Our lawless society

The scenes of violence and mindless criminality seen on the streets of our major cities in recent days is perhaps only to be expected.

For a number of decades we have experienced a decline in moral standards and an absence of discipline that has resulted in breakdown within our society.

Two or three generations have grown up in a blame culture where every problem has to be anyone else’s fault except their own. Accepting personal responsibility for our actions has become the exception rather than the rule.

Many young people have grown up with no respect for their parents, no respect for school teachers and no respect for any figure of authority. The result of this is that they demand respect as a right rather than as something to be earned.

When people have come to a mind-set that says ‘what’s yours in mine and what’s mine is my own’ there is a real breakdown in social norms. Whatever area is targeted by this mass criminality, it is normally those who come from socially deprived areas and who are under-educated who are responsible.

I do not want to pinpoint particular reasons for this breakdown as there are others more qualified than I who will do so. Rather, I want to look at that group in society who are expected to sort out the grievances of all and sundry to the satisfaction of everyone. An impossible task? Yes! Who are they? The men and women of the Police Service.

It is the police who have to be berated and not shout back. It is the police who have to stand between the good and the bad and take insult and accusation from both sides knowing that there will always be one party who will go away dissatisfied. It is the police who will have to face the rocks, rubble and petrol bombs thrown at them with the knowledge that some of them are going to be injured as a result.

Since Robert Peel set out his principles for policing in the early 19th century, it has been accepted that in the UK policing is by the consent of the public. As a result, there have always been efforts to work with the public to maintain the peace and protect life and property.

In recent years the Police Service have tried to achieve this through the introduction of Safer Neighbourhood Teams – small groups of police officers and community support officers tasked with getting to know their local community better and responding to their needs. This has had varying degrees of success.

The Christian Police Association (founded in 1883) has recognised that community relations is important and so have adopted the strap line ‘Reaching out… building bridges’. Members of the CPA across the country have been encouraging the Christian community to work with the Police Service to improve community relations and develop safer, stronger communities.

Much of this work now falls under their Coact Project (www.coact.org.uk). So we recognise that as we have seen the breakdown of society in certain areas, it is the Christian community who can, and are already making strides towards building it up again.

In the meantime, it is the officers who go out on the streets whom we need to remember in prayer and give our support to. They do not know from one minute to the next what dangers they will face or when they will be able to return home. Waiting anxiously for them will be families and loved ones waiting for a phone call or the dreaded knock on the door to inform them that someone will not be coming home any time soon.

Don Axcell is Executive Director of the Christian Police Association