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Policewatch Films

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Police all out to gather intelligence on EDL and Counter Demo.

Their key objective for the day was 'to gather intelligence', said the Thames Valley FIT officer who was busy photographing a small crowd of people who had gathered to oppose the EDL in Market Square, Aylesbury. Earlier evidence gathering teams had been hovering, photographing and filming the stop and search operation that was focused on Vale Park, the location of the main anti-edl demo. This is an established and efficient way of getting the names, addresses and photos of the young, radical looking people who turn up.
The EDL fared much the same. As they got off the buses one by one, the FIT got perfect head and shoulders shots of each of them. There were no shortage of police cameras. Thames Valley had drafted in FIT from various other forces, including Greater Manchester, Northamptonshire and the West Midlands.

As always on these occasions, the intelligence gathering was co-ordinated by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), this time by Ian Skivens (above right), a Met cop on secondment to the NPOIU. The NPOIU is a private company run by ACPO, which collects, collates and analyses intelligence on 'domestic extremism'. Skivens spent his time at Aylesbury in the company of a Thames Valley FIT cop, 3465 (above left) who was sporting a digital stills camera with a very long lens.
Photos from Aylesbury, whether they are of EDL or from the counter demo, will find their way to Scotland Yard for NPOIU analysis. The images and data will be 'weeded' for intelligence value and put on a database, or more probably, a number of different databases. This intelligence is then available for any police force, agency, or other 'appropriate' body to use.

Some people will say, the EDL, rascist thugs, they deserve it. But the powers the police use against one side - the EDL - will also be used against the 'other side', anti-fascists, Muslim communities and local people. You don't need to have done anything unlawful to end up on a police file. And in the anti-terrorism hysteria of our times, it is probably the Muslim communities who have most to fear from inclusion on an extremism database.

On the streets of Aylesbury the biggest enemies to freedom and tolerance were probably the ones with the yellow and blue coats.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Comment on Smellie Acquittal

[This is a personal piece reflecting the views of one fitwatcher]

Sergeant Smellie’s acquittal yesterday at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court, whilst disappointing, is hardly surprising. Many Fitwatchers know Smellie from his days as AB42 when he was often deployed in a FIT capacity and was frequently nasty, smug and aggressive, and whilst his attack upon Nicky Fisher wasn’t pleasant or justifiable, it was far from the worst of the G20 assaults.

However, the reality is the court was never going to believe Nicky Fisher over Smellie when she didn’t bother turning up for court. Under these circumstances it is surprising the trial even went ahead – if I was facing charges of assaulting a police officer and the cop didn’t show up, I would expect the case to be dropped, and I suspect only political expediency ensured the case’s progression.

Smellie’s defence, whilst smattered with bullshit, was credible enough to pass the beyond reasonable doubt test of British justice especially when two prosecution witnesses testified unfavourably reagarding Fisher’s behaviour. There may be conspiracy theories as to why the prosecution called witnesses who undermined their case, but I suspect it may be nothing more than an inept, lazy Crown Prosecution Service to blame.

Unfortunately, this case has acted as a smokescreen meaning the important questions were not asked and the right people not challenged. Smellie was following orders to clear the road and was doing so in the manner he was trained. Only following orders is not a defence under any circumstances, but attempting to prosecute Smellie without seeking to blame the officers who gave the orders is meaningless. Equally, prosecuting him for following his training in acting like a violent thug is meaningless without questioning his training and deployment.

Meanwhile there has been no justice for Ian Tomlinson. The identity of the police officer who attacked him is still unknown, and the FIT officers involved, Discombe and Palfry are still policing our protests. Of the 212 complaints forwarded to the IPCC none have had any kind of meaningful resolution.

Perhaps the only good which can come out of this debacle is lack of faith in the system. Real change will only occur when we stop relying on public/political bodies to fight our battles for us. It is down to ordinary people everywhere to hold the police to account, and this will only happen when we stop playing the victim and start fighting back.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

English FIT working in Scotland

We recieved this report about FIT presence at the recent EDL and counter demonstrations in Edinburgh.

Just a wee update about the general FIT presence in Scotland.

