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Policewatch Films

Monday, 6 July 2009

“Um...specifically...I don’t know” – Assistant Commissioner Chris Allan on FIT data collection.

“Um...speicifically...I don’t know”. This was Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison’s response to being asked what happens to the data collected by the Forward Intelligence Teams on Panorama’s, “Whatever Happened to People Power?” Chris Allison has worked for the MET for twenty five years, and according to the Met Police’s website, has been “heavily involved” in the “policing of public order events ranging from football matches, small marches all the way to resolution of serious disorder”. If he, with his years of expertise and high ranking, doesn’t know, then who does?

Obviously Chris Allison knows what happens to the data, but he’s not going to admit that the details of thousands of protesters are being entered into a searchable database, and listed as possible extremists on Panorama. It’ll be interesting to see whether Superintendent Hartshorn, inventor of the summer of rage, will be more forthcoming under cross examination at upcoming Fitwatch trials, and whether he will be forced to reveal further information about the extent of data retention on UK protesters.

Allison was also somewhat flexible with the truth when asked about the role of the FIT. His description of a unit dedicated to keeping “people safe” and “engag[ing]” with “the public” seems in contradiction to Jacqui Smith’s comments on this being “harassment style policing.” To anyone who has experienced or witnessed FIT policing, it was either deeply offensive or just plain ludicrous.

It was good to see Allison squirming, unable to truthfully answer the questions about policing and protest, and ultimately ending up looking like a lying idiot. The programme was also good at exposing some of the tactics the police use against protesters, and showing the lengths they are prepared to go in dealing with people doing nothing more than getting involved in a local campaign.

However, whilst good, there was one flaw with the programme- there was a whiff of good protester/bad protester from the beginning. Although not overtly stated, the implication was that it was alright to use these tactics against the real “extremists”. This not only didn’t cover the rather obvious question of what defines domestic extremism and whether this is an acceptable definition – NETCU themselves agree there is no legal definition and basically infer it to mean anyone who engages in direct action – but whether this treatment of protesters is right regardless of their beliefs.

Fitwatch was started from a belief all protesters should be protected and that we have a right to defend ourselves from this kind of policing. It is great programmes such as Panorama are finally bringing these issues to a wider audience, but it is important this good/bad distinction is not made and is always challenged. Harassing, intimidating, assaulting and arbitrarily arresting people because of their beliefs rather than their actions is not acceptable, and people across the political and activist spectrum need to stand together to ensure any changes to public order policing applies across the board and not just to a select few.

20 comments:

bristle said...

I think you're right that the programme was flawed with its implicit good protester/extremist split, but for a mainstream look at the issues I think that this was a fairly decent introduction, and at least no specific groups or people were landed in it as patsies.

As you say, the police interviewees were less than impressive, and dare I say it, came across as unreliable witnesses. I mean, a top cop put forward by ACPO to talk about FIT and the policing of protests, and unable to say what happens to the 'intelligence' they gather? Laughable!

Sure there were plenty of areas the programme could have delved into in more detail, but as a general examination, it did manage to cover many of the hot topics.

And it was an interesting choice of reporter - Raphael Rowe having his own experience of police mendacity.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... My turn to wade into this...

To FitWatch members
===================

Using cameras to intimidate people is, as you have noticed, not on. Two wrongs as they say do not make a right, so pack it in with the attempts to frustrate the police and fight them properly - with the law!

To the Police
=============

Members of the public who choose to take part in public protest are not criminals, so until you have evidence that a person is involved in criminal activity, leave them well enough alone...

Really - when you're camped outside church halls noting the car registration numbers of people conducting a perfectly civil meeting, do you not stop to wonder for a moment what sort of organisation you have actually become?

Also, display your identification numbers, and when asked to give your identification - bloody do so! Refusing to identify yourselves makes you an unaccountable mob...

And as for the use of force, if you're not physically threatened, then knocking two harmless women to the ground and standing on their ankles is called Assault. Expect to be tried for it - once we have an accountable, respected, professional police service - which from the looks of things ain't you.

Martin

Sarah said...

I have to say I wasn't actually expecting the programme to show the police up as they did so that was a pleasant surprise. I do have to agree though that the way they put protesters into the good and the extreme was not on.

It is a shame that the programme was not given more air time so that more questions could be asked and perhaps the wearing of masks by more people on protests explained instead of jumping on the usual bandwagon of they are hiding their id because they want to cause trouble, as we all know there are those that cover their faces purely because of F.I.T.

Also note to Martin....although I agree that two wrongs do not make a right I do have to state that if people did stop shoving camera's in the police's way then we would never hear of such acts as police beating on people etc, also we would also have no way of identifying these officers. And if we were able to fight the police with the law then I'm certain it would have been done long ago....but as you might have noticed the police are somewhat above the law....do understand where you are coming from though.

