Tag Archives: Ian Tomlinson

Don’t Let Met Get Away With More Lies!

Bob Broadhurst would have you believe the outrageous police tactics and violence at the G20 protest in April was the result of undertrained bobbies, inexperienced in protest policing. As Apple points out, don’t you believe it:

However, while it is true that there were inexperienced City police on the frontline, it is disingenuous to imply that they were responsible for the worst of the violence. Most of the major cases of police brutality that have emerged from the G20, including the attacks on Ian Tomlinson and Nicky Fisher, were carried out by territorial support group (TSG) officers. These TSG members are level 1 trained – the highest level of public order training available in the police service – and have faced many allegations of violence.

Of course she’s right. Rookies weren’t the problem here. The conditions for a police riot were set up weeks earlier – they were ‘up for it’ apparently. And what about the extraordinary, preemptive violence against the entirely peaceful climate camp? Broadhurst can’t really think he’ll get away with such bare faced lying, but of course the real systematic problem with the Met was never going to be dealt with. As the miners before them, the climate protesters were seen by police and government as threats to the state as they wanted it to be. Ken Loach suggests that’s indeed the function of the police in our society – to enforce the status quo by violence.

I don’t subscribe to quite such an extreme analysis, but there’s an element of truth to it in looking at police behaviour that day and subsequently. So expect more Met lies, expect more collusion by the Home Affairs select committee, and the odd lowly scapegoat. And then soon after for this whole sorry cycle to continue.

Advertisements

Met Police Misled the Public?

Unthinkable I know, given the lies they’ve perpetrated about Jean Charles DeMenezes and their role in his death, but the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has now confirmed they’re investigating the Metropolitan Police for the false  information it released about the circumstances around Ian Tomlinson’s death in the immediate aftermath of the G20 protests on 1st April:

The IPCC deputy chair, Deborah Glass, said: “Not only the Tomlinson family, but also many members of the public and MPs have raised with us concerns about whether the police either misinformed the public about the circumstances of Mr Tomlinson’s death or failed to correct misinformation about how he died.

“I have therefore decided that, not only will we investigate the family’s specific complaint about the content and timing of the MPS media communications on the night of 1 April, but that we should also seek to determine, as far as practicable, the state of knowledge that both the MPS and City of London police had about any police contact with Ian Tomlinson between 1 April 2009 and 7 April 2009.”

I’ll admit the motivation isn’t clear, but it’s certainly one of the two. They said they’d had no prior contact with Tomlinson before his death, and then claimed that they were attacked by the crowd with bottles. Neither statement was remotely true. Medics did tend Tomlinson after his final collapse, but only one bottle was lobbed, and the perpetrator was dealt with by the crowd itself. But why would they not correct their mistake (if that’s what it was) when the evidence was seen and recorded by numerous sources? Could it be lies, collusion, bluster and corruption had worked too well in the past not to be tempted by this time?

Metropolitan Police: A Brutal Assault

They’re at it again, this time at the vigil in honour of Ian Tomlinson. Proportionate? You tell me:

(thanks to Paul Canning)

So he’s been suspended, which indicates they’re panicking. I see the Guardian says he’s a member of the territorial support group, as was his colleague who attacked Ian Tomlinson. Read this to see what the TSG are really like.

David Winnick MP, a member of the home affairs select committee, said last night the footage showed “more totally unacceptable” behaviour by a police officer.

He added: “The home secretary should make a statement about events at the G20 protests. That statement should include first and foremost Ian Tomlinson’s death and explain why police made a totally misleading statement about their contact with him.”

I’m betting she won’t, but it’s heartening to see some form of parliamentary insight finally making its voice heard, albeit without any action (yet).

Who Polices the Police?

Mariana Hyde in the Guardian asks:

Who watches the watchmen? Or, to translate Juvenal another way: who polices the police? The answer this week was a New York fund manager, of all unlikely superheroes, who provided the Guardian with key footage of the minutes leading up to the death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests in London. The man came forward because “it was clear the family were not getting any answers”.