Last Saturday seen the largest FIT presence on the streets of Edinburgh since the G8. Ian Skivins, Mark Scully and Paul Mathers from London, one photographer from Manchester
(see pics), and loads from Edinburgh and Glasgow were all spotted.

The sight of Glasgow FIT is new as previously Strathclyde Police have steered away from met style policing. During the G8 in scotland the officer in charge of policing the Faslane demo deliberately kept the Met's FIT in the canteen so that they wouldn't " wind people up" (his own words). The Glasgow FIT have a darker shade of blue on their jackets and so are quite recognisable.

Many of the Edinburgh FIT are familiar faces to many activists in Edinburgh and were used extensively during Novembers anti-NATO demo's, including following people into several cafes and pubs and hassling the staff into making them leave, and following people around the city, in some cases for hours. Also, interestingly, Ian Casswell visited Mainshill during the eviction in plain black clothing. Shame for him his bearded mug is instantly recognisable and his attempts at sparking up conversation were met with abuse.

The Manchester cop shown above (1407) appears to be a fairly recent addition to the team of 'national' FIT that keep appearing in demos up and down the country. As well as showing up in Edinburgh, he was spotted in Brighton last month. We'd love to know a little more about him. If anyone has had any previous involvement with him, or if anyone has just seen him hanging around, please contact

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Harsh sentences for Gaza protesters

Further harsh sentences were doled out yesterday as more of those arrested at the Gaza demonstrations last year attended Isleworth Crown Court for sentencing. A total of fifty people are to be sentenced for taking part in violent disorder during the protests outside the Israeli Embassy in Kensington last January. Previous sentencing has ranged between twelve months and two and a half years.

A further two defendants, both described as being of ‘exemplary character’ were yesterday sentenced to two years imprisonment. Another, for whom this was also a first offence, was sent down for 12 months. Four who had been under 18 at the time of the offence received detention orders ranging from 8 to 12 months. One was given a suspended sentence on grounds of mental illness, and two others were adjourned for pre-sentence reports.

The court was told how the defendants were fighting with police, although most of the allegations were of throwing or hitting out with flimsy placard sticks at riot police in full protective gear. A few of the defendants were also accused of ‘assisting’ others with picking up and throwing crowd control barriers that had been used by police to kettle protesters.. But there were no reports of any injuries sustained by anyone as a result of their actions. One man, a university student, got twelve months for throwing a single missile. His family sobbed in the gallery.

The court was not told about – nor seemed at all interested in - the context in which this violence happened. The court was not told about the police violence that was meted out on Gaza protesters during the numerous protests that took place in December and January last winter. How protesters were forced into pens, despite the crush that this caused. That protesters slow to move were pushed, shoved and sworn at, and those who objected, or who tried to move back barriers were hit with shields and batons.

Neither was the court interested in the political situation that was unfolding at the time. One of the defendants had recently visited part of his family in Gaza, a family including young children who were inevitably suffering under the brutal and unlawful military offensive that Israel had launched. It mattered not at all. He was sentenced to two years.

The Judge made it clear that the aim of these sentences was to act as a ‘deterrent to others’. It was not the behaviour of the individual that was important, he said, but the collective behaviour of the crowd.

These sentences cannot be seen as anything other than political, given the sustained effort and committment the state has put in to bringing so many people before the courts. The ‘deterrent’ effect intended is surely that of making Muslim communities fearful of taking to the streets again.
Other coverage:
And further info on the

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Gaza report condemns policing

The Islamic Human Rights Commission today released a damning report of the policing of the Gaza demonstrations in December 08 and January 09.

The report highlights the unnecessary and brutal use of force by the Metropolitan police as well as the practice of crushing protesters into protest 'pens' and the discriminatory treatment of Muslim protesters.

It also heavily criticises the use of Forward Intelligence Teams.

From the report:

i) The Role and Function of Forward Intelligence Teams (FITs)

IHRC is concerned about the role and function of FITs and their potential impact on Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), Article 10 (freedom of expression), Article 11 (freedom of peaceful assembly and association) andArticle 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the ECHR. For the duration of the London Gaza demonstrations, there was an obvious and extensive presence of FITs.105 On occasion, IHRC observers noted that visiblyMuslim activists were closely studied; for example, an IHRC volunteer had to give her details, as she was video recorded for selling merchandise. She claimed thatmembers from other organisations were not harassed for selling their merchandise. Moreover, she claims that FITmembers dealt with her in an aggressive and intimidating fashion.