Really Fit said...

Anonymous,

Fitwatch got going because, I'm afraid, the law wasn't having much effect. Our approach has always been a direct action one, although we have not shied away from taking legal battles too.

Police cameras are intimidating because they are, well, the police. They can arrest us, put us on the ground, handcuff and restrain us, lock us up for hours or days (or even weeks or months), and force us through a long and time consuming court process. And there is no particular need for anyone to have committed an offence. Consequently attention from the police is always an uncomfortable and intimidating thing.

That our cameras can be intimidating to the police is frankly ridiculous. There is nothing we can do to them other than take their pictures. If we were mad enough to do to them what they do to us, we'd all be spending a long time inside. This is not a level playing field.

Anonymous said...

I think the law defines protestors as good or bad simply by whether or not they break the law whilst protesting.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah,

The police are not above the law (but they do seem to think they are at times, I'll grant you that...)

Speaking as someone who works in IT (Computer programmer), I would use the Data Protection Act against them. Find one in your number who has never commited any criminal act, and hit them with this...

Dear Sirs,

Please provide me with details of any information you currently hold relating to be, together with a description of how such data is processed by yourselves, and for what purpose.

I beleive section 7(1) of The Data Protection Act 1998 entitles me to such information.

I have enclosed the prescribed fee of £10, and now eagerly wait your response. Should you require any further information from myself to assist in the preparation of your response, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

It may help to know that I recently attended the xxxx protest at xxxxx held on xxxxx. I believe I was repeatedly photographed by a group known as the "Forward Intelligence Team".

My thanks for affording this matter your kind time and attention.

Sincerely,

Fit Watch Girl


They'll do one of two things. They'll either claim not to hold any information, in which case you pursue a complaint with the Information Commissioner because you know the photos were taken and they can't confirm what they have done with them (or where they are now, or if they're secure, or...) - or alternatively they'll try to hide behind section 29(1), which gives them an exception if the information is being held for the prevention or detection of crime.

That's what you're hoping for - because now you ask them what evidence suggests little Miss Innocent is about to commit a crime. At that point, they have to justify why they are holding the information - which should be good for a laugh...


Martin

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,
Fitwatch got going because, I'm afraid, the law wasn't having much effect. Our approach has always been a direct action one, although we have not shied away from taking legal battles too.

Hi Really Fit,

I know why FIT watch exists - I'm not a police officer (PUT THAT CAMERA DOWN! lol...), and in this debate I come down firmly on the side of peaceful protestors...

I'm broadly supportive of your cause - it's your methods - and particularly your apparent love of naming and shaming officers on the internet that I have an issue with...

Police cameras are intimidating because they are, well, the police. They can arrest us, put us on the ground, handcuff and restrain us, lock us up for hours or days (or even weeks or months), and force us through a long and time consuming court process.

I understand that, and believe me, have little faith when it comes to the impartial and considered application of the law from our friends in blue...

If you are going to try to deal with FIT though, my advice would be to deal with that and that alone at a protest. Don't carry spades, or locks, or anything "a bit suss" - just you chaps, a notebook, a pen and your cameras. Three teams - Team 1 films the plod. Team 2 stays close in with team 1, and films team 3 - and only team 3 - no matter what happens (your own team). Team 3 films teams 1 and 2. Noone ever hits pause - just agree to start filming at a chosen time, and away you go...

The idea here is that you have a clean, uninterupted record of everything that happened, and can't be accused of editing. When the plod try something, your evidence is now a hell of a lot stronger.

And there is no particular need for anyone to have committed an offence. Consequently attention from the police is always an uncomfortable and intimidating thing.

That's why you should be concentrating on filming each other every bit as much as you concentrate on filming them.

That is your protection from being harrassed.

That our cameras can be intimidating to the police is frankly ridiculous. There is nothing we can do to them other than take their pictures.

I agree.
If we were mad enough to do to them what they do to us, we'd all be spending a long time inside. This is not a level playing field.

Quite - violence is not the answer - never is. The way to beat these people is to rise above them.

Martin

Sarah said...

Hi Martin

Have so thought of that so many times but the problem is that one person alone is not going to cause them that much bother....now if there was a demonstration and EVERYONE who attend that demo were to ask then that would really screw the system as the police just would not be able to handle that many numbers. Now that would be much more fun then just a single person.

As it is in the near future I will be asking for photos and video as I have never committed a criminal act...but have been arrested under section 60AA, so thank you for putting down what I need to be writing to them :o)

With regards to the police believing that they are above the law, if a member of the public pushed someone over in a violent manner which was caught on cameras (including CCTV, even though the police stated there were none) and then the person whom they assaulted died within a few minutes (which I believe it was, please correct me if wrong) then the person who pushed them would be arrested and charged with some form of law. Now this officer was not arrested, was only interviewed under caution (by his mates) and is now suspended (probably with full pay). As of yet no charges have been made. Now this is not the first case of a officer either getting away with breaking the law or having a lighter sentence then what a member of the public would receive.

