Oh dear – a complete Twitter storm appears to have erupted over a video showing a black man twerking up against a white female police officer at the recent Notting Hill Carnival.
According to the majority of people in my Twitter feed, this is not a moment of harmless fun, but a horrendous sexual assault and an indication of the impotence of our police force in the inability of the female officer to push the man away, and the unwillingness of her male colleague to step in and defend her.
It’s also, according to some, an indication of the lengths our police will go to in pandering to political correctness and multiculturalism, that they will turn a blind eye to a black man sexually assaulting a female officer. According to these outraged tweeters, if the man were white, he’d have been arrested on the spot.
Never mind that at the beginning of the clip, the police officer has her arm round the man’s waist and is clearly shaking with laughter. Or that she makes no attempt to push him away – despite the fact that her male colleague is on hand to provide support should she need it.
Never mind, either, the fact that partygoers twerking up against police officers are a regular fixture at the Notting Hill Carnival. And that dozens of videos on YouTube show women twerking up against male police officers in just as sexually provocative a manner. Nobody ever screams “sexual assault” when they see women gyrating against male police officers – so why is it so objectionable when it’s a man gyrating against a woman?
The underlying chauvinism of the response – the implication that because she’s a woman she must be a victim, she cannot possibly think it’s okay, and that the only reason she’s not pushing him away is because she’s too embarrassed, too “terrified” even, according to one Twitter user – is what really gets to me. To imply that just because she’s a woman, she is not capable of simply pushing him away, delivering a swift knee to his groin, or shouting at him to stop, is frankly insulting.
An equal number of people appear to realise that she is making no attempt to push him away, and are outraged at that. This is “conduct unbecoming a police officer” and “disgusting behaviour” according to these killjoys – our police should be at all times serious and stern, and under no circumstances should they be seen to be enjoying themselves, or engaging with members of the public in any capacity other than defending them, arresting them or interviewing them about events under investigation.
These are the same joyless energy-sappers who complained when they saw a video of a policeman dancing round in a circle with a group of young children at Ariana Grande’s “One Love” concert in Manchester. Incredible as it may seem, there are people out there who, instead of seeing a heartwarming moment involving a police officer having fun with a group of children, instead simply saw this as a police officer not doing the job he is paid to do.
Police officers in the UK, as in most countries, are in general overworked, underpaid, underappreciated and spend most of their time having to navigate ridiculous rules, regulations and restrictions placed on them by the government, the courts, senior officers, solicitors and human rights organisations to name a few. They are expected to put themselves in harm’s way at any given moment, and in the event that they have to use force to deter an attack of any kind, they often find themselves at the wrong end of an investigation into their actions. To begrudge them the occasional brief moment of fun while on the job, to me seems particularly mean-spirited.
As to the Notting Hill Carnival itself and the behaviour of some of the revellers – this has always been a contentious issue and for years there have been calls for the carnival to be cancelled, or moved to Hyde Park and made to be a ticketed event. The chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation has recently called for the event to be cancelled due to the number of police officers who are attacked or injured at the event each year – 28 police officers were injured this year.
Personally I think it would be a great shame if the event were cancelled – it’s the second largest carnival in the world, and the costumes, music and floats are always spectacular, with both participants and the large majority of visitors having a wonderful time. But as with so many events, the behaviour of a small but clearly very disruptive minority can spoil the party for everyone.
It can never be acceptable for our police officers to risk injury in policing what should be a fun event. But let’s focus our outrage on the criminal behaviour at the event, and on those people who put the safety of our police and public at risk. And spare the outrage over a police officer engaging with a member of the public in a way that, while certainly not conventional, is completely in keeping with the event itself.