Friday, February 22, 2008

Children deputized as cops


Primary school children have been enlisted by police in Norwich, England, to give speeding drivers a tongue lashing.
Children are being given the chance to make a difference with drivers pulled over for speeding near schools being offered either a £60 fixed penalty (and three points on their licence) or a dressing down from the pupils. ... PC Leo Blyth said: "Having the children tell the motorists off actually has more of an impact than a police officer doing it."
Poetic justice? Speeders are confronted by the kids whose safety they are putting at risk.

Nevertheless, it's a bad idea.

In effect, children are given the power to intimidate adults. Power goes directly to the head unless it is counterbalanced by a firmly implanted set of principles and restraints, which 10-year-olds do not have. Society should not give its morally unformed offspring a taste for wielding authority they've done nothing to earn, particularly in a country like England, where crime and vandalism by youngsters has reached disastrous levels.

We recoil when we read about totalitarian regimes, like the Soviet Union, where children were encouraged to spy on and report disloyalty by their elders, even their own parents. But by the value system prevailing then and there, the kids were only doing their civic duty in calling attention to people trying to undermine the state, a worse activity -- by Soviet standards -- than driving too fast.


Using kids as surrogate cops turns the proper relationship between adults and children upside down. Adults are supposed to protect kids. What does it tell the kids when the police say, in effect, "Sorry, we can't stop drivers from speeding around your school, they don't give a rat's bum what we do. Here, would you mind stepping in and doing our job for us?"

Not to mention that, ideally, schoolchildren should be in class learning things, not practicing to be traffic wardens.


And, while the nominally grown-up drivers who are clocked for speeding in a school zone deserve to be penalized, it is doubly humiliating not only to receive their punishment from a child, but lose self-respect by "choosing" it so as to avoid a fine and a bite off their driving license. A civilized country keeps a sense of proportion about wrongdoing. Even dangerous drivers have a right to be dealt justice by their peers, other adults. (Actually, police are supposed to be public servants, but to judge from news stories and letters to the editor, that is no longer the case in the U.K. People complain that coppers spend the little time they're not doing paperwork on catching otherwise law-abiding people for speeding and other minor infractions that provide revenue from fines, while muggings and burglaries carry on at a prodigious rate.)

I don't know if sparing the rod is spoiling the child, but I'm pretty sure it's a rotten idea to give the child a rod with instructions to use it.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OT, but i am sure you will enjoy:
Tommy Cooper statue is unveiled