Tag Archives: Metropolitan Police

We’re Paying For Big Brother

In an extraordinary turn of events, the Metropolitan Police have not just decided to troll the internet for criticism of them in advance of this week’s Climate Camp protest in London – the first since the ill-fated G20 protest in April. Or rather they’ve outsourced it – that’s right Big Brother is watching you, and you’re paying him to do it:

Police worried about the force’s reputation are scouring Facebook and Twitter for criticism and rumours, ahead of the imminent Climate Camp protest.

The force has hired 6 Consulting*, a firm of “social media monitoring and engagement specialists” for a one-month pilot to monitor the web for relevant chatter.

It follows a series of reports criticising the Met’s policing of major events, including the G20 protest earlier this summer.

A spokesman said that the deal was not part of any investigative or intelligence-gathering programme. “We are increasingly looking to the internet to get our message out,” he said.

He said the G20 protests had seen “unhelpful” rumours spread fast online, and the pilot would help Met communications staff be more proactive in addressing public concerns. It would not however react to specific messages on Twitter, however, where a special Climate Camp account has been set up to release police messages.

(via Marc Vallee)

The Met can address public concerns by guaranteeing they won’t be violently attacking innocent protesters again. They say “unhelpful rumours” at the G20 protest – unhelpful in revealing their media-blocking, peaceful protester-bashing behaviour perhaps. Maybe they should consider that there would be no need to spend thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money in the name of spin if they actually policed in the name of protecting human rights rather than wilfully trampling on them. We will shortly find out if their pre-Climate Camp charm offensive is all mouth, or if the lessons of G20 have actually been learned.

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Would You Trust the Met?

After the debacle of Kingsnorth and G20, Climate Camp certainly don’t:

While most visitors to previous Camps have had an inspiring and positive experience, some of us have had to suffer violence, intimidation, theft, sleep deprivation and harassment, thanks to past examples of “pre-planned and proportionate policing operations”. Local communities have been disrupted by police road closures and indiscriminate stops-and-searches. Members of the public have been attacked with batons or arrested on trumped-up charges simply for standing on the perimeter of a campsite (nearly all of them have now been acquitted or had their charges dropped). Judging from past experience, the best thing the police could do to ensure the health and safety of the public at Climate Camp 2009 would be to stay as far away from it as possible.

It sets up an interesting collision course, with the Met attempting a media charm offensive in advance of the Climate Camp ‘swoop’ at the end of the week. It looks like they don’t believe them any more than I do, but I’ll be very interested indeed to see what happens next, and will hopefully make it a focus of the soon-to-launch new blog.

Met Police Change Tack?

Paul Lewis reports the Met will not be repeating their G20 tactics at the upcoming Climate Camp next week:

Senior officers have told representatives from Climate Camp, who are planning to construct a huge campsite next week at an undisclosed location in London, that they will be met with a “community-style” policing operation that will limit the use of surveillance units and stop-and-searches wherever possible.

In a further effort to disseminate real-time information, the Metropolitan police has activated an account on Twitter, named CO11MetPolice after its public order unit codename, which will be used to send operational information to protesters taking part in the camp.

Separately, a delegation from this year’s Climate Camp will be taken to the Met’s public order training centre on Thursday in Gravesend, Kent, where they have been asked to brief officers being drafted in from across the country to help police the event.

Activists have also been assured that there will be no “ring of steel” around their camp and that sleep deprivation tactics, used when officers blasted loud music at campers at last year’s Climate Camp at Kingsnorth power station in Kent, will not be repeated.

If they mean it, then this can only be a good thing, and considering how resistent the Met is to change it will be quite a significant development. But remember the police’s behaviour at Kingsnorth last year (as is mentioned in the final paragraph) – not just sleep deprivation tactics, but arbitrary (and violent) stops and searches, not to mention violent harassment of the media. If those things don’t happen again then we’re getting somewhere, if not then this is all just spin. But don’t forget the escalation of their tactics from Kingsnorth, through the G20 and to the pre-emptive arrests at Ratcliffe-on-Soar, nor the way in which the police and government have colluded in favour of Big Energy. The Climate Camp, environmental protesters and the government have been on a collision course for some time – why should August be an exception?

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.

Human Rights Committee Slams Metropolitan Police

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has attacked the Metropolitan Police‘s handling of the G20 protests:

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) said that the widespread use of kettling, a tactic which pens protesters in behind large cordons for hours, did not give “sufficient weight” to the rights of individuals.

The report said: “In our view it would be a disproportionate and unlawful response to cordon a group of people and operate a blanket ban on individuals leaving the contained area, as this fails to consider whether individual circumstances require a different response.”

The MPs also criticised those officers who removed their identification numbers and urged service heads to use the strongest disciplinary action against them. They added that police had a “long way to go” before they fully respected human rights in their operations.

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.

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.