Friday, October 20, 2006

What is a community

This is a bit of a philosophical post this, bear with me.

I get a bit frustrated every time I hear a politician or SMT blather on about "we will work in partnership/consultation/togetherness/ with local community groups". Its all the rage with Safer Neighbourhood Teams. To quote right from the Met's website: "Safer Neighbourhoods teams are dedicated to your community and are additional to other policing teams and units in London." Greater Manchester Police are at it too: "Neighbourhood policing pilot schemes in the Hall'i'th'Wood and Oldhams Estates have started to successfully engage these communities in the setting of local policing priorities and support in their fulfilment"

Well what the heck is a community?

Apparently, according to the Wiktionary (who makes these names up?)
1) a group of people sharing a common understanding who reveal themselves by using the same language, manners, tradition and law
2) acommune or residential/religious collective
3) the condition of having certain attitudes and interests in common

Who decides what community are to be listened to. Shall we go to Bradford? Where locally elected councillors are members of the BNP? The local community there (or at least, the ones who voted) have displayed what they think. Should the local police therefore pander to the whims of the BNP?
Funnily enough, despite West Yorkshire police having "Community policing for the 21st century" there's no mention of the BNP that I can find on their web page!

So what the hell is my point in all this. Don't think for a minute I'm suggesting West Yorkshire should pander to the BNP.

I think its just that I'm fed up of being treated like an idiot by Senior Management who seem to think that they have to say "community partnership" in every press briefing, assuming that therefore everyone listening will have a percieved sense of ownership of "their" police. Where I live, in a different area from where I work, I'm a member of a community. I'm a member of several. My immediate geographical community, I'm a member of the car driving community, bike riding community, public transport using community, rugby club community. Just within my fairly staid home life, the different community groups I am in have differing and not necessarily compatible priorities. So when SMT talk about setting policing objectives in consultation with local communities, which ones do they mean. They can't mean all of them. The local right wing group aren't going to have much in common with the local Jewish residents.

I think they just mean politically acceptable communities. But who decides this? When I hear SMT say "we want to hear the local communities views" I want to say back "no you don't!" They only want to hear the ones that agree with their idea of who should be in their local community.

No real point to this post, I think. I guess I just object to being pigeonholed as a member of a community to which I don't feel I really am a member of. Where I live and work I hear SMT (and local politicians) talk about how they've consulted with local communities to come up with the latest plan. And I think (for where I live) "Well I haven't been consulted". No, they've consulted some association or other where I wouldn't go if you paid me, as everybody is twice my age and they talk mostly about allotments.

So, lets put this out to debate. Do you think "community" is an overused word that doesn't have any real meaning? Or does it work for you where you are. Tell me, I actually am interested in listening to the police blogging community!!!!!!!!!!!!!