Can the Met police change its stripes?

2:17 pm - August 22nd 2009

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contribution by Helen

Last August, thousands of people camped out at Kingsnorth power station to protest against the continued use of coal power in the UK. There were eye-witness reports and video evidence that police abused stop and search powers, removed their badge numbers, employed sleep deprivation tactics, harassed journalists, arrested any protesters who tried to demand their legal rights, and engaged in unprovoked violence against peaceful protesters and their private property.

But the police were not meaningfully challenged by anyone with the authority to do so. In fact, it wasn’t until after events were repeated at the G20 protests in April 2009 that official questions were asked about the policing of dissent in the UK.

Early this year, cyber-liberties activist Cory Doctorow covered all this in the Guardian about Kingsnorth camp.

Ironically, the article was delayed due to an administrative error, resulting in its publication shortly after the G20 protests. It was already true, even before the same mistakes were made all over again: and in April, it could just as easily have been talking about the events earlier that month.

The Met lied again and again about events on the day and the strategies that led to them. The Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner have placed blame solely on ‘rogue’ individual officers, denying all knowledge of deliberate and systematic use of violence.

No officer who illegally detained or criminally assaulted a member of the public has been arrested or charged.

Next week, the Camp for Climate Action is returning to London for a week-long gathering of sustainable living and activism training. The campers are braced for the worst; Legal Observers, MPs and journalists will be present, and you can bet that if the police engage in unprovoked violence, YouTube and Flickr will instantly be flooded with evidence. But will that transparency lead to justice?

The events of the G20 were a turning point in public opinion. The press has largely abandoned its original campaign of misinformation, and the Evening Standard, which published some of the worst of the pro-police propaganda, has officially changed its colours, and recently ran a sympathetic story about a woman whose complaint was upheld by the IPCC.

The police’s new, all-smiles approach to the August camp, conspicuously lacking any apology or admission of previous guilt, has been called a “charm offensive” by journalists. The Metropolitan Police’s PR campaign includes a twitter account, a change in senior personnel, and meetings with Climate Camp legal advisors.

Common sense suggests that the police are going to behave next week. Of course, similar circumstances didn’t help the Kingsnorth protesters but the Met are doing their best to convince the activists – and the world – that “the policing will be reasonable if the Camp is reasonable”. But if it isn’t, nothing we’ve seen so far suggests that those responsible will be brought to account.

Helen writes for Police State UK, where a longer version of this article is published.

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Reader comments

Helen: “There were eye-witness reports and video evidence that police abused stop and search powers, removed their badge numbers…”

I loathe the creation of new laws, but I want a very simple one: It should be an offence for a uniformed police officer to fail to carry their badge number. Make it incumbent on all officers that their colleagues wear the number. Currently, it is an internal disciplinary offence, which makes the issue a joke.

The Metropolitan Police is simply unmanageably large: I don’t believe they’re actually evil, just that they’re incapable of being competent in their current organizational structure. The simple solution is to transfer policing in the City of Westminster and the Borough of Tower Hamlets to the City Police so that the main sensitive areas are concentrated in a specialized force area; then the rest of Greater London should be covered by North Metropolitan and South Metropolitan forces (follow the river, but with the Middlesex parts of Kingston and Richmond going south) with a focus on community policing.

“Can the Met police change its stripes?”

Er, Nope.

You have to want to change before you can change.

This has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions.

In simple terms, the Police are out of control.

Long before “kettling”:

“Officer cleared after killing a man carrying a table leg”

“Three Sussex officers avoid prosecution over fatal operation and subsequent cover-up which was damned by two separate inquiries

“In a small Sussex seaside town, at 20 past four in the morning, James Ashley was sleeping naked in his bed. Seconds later, he was on the floor, shot dead at a range of 18ins, by a police officer using a powerful Heckler & Koch carbine.”

“Four police officers were guilty of the ‘most serious neglect of duty’ over the death of ex-paratrooper Christopher Alder in 1998, a watchdog has ruled.”

Oooh ya ya ya

Yeah man I was at the G20…it was like fascism man…like Goebbels on speed.

Fuck me…at last, the middle classes get an oh so mild dose of what the rest of the country has known for decades. Try Merseyside Police 20 years ago. Try Orgreave 1984. Strange thing is…they’re much better now. Fuck me they’re covering badges..the odd cuff with a shield…some poor guy has a heart attack after a shove in the back (feel like a cunt acting like I’m belittling that and I’m NOT) BUT….TRY FUCKIN HILLSBOROUGH.

Couldn’t by any chance in a million be a class issue could it? Police state..wake up..when was it anything else?

Orgreave 1984:

“The intimidation and the brutality that has been displayed are something reminiscent of a Latin American state,” Arthur Scargill, NUM leader

Try Gavin Lightman QC: The Lightman Report on the NUM (Penguin Books, 1990)

Lightman was commissioned by the NUM executive to find out what really happened to the monies collected and donated in support of the miners’ strike. Leading recommendations of that report in 1990 included: ” . . a proper account is urgently required of the monies and property of the Union . . ” as the destination of substantial sums, including a reported donation from Soviet miners, couldn’t be accounted for.

“Also named [in the BBCTV2 series: The Spying Game] is Vic Allen, a retired professor of economics at Leeds university, who was a founder member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and went on the first Aldermaston march. A firm Stalinist, it is alleged he passed on information about CND to his East German handlers.

“After the revelation this weekend that he had been ‘an agent of influence’, he said he had no regrets. . .

“Prof Allen was an ally of Arthur Scargill during the 1984-85 miners’ strike. In 1987 he published a book, The Russians Are Coming. His pro-Soviet views were well known. . .”,3604,271697,00.html

“I regret nothing, says Stasi spy”

Stella Rimmington ran the MI5 surveillance operation on the 1984/5 mining strike. I got the impression that anything that could be bugged was bugged. She later got promoted to head MI5.

Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner 2008

“Para 3.8: During the year ended 31 December 2008, public authorities as a whole made 504,073 requests for communications data to CSPs and Internet Service Providers (ISP). This figure is slightly below the number of requests which were made in the previous year.”

Orgreave 84

Brings back memories, that’s the first time I encountered the Met, yes they were brutal. For those on this forum who are too young to remember, the Thatcher government sent in the Met to break-up the miners’ strike, her rationale was twofold;- the Met were considered the best force for crowd/riot control. There was also an attempt to minimise hostilities between the local population and the local police therefore it was considered that an outside policeforce would serve this purpose.
She was right on the first premise but totally wrong about the latter, for as many of the once prosperous (by working-class standards) pit villages have now fallen into high unemployment, a youth drug-culture and vandalism, good relations with the local police would be advantageous. As it is, the majority of that population would rather sup with the devil.

“many of the once prosperous (by working-class standards) pit villages have now fallen into high unemployment, a youth drug-culture and vandalism, good relations with the local police would be advantageous.”

The reason pit villages were previously prosperous was because the wages paid to miners were so high relative to the wages of other manual workers in Britain. And the high wages were maintained because the Thatcher and Major governments were pouring Billions of taxpayers’ money into propping up the Coal Board. Yes – check out the massive external borrowings of the nationalised Coal Board in David Butler: Twentieth Century Political Facts 1900-2000, page 444.

1979 – £600m; 1980 – £700m; 1981 – £800m; 1982 – £1,200m; 1983 – £1,000m; 1984 – £1,200m; 1985 – 1,700m; 1986 – £400m; 1987 – £900m; 1988 – £900m; 1989 – £800m; 1990 – £1,300m; 1991 – £900m; 1992 – £600m;
1993 – £800m; 1994 – £1,400m; 1995 – £700m.

The fact is that the mining strike was about putting even more taxpayers’ money into propping up the nationalised Coal Board, public money that could have gone to building new hospitals and schools.

Corby in Northamptonshire lost its steel works but the town put a lot of effort into attracting inward investment for new business. By 1991, unemployment had returned to the national average.

Here are some reasons why mining areas stay poor:

“Two out of every five UK metal thefts take place within a 15-mile radius of Barnsley, according to South Yorkshire’s Chief Constable, Meredydd Hughes”

“Yorkshire and Humberside suffered the highest levels of burglary, graffiti and vehicle crime in the [Federation of Small Business] research and those in the north-west were most likely to suffer robbery and vandalism.”
Financial Times, 8 August 2005

“Hull is the British city with the highest rate of youth unemployment, a study has said, with 9.85% of under-25s claiming jobless benefits in May. Sunderland had the second worst rate of 9.45% with Barnsley third at 9.13%, the Centre for Cities research group said.” Doncaster was fourth in the list.

Now check out the league table for Local Education Authorites in England based on GCSE results last year:

“Government figures show only 15% of white working class boys in England got five good GCSEs including maths and English last year. . . Poorer pupils from Indian and Chinese backgrounds fared much better – with 36% and 52% making that grade respectively.”

How about setting up a National Local Government Forum Against Poverty?

Great campaigning idea?

“A SENIOR Labour councillor paid prostitutes and luxury hotel bills with taxpayers’ money, channelled through a group set up to combat poverty, according to allegations that form part of a criminal investigation.

“Garvin Reed, 50, has been suspended from his post as deputy leader of Rotherham council and banned from the town hall during a South Yorkshire Police fraud inquiry into the National Local Government Forum Against Poverty.”

“The former deputy leader of Rotherham Council has been sentenced to three years in prison for plotting to steal £172,000 from a charity. Garvin Reed, a Labour councillor, admitted spending thousands of pounds of a charity’s cash on prostitutes, lavish hotels, meals, and outings.”

Btw the 1984/5 mining strike in Yorkshire started at the Cortonwood Colliery in Rotherham.

9 10
Two interesting posts but wildly OT, the debate in question is ‘can the Met police change its;stripes?’
As it’s quiet on this thread I will respond to a few of your points:-
Almost everywhere there is a correlation between high unemployment and crime rates, personally I believe there is causation too.
Young white working-class males everywhere are generally doing quite badly educationally.
Miners were paid a high wage because it was a dangerous and unhealthy job, even now respiratory illness and vibration white finger is still emerging in ex-miners after all this time. In hindsight. I wish that I had re-trained as a solicitor and I may now be able to afford a mansion – somewhere in Sheffield would be nice.
Comparing a central town such as Corby with the small pit villages dotted about over a huge area (Rotherham is about 30miles square). is a nonsense.
You do not have to tell me the detail about the miners’ strike. I was there, where were you? In fact, I still visit Cortonwood quite frequently, it is a largish retail park employing, without exception, low paid shop-workers. When it was a colliery, it provided jobs which gave a family wage. The Rowntree Foundation found that of the 30 per cent who claim family tax credits, retail and leisure workers accounted for the majority. If the tax-payer manifestly funded coal,at Cortonwood, it now
covertly funds low-paid employment. But, of course, you quote the cost of coal to the taxpayer, what isn’t quite so easy to do is calculate the cost of unemployment, not just to ex-miners but the allied industries which supported mining and, of course, the dozens of shops and small business which relied on miners’ wages. This ,of course. in no way accounts for the human cost whereby a whole culture and community were brought to it;s knees.
I am afraid I do not know what your point is about the leader of Rotherham council and certain dalliances with prostitutes.
But to get back to the original debate, the area of South Yorkshire of which you refer, not only has to deal with these social problems, not least crime, but also their mistrust of the police, created by the Met. No. the Met does not change its’ stripes

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