Police brutality, CPS pusillanimity and the future of demonstrations
Features, Politics - Posted on Tuesday, July 27, 2010 12:22 - 2 Comments
A few weeks ago, when the story broke in the Daily Telegraph about a senior CPS prosecutor being bribed £20,000 to throw a case, I cynically remarked (as a former criminal barrister): “I wouldn’t have bothered; in my experience they normally fuck it up for free.”
Sadly, I have been proven entirely right by the CPS’s absolutely farcical handling of the Ian Tomlinson Case.
There are three problems here – the way Police forces have become corrupt, the deeply unbalanced way the CPS is handling cases, and the impact this has on demonstrations.
There is a huge problem with the Police – particularly with the Metropilitan Police’s Territorial Support Group (TSG), the “elite” unit trained to deal with “Domestic Extremism & terrorism”. The conflation of these two things under Ian Blair, Labour’s favourite policeman – legitimate civil disobedience and protest mixed with terrorist outrage – has turned this unit into a self-righteous bunch of thugs.
This poison has seeped into other police forces too, as the TSG provide training to other forces to deal with this sort of incident.
According to The Job, the Met’s in-house magazine, TSG officers – who are known as the ‘tough guys and girls’ of the Met – can be identified by a “U” on shoulder epaulette numbers.
Of course, the question is, can you identify them? When a police officer hides his face & removes his identification number, how can you tell who is who? Speaking off the record to people I know in the Met, there is prima facie evidence of a conspiracy – that the TSG are regularly instructed by their immediate superiors to systematically hide all identification.
Of course, it’s not the people behind desks giving these “orders”. It’s sergeants, the people actually going out in the vans, with the batons and the riot gear. It reminds me of my father telling me that in Northern Ireland, the “policy” was to always shoot first, and then everyone in the platoon would “confirm” you gave the mandated three warnings.
This is creating a huge problem for civic society. Not since the Life on Mars days of the 1970s have we seen Police corruption on this scale. Policing doesn’t work unless people respect and support the Police – and increasingly, the actions of the TSG are turning more and more people against them.
I worked with a director at the BBC who exposed lots of the Police Corruption in the 1970s. At its root, he explained, there was always a conviction that amongst the Police that they were doing the right thing. They felt they knew who had done it – who the villains were. That all they had to do was beat a confession out of this scumbag, plant some evidence here or there and justice was done. That attitude was ultimately what lead to the murder of Blair Peach, by the fore-runners of the TSG.
That is exactly the problem with the TSG. They consider themselves an elite; they are almost certainly opposed to everything the protesters stand for. They don’t consider any of this to be wrong. The reason they keep doing it is not because they are evil – it’s much worse. The reason they keep doing it is because they think they are right. All these petty things like displaying badge numbers, the IPCC and so on, are just lefty-liberal concepts that “get in the way of justice” in their eyes.
I know many police officers and have a great deal of respect for them – they are doing a dificult job. However, like others in positions of trust such as teachers, doctors or catholic priests, ‘rogue’ squads of police officers leave a terrible stench – especially when the establishment closes ranks to protect them.
I say rogue, but this attitude goes right through the Met – it has been rotted to the core by Ian Blair’s tenure. You only need look at Blair’s own statements about Jean Charles de Menezes – that he would not revoke the shoot to kill policy, his assertion that the Brazilian was the 53rd victim of the 7/7 bombers & his statement that if Mr. de Menezes had been a terrorist, his men “would have got medals“.
This is madness of the first order. Firstly, if Raoul Moat’s victims had been Hitler, Goering & Ming the Merciless, then he too would have got a medal. This does not change the fact that instead of those individuals, he shot innocent people. Just like the Met’s officers did. The refusal of the high command to accept they did anything wrong is absolutely damning, and sends a terrible message to the rank and file.
The very least that should happen now is that the internal police enquiry should find a reason to sack this officer without compensation or pension, and while they are at it they should look at all the officers who removed their ID and take action against them.
The Metropolitan Police Website says “All employees of the MPS, whether they wear a uniform or not, are in a position of responsibility and trust. As such they should be law-abiding citizens with proven integrity.” It is about time the started acting like that.
One law for them, one law for us
There are countless cases where the CPS has taken decisions quickly, in equally confusing circumstances. For example, in this case involving a similar set of facts.
But the CPS seems to take leave of its senses when it comes to prosecuting the Police. How can it be fair for Sergeant Delroy Smellie walk free after savagely beating someone without cause while a 19 year old dental student with no criminal record gets 2 years in jail for throwing an empty plastic bottle at the Israeli embassy.
It defies belief that bungling in this case has led to a criminal getting off scot-free. A corrupt police force needs to be taken to task; clearly, the CPS are not up to the job, having serially dropped the ball.
Protesting in the future
As I mentioned above, the Ian-Blair-inculcated attitudes of the TSG have spread far and wide, through the TSG being deployed as trainers to other forces. They have led to minor incidents, like this young man having to stand up to his rights to more serious issues, such the police covering up a massive overspend by pretending 70 officers were injured by protesters at the Kingsnorth power station, when in fact all the “injuries” sustained were totally preposterous – for example, “stung on finger by possible wasp”; “officer injured by seatbelt while sitting alone in car”; and “officer succumbed to sun and heat”. One officer cut his arm on a fence when climbing over it, another cut his finger while mending a car, and one “used leg to open door and next day had pain in lower back”.
These injuries were trotted out to try to justify a massive police presence. All of the apparatus of anti-terror surveillance was trotted out.
This is all down to a wilful attempt, aided and abetted by the previous government, to define all dissent as “domestic extremism”.
The term “domestic extremism” is now common currency within the police. It is a phrase which shapes how forces seek to control demonstrations.
There is no official or legal definition of the term. Instead, the police have made a vague stab at what they think it means. Senior officers describe domestic extremists as individuals or groups “that carry out criminal acts of direct action in furtherance of a campaign. These people and activities usually seek to prevent something from happening or to change legislation or domestic policy, but attempt to do so outside of the normal democratic process.” They say they are mostly associated with single issues and suggest the majority of protesters are never considered extremists.
It has led to the personal details and photographs of a substantial number of protesters being stored on secret police databases around the country. In this era of enhanced CRB checks, anyone who goes on a demo not only risks their health from thugs with batons, but also risks their future career in any sensitive area. Anyone who wants to be a teacher, a criminal lawyer, to serve in the forces, or to join the police, is taking a chance if they stand up for what they believe in.
This is a disaster for civil society in the making; by adding barriers to protest, you confine protest to only those willing to suffer serious penalties. You create a culture of demonstrators expecting violence and mistrusting the police.
You push the right to demonstrate out of the hands of legitimate protestors into the hands of extremists. As citizens, that is something worth marching against. Even if we do risk being attacked by thugs or recorded on databases.
This article originally appeared on the blog Hemingway and Orwell’s Kitchen.