Wednesday, July 08, 2009

political policing

A senior police officer investigating Ian Tomlinson's death suggested that - even though the officer in question has come forward - the person who attacked Tomlinson might not have been a police officer at all, it could have been a member of the public who nicked police uniform and riot gear.

That would be the officer who Channel 4 News pieced together on duty for ten minutes before he struck Ian Tomlinson

And - oh surprise - now we're being told the officer who assaulted Ian Tomlinson had a history of misbehaviour and shouldn't have been in the police. One bad apple.

The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee say the problem was caused by untrained officers going off at the deep end. Once again, watch the attack on the Climate Camp. Is this officers losing their cool individually? Or the ordered methodical use of violence against unarmed peaceful people?

I said at the time

Look at the video of Ian Tomlinson. Look at the casualness of the officer who attacks him. Look how the colleagues are completely unsurprised...

This was not an officer losing his head in the fury of a riot. It’s calm, slow and premeditated.

This was not one bad officer taking the law into his own hands. This sort of assault was endemic that day. I saw it hundreds of times with my own eyes, and I was at the more peaceful climate camp protest, and left before it got kettled then attacked with dogs and batons in the evening.

This sort of assault is what the police do when they’re deployed on this provocative political mission. The difference here is that it was caught on camera and the victim died.

Or, as Alice more concisely put it, 'Ian Tomlinson - it happens all the time'.

There is, however, one other major difference apart from the fatality, and it's not in the events of the day but in what's happened since. The media and public have realised that this is how police operate.

This week's Panorama was an excellent report covering the key aspects of modern political policing; the intimidation, the randomised violence, the collusion with private companies, the FIT teams.

One minor criticism would be the way it got the senior officer to say he 'didn't know' what happens to information gathered and got a force to say it was kept for seven years, yet didn't go into the police database of protesters.

Furthermore, there was something else a bit between the lines. As FITWatch said

there was a whiff of good protester/bad protester from the beginning. Although not overtly stated, the implication was that it was alright to use these tactics against the real “extremists”.

This not only didn’t cover the rather obvious question of what defines domestic extremism and whether this is an acceptable definition – NETCU themselves agree there is no legal definition and basically infer it to mean anyone who engages in direct action – but whether this treatment of protesters is right regardless of their beliefs.

But these are very minor quibbles over an excellent illuminating and refreshingly honest programme. It's a rare thing indeed to see a piece of TV about protest that is recognisable and authentic. This week's Panorama is one such thing, and I strongly recommend watching it. It's viewable online for a year.


Martin Porter said...

The Met certainly seem to be digging, but this isn't buried yet. The officer who clouted Tominson seems to be being fatted up to be a sacrificial offering, but broader questions are still being asked. We still don't know who ordered the Climate Camp attacked.

merrick said...


that's the key thing. Who ordered the attack on Climate Camp, who ordered the kettling, who ordered all the concerted actions.

Schnews' main story this week is a response to the HMIC report into the policing, and it says;

"We are told that in relation to the press there should be “Awareness and recognition of the UK press card by officers on cordons, to identify legitimate members of the press.” But what use is a press card when police officers don’t give a damn if you are press or not?

"On April 2nd there was a Section 14 notice (under the Public Order Act) issued to the press. A City of London Police Inspector told the press to “Go away for half an hour and possibly come back to help us resolve this situation.”

"He was acting on behalf of Commander Broadhurst who was top cop for the day – so harassment of the press was coming right from the top and being carried out by an Inspector. Yet the report makes no mention of this – it is not a case of a few officers failing to recognise press cards, it is a systematic abuse of the police’s powers to manage the news and restrict the freedom of the press"

Full story here