Another example was that officer who was driving his police car at 90+ mph. He was not rushing to a scene of a crime, his lights were not on and there were no sirens, he just wanted to see how fast the car could go. He knocked over and killed a young women, he got 3yrs. A sentence which sickened the family and friends of that poor dead girl. Now if you or I were to drive a car that fast which resulted in the death of an innocent girl do you really think we would only get 3yrs?

Another body which is above the law is the big companies (NPower springs to mind) who can committed fraud against their customers (extorting money on a false basis I do believe is fraud), then you look at the MP's....I mean, who in the general public would be able to get away with the mass fraud that they have committed???

Anonymous said...

and, Sarah -

when the boyfriend of the slaughtered teenager had the temerity to complain in the immediate aftermath of the demondog driver's stunt - he was tasered on the spot.

smooth operators, sometimes, our boys in blue

Anonymous said...

Police officers are often jailed for offences that members of the public would be given community sentences for, common assault, abh etc. Death by dangerous driving offences are ludicrously underpunished, 4 years for being drunk, killing two children and paralysing their father was the sentence for a civvy, and the copper was going after a stolen car.

The ipcc who interviewed the copper are not his mates, they're hated by the police as much as you hate the police.

It is not unusual for people arrested for murder to be bailed for long periods if all the evidence has not been obtained. UK law does not allow for the collection of evidence after charge, as such all the thousands of notes, cctv images and witness staements/videos of Ian Tomlinsons death, along with 3 post mortems will have to be fully collated and considered by the cps who decide on charges these days.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8 July 13.13

If I pushed a copper over like the copper did to Ian Tomlinson I'd be arrested immediately, and probably quite violently. Or even if I pushed a civilian over.

Anonymous said...

I doubt you'd be arrested for pushing over a civilian. It is a separate and easier to prove offence to assault a police officer, so yes for that you probably would be arrested immediately.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah.

Have so thought of that so many times but the problem is that one person alone is not going to cause them that much bother....now if there was a demonstration and EVERYONE who attend that demo were to ask then that would really screw the system as the police just would not be able to handle that many numbers. Now that would be much more fun then just a single person.

Indeed it would...

As it is in the near future I will be asking for photos and video as I have never committed a criminal act...but have been arrested under section 60AA, so thank you for putting down what I need to be writing to them :o)

You're welcome...

With regards to the police believing that they are above the law, if a member of the public pushed someone over in a violent manner which was caught on cameras (including CCTV, even though the police stated there were none) and then the person whom they assaulted died within a few minutes (which I believe it was, please correct me if wrong) then the person who pushed them would be arrested and charged with some form of law.

I entirely agree.
Now this officer was not arrested, was only interviewed under caution (by his mates) and is now suspended (probably with full pay).


I doubt you'll find many coppers who would describe the IPCC as their mates, but I take the point you're making. This particular "Indepenent" Commission seems to be a long way from...

On the point that the officer has been suspended on full pay, I feel this is only right. Suspension is not a punishment but rather an investigatory tool, and has to be seen to be non-judgemental. It would be wrong for the officer to face financial hardship before having his opportunity to explain himself before the investigation panel...


As of yet no charges have been made. Now this is not the first case of a officer either getting away with breaking the law or having a lighter sentence then what a member of the public would receive.

I know. You're preaching to the choir I fear...

Another example was that officer who was driving his police car at 90+ mph. He was not rushing to a scene of a crime, his lights were not on and there were no sirens, he just wanted to see how fast the car could go. He knocked over and killed a young women, he got 3yrs. A sentence which sickened the family and friends of that poor dead girl. Now if you or I were to drive a car that fast which resulted in the death of an innocent girl do you really think we would only get 3yrs?

No I don't. I know the situation with respect to the lenient sentancing shown to officers, and I agree with your revulsion to it.

Another body which is above the law is the big companies (NPower springs to mind) who can committed fraud against their customers (extorting money on a false basis I do believe is fraud), then you look at the MP's....I mean, who in the general public would be able to get away with the mass fraud that they have committed???


I don't understand quite what you mean by N-Power having committed fraud, but I think we both know that this is not an appropriate forum for such a discussion - you would place yourself at risk...

Martin

Sarah said...

Hi Martin

Regarding the G20 officer, he was actually interviewed first by other officers (his mates)and then by the not so Independent IPCC...this is what has been reported, or at least what I have understood to have taken place.

