We live in wondrous times. Not only are our own Gardaí taking time off from tackling the nefarious Visit Granny Who Lives 6km The Other Side of the Town racket while multi-tasking by Dancing Against the Pandemic, but other police forces are also pitching in.

The good folk of Liverpool, now that it has been freed of drug pushers, muggers, knife attackers and grooming gangs, are being kept safe from being Offended. Well, actually, it is possibly more to do with warning them not to be Offensive. Which is not quite the same thing. Anyway, the Merseyside Police recently launched a “Being Offensive is an Offence” campaign. Replete with posters carried by police vehicles now happily no longer required for ferrying Wrong ‘Uns to the barracks. Unless of course they have offended someone.

The posters are rainbow coloured which elicited some interesting responses from gay Scousers, some of whom thought that maybe they would feel safer if PC Plod was cracking down on street crime and house breaking, rather than this sort of stuff. Especially when no one is even certain to what type of stuff it is referring to. And in any event, why would gay people be anymore prone to being offended than anyone else?

It is complex. Anyway, that segues nicely into the appointment of one of the new Deputy Garda Commissioners, Shawna Coxon whose appointment was ratified by the cabinet on February 9. She is the former Deputy Police Chief of Toronto where she was “very vocal and visible for years promoting LGBTQ+ rights and more recently speaking out to remember people who have lost their lives following transphobia.”

Coxon tweeted last November from a police event in Toronto “to memorialize those who have been murdered by transphobia on this Trans Day of Remembrance. We raised the trans pride flag above Toronto Police headquarters,” she tweeted.

This may have given rise to the misunerstanding that the murder of transgender people was a common or even recent occurance in the city. That is not the case. While there was a widely-reported murder of a transgender activist in Toronto in 2019 it was not, as was suggested in several news reports, linked to transphobia. In fact, what went largely under reported was that the murderer was a friend of the victim, and himself a transgender advocate.

In this country, “transphobic violence” is hardly of a scale that necessitates any specialist overseas intervention in aiding An Garda Siochana in such matters. Off the top of my head I would imagine that the rate of such crime is pretty far down the scale in comparison to gangland murders, drug dealing, sexual assault against actual women, people trafficking, and so on.

Apart from that, Conor Lally of the Irish Times, quoted above, refers more appositely to reports of the “demoralising” impact within Garda ranks of this latest in a succession of appointments of police officers from outside the jurisdiction to senior positions. As did Paul Williams in the Irish Independent.

Current Commissioner Drew Harris is the most notable of these, and he of course comes with a background in RUC police intelligence in the north. The Policing Authority has a key role in the recruitment and recommendation of candidates for such roles. It is of course healthy that any police force is not self governing, but it ought also not be run according to any other political criteria.

Is it the case that the authority and the Government to which it is responsible is ultimately more concerned with finding a “progressive reformer”, as one report described Coxen, and one best known for this rather than crime investigation, than someone who might be effective in furthering the objective of An Garda Síochana in protecting the citizens against real crime?

The feeling, rightly or wrongly, among some members of the force and the general public who pay attention to such matters, is that perhaps the Policing Authority and its political patrons are more concerned with nebulous concepts of “equality” and ticking items off an agenda that has little to do with the vast majority of people, rather than practical policing matters.

The only equality that ought to be the business of the police force of any open society is equality before the law. It certainly ought not be regarded, as with the Merseyside Police, as a part of a left-liberal political movement. The marriage of policing and the state for such purposes has given most languages of the world a stark descriptive.

Estado policia. That’s the one. Defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “a country in which  the government uses the police to severely limit people’s freedom.” We are still a long way from that
but it should be borne in mind that most of the police states in history have not begun with the cops cracking down on burglary and double parking, but by enforcing decrees that were designed to improve people’s lives. Think about now.

No harm to Deputy Commissioner Coxon who no doubt is very competent and genuine with regard to her police work. The issue here is to do with the priorities of An Garda Síochana, and the potential politicisation of its role to encompass matters that ought to be no business whatsoever of either the state or the police force. The framers of “hate legislation” and new censorship laws obviously see things differently.