If there is anything to feel optimistic about today, perhaps it is the hope that we are witnessing the flowering of an effective inverse surveillance society. Inverse surveillance is a branch of sousveillance, the term coined by University of Toronto professor Steve Mann, and it emphasises “watchful vigilance from underneath”, by citizens, of those who survey and control them.

Not that turning our cameras on those who train theirs on us is without risk. Indeed, one might judge it fairly miraculous that the man was not forcibly disarmed of his camera phone, given that it is now illegal to photograph police who may be engaged in activity connected to counterterrorism.

And here’s a real question. She’s right to say that ‘we do’ or that ‘the free press does’, and it’s been a triumph that the Met was caught out. It really is miraculous that the man who took the footage of the assault (bear in mind that assault was the tip of the iceberg for the territorial support group’s behaviour that day) wasn’t himself arrested or attacked, given that the government recently changed the law to be on their side. But noone else is policing the police. And on reflection it’s a symptom of the bigger problem within political life and civil society. One issue which came up time and again at the Convention on Modern Liberty was that ahead of even changing the electoral system or reforming the House of Lords, the House of Commons has to reform the way in which it polices the executive itself. Tony Blair was accused of making the premiership a quasi-presidential role, but that had been changing for about a generation. The truth is the legislature during his tenure and since has ignored its responsibility to hold the executive to account. It’s lazy, it’s self-serving and has contributed to this dramatic erosion in our civil liberties, not to mention a certain war in Iraq. The crisis in the Met can only be solved when our politicians get a grip on what their overall responsibilities really are.

Intelligent Policing? Far From It!

The voices are getting louder in condemnation of the Metropolitan Police. The tabloids are uniting in their attacks and smears on Ian Tomlinson, but their readers have had their eyes opened along with the rest of us. The G20 protests at the start of the month showed the organisation up as the barely accountable militia which it has become, but I’m not saying for a moment that all Met cops are like this. As a commentator has noticed on another entry, I acknowledge there is good policing in the force, and there are good cops, no doubt many of them. But an incompetent Home Secretary and a Home Office which is still not fit for purpose have allowed the institution free rein to do as it pleases in a number of areas, notably in policing protest and dissent, and have shown a lamentable disinterest in cleaning up its misdeeds. It’s not been a year and they still haven’t learned the lessons of the Kingsnorth Climate Camp fiasco, where violence and abusive police tactics were wantonly applied to protesters and journalists alike under the spurious (and later proven to be mendacious) grounds of ‘anti-police violence’ and ‘terrorism’. Whoever thought attacking the Bishopsgate Climate Camp even more severely than the Kent protest was clearly out of their minds and shouldn’t be in their job; the TSG officers covered their numbers and masked their appearance and ironically were caught on camera, even though their masters had previously done everything in their power (through making it illegal) to prevent it. Hoist by their own petard – very ironic, but of course being caught dead to rights hasn’t brought in accountability – far from it. If the Guardian weren’t relentlessly embarrassing the IPCC, they wouldn’t have bothered investigating Ian Tomlinson’s death even now.

As it is a familiar problem has arisen there:

The initial post mortem examination of the man who died at the G20 protests after being attacked by a police officer, which found he had died of a heart attack, was conducted by a forensic pathologist once reprimanded about his professional conduct by the General Medical Council.

Ian Tomlinson, a 47-year-old newspaper seller, died on April 1 after being assaulted at least once by officers policing the G20 demonstrations. He had been trying to walk home from work when he was confronted by police, hit with a baton and thrown to the ground.

Two days later Home Office pathologist Dr Freddy Patel concluded Tomlinson had died of a heart attack. He has previously been reprimanded by the GMC, after he released medical details about a man who died controversially in police custody.

In a second case, which raised questions about Dr Patel’s findings, police dropped a criminal investigation after the pathologist gave it as his opinion that the victim, a woman, had died of natural causes. A man who lived in the flat where the body was found went on to murder two other women and mutilate their bodies.

