Police searched for a man who kissed a 70-year-old lady on the cheek. If this seems like an odd use of police resources, just wait. The incident of a peck on the cheek has been classified as a sexual assault. For any thinking person to imagine that a peck on the cheek is sexual assault is transparently absurd.
It all began when a van driver was trying to drive under a low bridge in Matlock and the van became stuck. A woman in her 70s helped guide the van out from under the bridge. Once clear, the man stepped out of the van to thank her. This thanks included a kiss on her cheek.
The Derbyshire Police took to Twitter to get the public's help in finding this dastardly man.
They said "We are appealing for help to identify a man who kissed a woman on the cheek to thank her for helping when his lorry became stuck under a low bridge. Were you in the area of Dale Road, #Matlock, between 12pm and 4 pm on Tuesday, 28 April?"
They noted that "Of particular interest are any drivers who were in the area at the time and may have captured the lorry on dashcam."
An additional tweet, that was deleted along with the others, said that "It would be classed as a sexual assault as the woman did not [ask] the man to kiss her on the cheek."
Social media responded with notably glee at the absurdity of this search, calling the police a "joke," and referring to this police conduct as Orwellian.
That the public pushed back against this absurdity to the point where the Derbyshire police deleted their tweet, and hopefully called off the investigation, is a good thing. The police, and the authorities, need us to tell them when they’re overreaching.
The nature of authoritarianism is that it will reach and smother until we resist it. The public itself is the check against this kind of power. If the people, hearing that man was being investigated for assault over a grateful peck on the cheek, did nothing, they would be at fault.
This incident likely would not have spurred an investigation at all had the sexes been reversed, and it was the older woman who pecked the van driver on the cheek. Instead of being classed as a sexual assault, it would have been a cute little story related to pals over socially distanced beers or a Zoom call.
But in today's overzealous climate, where every tiny conceivable action is policed and monitored, a kiss is rebranded as an assault and police resources are marshalled to investigate it.
It doesn't have to be like this. We don't need to be afraid of each other, or of connecting in human ways with people. Our interpersonal interactions do not need to be policed unless they rise to the level of criminal activity, and for all our sakes, a kiss, a little peck on the cheek, should not be criminalized.