Unlike many FIT cops, who only take on FIT duties at major events, these two are full time intelligence officers for CO11, the public order unit of the Metropolitan police. For this reason alone they warrant being top of the table.
Discombe and Cowlin lead and direct FIT teams, making sure they gather their ‘intelligence’ on anyone who happens to attract their attention. Anyone they decide they don’t like – and that covers an awful lot of people – can end up hassled and harassed, followed around by camera teams or other FIT cops, photographed repeatedly, and stopped, searched or arrested to obtain personal details.
They decide who is ‘interesting’ enough to go on the CO11 image database, and on ‘spotter’ cards used to make sure the FIT teams all know who to give a hard time to.
Considering they spend a lot of time getting intelligence and photographs of other people, they are incredibly camera shy themselves. PC Cowlin claims he avoids the camera just to ‘wind us up’. But, while pulling down his hat and turning away he was heard to tell his FIT cop colleague, “They’re Fitwatch. Do you know what they do? They take your picture, and then it’s blazoned all over the internet!”
Discombe is very well known, and very much disliked, by many people across the spectrum of radical, anarchist or environmental politics. From climate camps to anti-war demos, maydays to TUC marches, he has been ever-present, and has been responsible for a great deal of harassment and intimidation. He was also thought to be standing by and watching when Ian Tomlinson was attacked by PC Simon Harwood at the G20 protests, and subsequently died. The inquest on Tomlinsons death is about to start, and we may find out a little more about Discombes contribution to events, or the evidence he provided.
Don’t be misled by any attempts by these two - or any other FIT cops – to be friendly and chatty. As they natter away they will be assessing you, your intentions, your opinions and even your friends. Walk away, say nothing.