate about racial profiling of suspects would provide some insights into Mr. Paddick’s posture on the issue.
The leftist libertarian lady of course insisted that racial profiling was the work of the devil, and could not be contemplated at any cost.  Her opinion was predictable but not well-conceived.  If the Police may not consider ethnicity on anti-discrimination grounds, then presumably they may not consider any other dimension which is protected by anti-discrimination legislation.  They may not consider age, nor sex, nor sexual orientation, and perhaps not hair-colour either.  And they must be seen to be following the anti-discrimination rules.  So in their annual report, the Met would have to prove that in terms of all these dimensions, the full tally of suspects they have spoken to exactly matches, in percentage terms, the population they serve.  Reductio ad absurdum.  We rapidly reach the point (an often-quoted example) where Police looking for teenage muggers have to talk to a suitable quota of elderly ladies.
I expected nothing resembling common-sense from a Lib-Dem, but my expectation was confounded.  Mr. Paddick came up with an excellent and incontrovertible counter-example.  Suppose, said he, that the Police had intelligence that two Asian gangs were arming themselves with knives and other weapons and were preparing for what was known in West Side Story as “A Rumble”.  Then in the interests of preventing a public affray, clearly the Police would tend to interview – and stop and search – Asians near the scene, preferentially to other groups.  And young, male Asians at that.
The fact is that we pay the Police (and doctors and nurses and teachers and so on) to exercise their judgement based on their experience.  If an officer has worked his patch for a few years, he will know the people, and the types of people, likely to cause trouble.  That knowledge is invaluable, and we should not stand in the way of his exercising it responsibly on all our behalves.  Knee-jerk leftists may call it prejudice and stereotyping.  I call it experience, and I respect it.
One thing is certain: if each and every Police officer, before he accosts a suspect, is obliged to undertake in his own mind the kind of pious, politically-correct posturing that we heard on Radio Four, and analyse the moral rectitude of each potential course of action, then we shall have fewer arrests and more crime, and the public will be less well-served than they deserve to be.

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