The reason as to why I mentioned other bodies was, in my part, trying to show that although the police are pretty bad there are worse things out there. The reason as to why I mentioned NPower was because last week I actually phoned them regarding my bill and according to one of their workers I would be perfectly within my right to go to the police and ask that NPower be investigate for fraud. As for being off subject...well I don't know if I am totally off subject. We all want a police force that will not only use the law correctly but also use the law properly against anyone who breaks it....this includes the rich and famous and those companies who screw you out of money on fraudulent basis.Any by law I mean common law...not this statue...you have agreed to this rule crap.

Thank you again though for a very nice reply....it's nice to not be bashing my head against the wall due to comments left lol ;o)

jonsparta said...

Hello Sarah,

Just a couple of points... Regarding the G20 officer, he was actually interviewed first by other officers (his mates)and then by the not so Independent IPCC...

Why are thye his 'mates'? If you are under investigation you cant be interviewed by a member of you own team...But i think you mean that all police are friends. That nearly made me fall over laughing. Also the department that deals with this, each force have a different name for it but they are certainly not your mates. Trust me, i have been on the end of a Reg 9.

Also the IPCC is independent as no officer retired or serving can work for them. They are often viewed and rightly so as a hate figure in the police. Not because officers are trying to cover thing up but because of some of their miscarriages of justice. I have seen it in court when Professional Standards (police) and the IPCC have been made to apologise for their behaviour in investigating officers. IPCC has had to pay out because of their often werid way of investigating.

i agree with the Npower part. In a perious life i worked for a fraud department of a bank. You wouldnt believe how evil some companies are.

jonsparta said...

Another example was that officer who was driving his police car at 90+ mph. He was not rushing to a scene of a crime, his lights were not on and there were no sirens, he just wanted to see how fast the car could go. He knocked over and killed a young women, he got 3yrs. A sentence which sickened the family and friends of that poor dead girl. Now if you or I were to drive a car that fast which resulted in the death of an innocent girl do you really think we would only get 3yrs?


Hmmm. Thats about right for sentencing. Thats why the law has changed on the subject. I agree that it should have been more but the courts use a guidline from the government so you will have to take it up with them.

That our cameras can be intimidating to the police is frankly ridiculous. There is nothing we can do to them other than take their pictures.

I have made this point several times. So once again, i doubt anyone from Fitwatch would use the photos to say track an officer to their home address but there are those that would and have done so!! Although looking at some of the fitwatch peoples criminal background, i would be very worried if a family/friend was in company with them.

FIT Watch said...

"Although looking at some of the fitwatch peoples criminal background, i would be very worried if a family/friend was in company with them."

Jonsparta, please could you clarify what you mean by this as it is unsubstantiated rubbish. What kind of "criminal background" are you talking about?

And why would you be worried about family/friends being in company with us? The fitwatchers I have met have been some of the most caring compassionate people I've ever met.

Unless of course you mean because of the amount of police repression/harassment/wrongful arrests we receive - and then that fear might be justifiable.

jonsparta said...

Often when working at demos, i have found increasing people claiming to be from Fitwatch. Having checked out a number of these individuals a few have come back on PNC checks with serious criminal convictions.

Now i have no doubt you will jump up and down and down my throat...stating that all your mates are great and they have no convictions but that is not true. Or it could be that some people are using your group as a cover. I have submitted several reports on different groups movements, some have people with criminal convictions. Maybe i am wrong, maybe they have turned over a new leaf and are being good citizens. lol. Funny that your group rarely gets mentioned. No doubt this has to do with crap intelligence.

Just remember that you dont know everyones background, how could you unless you have a PNC pc in your house.

Really Fit said...

Jonsparta this is nasty stuff you are spouting. The inference that people involved in FITwatch are not safe to be around is libelous.

I am also concerned that a police officer can confidently blog that they are conducting PNC checks on people because they claim to be FITwatching - taking photographs perhaps?

I am glad though that there are increasing numbers of people who are keeping an eye on FIT and their activities. That is undeniably a good thing. Unless you are a FIT officer perhaps.

jonsparta said...

Really Fit.

No, i am not in the fit teams. I was making a point, rather badly that when i have conducted a stop/check or stop/search as standard practise a PNC check is made. This is done, one to make sure they are who they saw they are and also a every young officer has done to make sure that they are not wanted, because the one you dont check out will be then one that it wanted.

When working at a number of public order situations, i have come across people claiming to be from FIT watch. I have no way to know they belong to your group or another or any group at all.

So when i make my report i always state what they stated, if anything. Some of the people i have come across another of times and i know them to be involved in criminal acts. As i have found, you just dont know the background of every person. How do you check people out? Or dont? I believe that most of fit watch to be just every day people. But the point that could be made is not everyone has good intentions.

Even in the police, i remember my now distance days of training school a lad getting arrested for drug dealing!!!