Tag Archives: Independent Police Complaints Commission

IPCC Demands the Met Be Muzzled

A pointless demand of course because the Met will just ignore them. But still:

The police has been told to immediately change the way it controls public protests after it emerged that a young woman may have suffered a miscarriage after being manhandled by officers at the G20 protests.

The incident was highlighted by the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission. In a report they said that a 23-year-old woman was at the Climate Camp in Bishopsgate in central London during the protests on 1 April when, it is alleged, she was kicked and pushed by officers with shields and batons.

This left her with a bruising on her arms and legs and heavy bleeding which doctors later said could have been indicative of a miscarriage although the woman says she was not aware whether she was pregnant or not and it has never been medically confirmed if this was the case.

Yet despite bleeding heavily the woman was not allowed to leave the area of Bishopsgate for five hours. The IPCC report, released following an investigation into claims made by the woman, condemned this and the fact that the woman pushed back by an officer using a “short shield” – a tactic which was developed by the Metropolitan Police, but has never been approved nationally.

In an interview on BBC Radio 4, the alleged victim, who has not been named, said she feared for her life during the incident.

I want people to realise they did this for no reason. No reason. Whether she had a miscarriage or not, for a woman to be bleeding heavily by an unprovoked and unjustified police assault, and then to be denied medical attention, should mean someone gets prosecuted. But not only is that not being pushed for, the Independent Police Complaints Commission is failing to acknowledge the cause – this wasn’t a problem with training, it wasn’t even a problem with tactics on the day per se (although unprovoked violence is a pretty damned serious problem). The violence exhibited by the Met that day was a result of them having been whipped up into a frenzy for weeks by senior commanders who predicted violence by protesters, without any evidence any was being planned. Yet they quite brazenly used their territorial support group (TSG) as a deliberately violent tool to counter non-violent dissent:

The IPCC report said video footage shows one officer pushing the woman with a short riot shield while another uses his forearm against her chest and neck.

“It is clear from video footage that she is unable to move backwards due to the number of people behind her,” the report said.

The officers involved were identified as being from the TSG and from Richmond and Twickenham, in south-west London.

A spokesman for the force said the incident offered “a real opportunity for lessons”, adding that it was already reviewing tactics following similar recommendations by Denis O’Connor, the chief inspector of constabulary, in a report released a month ago.

He added: “A senior Metropolitan police service officer has offered to meet with the complainant to discuss the potential learning from this incident and apologise for distress caused.”

We are in the post-Blair age of governing by belief, with solutions being provided by professional politicians and civil servants, without problems to justify them. The Met had decided there would be a ‘summer of rage’, announced their intention to be violent in response, and then followed through on their boasts. This mad culture is so ingrained that they didn’t think they’d be called on it, and they may not have if they hadn’t caused Ian Tomlinson’s death. Yet despite his death, the media frenzy which followed, the O’Connor report and the IPCC censure here, the final paragraph above suggests they are unlikely to change their behaviour any time soon. The Metropolitan Police will remain a quasi-militia under no meaningful governmental control – we can’t stand for this.


Met Police Still Unaccountable?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Gemma Atkinson is the latest in a long line of entirely innocent people to have been abused by the Metropolitan Police via the Terrorism Act. Section 58(a) is the crazy amendment making it illegal to photograph a police officer if the images are considered “likely to be useful” to a terrorist. You can hear her story (and see the video at the centre of the story) for yourself above, but here it is in a nutshell:

The opening part of the mobile phone clip shows two uniformed police officers searching her boyfriend, Fred Grace, 28, by a wall in the station. Atkinson said she felt that police had unfairly targeted Grace, who did not have drugs in his possession, and decided to film the officers in order to hold them to account.

Seconds later, an undercover officer wearing jeans and a black jacket enters the shot, and asks Atkinson: “Do you realise it is an offence under the Terrorism Act to film police officers?” He then adds: “Can you show me what you you just filmed?”

Atkinson stopped filming and placed her phone in her pocket. According to her account of the incident, which was submitted to the Independent Police Complaints Commission that night, the officer tried several times to forcefully grab the phone from her pocket.

Failing to get the phone, he called over two female undercover officers from nearby. Atkinson said he told the women: “This young lady had been filming me and the other officers and it’s against the law. Her phone is in her right jacket pocket and I’m trying to get it.”

An argument ensued, Atkinson said, and five police officers – four of them undercover – backed her into an alcove, insisting they had the right to view her phone.

She said she was detained there for about 25 minutes, during which her wrist was handcuffed and a female officer told her: “We’ll put you under arrest, take to you to the station and look at your phone there.”

