Monday, September 21, 2015

Britain, the police, and a world without guns

So Friday night, Ray, Magda, and I are sitting around chatting in their living room in London’s Hackney Wick, when Ray hears a sound in the garden and gets up to check, thinking it’s a fox. Instead four young gang members being chased by the police have climbed over the high brick walls and are now at the back door begging to get in. When we go to the front door there are police cars everywhere. Magda and I go upstairs to watch the drama unfold from the windows, a vivid lesson in the difference in policing styles between England and America. First of all, the cadre of cops that show up are a bunch of truly hot guys—young, slim, and handsome—like maybe the rugby team has come to the rescue. They get to the garden—not by breaking down our door—but by nimbly scaling the series of walls and as I watch one climb over the next wall in pursuit, I’m thinking that even if cops in America were that fit, they’d be weighed down by all the equipment they carry. I’m also realizing that if this were happening in America, guns would be involved, and instead of standing at the window, I’d be under the bed. We watched as they arrested two out front, and felt sad for everyone. The boys—who, we were told, been fighting in a gang war with knives, boards with nails in them and machetes—didn’t look evil, just young and clueless. The police were respectful and professional. When they left Ray went out to the garden to try to salvage his climbing cherry tomatoes, and I went to bed.

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