Satire has always had an extremely important role to play, in keeping a check on society. Back in the day - way, way before South Park - there were court jesters, employed not merely to entertain but also as comedic "truth tellers", in the privileged position of being allowed to mock anyone, including the King, to ensure a level of moral restraint. Straddling my university years and beyond, from 1984 - 1996, we had Spitting Image, the piss-taking scourge of public figures, from politicians to popstars. And in the late 70s/early 90s, Rowan Atkinson and Griff Rhys-Jones did this sketch for Not The Nine O'Clock News, called Constable Savage...
Who could have known that Atkinson and Griff Rhys-Jones would turn out to be such soothsayers?!
On 16th September 2016, a genuine policeman - bizarrely, actually called PC Savage - was caught on camera behaving like this...
As it 'turned out', it was a case of mistaken identity. The motorist was completely innocent and has now made a formal complaint against PC Savage. With a social media storm kicked off, due to this circulating video, the Metropolitan Police was forced into immediate action and (the) Savage is now on restricted duties, pending an investigation.
However, to add to concerns, on the 19th September, 4Front Media published a second video starring PC Savage, which demonstrates that he has form for stopping black men on Suspicion of Going About Their Business (my technical term, not his...). 24-year-old Kyle Adair-Whyte was pushing his broken down motorbike when he got stopped by PC Savage...
At 9 minutes, I realise this last video is a bit long (but it's worth watching for Adair-Whyte's very fair and balanced account and perspective). If you take the time to watch to the end, you'll see and understand the frustration often felt by black men in this country. Just because some black men commit crime, doesn't mean they all do. Can you imagine the outcry if white middle class men got regularly stopped and searched for cocaine, just because white middle class men are known to do it. Or if every MP got stopped for poppers, just because.... well, I'm sure you get my point...
In the video, Adair-Whyte, who works AND studies, says: "You've seen a black guy in a jacket pushing a bike that's slightly broken and you've immediately assumed that he's a criminal... He thinks he has the right to assault me and accuse me of being a thief...which is unfair."
At the end of the film, Adair-Whyte adds that police need to: "Think twice because you never know the kind of effects your actions are going to have on people and on the community....It's a constant barrage.. You don't understand that what you're doing is detrimental, to the whole of society... You're police officers and that's supposed to mean something in this country. You're supposed to set a benchmark, a standard. And it's failing."
Finally, Adair-Whyte explains that: "It makes me feel really bad about myself. I'm trying, I'm working, I'm doing progressive things... To have to stand at the side of the road while five officers take the piss out of me, it makes me think what's the point."
My friend, Lara, said of the 'Constable Savage' comedy sketch: "It's uncanny! How fucked up is the world, how can we have gone so backwards for this to be representative of today's reality?!"
And I can only agree. The one slither of silver lining is that our police officers don't carry guns like the trigger-happy Americans. Or the Savages of this world would be trying to justify bloodshed, instead of broken windscreens. However, rest assured that the mental wounds inflicted by officers like Savage run deep.
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