Last year, in total, British police officers actually fired their weapons three times. The number of people fatally shot was zero. In 2012 the figure was just one. Even after adjusting for the smaller size of Britain’s population, British citizens are around 100 times less likely to be shot by a police officer than Americans. Between 2010 and 2014 the police force of one small American city, Albuquerque in New Mexico, shot and killed 23 civilians; seven times more than the number of Brits killed by all of England and Wales’s 43 forces during the same period.
The explanation for this gap is simple. In Britain, guns are rare. Only specialist firearms officers carry them; and criminals rarely have access to them. The last time a British police officer was killed by a firearm on duty was in 2012, in a brutal case in Manchester. The annual number of murders by shooting is typically less than 50. Police shootings are enormously controversial. The shooting of Mark Duggan, a known gangster, which in 2011 started riots across London, led to a fiercely debated inquest. Last month, a police officer was charged with murder over a shooting in 2005. The reputation of the Metropolitan Police’s armed officers is still barely recovering from the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian, in the wake of the 7/7 terrorist bombings in London.
In America, by contrast, it is hardly surprising that cops resort to their weapons more frequently. In 2013, 30 cops were shot and killed—just a fraction of the 9,000 or so murders using guns that happen each year. Add to that a hyper-militarised police culture and a deep history of racial strife and you have the reason why so many civilians are shot by police officers. Unless America can either reduce its colossal gun ownership rates or fix its deep social problems, shootings of civilians by police—justified or not—seem sure to continue.
Dear Parking Services
I’m writing to contest a recent parking fine/attack on civil liberties. My PCN Number is ————— and my Motor Vehicle Registration is ———-.
It was Monday the 23rd of January 2012, and I was a younger more naïve man. I was driving around for a space and saw a sign that read, “Permit holders only OR 2 hours No return.”
“Hmm,” I said to myself. “I may not be a permit holder but I could do with two hours. A man can do a lot with two hours.” I actually said this out loud – I had left my voice recorder running as I was in the process of dictating my memoirs. I only discovered this later that evening when I was playing it for the scrutiny of my dinner guests.
Terry was baffled by the interruption and even spilled some of his port into his beef gravy. On hearing the “A man can do a lot with two hours” line, Delilah squeezed my shoulder and said suggestively, “Yes he can.” She said this as a dramatic whisper, as if it were meant for my ears only but she actually said it loud enough for the whole party to enjoy. The table collectively raised their eyebrows.
Delilah’s a doll, and between you and me, Parking Services, she makes for a great romp in the hay, but there isn’t enough between her ears to fill a sandwich. I give it another two months before I make for the South of France, leaving only a bedside note for a goodbye. She’ll cry for maybe a fortnight then move on, she’s an attractive girl.
I parked the car up expertly, rechecking the sign for peace of mind. “Two hours,” I said to myself. “Two hours.” I was situated on the corner of Desborough and Wells Place, opposite a Nail Salon. I waved to the owner, George, through the window and he came out to meet me. I was only being polite, but what could I do?
He was two steps out the door before his foot caught on some uneven tarmac, a sloppily finished job, left without consideration for falls such as these. And oh how he fell! His beautifully manicured hands reached out to save himself, his elaborate nails breaking on impact.
I rushed over to meet him and turned him over, holding him in my arms. “George!” I said uselessly. “Oh George!” I said again. His lips moved but no words were issued.
I brought his face up to meet mine, and this time I heard him, “Permit holders only Or two hours No return.” He repeated the sign exactly, capital letters and all, one of his uncanny talents. I smelt Satsuma on his breath, and knew that he couldn’t have fallen from any kind of Vitamin C deficiency. He was going to be OK.
I returned an hour and forty-five minutes later, with a caffeinated spring in my step and my right arm laden with secondhand books from Oxfam, bought at full price. My pace slowed when I approached my car, something was amiss.
I fell into a run, my legs, two pistons of fury pumped like mechanical horse legs until I arrived at my car. Awaiting me was an envelope of forbidding green. If only it were red and I were a little unmarried Chinese boy on New Year, then I would be happy. But it was not red and I was not Chinese. It was the green of Eastleigh Borough Council Parking Services.
“No!” I screamed, holding the envelope aloft. “NOOOOOO!”
Based on the evidence given, is there any way you could reconsider the fine?
Thanks in advance
In Your Service
I am worth nothing
Clicked ‘refresh’ a thousand times
Felt bad about self
“Life is like a cheese sandwich,” said Paul.
Terry paused, giving this statement the due consideration it deserved. “No it’s not,” he concluded. “It’s nothing like a cheese sandwich.”
Paul sipped his tea thoughtfully, “You’re quite right, I don’t know what I was thinking.”
I can only speak from my own experience, but I find Writer’s Block tends to arise from one of two things: 1. Too much pressure on self to write something good. 2. Not actually enjoying what I’m writing.
If I were writing a short story or article or whatever, and I realise 1. is happening, which sort of feels like a psychic constipation, then I’ll often open a fresh document and focus on the paragraph that’s giving me grief. I might try and write it again from scratch, and just give myself permission to express it however it comes, without trying to make it good, and thinking that I probably won’t use it. What often happens is that it will be better than expected, or I can take some element of it. I often end up writing each paragraph in separate documents, so that I can give my full attention to them, and not get distracted by constantly rereading what I’ve already written.
I’m often quite slow to identify when 2 is occurring. For me, if I’m going to write every day, then I have to enjoy it, and I think when you’re finding the experience very dull, it’s probably not going to be very good, either. For me it’s a sign to start again with a fresh approach.