Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cameras Don't Lie But They Can Go Blind

As bailiffs beat up protesters in the tree protest camps at the Newbury Bypass, police officers would simply turn round and face the other way. Contradicting their sworn duty, in plain sight of colleagues and members of the public, they all did it.

When I asked why they weren't stopping assaults and arresting the perpetrators I was told, 'they can make a complaint later, if they like'.  The bailiffs were more powerful and so they were protected; had the assaults been the other way around the police would have piled straight in.

The other day I wrote about how Plebgate is getting the establishment in a kerfuffle over police corruption and accountability, and how a Tory MP's victimhood is different to that of Ian Tomlinson, Jean Charles de Menezes or Hillsborough.

Today another Tory MP, David Davis, has joined in, calling for police to wear cameras. Nice though it may sound, like the outrage over Plebgate, I can't believe it will be used to do much more than to serve the interests of the powerful.

Cameras have already been in place at many incidents of serious police wrongdoing. Let's look at cases I mentioned on Monday. When the police killed Jean Charles de Menezes, CCTV cameras on the station platform and the train 'weren't working'. The company operating the cameras and London Underground staff were reported to contradict this, but didn't have chance to check the tapes before police took them away, and certainly blank tapes were all that was returned to them.

But still, it was possible. When you consider the thousands of cameras installed across the country, it's a good bet that lots of them aren't working at any given time. This excuse surely couldn't apply for the G20 protests in 2009. More than 100 officers were deployed to monitor over 3,000 CCTV cameras. Unlike Stockwell tube, the area concerned was well known weeks in advance. There is simply no way that they didn't ensure the system was in full working order.

Yet we were told that there weren't any cameras in the area where police fatally attacked Ian Tomlinson. When it was pointed out that two permanent cameras controlled by City of London police were aimed directly at the spot, the statement was amended to say that the cameras weren't working.

At Hillsborough, crucial CCTV tapes were stolen. They have never been recovered. They were in a locked cupboard in a locked, alarmed room. There was no sign of forced entry and the alarm did not go off. When the theft was logged with a crime report, it was marked 'NO PUBLICITY RE THIS OFFENCE'. The words 'no publicity' were underlined twice.

With outbreaks of selective faultiness, police can remove technology from the case and bring it back to a contest of integrity. And who would believe the word of a civilian against that of a police officer?

1 comment:

Gyrus said...

There was a noxious "debate-provoking" piece recently trying to make the liberatory case for total surveillance. I chimed in with the obvious objections raised by the CCTV "mishaps" around the de Menezes and Tomlinson cases. Looking at the Tomlinson case, I didn't realize that the Evening Standard had published photos of the supposedly non-existent cameras in the area - and the IPCC reversed its position about them not existing. Footage from them was used in the trial - I guess the 2 that "weren't working" were the ones pointed at the actual assault?

(Jeez, writing about the cops really works those scare quotes doesn't it?)