The Met has reverted to type in every aspect of the affair since Tomlinson’s death, indeed we know they were behaving to type on the day. The TSG officer’s identity was completely concealed with a balaclava, his ID number was not visible, the Met released disinformation about their contact with him that day, and despite his having seemingly been pressurised into coming forward, the officer who attacked Tomlinson still hasn’t been interviewed by the IPCC. Then appointing a pathologist with a questionable reputation is just crazy, even though there’s no evidence that Dr Patel in any way colluded with the Met to give them the post-mortem result they needed. Yet we’re now at the stage where even the hint of impropriety is now bad news for them. Shoot an innocent Brazilian (whom they knew was innocent), bash an innocent newspaper vendor in full view of the public, get found out for your institutional disinterest in rape and surely then it’s time to play by the book, to retain the ability to police by consent. Yet ranks have already been closed and questionable decisions are again being made. David Randall suggests that it’s not just the Met who’s to blame for this – we are too:

Some of this is the fault of those with warrant cards, especially the Met. Here, seen at its worst in the de Menezes saga, a sort of old lags’ culture obtains: you admit nothing until your dabs are proved in court to have been all over the offence in question (and then fail to act on the findings). Here, too, is a management that seems to spend much of its time suing each other, or threatening to do so, and then collecting large sums; where senior officers have pension arrangements that would not disgrace a banker; and where there is a look-after-your own attitude that is positively Masonic at times.

Nor are we free of blame, with our ever more publicly aggressive citizenry proclaiming their rights, and our expectation that a force, by definition, of conservative, tradition-respecting officers should constantly adapt to an ever-changing multicultural, multi-faith, multi-sexualised society.

And some of the greatest fault is that of the political class: forces obliged to use speed cameras as revenue-raisers rather than for road safety; and police stations battered by a permanent hailstorm of targets and new laws, both set centrally to placate the latest orthodoxy or catch a headline.

All that, plus continuously shifting priorities that never seem to include sending officers to deal with the crimes that most damage the quality of life in Middle England, such as household burglary, vandalism and noise. The result? A police force less trusted, more resented than at any time since the 19th century.

Is the breakdown in trust between the force really down to us? The Met, although much improved from the days of the Brixton riots, has reverted to dismissing institutional racism. They have an endemic problem with homophobia even against one another. We have a Commission for Equality and Human Rights, yet the Met still has to be shamed into changing its reporting and detecting practices on rape. Is my homosexuality really to blame when they hate me for being gay, are my love of photography and political philosophy to blame when they hate me for photographing them abusing lawful protesters? The Met’s propensity towards conservatism and traditions which have been out of step with wider society for decades is a core part of its institutional mania, and I’m guilty of expecting it to apply its resources where they’re genuinely needed, and to treat people according to 21st century social norms. That it still doesn’t as an institution accounts for the murder of Jean Charles DeMenezes, the attack on Ian Tomlinson and many other people that day.

Good cops will hardly get noticed in an environment quite as schizoid as this, and New Labour, ever eager to placate the tabloids they’ve feared since taking power, is hardly interested in helping them. Did Jacqui Smith stand up and reprimand Bob Broadhurst for preemptive threats of police violence before the G20 protests? Not at all, it suited her to be in a position to threaten those who might cause a PR problem for her boss, more eager to lick Barack Obama’s ass than to solve intractable social problems at home. Brian Paddick suggests:

Recent events could justifiably give rise to concerns that we have a police service whose leaders do not appear to have a grip of their own responsibilities, let alone control over the actions of their subordinates. At the same time, the Tomlinson case and those of Jean Charles de Menezes and Mark Saunders, raise the spectre that the bad old days of British policing may be returning, of “canteen culture”, the use of excessive force and of a police service that appears to be unaccountable – the officer concerned in the case of Mr Tomlinson apparently being allowed to cover his face and numerals.

Sir Ian Blair tried to continue the liberalising work started by Sir Peter, now Lord Imbert, when he was Commissioner. These police reformers were swimming against the tide of the prevailing culture, trying to produce a more inclusive police service that is more responsive to the needs of the public, and more representative both in terms of gender balance and minority ethnic representation. Sir Ian Blair failed to reform the Met and the temptation for Sir Paul Stephenson is to go with the flow of the dominant male macho culture, but at the cost of failing to tame the minority of canteen cowboys who do so much damage to the reputation of the police service.

