Friday, April 17, 2009

another one bad apple

Another day, another film of police attacking peaceful G20 protesters.

It's notable that the film starts a long while before the assault. There is no riot. There is one man persistently talking to an officer, who then gets heavily shoved. This causes a bit of an uproar. In this, the officer - identification number hidden, just like the police promised wouldn't happen - smacks the woman across the face with the back of his armoured hand and shouts 'go away'.

What other context would see someone behave in that way? An unfit owner smacking a dog?

When she remonstrates, he takes out his telescopic baton, flicks it open and hits her on the back of the legs making her fall to the ground.

As with the footage of Ian Tomlinson, note the casual nature of the assault. Note the reaction - or more accurately, non-reaction - of the colleagues. They would be shocked if it were anything unusual.

Can even the most deep-rooted establishment twonk believe this was the only such assault the officer committed that day? Given the total lack of reaction from colleagues and the readiness of the attack, can anyone believe they hadn't all seen and done similar things countless times that day?

Yet it's normalised and shouldn't warrant our attention. As Chicken Yoghurt picked up, the officer at 4.30 actually says to people with cameras 'there's nothing to see'.

All of them have a duty to report any such conduct by themselves or any colleagues. Where are the queues round the corner outside London police stations as officers hand over their testimony and guilty ones turn themselves in?

But this, of course, is not how it works. Their role is, therefore, quite clearly not about doing their sworn duty, about upholding the law, let alone justice. It's about maintaining authority no matter what. Anyone who disobeys them for whatever reason is fair game for whatever retribution they feel like dishing out.

The thing is, since the film of Ian Tomlinson came out there's been furore about police behaviour. But on the day and the morning after, there was none of it. Those same journalists were there, the same films were on Youtube, but it was depicted as having, if anything, something of a peaceful outcome.

And I have to say I, and most people I was with at the climate camp protest, generally agreed. Compared to previous occasions, the cops were relatively restrained. I've seen much worse than this, and seen it filmed by news teams yet never get shown. It's not about one bad apple, or two, or even the policing of this event. It's what they do.

- - - - - - - -

The officer who assaulted the woman has been acquitted. In court he said he thought her drink carton was a weapon and she was deliberately targeting her from a blindspot, and that the force he used was reasonable because it could have been greater.


Paul said...

The bizzies themselves are increasingly under surveillance. Indymedia activists should be carrying video cameras that stream the content immediately to a server somewhere else. Camera smashed or confiscated? Too late plod. We got you bang to rights.

They've been made to look like a bunch of thugs by technologies that are here to stay. I think that some good may come of the G20 events. Police tactics will have to change. Just as (as you point out) it took an event like Hillsborough to stop the authorities treating people like animals, perhaps this heralds a change. I don't suppose you're holding your breath though.

Anonymous said...

"It's not about one bad apple, or two, or even the policing of this event. It's what they do."

I can't really disagree with this. The police have been doing this to political activists (and football supporters, and others) for a long time, continually refining their tactics in line with longstanding strategy, doctrine and political policy. The death of a bystander is simply - from their point of view - an unfortunate byproduct. 'Unfortunate', but entirely predictable.

The individual with his fist gripped around the baton must be held accountable for his actions. So must those who directed him on the day, who briefed him the week before, who trained him, who devised the tactics he carried out, who developed the anti-democratic political policies that got us all to this situation.

Evey said...

Exactly. The copper in this clip doesn't even lose his cool. He's not caught in the grip of red mist; he's just doing exactly what he's been trained to do. As one policeman's blog (Stressed Out Cop) said, it could have "anyone of us".
More than ever, the police will now see the cameras as an obstacle that stops them from carrying out their job the way they want to, and they will seek to remove them. People remember, if a cop deletes the photos from your memory card, you can still recover them using software as long as you don't put more photos on the card first.

merrick said...

Bristle, I fear that the officer who attacked Ian Tomlinson is going to get hung out to dry for this, and that it won't be seen as a strategic institutional issue.

In the Vietnam War, American commanders declared ‘free fire’ areas where troops could kill at will, and issued minimum daily ‘kill ratios’. Yet the My Lai massacre was the only resulting incident seriously publicised, and the prosecution saw only a lowly Second Lieutenant convicted (to serve less than four years of house arrest).

The torture at Abu Ghraib was strategy already tested in Afghanistan, ordered from on high, but no officers were convicted.

Additionally, it's not just about the police's violence. There must now be a proper inquiry about the cover-up;

- why did they claim so quickly that Tomlinson hadn't had 'contact with the police?

- why were they claiming to be 'pelted with bottles' while helping Tomlinson?

- why the quick autopsy that said a heart attack, with the report not mentioning the haemorraging or any other injuries?

- who told the IPCC that there were no CCTV cameras in the area, and why?

- who told the IPCC that there were cameras, but they weren't working, and why?

Unknown said...

I was told - years ago - by an ex Yorkshire copper that I taught with that he'd been sent down to London to cover some demos, and that the Metropolitans were (in his words) " a bunch of cockney psychos" who had calling cards with "You've met The Met" on and were actively looking for trouble and attaching young girl students which shocked the Yorkshire cops - that would have been late eighties/early nineties. Good to know that in our progressive times things have improved ... cutbacks in policing have ensured they can't afford to have cards printed any more!