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Friday, 14 August 2009

Police surveillance reaches new heights?

According to the BBC police have planned to use an 'unmanned small drone aircraft' to video and monitor this weekends BNP meet, or at least the protests taking place against it. A couple of months ago drones were also used to spy on the solstice celebrations at Stonehenge.

The use by police of unmanned drones with cameras is nothing new. Britains first drone was introduced by Liverpool police as long as two years ago.

But it seems the use of these things may be becoming increasingly popular in the war against... um...druids, hippies and anti-fascists apparently.
Picture courtesy of Schnews

33 comments:

Metcountymounty said...

OK, so you guys complain about the police 'wasting money' all the time on surveillance, one of the most expensive single surveillance resources is a manned helicopter. So the Police invest in new technology and deploy a resource that costs a quarter of the amount for the same result and you still complain? Get real. Considering that an eye in the sky gives a more accurate view to the commanders on the ground and helps to control the amount of resources used at a demo, to not use it would be insane. To not try and have as much aerial support as possible in everyday policing would be like refusing to use cars because they kick out CO2.

I was at a job a couple of months ago where we nicked a couple of burglars after a chase over a couple of rooftops and the suspects tried hiding away. It was 3 in the morning and we'd been hammered for non residential burglaries and the MO of this job was the same. The only way we found them was because of the IR camera on the helicopter. When we got back to the nick there were EIGHT linked cad messages to the original call from the guy who had seen them and called us. Every one of them was complaining about the helicopter being up over their house at night and waking them up. As tempting as it was to go round at 3-4am and tell each one that we had been arresting burglars - LIKE THEY WANT US TO - we didn't. We carried on as usual knowing that we are out doing the job we are paid to do and that other most people haven't got a clue about and constantly slag us off.

Air support is an absolutely invaluable resource and having a unit that is immediately deployable, virtually silent in comparison to a Eurocopter, and yet still has the same tech levels? I'd rip the hand off anyone offering us one, and the fact that it costs a fraction of a manned helicopter is a bargain.

As soon as I read about the plan to use UAV's a couple of years ago I knew it was inevitable that people would roll out the usual "1984!!" comments but we're between a rock and a hard place. Demos are only a small part of what we do.

Anonymous said...

Why is it the people so quick to throw 1984 in the polices faces forget Georges

"We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm"?

Clovis said...

anonymous 1451

if that's the case, i'm sure you can enlighten us as to the harm jean charles de menezes, patrick quinn, ian tomlinson - or, from the 80s, john shorthouse - were looking to do 'us'.

Anonymous said...

and how many countless others Clovis who WERE out to do others harm and were stopped by Police officers? You'll never hear about them because that is what the Police are supposed to do and "police arrest burglar" isn't a paper selling headline is it compared to when a death is concerned. Where people are involved you will get mistakes made, sometimes terrible ones, the only other options are to take people out of the equation completely, or do nothing. ED209 or living in a nest of vipers anyone? no thanks.

Anonymous said...

@Metcountymounty and A/C:-

Can you explain how the druids and a bunch of hippies are out to "do us harm" at the summer solstice?

Of course you can't because they're not.

Finding actual thieves and violent offenders with this technology isn't the problem here, it's the monitoring of peaceful people that is.

And that's the problem with FIT in general, protesters (and it seems eco one's in particular) are being treated like enemies of the state by the Police without actually committing any crime.

That's what Police in Police states do, they harass and intimidate ordinary (law abiding) people hence all the 1984 comments.

I hope one day you realise why FIT are being asked to do what they do and then help re-focus their "objective" onto something more productive for society at large.

BBB

Metcountymounty said...

BBB, considering that stone henge is one of our most important world heritage sites which has been damaged and defaced before at summer soltice gatherings, is there any reason you can seriously suggest that the Police shouldn't monitor it other than 'they've promised to be nice'?? The argument here is that using a UAV is disproportionate to the threat of damage or disorder, despite the significant saving over a helicopter and crew who would have been deployed to it.

Anonymous said...

The silence is deafening.

Hishighness said...

My plan: Follow these officers around EVERYWHERE with a camera. From the moment they leave the house in the morning until the moment they return at night they should feel the cameras on them. Hey, they're in a public place right?

ACAB said...

So, how much criminal damage was deteced by the UAVs? There are people afraid to leave their homes because they fear crime, and yet the police continue to swamp and destroy any kind of festival or gathering where people could previously enjoy themselves. Freedom is being eroded and its a dead cert that if there hadn't been a single copper at Stonehenge, there would have been no arrests whatsoever. Saving money with drones is not the point, its the total overkill that we encounter at gatherings.

Anonymous said...

er ok ACAB, so the fact that gatherings at the soltice were banned for so long because they weren't policed and the site was damaged didn't happen? It's not the Druids who are the problem it's the other fuckwits who turn up and ruin it for everyone else. Nice to see yet another Fitwatch reader ignoring history for an excuse to have a go at the police. So ACAB you'd be more than happy to let anyone and everyone go there and run the risk of yet more damage to a world heritage site would you?

ACAB said...

"So ACAB you'd be more than happy to let anyone and everyone go there and run the risk of yet more damage to a world heritage site would you?"

yup - them stones have stood for along time - i think they're a lot more robust than our freedom is at the moment. I'd trust other people on the site to stop anything serrious from happening.

Now, how many vandals did them drones catch?

You forgot to say

Anonymous said...

what a ridiculous question? How many vandals got to the site because of the Police lock down on anyone apart from those authorised to get to it to celebrate the solstice? Obviously none? You seem to suggest its a sign of the Police being disproportionate that nothing happened so why were they there?

Ever heard of PREVENTION?

What about all those people who never walked into your house, BECAUSE YOU'VE GOT A DOOR. Never had someone do it? then take your door off and see what happens then if you have such a lack of faith in prevention.

Stone Henge belongs to everyone and should be protected from even one idiot wanting to break a piece off, carve there name into it or spray grafitti all over it, and because it has been damaged in the past it should be protected.

Anonymous said...

oh, and trusting other people on the site to stop it worked before? What was the reason for gatherings being banned in 1978 again? oh that's right, people got pissed up and caused damage to the site. Trusting others to stop it worked wonders didn't it?

Anonymous said...

So if the police stop anyone who might be a vandal from going, why do we need the UAVs?

Anonymous said...

because unless you have a ring of officers linked arm to arm around the entire site to stop anyone unwanted getting through fences/barriers or road blocks etc(with reserves for breaks because standing for 20 hours without a drink or a break is bloody uncomfortable) the the best way to have a view of everything going on is from the air. The cost of having that many officers would be massive in comparison to an air unit and the best way to reduce the cost of the air unit is to have an unmanned vehicle controlled from the ground.

Anonymous said...

So, unwanted people could get in, and the UAV couldn't stop anything happening, just direct officers towards people who were causing trouble.

That kind of blows the door analogy out of the water, doesn't it?

Fighting Fit said...

Quite right MCM, it's obvious. Make sure we are all tagged, monitored 24 hours a day, and immediately restrained if we step out of line. Then there'll be no crime will there? Won't that be lovely.

Anonymous said...

So, just to clarify, you'd rather have a ring and a reserve of several hundreds officers costing tens of thousands of pounds to plug every possible gap, rather than have an aerial view (thats costs significantly less) of vulnerable points that you could deploy people to if they were ever needed would you? Kind of good that you clearly aren't involved in any form of resource management, because you haven't got a clue. And you suggest a UAV looks more oppresive and unnecessary than a ring of police officers?

Anonymous said...

So, just to clarify, you'd rather have a ring and a reserve of several hundreds officers costing tens of thousands of pounds to plug every possible gap, rather than have an aerial view (thats costs significantly less) of vulnerable points that you could deploy people to if they were ever needed would you? Kind of good that you clearly aren't involved in any form of resource management, because you haven't got a clue. And you suggest a UAV looks more oppresive and unnecessary than a ring of police officers?

Anonymous said...

Does that mean the police will stop putting lots of 'oppressive' officers on the ground if they can have the drone? Yeah, probably settle for that. Not going to happen though, is it? The buggers insist on doing both.

AM said...

Metcountymounty, the point is policing public events such as stone henge, etc. does not need a heavy police presence as it is clearly disproportionate to the disorder that could be caused. While it is important to protect this site, it is disproportionate to do this by using tactics that give the effect of preventing people enjoying their right to freedom of assembly by making such assembly uncomfortable.

I can only assume that you would prefer to be preventing the murders, rapes or assaults that are happening on a daily basis than protecting property – it is a wholly disproportionate waste of police funds to have large numbers of police at protests, events, etc. when people waiting for a response for crimes against the person or at peoples homes are ignored and put off because of lack of resources.

If you go to a police station and report a crime you will be waiting for hours. But there is always a team to deal with a couple of people with banners.

Metcountymounty said...

Fighting Fit - bit of a straw man comment wasn't it considering I never said that?

AM - the entire point of having an aerial unit means that you don't have to spend so much by having more people on the ground, and the point of the unmanned unit means a significant saving on costs. If you took the air support away you'd need many more officers to establish the same level of protection around the site, which would of course be excessive and costly.

As for the need to even Policing the Stone Henge gathering, it's one of the most important archaeological sites in the country and as one poster pointed out it's a world heritage site. In most countries you can't even get onto similar sites for even religious festivals, let alone have mass gatherings there for people to get pissed and treat it like a big house party and trash it as some have in the past.

As for Policing at demos I've worked in literally hundreds over the last few years thanks to that utter bullshit and ridiculous piece of legislation, Socpa. The vast majority don't need and subsequently don't get any Police presence beyond a couple of us going down to meet the organisers to make sure everything runs as it should. The problems come at large scale demos (and therefor popular with media/activists) that have either a previous history of trouble or a known element attending them, we HAVE to police them, it's our job. If the world was such a lovely huggy place we'd never have had anything like J18 or the mayday riots (unless of course you blame the Police for starting all the trouble or using agents provocateur) and to suggest that if we left everyone to it then nothing would happen because the rest would keep them in check is unfathomably naive.

Personally I think we should not police the next big job like G20 as it would go either one of two ways. If nothing happens then great, the peace loving activists would be right, we can scale back policing at demonstrations and then people like me can get on with actual Police work like answering calls and nicking criminals instead of getting abstracted from our desperately short teams. If it turns into mayhem we'd obviously get the blame for not sorting it out (as usual) and leaving innocent members of the public in the middle, but at least the tactics, justification and personnel/resources questions would be answered once and for all.

That is, until people start ignoring history at the next big demo of course.

AM said...

Metcountymounty, I'm not suggesting that you do not police big events at all, but why is it necessary to have either a huge police presence or a aerial unit. Where there is only a minority of people that would want to harm the site and a majority that would seek to protect it, surely if you lot didn't have such a bad reputation (rightly or otherwise), a few cops working closely with the religious groups at the site would be able to protect the stones. This would be proportionate to the possible disorder and would free up officers to deal with crimes against the person. The implied argument this type of policing makes is that property is more important than life.

In many cases police turn up and disrupt even the smallest of demos. I am an animal rights activist (I know I must be a dangerous extremist) and have had a police officer use Section 14 to move 2 of us quietly leafleting for example. Bigger animal rights demos also get a lot of attention, not it seems because of the probable level of expected disorder but because the police seem to want to get their own back on the aboveground movement for the underground that they can't catch.

Metcountymounty said...

AM - nearly all of the events I've worked on there has been a good dialogue between the organisers and the police, at some though (sipson and G20 for example) they either refuse to speak to us or those who do, don't speak for the whole group anyway. Do you have any idea how many police officers were at Stone Henge as I don't. What I do know is having an aerial unit saves numbers on the ground and enables those who are there to plan more fluidly and with some time instead of having to react to anything that suddenly happens. There is a great deal of assumption here that the Druids and the officers there were not talking to each other anyway and that they are the ones being policed. I know people who attended the soltice last year and they aren't the problem, it's the people who think they can just turn up and treat the site like their garden and trash it. It's got nothing to do with controlling expression or freedoms but all about protecting the site.

Really Fit said...

There are a nice set of images and info on the drone here

http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2009/08/436590.html

It costs £25,000 apparently, and can be operated for 30 mins at a height up to 1000m.

If any particularly wealthy people would like to donate £25,000, so that FITwatch could have one too, that'd be great. Then we could keep an eye on FIT wherever they went - purely to prevent crime and reassure the public of course.

PS It's a bit off topic, but as I remember it the main reason for Stonehenge being banned was that it was a free festival at which people were consuming lots of illegal drugs. And because free festivals were stopping the likes of Glastonbury from charging humdreds of pounds per head.

It's hard to imagine now, but in them days people could just get together and put some music on, without jumping through countless legal hoops and paying extortionate protection money to the local constabulary.

In fact we used to manage most things without stupid numbers of coppers and state of the art surveillance techniques. However did we survive?

AM said...

Metcountymounty, seriously so-called 'prevention' in terms of property and minor public disorder has gone way to far as Really Fit has said people did it in the past just fine. Of course, you can prevent disorder by going into over kill, but you could stop a lot of crime by putting CCTV in peoples homes, doesn't make it right.

Fight crime, you are not private security.

Anonymous said...

When an organisation pays for police presence such as at film premieres, football, bafta type events then that's exactly what they are as the service is paid for by the company or organisation holding it. It's called a service level agreement and it happens all the time, if the soltice is a service level job then all the arguments about police oppression etc become a moot point especially as not one taxpayer penny is going into it. And before anyone suggests that because they are being privately paid for then they don't hold the powers of the office of constable, it's already been tested and ruled on by the high court and they do.

Aran said...

@ Anonymous 10:49

Oh that's just want we need a police service acting in the intrests of private pay masters. Well, they do it anyway so why not make it clear who they really serve, I guess.

Dez Zilla said...

Ok, deep breath.

Why is unmanned aerial surveillance so good? For one, you haven't got a bunch of coppers in helmets and stab vests getting nervous because they're in the middle of a crowd of people they don't necessarily understand. Then, you haven't got a bunch of protesters getting nervous because they're being watched by a bunch of nervous coppers they don't understand. No people, no confrontation.

Now the best bit. It has been mentioned that innocent, peaceful people are being monitored. You're damned right they are. You know why? Because there is ALWAYS at least one idiot who doesn't care what the cause is and turns up at a demonstration for a fight. Unfortunately it is all too easy to turn a demonstration into a riot. One person throwing a couple of bricks at policemen is all it takes. So we NEED an eye in the sky, to reduce this kind of incident.

Dez Zilla said...

One more thing, completely off-track, but for the benefit of Clovis: De Menezes. The bloke was in a surveilled location, wasn't supposed to be here and there was a fair amount of pressure on the authorities to protect us from people who wanted to blow us all up. I was in Central London on a couple of thursdays that made the news that summer and it was bloody tense. I was nervous, and I wasn't charged with protecting hundreds of thousands of others. Put it this way, De Menezes was bloody unlucky to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Under the pressure, I would have pulled that trigger.

Alright, a second other thing. Want to be able to prove your innocence? The imagery from that UAV might save you!

Anonymous said...

@Dez Zilla

First off as we all know from first hand experience nothing that could help us is ever captured by police, when we are attacked, etc the camera suddenly isn't working or pointing the right way. Secondly, we might accept aerial surveillance if it meant there would not be “a bunch of coppers in helmets and stab vests getting nervous” as you put it as well. However the reality is the police will use both and therefore we have nothing to gain from this surveillance.

ACAB said...

Anonymous: 19 August 2009 08:24

Ever heard of PREVENTION?

Yes indeed - the prevention of protest and gatherings is one of the main roles we have become accustomed to seeing police in over the last few years.

My guess is that most of the great British public would rather that massive police operations were used to deal with more deadly crimes, rather than having several hundred cops standing around fields trying to stop people have a meet up or a bit of a dance.

But you thugs might find that a bit more taxing - its easier to go for politicos and hippies in the long run.

Lua said...

it is clearly a disproportionate use of technology to spy on a bunch of Druids/hippies at Henge but this is not an argument about when and where it is right to use drones. Fundamentally, civil liberties should not be curtailed to make the job of the police easier.