Changing organisational culture requires difficult decisions. My concern is not that the current Commissioner is not capable of such bravery, but that he does not have the strength in depth in his team, or the will, to carry through what are very necessary police reforms.

A pity Paddick doesn’t acknowledge that when, after the murder of DeMenezes, push came to shove, Blair himself went with the ‘dominant male macho culture’. He colluded in the cover-up, tried to exonerate marksmen from blame and blatantly retreated into the ‘prevailing culture’. Political cowardice has given the Met the leaders it wanted rather than those it needed, but this is a symptom of the political system as a whole – we aren’t getting intelligent politics, let alone Roger Graef’s wish of ‘intelligent policing’:

This heavy-handedness is especially counterproductive. Not only does it contradict the recent new key performance indicator of increasing public confidence, it also makes it less likely that people will provide useful intelligence against potential terrorism. Intelligence-led policing is the new mantra. But intelligence involves more than taking pictures of everyone at a demo and collecting our emails, texts and travel movements on an insecure database. It requires understanding, sensitivity and discretion, all of which go out the window when the red mist descends.

And Dominic Lawson reminds us how little of an incentive there is for them to change from within:

In recent years we have become wearily familiar with what the “closing of ranks” can involve, not stopping short of tampering with evidence. This was seen most dramatically in the inquest into the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, when a Special Branch officer, giving evidence behind a screen, admitted that he had deleted a line in his original notes, which had recorded that Cressida Dick, the officer in charge of the operation, said at the time that Menezes “can run onto Tube as not carrying anything”.

This, I’m afraid, is the sort of thing that happens when the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Manual of Guidance on Police Use of Firearms sanctions so-called “conferring over notes” after a fatality. The IPCC has on three occasions called for this practice to end – in the first instance after the death in 1999 of 46-year-old Harry Stanley, shot by officers who believed he was holding a gun; the late Mr Stanley, a part-time painter and decorator, was in fact walking home from a pub with a table leg tucked under his arm. Mr Stanley had a spent conviction for robbery, while the unfortunate Mr Tomlinson was an alcoholic drifter who seems to have been drunk on the day of his death; but it is not the job of the police, any more than it is of ordinary members of the public, to carry out extrajudicial punishments against sundry shambling scamps.

Why bother to change when their procedures call for the exact opposite? The IPCC had to be put under pressure by the press rather than any government agency, to investigate the police’s behaviour – why should they be mindful of them? It’ll have been nearly a fortnight since the event – a fortnight for the Met to ‘confer over notes’ and continue their spin against Tomlinson in the same fashion in which they continue to smear Jean Charles DeMenezes. The tabloids are still sniping at ‘rioters’ and against ‘alcoholic drifter’ Tomlinson. And the Tomlinson family have been told it’ll be at least three years before an inquest can be held into his death – the echoes of the DeMenezes case continue. With Justice Secretary Jack Straw similarly disinterested in cleaning up his end of a criminal justice system which didn’t even prosecute DeMenezes’ murders for blatant perjury, it looks like any chance at widespread intelligent policing has been ditched for another generation. Who’ll have to die next?

Masked Police, Out of Control

Deborah Orr in the Independent:

I do not believe that legitimate peaceful protesters attend events in masks, and consider that the failure of protest organisers to condemn such behaviour is damaging to the credibility of peaceful protest. But masked police are a far greater threat to civil liberties than masked protesters. The reasons why troublemakers at protests should cover their faces are nastily obvious. That goes for the police as well as for “anarchists”.

Of course protests are highly charged. No sensible person wants them to get out of hand, and it is the job of the police to make sure that does not happen. But the police are not the neutral actors in these highly ritualised dramas that they purport to be. They see the staging of protests primarily as confrontations that are directed against them and treat them as battles that have to be won.

The police have come to view protests as opportunities to express their own political beliefs, and advertise their own frustrations. Protesters often jeer that the police are state patsies, unquestioning in their defence of their masters. The police, in turn, appear to go out of their way to confirm that this is so.