A second female officer approached her and said, incorrectly: “Look, your boyfriend’s just been arrested for drugs, so I suggest you do as we say.”

Atkinson claims the male undercover officer who initially approached her repeatedly threatened her with arrest, stating: “We believe you filmed us and that’s against the law so we need to check your phone.” When Atkinson protested, the officer replied: “I don’t want to see myself all over the internet.”

Yet again we have the Metropolitan Police thinking that they answer to noone for their behaviour. Fortunately Gemma’s set about proving them wrong. A judicial review, an immediate complaint to the IPCC and trial by Guardian – more nightmares for the force which constantly tries to paint officers such as these as untrained rookies, but they never are. There’s something rotten in the Metropolitan Police, and we can only hope that people like Gemma, and those who also captured Met violence and abuse on camera at the G20 protests shortly afterwards, will continue to do what our politicians refuse to do. One way or another the Met must be brought to heel.

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?

Bring the Met to Heel!

What, more you cry? Well yes, because you need to keep having the evidence shoved in your face to realise just how badly out of control the Metropolitan Police now is. This is a video showing the attack on the Climate Camp protesters by the Territorial Support Group (TSG) riot officers on 1st April:

The bits you’re looking for are at 4:50 and 7:50, and you must remember that this is an attack on protesters who were there legally and 100% peacefully. For some reason people seem to overlook those two rather fundamentally important variables, but in our society you simply can’t. For police violence to be acceptable it must be proportionate – you tell me who’s behaving within the law in that video and who isn’t. The Times runs us through the two principal assaults in the video:

It (4:50) is the moment when an unidentified riot squad officer, his face half-hidden by a black balaclava and visored helmet, was filmed using a round shield to “punch” Alex Cinnane on the left temple.

The video shows the 24-year-old IT technician from London facing away from his assailant, stationary and appearing to offer no physical threat to the police officers surrounding him. His mouth opens in pain as the shield strikes.

“I had turned around to go to someone who was screaming because they were being crushed when he reached out and hit me on my forehead with his shield,” said Cinnane last night. “I was in shock. I had to sit down and felt concussed and nauseous for over an hour. Where he hit me came up in a lump of broken skin.”


A second video (7:50) shows another riot squad officer delivering a powerful right hook to an unidentified male demonstrator’s jaw as a crowd retreats from an advancing police line. The protester’s head jerks backwards as the punch lands.

Since when were we a nation which policed peaceful protest with violence? Maybe a Met apologist can explain that to me. I thought the police was there to protect our rights and uphold the law, not to enforce their own petty prejudices and attitudes. Something is fundamentally wrong here, and I would take any promise from senior Met officers that things will improve as the lie it will certainly be – as Chris Huhne points out later in the next article, they have made promises about their behaviour before, yet the force is now largely unsuccessful at self-policing. Nick Hardwick, the Chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) made clear:

his concerns about incidences of officers disguising their identifying numbers, which should always be displayed on the shoulders of their uniforms, arguing that colleagues should have reported such wrongdoing.

“I think that raises serious concerns about the frontline supervision,” Hardwick said. “Why was that happening, why did the supervisor not stop them? What does that say about what your state of mind is? You were expecting trouble?

“I think that is unacceptable. It is about being servants, not masters: the police are there as public servants.

The Ian Tomlinson Affair Explodes

First he died of ‘natural causes’, after ‘no prior contact’ with the Metropolitan Police.

Then they ‘protected’ him from a ‘bottle throwing mob’.

Then we find out that they lied about everything. We find that the pathologist responsible for the initial post-mortem had a questionable background in just such scenarios involving the police. We find he was actually hit and shoved forcefully from behind by a Territorial Support Group (TSG) riot police officer, who had masked his features and removed his ID tags (as had many of his colleagues that day). We find the crowd posed no threat whatsoever either to them or Tomlinson.

(photo source)

Now we find Ian Tomlinson really died of an abdominal haemorrage. There is now evidence to link the police attack directly with his death – ‘kettling’ and a presumption of a lack of humanity of all protesters and those in the vicinity appears to have led directly to the manslaughter of an entirely innocent man.

The IPCC this afternoon said:

“Following the initial results of the second postmortem, a Metropolitan police officer has been interviewed under caution for the offence of manslaughter as part of an ongoing inquiry into the death of Ian Tomlinson.”

Get out of that one, apologists. I would however hope that should the investigation prove beyond doubt that the TSG officer caused his death, that he not be scapegoated. His behaviour was far from unique that afternoon – this is the fault of the Met as an institution, not one man.

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.