Tag Archives: Commissioner

Now the Metropolitan Police…Tortures?

It’s not something they’re not already known to do. But still the newest claims about the Metropolitan Police’s behaviour are shocking:

Metropolitan Police officers subjected suspects to waterboarding, according to allegations at the centre of an anti-corruption inquiry.

The torture claims are part of an investigation which also includes accusations that evidence was fabricated and suspects’ property was stolen. It has already led to the abandonment of a drugs trial and the suspension from duty of several officers.

However, senior policing officials are most alarmed by the claim that officers in Enfield, North London, used the controversial CIA interrogation technique, in which water is poured on to a cloth covering the suspect’s face, causing them to feel they are on the point of suffocation.

Alan Johnson has his work cut out for him. New Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson has already abandoned the concept of ‘institutional racism’ as a viable tool to use in Met reform, and has supported his force after the G20 policing disaster (what is going on with the IPCC investigation by the way?). Is it any wonder that fundamental human rights might also be being breached by these thugs?

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Now Ian Blair Denies Institutional Racism

Justice Secretary Jack Straw says the Metropolitan Police is no longer institutionally racist, current Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson says it’s no longer a helpful concept, and his predecessor Sir Ian Blair now denies that the police who investigated the murder of Stephen Lawrence were institutionally racist:

Sir Ian Blair, the former commissioner of the Metropolitan police, said today that he did not “necessarily” believe that the police officers who investigated the murder of Stephen Lawrence were racist.

Blair, who was himself engulfed in a racism row in his final days in office, said the police involved in the investigation into the black teenager’s murder had merely been guilty of treating people in a “monochrome” way.

Giving evidence to the Metropolitan police authority’s inquiry into racism in the force, the retired police chief added that the description of the Met as “institutionally racist” by the Macpherson inquiry had proved helpful in prompting subsequent reforms.

In his first public appearance since he was ousted by Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, last October, Blair told the race and faith inquiry panel of the continuing struggle to ensure that all members of the community were treated equally by police.

Blair said: “Anybody who had read the Macpherson report would recognise an institution that was treating people in a very monochrome way. I don’t necessarily believe there was anything racist about the activities of the Metropolitan police in relation to the Lawrences. What the investigators did was they treated the Lawrences as they treated a whole range of working-class people and they just did not understand the expectations and experiences of the black community. That is what has changed.”

On the one hand he accepts that the concept of institutional racism, introduced into the British public sector by the Macpherson Report into the police’s handling of Stephen Lawrence’s death, had been ‘helpful’. He then demonstrates no understanding of why it was applied. The officers who investigated the murder didn’t themselves have to be racist in order to bring about an institutionally racist outcome, defined by Sir William Macpherson as:

“the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin”, which “can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness, and racist stereotyping which disadvantages minority ethnic people.”.

Make your own mind up whether his conflation of racism with institutional racism is deliberate and self-serving, or whether he’s simply as ignorant as the rest of his institutionally racist former force. The latter would at least offer a partial insight into why the Met has found it so persistently difficult to stop itself being perceived as persistently riven with bigotry.

Glad to be Gay?

Being gay is, was and will remain an act of rebellion – the act of breaching a fundamental social norm may have the law almost fully codified now to set up equality under the law, but people are far behind. The Stonewall ‘Serves You Right’ survey shows an expectation of disadvantage in key public services, particularly the police and criminal justice system, which is frequently borne out.

One in five lesbian and gay people expect to be treated worse by police than a heterosexual if they report a crime, while a quarter think they would be treated worse than other victims of crime if they reported a homophobic hate crime.

More than a third of lesbian and gay people, including half of those over the age of 50, think they would be treated worse than a heterosexual if they were suspected of committing a crime. Nearly a third think they would be more likely than heterosexuals to be asked for their identity cards, should these be introduced, if police suspected they were gay.

One in six think they would be treated worse by a magistrate for a minor offence because they are lesbian or gay, while three fifths think they would face barriers to becoming a magistrate because of their sexual orientation.