Any small suggestion that the police are there to protect and manage citizens exercising their democratic right to question political processes they see as misguided or wrong, has been jettisoned. Collectively, the police see all protesters as the enemy, and believe that any person who becomes drawn into a protest, however casually or innocently, is fair game and gets what’s coming to him.

This is not the view of a few bad apples in the force, although there are indeed extreme elements in the police who are every bit as keen on promoting violence for its own sake as some protesters are. Instead, that view comes from the top of the command structure. The police think nothing of penning all protesters into confined spaces for many hours, in what they say is a technique that controls agitating minorities, but what is actually a technique that condemns all present to collective punishment, which sometimes continues for many hours.

She makes a good distinction between the Metropolitan Police as an institution and by implication the significant numbers who were policing the Climate Camp well that afternoon. They too were undermined by the institution of the Met, which doesn’t acknowledge the basic humanity of any protesters, and are encouraged in this by Jacqui Smith’s Home Office. Take the police’s behaviour at the Kingsnorth Climate Camp last summer, where they behaved in just as brutal and summary a way, again citing violence against them as justification for their behaviour. That was proven to be a complete lie when subjected to a Freedom of Information request about the nature of the injuries sustained by the officers – there was none.

Footage of riot police attacking peaceful protesters at the Bishopsgate Climate Camp last Wednesday evening, then detaining them all for five hours before attacking them again, should have raised alarm. There, the police covered their numbers when legal observers exhorted people to take note of the details of officers who had used unprovoked violence against them. Again, those actions suggest that the police know they are acting illegitimately and are determined to evade the consequences of their behaviour.

Yet what are those consequences? Recent months have seen a slew of disturbing cases that scream of police prejudice, incompetence or unaccountability. The most high-profile of these was the de Menezes inquest, in which it became grievously obvious that a Brazilian electrician was shot dead at Stockwell Tube station after a catalogue of errors in the wake of the 21 July attempted bombings. These errors, apparently, were nobody’s fault, and nor were the desperate machinations of the Met as they played for time in the aftermath of the killing, rather than voluntarily releasing an honest assessment of their failures and a sincere apology.

These cases may seem quite different. But again and again – from the Rachel Nickell debacle to the Barry George fiasco, and in the identikit cases of rapists John Worboys and Kirk Reid – the foul-ups of the Met have one thing in common. The police go into a situation with their minds made up, their strategies already laid out, and their justifications rehearsed in advance. They never acknowledge their mistakes, but always protect the officers who make them. So they never, ever, learn anything. The amazing thing is that they keep on getting away with it.

Isn’t it just? They have an institutional failing, in being unable to accept the need for reform. Take Ian Blair and Paul Stephenson railing against institutional racism. Take the former’s desperate machinations to protect Jean Charles DeMenezes’ murderers. Take the revelations about their Territorial Support Group using torture against suspects and actually fighting the case. It’s a relief that even though all branches of government are completely skewed against justice right now, we still have a free press who remain determined not to be cowed by the ‘powers-that-be’ and take their roles seriously. It’s telling that the evidence against the Met has so far been given to the press, who have then passed it on to the IPCC, who didn’t take their responsibilities seriously until pressured into doing so by the press.

Tomlinson Inquiry: Police Wavering

The fallout from Ian Tomlinson’s death at the G20 protests is continuing to grow in severity. The Independent Police Complaints Commission initially appointed the City of London Police to investigate what happened, however after the video of the police attack on him was released, this was clearly untenable:

Now:

Britain’s police watchdog is to remove the police from the investigation into the death of Ian Tomlinson during last week’s G20 protests and carry out its own independent inquiry, the Guardian has learned.

Earlier this week the Independent Police Complaints Commission appointed the City of London force to investigate the incident, despite its officers having been involved in policing the protest, instead of using its own investigators.

Video obtained by the Guardian of the minutes before Tomlinson’s death clearly shows City of London officers from the standing near the officer who attacked the newspaper seller. That officer is believed to be from the Metropolitan force.