Subsequent to the BBC protest in Trafalgar Square (24 January 2009), a group of pro-Palestinian protesters were surrounded, cornered into a side street (near the theatre in Leicester Square) and made to line up against the wall. Each protester was ‘meticulously’ video-recorded and photographed. Pictorial evidence clearly depicts this scene and a witness stated that members of the pro-Palestinian contingent were made to say something in front of the camera.106 IHRC is concerned that FITs may be overreaching powers granted by virtue of section 50 PRA. Furthermore, IHRC expresses disquiet over reports of harassment and
house raids of those who had provided theMPS with personal details for the duration of the London Gaza demonstrations.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Monitoring Network Keeps the Spotlight on Police Brutality

With the police adopting an increasingly confrontational and often violent approach to maintaining ‘order’ at public protests, the presence of trained legal observers, to collect information that may be helpful in later court proceedings and assist activists who are arrested or need medical attention, has become essential. Their focus is on the safety of demonstrators, without which the ‘right to protest’ is severely undermined if people are intimidated by the fear of police brutality from taking part in one of the vital elements of a democratic society.

At the G20 protests in April 2009, senior police officers sanctioned excessive force with an apparent expectation, based on previous experience, that the press and the public wouldn’t that much care about protesters. Taken aback by the spotlight placed upon them by the storm of complaints that followed, particularly the video evidence from members of the public that provided evidence of violent conduct, the police have been forced onto the defensive. So far this has led directly to the review of public order policing, Adapting to Protest, by Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Dennis O’Connor and the extremely low-key policing of last summer’s Climate Camp in Blackheath. Whether the review will really change anything and how long the new approach to policing protests will last, however, is far from certain. Much will depend on maintaining a constant level of scrutiny on police tactics and conduct.

With little confidence in public bodies like the Independent Police Complaints Commission and to try and ensure that attention remains focused on the policing of protest, four experienced organisations have set up the Police Monitoring Network to train and collate information from ‘police monitors’ at demonstrations around the country.

Members of the network include the legal team from Climate Camp, FITwatch (who monitoring oppressive surveillance by police ‘forward intelligence’ teams), the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group (who provide legal observers at demonstrations and grew out of the Trafalgar Square Defendants Campaign and Poll Tax Prisoners Support Group) and Newham Monitoring Project (an east London community organisation that has supported black communities to challenge police misconduct since 1980). They are joined by solicitors with expertise in civil actions against the police.

Police monitors will complement the role provided by legal observers in ensuring the safety of demonstrators but will focus specifically on scrutinising the actions of the police – whether, for example, police officers are covering identification numbers or psyching themselves up for violence and when police commanders are using tactics like kettling" that increase the likelihood of confrontation.

Training for police monitors, aimed initially at those who already have experience as legal observers, is planned for March 2010 and a website will be up and running shortly. For further information, contact FITwatch at

Monday, 1 February 2010

FIT at Stop the War

An estimated 600 police were on duty last Friday to police the Stop the War protest outside the QEII conference centre where Blair was giving evidence to the Iraq war inquiry. They probably outnumbered the protesters.
The demonstration had been stopped from assembling on the green of the QEII centre as they'd planned, and was instead coralled, without resistance, into Storey's gate and other side roads. There the policing relaxed, and as the day wore on, the ring of police and protesters around the conference centre began to resemble a giant square dance, unlikely to erupt into anything more threatening than an impromptu do-si-do.

The FIT, on the other hand, were keen to keep up their usual brand of intimidation and harassment. Photographer Neal Williams (pictured), along with his FIT minder, hovered behind the lines of TSG, every few minutes firing his camera flashgun in the faces of those picked out as 'potential trouble-makers'.

And the Hammersmith and Fulham cop (FH70), pictured top left, entered enthusiastically into the spirit of things, ordering three stop and searches, and at least one arrest for breach of the peace. He was a little too keen, perhaps, to impress his friends in the public order unit.
Pictures: Sgt FH70; Public Order police from Scotland Yard's CO11, CO5090 and Chief Inspector; Neal Williams, FIT photographer.