The Sexual Orientation Regulations, age of consent equalisation, repeal of Section 28, and diversity agendas in certain police forces and private firms are all supposed to prevent negative outcomes for gay people. But the act of coming out is still taboo – people just don’t admit it. In order to get that far, out gay people must challenge and reject all sorts of conformist thinking and behaviour. And no matter that Graham Norton is the BBC’s Saturday night host or that the Royal Navy parades at London Pride, that remains frowned upon by the majority, who need predictability, an absence of challenge and change in order to manage their lives. I’m sorry I really don’t want to lead a ‘straight’ life – understanding and living the nuances of this world is far more meaningful.

Former Prime Ministers who bleat their support for gay rights make their beds with religious organisations, who insist their right to discriminate (based only on belief) trumps basic human rights. The sporting community doesn’t dare allow what must be many prominent gay footballers to come out for fear of violence, loss of income, transfer fees and status. Justin Fashanu anyone? His own brother John condemned him (although later apologised), as did his manager Brian Clough – have either of them been looked down on since? To this day Justin Fashanu is the only professional footballer in the world ever to have come out.

The Home Office doesn’t acknowledge systematic persecution of gay men in Iran and other Middle Eastern Islamic countries, provides inadequate training on LGBT issues at the very least to its asylum staff, doesn’t stamp out homophobia within asylum detention centres, and even the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police admits institutional homophobia holds it back. Despite his own wish in this area, his dogged defence and colllusion in the cover-up of the Met’s murder of Jean Charles de Menezes has meant the force hasn’t been so distracted as to make no notable progress since 2005. The Gay Police Association acknowledges the inexorable rise of homophobia merely within the force, let alone against the public (which includes not just the people they are supposed to protect from harm, but also people they arrest). Laws can change quickly, but attitudes and cultures don’t just change at a different pace, they’re affected by all sorts of other social factors and priorities.

It was presumed some years ago that as Stonewall’s legislative successes became almost total, that there would be a need not just to wind the organisation up, but that old fashioned direct-action campaigners such as Peter Tatchell had had their day. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s true that professional lobbying by people prepared to be ‘insiders’ is needed to make change happen. But Tatchell and others realise quite rightly that the act of coming out will likely always make us outsiders when it comes to the crunch, and that the disadvantage which will always be thrown in our direction (maybe not overtly anymore) must be stood up to. Will Stonewall’s campaign to stop anti-gay bullying in schools be a watershed or just preach to the converted? As schools struggle with budgets and other priorities enforced from a target-driven government, it remains to be seen.

The Other Contest

Before you know it it’ll be May and London will be voting for its Mayor. Who though to vote for? Ken? Boris? Brian Paddick? Someone else? For the first time since the position was created in 2000 I really don’t know what the right answer is. In 2000 it really had to be Ken. Blair hated him before the election (thinking him unelectable) then feted him when he realised Livingstone had answers he’d already forgotten about electability. It had a lot to do with what Hillary Clinton’s trumpeting as readiness to lead – the ability to hit the ground running. In 2004 it was also Ken – he’d actually done a good job. Sure he still promised that the transport network would be improved, but he’d actually made a difference in terms of redistribution – something again which Blair feted him for but curiously didn’t learn from either.

This time we have Ken Livingstone, who again has done a great deal for the city, but now resolutely supports Sir Ian Blair – the Commissioner of the murderous, racist and homophobic Metropolitan Police. In essentially dismissing the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes, Livingstone has made himself part of the problem and not the solution. I don’t know how I can vote for him again with good conscience, good Labour or no good Labour. (Alexander) Boris (de Pfeffel) Johnson for me is unelectable because he’s a Tory, but check out the rest of his background. He’s a) bananas, b) got a history of not being remotely interested in London and c) is a bit of a racist. Brian Paddick is the candidate for the Lib Dems, which should be the party I have the greatest affinity with. He used to be a deputy assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan Police (which should be an immediate disqualifier for me) but he was very highly regarded outside the force, and is now totally against Sir Ian Blair.

There will be an agenda to form a grand coalition to stop Boris Johnson, and this might turn into a repeat of the Chirac/Le Pen fight in France, where it was a choice between corrupt or downright dangerous (not that I believe Ken to be corrupt). So there will be a push to vote Ken at all costs, but I don’t know. I’ll be considering Paddick, despite my hatred for his former employer.