Can violence ever be 'acceptable'?
Since the incident at the Oscars ceremony, where Will Smith slapped Chris Rock, I’ve been thinking more and more about whether there is an ‘acceptable’ side to violence. We have seen many prominent people ‘taking sides’ and making comments over the last couple of weeks and I have thought long and hard about what I would have done in that situation, but my conclusion remains the same - that there is never a ‘reasonable excuse’ to throw the first punch or in Will Smiths’ case, what has to be considered as a carefully calculated ‘slap’ and here’s why.
I spend a considerable part of each working day, trying to stop people from becoming a ‘victim’ or a ‘survivor’ of a violent crime in one way or another.
Indeed, there is a priority in my Police and Crime plan dedicated to just that – fighting violent crime and high harm and within that priority are sections that aim to tackle violence reduction, addiction and substance misuse, violence against women and girls, domestic abuse, child abuse and modern slavery.
Since becoming PCC, I have been to visit charities and organisations, some funded by my office that provide shelter, care, and support to those experiencing domestic abuse or child abuse and I have listened to those who have ‘lived experience’ of these situations and so I can honestly say that anyone who takes the stance of defending a ‘little slap’ or a ‘soft punch’ should think twice about what they are really condoning.
By condoning such actions, you are helping to ‘normalise’ them in our society. Normalising violence leads to abhorrent ‘games’ like Huggy Wuggy, which not only scares innocent children but can lead them to try and ‘hug another child to death’ in the playground. Normalising violence leads to our future generations being ill-prepared to deal with difficult situations without resorting to violence and that’s not what I want for our children and grandchildren.
Dorset is already a safe county – but I want it to be safer and that’s why I have been working alongside Dorset Police and other partners to bring into fruition a Violence Reduction Unit which will take whole-system approach to violence reduction, and comprise multi-agency working, data sharing and analysis, engaging young people and communities and commissioning (and developing) evidence-based interventions.
There are currently 18 Violence Reduction Units across the country and between April 2019 and September 2020, it is estimated that 41,377 violence without injury offences had been prevented in funded areas, relative to non-funded areas. Alongside a reduction of 7,636 violence with injury offences, this represents potential costs avoided of £385m.
These figures are certainly encouraging and something I want Dorset to be part of and benefit from. The work of such units and many of the other projects and operations that take place in Dorset take time to bring forward long-term prevention benefits - but I’m looking to the long-term.
My Police and Crime Plan was quite deliberately set to last for eight years, because much of my vision for Dorset is ambitious and will only be achieved through bold and transformative activity and that activity will take time, collaboration with partner agencies, locally, regionally, and nationally to realise. I am determined to spend my time in office tackling the issues that the people of Dorset told me that want dealing with and violent crime is just one of them.
On reflection, all of us and particularly the role models in our society, whether that be a footballer, or a Hollywood A-lister need to stop and think before acting or reacting to a situation; we all need to think about how our actions may affect and influence others and most importantly, we all need to reject violent behaviour - saying sorry after the event just doesn’t cut it!
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner