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Policewatch Films

Thursday, 30 April 2009

The Essex globetrotter

Some of you will recall the Essex FIT officer, 13, who was in London for the Put People First march on 28 March. Not content with tripping to London for that, he's also been seen keeping an eye on a range of unsavoury right-wingers in Newcastle at a St George's day rally, none of whom appear in the pictures. Curiously he was with that other well known travelling cop, 1818, who we covered a couple of years ago.
London - 28/03/09
Then Newcastle for George's Day

1818 - coming soon to a demo near you

Questions to answer

Outside City Hall today was a man who should have been inside, helping the Met Police Authority with their enquiries. Here seen on the right, PC Alan Palfrey, EK127, who appears to have witnessed the incident immediately preceding Ian Tomlinson's death, was not in the chamber, but rather watching demonstrators outside City Hall, along with the copper formerly known as 'Laughing Boy,' CO5466 Cowlin. He's not laughing now. But then who would, when paired with a man with as dubious a sense of humour as Alan Palfrey.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Brighton Mayday - Continuing the Resistance

Much publicity (including our own) surrounding the G20 has been based on portraying protesters as victims, instead of celebrating our victories. Both at the G20 and at other demonstrations throughout the last year, people have increasingly been adopting militant tactics and refusing to submit to oppressive policing.

EDO protests in Brighton have been prime examples in this trend. FIT teams have been kept on the run, police lines have been broken, and space has been reclaimed. Protesters have set the terms of their own demonstrations, and despite massive attempts at intimidation, have been extremely successful.

This year, Mayday celebrations will be focused in Brighton with Smash EDO calling for a "mass street party against war and greed." Fitwatch will be supporting this call and are asking for as many people as possible to adopt Fitwatch tactics and shut the evidence gatherers down.

Given the G20 publicity, policing Brighton Mayday will be in the spotlight. The FIT teams and their masters at the Public Order Unit are responsible for the G20 policing, and they are responsible for Ian Tomlinson's death. We must show we will not tolerate these officers on our demonstrations, and we must hold them to account for their actions.

We are not all victims. Some of us are fighting back. Join Fitwatch and continue this resistance.

There will also be a Fitwatch workshop in Brighton at the Anti-Militarist Gathering at the Cowley Club, 10am, 3rd May.

Friday, 24 April 2009

The tactics of containment

It has been very interesting in the last few days, to read the range of comments posted here about the police justification of policing the G20 protest and the tactics of containment.

It has been particularly interesting to get some views from TSG officers themselves. One, going by the name of MCM comments, “we were doing our job, we were doing what we were told and we were getting on with it and we were doing exactly what we were trained to do. If you don't agree with the training then fine, but don't try and persecute us for doing what we are trained to do.”

Personally speaking, I can’t help but agree that the officers highlighted in the G20 footage were doing nothing out of the ordinary. It may not have been justifiable – as was also said on the comments page, protesters behaving the same way would “be in front of a magistrate within days”. But it certainly wasn’t unusual. For many years now the police have been operating a policy of containment (as opposed to dispersal) of demonstrators, and this is what it looks like. It is close up, and involves kettles and cordons and inevitable pushing and shoving of protesters with hands or shields and the extensive use of batons. As MCM says, “this has been going on for years - especially at football - because we are trained to Police public order situations that way.”

Containment as a tactic was developed by the police as a way of avoiding the sort of full-on confrontation seen at the Poll tax protest in 1990. According to many commentators, including academics and police themselves, the widespread violence was largely caused by police dispersal tactics, such as baton charges and horses being ridden at crowds of people. The criminologist academic Peter Waddington suggested that the police should have contained rather than dispersed the crowd, and the tactic of ‘kettling’ was born.

Containment has been widely criticised, apart from the violence inherent in it, because it involves the lengthy detainment of people who have committed no offence. MCM’s views on this are revealing. “The tactic of containment or kettling DOES work however, by having a significant majority of people who don't want trouble they naturally keep the minority in check, even after many hours of getting bored and pissed off.” I suspect that ‘the significant majority’ may have some understandable objections about being held for hours on end, without water, without food, without toilets, sometimes in the cold or wet, just to ‘keep the minority in check’.

As a tactic containment has surely has reached the end of the line. For years it has been a disaster waiting to happen, and now it has resulted in a death. I stand to be corrected, but as far as I know, the UK police are the only ones in Europe to operate such a strategy. Police elsewhere in Europe adopt more of a stand-off approach, interfering less and using dispersal methods (tear gas, water cannon) from a distance in cases of disorder. Police have criticised this idea as being even more likely to produce injury, but I have no figures on this. But clearly has the significant advantage of allowing people to go home!

Yet European tactics seem unlikely to be adopted here. It runs counter to the UK police’s philosophy of ‘preventative policing’, and I suspect that CO11 and their FIT teams will be particularly loath to let the ‘kettles’ go. They have provided extraordinarily useful opportunities for CO11 and their FIT teams to get photos and personal details of political protesters. In fact, I suspect ‘kettles’ have sometimes been formed for entirely that purpose.

So where will we go from here? I suspect we may see attempts, by police and by press, to make divisions in political protest between the good protesters (law abiding and compliant) and the bad protesters (those who object to having their movements restricted, who defend themselves from police batons, who push at police lines or who may be prepared to damage property in expression of their dissent). The politicians will then seek to give more freedom to the former, whilst putting even more restrictions on the latter.

I fear that the police focus on ‘preventative policing’ of demonstrations will end up being strengthened rather than weakened. This could lead to ‘bad protesters’ being treated increasingly like terrorists, having their movements monitored and being pulled from their beds in ‘anticipation’ of crime or public disorder. Not unlike the action taken against a group in Nottingham last week. Given the ease with which the police can currently go after suspected ‘terrorists’ without apparently even a shred of evidence, that is a worrying thought indeed.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope that all the G20 coverage and the awakening of middle England in outrage at police brutality will bring about a greater degree of freedom for all of us. But I'm not holding my breath. Instead, I think it will ultimately be down to us to get a hell of a lot better at protecting ourselves (and others) from G20 style policing.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Your number's up

This is CO5466 Cowlin, pictured on 2 April at the Royal Exchange with EK127 Alan Palfrey. Curiously, while Cowlin's shoulder number should be CO5466, here he appears to be modelling CO5456. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

FIT at heart of the violence

Seasoned Fitwatchers won't be surprised by the number of times the FIT appear in footage of brutal police violence from 1 April. People who were at the G8 in Scotland in 2005 will remember the numerous examples of FIT officers deciding that gaining intelligence was less fun that having a whack at demonstrators. Over the last four years the FIT have lost none of the appetite for violence, which has given a new meaning to their stated aim of establishing a rapport with protesters.

Footage obtained by the Guardian shows how they were consistently present when the police decided to kick things off. They were consistently present when random people were assaulted. They were consistent, again, in their utter disregard for the legal niceties of what they and their colleagues were up to.

This is the true face of the FIT: orchestrating an atmosphere in which the TSG are given free rein to thump people. The FIT played a core role in creating this atmosphere, through their intelligence briefings, through their behaviour on the day, and through the authority of those among their number who are public order tactical advisers. They need disorder to keep themselves in a job, and it certainly doesn't do their part-time members' pay packets any harm.

If the police are targeting 'known troublemakers' they're doing a very good job of concealing it. 

None of this, of course, is news to those who have suffered the malign attentions of the FIT in the past. What's most interesting here is the scale to which the Met have lost the plot, where Bob Broadhurst, Ian Thomas, David Hartshorn and their coterie thought they could have a police riot in the City of London and no one would be any the wiser. We're not talking about minor, bit-part players who cooked up a police riot. This is the cream of the public order cadre of the Met, the premier police force in the country - and further afield, if you believe police propaganda.

Today Sir Paul Stephenson announced that the Inspectorate of Constabulary would conduct a review of the public order policing of the G20 protest. This is surely a means by which he hopes to avoid a full-scale public inquiry. But as evidence mounts up of a deliberate and carefully planned police operation - which was guided from the GT control room in Lambeth - having one more police investigation into the police is completely unacceptable. There is no doubt that this was planned and executed from the top, and it is unimaginable that Stephenson was not kept in intimate contact with the events of 1 April.

Where does this leave the FIT? Frankly, less than a year ago they thought they had US on the run, having finally managed to secure a few convictions, in the process of being appealed. Now, they dare not even attend a protest about policing - the memorial march for Ian Tomlinson - with their blue tabards on. The entire public order policing structure of the Met's left looking very fragile. The boot's very much on the other foot. 

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Former Fit Officer Suspended Over G20 Assault

Picture from Indymedia of the cop who assaulted a protester without his number.

Picture from Fitwatch archives of him when he was less shy about showing us his number.

Another Picture

As more evidence of police brutality at the G20 emerges, another officer has been suspended, this time a former FIT officer, AB42 when we knew him, and now a sergeant in the TSG.

Yet another video shows FIT officers casually observing their former colleague violently assaulting a protester attending a memorial demonstration.

This level of violence is nothing new, and this is the point we need to keep emphasising. This wasn't a one off example of a few cops getting a bit out of control, it is their normal behaviour. I haven't found these images shocking because I've witnessed and experienced it too many times.

We musn't keep letting the bastards get away it - they must be held to account for their actions by all and any means necessary.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Identity of FIT Officers Implicated in G20 Death

Identifying the individual FIT officers involved in the incident which led to the death of Ian Tomlinson isn’t easy. We know several FIT officers were present from the blue tabards on their jackets, but telling them apart is another matter – they have helmets hiding their faces, and their numbers are not prominent.

However, due to independent identification from a number of seasoned Fitwatchers, we now believe we can reveal the identity of two of them:

Steve Discombe – CO 2558 – a full time public order officer from New Scotland Yard.

Alan Palfrey – EK 127 – a part time FIT copper from Camden.

Obviously,under the circumstances, there is immense difficulty in correctly identifying these officers. However, from what we know at the moment, it seems likely these two were involved.

It is regrettable that it falls to us to attempt to identify these officers. A truly accountable police force would have expected these officers both to publicly identify themselves, and to give an open and honest account of their actions.

These two FIT officers are well known to FITwatchers, having perpetrated some particularly unpleasant, aggressive and violent policing over the years. They have been involved in climate camp policing over the last two years, and have policed the G8 as well as anti-war protests both in London and beyond.

For those who are not familiar with public order operations, police officers from CO11, like Discombe, have a major role in directing public order strategy both behind the scenes and on the ground. In this case, they may well have been directing the group of TSG officers responsible for the assault on Ian Tomlinson.

Should this be true, the FIT officers named above should share a large chunk of the responsibility for Tomlinson's death. It is easy to blame the foot soldier, but it is the general we really want to see in the dock.

Unfit for purpose

Much ink's been spilt on the tragic death of Ian Tomlinson. Some of the most pressing questions haven't yet been posed by the mainstream media, let alone answered. The footage aired on C4 News on 8 April clearly shows the officer who struck and pushed Mr Tomlinson subsequently approach a member of the FIT, several of whom are shown in the film. The FIT, a number of whom are public order tactical advisers, are among the most highly trained public order officers in the Met. Questions about Mr Tomlinson's fate must, therefore, involve questions about the FIT.

The FIT are ostensibly there to establish a rapport with demonstrators. Their remit frequently involves assisting senior officers in the handling of public order situations. They provide intelligence briefings which influence the policing of demonstrations. They are meant to identify potential troublemakers. By implication, this means they are also in a position to identify people who pose no risk, and - presumably - to leave them alone. These are the official reasons for the maintenance of the Met's Forward Intelligence Teams.

But none of the FIT shown on videos on the Guardian website or C4 News seem to think there's anything wrong with the vicious assault on Mr Tomlinson. None of them remonstrate with the TSG officer who struck and pushed Mr Tomlinson. Indeed, the evidence suggests that the FIT present colluded in a conspiracy of silence during the week it took the officer who attacked Mr Tomlinson to work up the guts to approach the IPCC.

None of the FIT present seem to have been able to work out that a middle-aged man with his hands in his pockets, a man walking away from the police, was no threat. If a specialist team tasked with identifying troublemakers - according to the police themselves - cannot determine that Mr Tomlinson is not a troublemaker, then they are in trouble. What is the point in a team supposed to tell the difference between 'good' and 'bad' protesters when they so clearly can't?

If the FIT are prepared to tolerate and even become complicit in assaults on random members of the public, what part can they play in advising senior officers on conducting public order operations? 

The FIT seem to have become core to the Met's policing of demonstrations, important out of all relation to their numbers - or abilities. The intelligence briefings they issued prior to April 1 almost certainly determined the way Bob Broadhurst and David Hartshorn decided to police the event. They therefore bear a great deal of the responsibility for the injuries dealt out by the police and for the death of Ian Tomlinson. Certainly, they did nothing to prevent the City of London becoming essentially a 'free-fire' zone for the police, in which people posing no possible threat to public order or police safety were assaulted in a systematic fashion.

A Metropolitan Police Authority committee is due to discuss the future of public order policing in London in June. Part of this must include the future of the Forward Intelligence Team. Beside the death of Ian Tomlinson, their long-term campaign to deter people from protesting may appear insignificant. But the death of Mr Tomlinson is a logical result of creating and maintaining a team like the FIT, an unaccountable cabal of self-serving officers who manipulate the policing of demonstrations to further their own careers. Many of the more lurid stories published in the run-up to the G20 protests probably emanated from the FIT, the people who claim to gather intelligence on protesters' intentions. Their commanding officer, Superintendent Hartshorn, set the tone with his comments about a 'summer of rage'; there's little doubt that with leadership like that, his subordinates were happy to create a climate in which the TSG and Level 2 officers out in the City on 1 April felt able to assault demonstrators, journalists and passers-by without much fear of any come-back. 

The FIT have carved out a niche for themselves whereby they profit from protest, and can orchestrate events to ensure their prophecies of disorder come true, keeping them in a job. Post-Tomlinson, can there be a place for such a unit within the Met?

Thursday, 9 April 2009

G20: The End of Peaceful Protest?

There can no longer be any doubt that the police were responsible for Ian Tomlinson’s death. Video evidence released over the last couple of days show clearly he was the victim of a vicious assault moments before he died.

Undoubtedly, the police will try and spin the story about the one bad copper pumped up by a bad situation. However, this simply isn’t the case. The violence and brutality shown by the police last week was commonplace, with masked up riot cops wading into peaceful climate camp protesters with batons and boots.

Furthermore, the reaction of the other officers reveals how endemic and normalised this level of violence has become within the MET. Not one of the officers present made any effort to restrain their colleague – as I have sometimes seen them do on other occasions – not one checks to see whether he is okay. The FIT officers standing directly in front of Tomlinson carry on their conversation seemingly oblivious to the violence perpetrated in front of them.

The media, which last week showed continual footage of protesters confronting the police, has this week miraculously found their footage of people being attacked by baton wielding riot cops in side streets. However, there has been no attempt to link these two facts, and engage in the argument that the protesters were justified to fight back against this policing. There has been wide spread criticism of the police kettling people for hours without access to food, water or toilet facilities, yet there has been no suggestion that protesters were justified to use force to free themselves from this situation. Instead, media reports still insist these people were there just to cause trouble, without believing in any cause, and were nothing more than violent thugs.

Violent anarchists have been blamed for the policing operation, and it is likely the effects of the violence perpetrated against the police will be used to justify this appalling assault against a man who was walking away from the police with his hands in his pockets. However, anyone who believes the police wouldn’t have used such force against protesters if no one had fought back is naive, as events at the Kingsnorth climate camp last summer proved.

Protest policing has changed. Boundaries have blurred, and there is no distinction in the way the police treat different groups of demonstrators. Unauthorised protest is not tolerated, and is broken up, often with extreme force. People are made to feel like criminals simply for attending a protest, whether it be by FIT’s constant flash photography, arbitrary stop and searches , or by being pushed and beaten. Rightly or wrongly, if the climate camp seriously wanted to keep their space for twenty four hours, they would have needed burning barricades and a large supply of molotovs alongside their cake and bunting.

Everyone who resisted the police, whether violently or not, are brave compassionate people who were prepared to risk a hell of a lot just to have a presence on the streets of London. The people who did fight back showed we can successfully challenge police lines, and it is encouraging to see this new emerging militancy continuing.

Ian Tomlinson was not a demonstrator, but he could have been, and it is a chilling reminder of the risks we take simply by being in the vicinity of a protest. Furthermore, the nature of the police attack on him would not have been any more or less justified had he been a demonstrator.

Greece was recently set on fire when a protester was killed. The police, terrified of civil unrest during the G20, lied in order to repress the collective rage which would have been expressed on the streets. They are hoping by the news being drip fed a week later this anger will be suppressed, but we musn’t let this happen.

Superintendent Hartshorn fabricated the “summer of rage” to scare people away from protests, and to justify massive police repression. Perhaps it’s time he finds out what a summer of rage really looks like.

Justice for Ian Tomlinson - Saturday 11th April, 11am, Bethnal Green police station.

Brighton Mayday - Monday 4th May, 12 noon.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

FIT at the G20 protests

A few familiar faces...

G20 protests London: Memorial Demo 2nd April 2009 _G104917

G20 protests London: Memorial Demo 2nd April 2009 _G104890 G20 protests London: Memorial Demo 2nd April 2009 _G104793

G20 protests London: Memorial Demo 2nd April 2009 _G104821

G20 protests London: Memorial Demo 2nd April 2009 _G104794 G20 protests London: Memorial Demo 2nd April 2009 _G104763

G20 protests London: Memorial Demo 2nd April 2009 _G104768

G20 protests London: Memorial Demo 2nd April 2009 _G104760

G20 protests London: Climate Camp _G104575

Sorry, but I just couldn't resist this one...

G20 protests London: Memorial Demo 2nd April 2009 _G104824

And whilst not precisely FIT, not entirely unrelated...

G20 protests London: Memorial Demo 2nd April 2009 _G104750

(Larger versions of all available from the G20 set on Flickr)

Saturday, 4 April 2009

FIT in the City

As was to be expected, the FIT were out in force in the City of London on Wednesday.

Not all of them were happy to be there.

Glenn Williams, ZD57, looking like he's swallowed a lemon while getting a shock.

The rest of the set can be seen here.