The idea that anyone in Britain could talk about a ‘people’s police force’ is laughable. In fact we have elite policing maintaining order for corporations. People are just collateral damage.
Hundreds of thousands of people marched through Madrid in rising protest at the right-wing dismantling of Spain – not that you’d know from our media. This has in part been prompted by another VAT rise and the extension of VAT into a range of new areas. So now all things cultural are designated a ‘luxury’, as are school supplies and even funerals. But in what might not be a clever move the Rajoy regime is also squeezing the terms and conditions of the emergency services, including the police. The outcome of which is the unprecedented sight of the police and fire unions out protesting alongside all the other unions and social justice movements. Firefighters marched behind banners saying “We save people, not banks” and police marched behind banners which read “We are the people’s police, not the politicians police”.
Oh that a British police officer could hold up such a banner with any credibility. It is of little surprise to any on the left slightly longer in the tooth that the police are hardly evenhanded when power faces protest – the treatment of the miners during the strike will not be easily forgotten. But despite some heavy-handed treatment of some of the environmental and anti-globalisation protesters over the last decade, there haven’t been as many people directly affected by heavy-handed policing as in the decade or two before that. Or not until recently.
Now we have the sight of students and peace protesters being routinely ‘kettled’ – a practice which can only be described as detention without charge in conditions that would breach human rights. In fact, the changes in the policing of protest are fairly stark – everyone on a protest these days is treated like a criminal with pictures being taken and aggressive policing being the norm. And yet woe betide a protested with a camera – photographing the police in return is now treated as something like a direct act of terrorism.
Another part of the police now works as what can only be described as a private secret service for the corporate sector with long-term deep-cover operations being carried out against political movements of the left on the basis that they might interfere with the running of commerce. There was absolutely no suggestion I have heard that all those anti-airport or anti-road protesters were planning or believed to be planning any activity other than civil disruption. And yet massive resources to place police assets in deep cover were deployed to spy on and disrupt these groups. Then the police were caught seeking to subvert the judicial system by holding back evidence that would clear suspects.
If you planned to go and hold up a banner calling for the UK to become a democratic republic at the royal wedding or during the Jubilee and you would face pre-emptive arrest. And you’d be lucky, because if you managed to protest there is a reasonable chance that you’d be met by a violent policeman (usually men) with his badge number covered and a mask over his face like a thug. He might push you when you’re not looking and repeatedly hit you with a baton. The chances of anyone taking your allegations seriously might not even be helped if you had it on film. You might need to die before any notice is taken.
On the other hand, if you are a right-wing newspaper and you are intent on breaking the law, it turns out that buying up the police is fairly easy and once you have they will lie and cover-up and cheat to protect you. If you oppose the Monarchy you will be arrested if they think you might do something; if you work for a media corporation you will certainly not be investigated even if you actually have very clearly broken the law. And of course the commercialisation of the police is well under way with big corporations like G4S already getting its teeth into bits of the police business.
But at least there’s the legal system, right? Well, I see no reassurance there. The police are never held to account; they are always cleared. The preemptive arrest of people on the basis of political profiling was approved by a judge this week. A jury concluded that there’s nothing wrong with attacking a man from behind with no warning leading to his death so long as he’s on a leftwing protest. Last year the courts concluded that it is OK for the police to detain hundreds of people for many hours in cramped and exposed circumstances with no access to food, water, toilets or medical care – as long as there is a threat to commercial interests.
The Harwood verdict makes me sick. How that man is a free man today is beyond me. At the very least he was clearly involved in a series of serious assaults – there can be no possible justification of what he did to Ian Tomlinson. Sometimes the Daily Mail does good work – today it tells us the real story about Harwood. He was due to face proceedings in 2001 over “unlawful arrest, abuse of authority and discreditable conduct”. But he retired and got away with it… and came back three years later where he joined the team of psycho-cops they use to ‘maintain public order’. After which he was the subject of ten complaints including racially abusing and punching a 14-year-old girl, threatening to set fire to her father’s home, road-rage attack, throttling suspects during arrests and unlawfully accessing police database.
As with so much in contemporary Britain this is largely – though not wholly – a London problem. London has become a city-state run for and by the corporate elite. The police do their bidding, as do the politicians. The judges concur. Policing in Scotland isn’t anything like as bad, and yet we too need to face up to the reality of the second Tommy Sheridan investigation. It doesn’t really matter whether he did it or not, what matters is that there is no other circumstance under which he would have been pursued for perjury in a civil trial if it hadn’t been political.
We do not have a ‘people’s police’ we have ‘elite policing’. Britain – and especially London – has become like one giant gated community for the powerful, complete with their own private security force masquerading as the ‘Metropolitan Police’. Too much in the British State is corrupt and the stink is spreading. Do I trust the police? Yes, I certainly do on day to day matters. I know a good few police officers and they are decent people whom I like. Would I trust the police if it came to a conflict of interests between me and powerful interests? No, basically I wouldn’t. If it’s me versus corporate interests, I’d expect to end up in cuffs.
Is that how it’s meant to be?