kenny hodgart

PC language and the fuzz

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This article appeared in The Herald

However mandatory it may have become to complain about declining IQ levels in the modern police force, it remains my own conviction that the plod of this country are, on the whole, an excellent body of public servants, without whom anarchy would predominate.

Moreover, the obstructions put in the way of ordinary officers doing their jobs by meddling panjandrums serve only to augment my affection for these saintly men and women; indeed, I am stiffened in my resolve to live a blameless life by the thought of how lucky we are that anyone should still wish to join them.

Having said all that, if IQ levels within the fuzz really are on the wane, it’s probably just as well for the charlatan directorate within Lothian and Borders constabulary which saw fit to produce the Appropriate Language Guide. The document, in which it is presumed officers know no better than to use the word “spastic”, was correctly labelled “condescending” by one MSP this week, at which point the force’s PR department, for some reason desperate to stress that the guide has been in existence for several years, kicked into overdrive. It is logical to wonder why on earth the police need a PR department, but the reason is fairly obvious: seeming to be fit for purpose these days matters more than actually doing the job well.

I cannot say how good or bad Lothian and Borders police are at policing, but if one takes, say, the Labour Party as an example, it may be that there is an inverse relationship between the political correctness of an organisation and its competence. Harriet Harman herself might in fact have drawn up the coppers’ list of proscribed words: “spinster” is out, as are “dear”, “love” and “pet” when talking to women; which discriminates against Geordies, who call everyone “pet”.

A nose for right and wrong would once have served a young rozzer well; nowadays the whole business must seem very confusing. People who defend themselves against violent housebreakers end up in jail, muggers are victims, and more effort is put into counselling, mission statements and condemning sexist bonhomie in the canteen than anything to do with arresting miscreants.

One imagines it is only a matter of time before the police come up with new words for such outmoded terms as murderer and thief. Sadly, however, there will always be those who insist on referring to “the filth” in demeaning and uncharitable ways.

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