The Brits and reality-based security: an interesting e-mail exchange with O-Ring

This showed up via e-mail a few minutes ago from my buddy O-Ring. O-Ring applauds the Bobbies, saying:

“Finally, common sense rules in place of political correctness. Look at the last graf, and how high the official is who is quoted.”

The graf in question reads thusly:

British Transport Police have been targeting specific ethnic groups for “intelligence-led” stop-and-searches as part of their heightened security measures.

BTP Chief Constable Ian Johnston said that his officers would not “waste time searching old white ladies”.

Obviously this was too juicy to let go, and O-Ring is always up for a good sparring session. So I replied:

Let me pretend to be contrary for a second.

1: How do you Constitutionally target by ethnicity?
2: In WW2 we didn’t bother rounding up and interring old white ladies, either.
3: Would this ethnic round-up have searched Timothy McVeigh?

To which he responded:

… we do ethnic/racially based police searches all the time. After a convenience-store robbery, you can hear – the first suspect was white, about 45, and 230 pounds. The second was black, about 37, and 195 pounds. Both are armed and should be approached with caution.

And then I said:

Ummm, no. Once a crime has been committed and we have a description we look for people meeting that description. We do not do pre-emptive searches based on racial profiles. (Well, okay, unless you’re the LAPD and you’re rounding up Negroes for driving through white folks’ neighborhoods. But we don’t officially condone such activities.) If you want to argue that maybe we should, go for it. But you know about the thicket at the end of that path.

And then O-Ring says:

Your response is where I was going. The article notes that the operatives are believed to have come out of Pak. That is a description of someone. But, the idea that anyone of any ethnic make-up could come out of Pak is ignored in the statement by the head cop. That, is where I find a refreshing modernist take on reality, versus the everyone-is-everyone pomo take on things.

Well, a couple responses to this, and then I’m off.

First, I’m more than sympathetic to reality-based security measures. You might recall my string of rants on airline security back in early 2k2, and if so, you know that I was never 100% certain about the basic sense behind political sensitivity-driven checkpoints. Therefore, you can guess that there’s a big part of me applauding the Brits in this case.

That said, knowing that some bombers were of Pakistani descent, well, that’s a far cry from “the sumbitch what just mugged me was a 5’10” Comanche with a tattoo of Garfield on his forehead,” you know? There may be a lot more to the intel the Bobbies are working, and certainly they have some differences in their system from what you’d expect here. That said, I still think what you’re applauding is a lot closer to racial profiling than I’d like to encounter at DIA, especially given how little I trust our current crop of leaders.

Just sayin’, is all…

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