Sussex police have recently started to use new forms of repressive tactics for policing demonstrations. They seem to have taken a break from head cracking to trial what they have termed 'Police Liaison Officers' or PLOs at the recent Smash EDO demonstration on June 4th. This may not be simply a new fad by the cops, but could be part of a new era of repression based on the relatively new 'science' of crowd psychology. The PLOs are the brainchild of Dr. Clifford Stott, a crowd psychologist working with the cops to 'manage' crowds. This man was seen at the Smash EDO demo wearing a blue observer vest, presumably to check up on his PLOs he'd just trained.
He tweeted this last week just before the Smash EDO demo A brilliant few days creating PLTs in Sussex. A long way to go but a rubicon has been crossed. Helping secure ECHR based approaches!
The Sussex Police PLOs are predominately female, and use a nicey-nicey approach to try and create the illusion that they are the "good" people and on our side. On top of this, Graham Bartlett, the local police chief has "praised" Smash EDO for their good behaviour.
Crowd psychology seeks to pacify social movements by creating a situation where the crowd 'self polices'. The following is a description of how this could be used in practice by leading crowd psychologists:
"using a 'dialogue police' unit, whose officers work before, during and after risky situations to communicate with radical groups and getting the crowd to “self-police” by actively undermining those trying to initiate “trouble” or at the very least making it easier for the cops to deal with them."
This is almost exactly what we saw at the recent Smash EDO demo.
After the riots it seems the police are finding new and invidious ways to keep us in our place, which is leading to a new form of policing where police are integrated into the crowd, not as undercovers, as they have been previously, but as part of it. Crowd psychology, if it takes off, may result in a form of repression which is more dangerous to social movements than water cannon or rubber bullets, as it creates a situation where the public become more sympathetic to the police than to those facing repression. On top of that, PLOs suck the energy and solidarity away from the people on the streets. What is clear is we need to make sure we do not allow our demonstrations to be infiltrated by the police in this way and we make sure they are not welcome. Once we allow them to be part of our demos in this way we have already lost, as it will be the cops and not us calling the shots.
The use of this new tactic shows us the cops are out of their depth and cannot deal with the new wave of social unrest sweeping the UK in recent years. To beat them at their game we have to stay one step ahead of them by understanding these tactics and what they mean for us before they are truly put to use.
You can see more about Dr. Clifford Stott and his theories here:
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dr-Clifford-Stott/179023995454028
LinkedIn profile: http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/dr-clifford-stott/1a/154/760
Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/#!/CliffordStott
Centre for Investigative Psychology profile: http://www.i-psy.com/people/people_stott.php
This article is a repost. The original appeared on indymedia
This will not only include criminal records, but all that ‘intelligence’ that is so lovingly gathered by FIT teams at political meetings, rallies, protests and actions. You know the stuff – you’ve innocently nipped out to grab a coffee, but in the eyes of the FIT it has become so much more dramatic. ‘target x is carrying out a ‘reccy’ on Cafe Nero for potential violent direct action and criminal damage.....’
Jennie Cronin, Director of Databases at the National Policing Improvement Agency NPIA confirmed to ZednetUK that the database would include intelligence data on protesters;
"It is a matter for the police force [as to] what information they hold," she said, saying such information may be on the national database "if a police force feels it is important enough to have on their own system and feels it is important enough to share". She added, however, that anyone can make a request with their local police force to see if their details are on that force's systems.
Political activists will undoubtedly be reassured, knowing they will be able to check that the FIT aren’t making up tales of terrorism and riot. Or at least they might be, if it were true. For many, the experience to date has been that the various police forces are strangely reluctant to share their ‘important’ data with the individuals concerned. To give just one example, requests by four activists to get their personal data from South Wales Police have all been denied. Information was withheld ‘in the interests of preventing and detecting crime and disorder’.
It’s interesting how low down the pecking order the actual data subjects are. Supplied alongside one denied data protection request was a list of all the people the police would be happy to share the data with, ‘in certain circumstances’. These included security companies; local and central government; current, past and prospective employers; healthcare, social and welfare practitioners; licensing authorities; ‘partner agencies’ involved in crime and disorder strategies; private sector organisations working with police in anti-crime strategies; voluntary sector organisations and ‘approved organisations and people working with police’. Just about anyone, in fact.
So, not only can the FIT make subjective judgements which are then entered onto the database as ‘fact’, this data can now be shared with all 43 police forces on the PND. On top of that it can also be shared with your employer, housing officer, and private security firms like Agenda Security, the ‘extremism monitoring’ organisation which is the latest money-spinner for ex head of NETCU, Steve Pearl. A key role of Agenda Security is to stop political activists ‘infiltrating’ organisations, or to put it another way, to stop them getting a job.
Knowledge is power, and the PND provides the modern ‘intelligence led’ police force with more of both. The consequences for political organising can’t be good.
Two years ago, FIT cops Steve Discombe, Alan Palfrey and Ryan Cowlin stood only feet away from Ian Tomlinson when he was hit by PC Harwood, a blow which led to Tomlinson’s death. But, according to an IPCC report out today, they claim to have seen very little of the attack and didn’t even bother to include it in a written report. In fact they appear to have done everything they could to prevent the truth becoming known.
PC Steve Discombe is a field intelligence officer in New Scotland Yard. As is Cowlin. Palfrey is a borough officer from Camden who regularly takes on a FIT role. All three are well-known for harassment, intimidation and violence.
Their alleged role as an intelligence team is to gather intelligence and evidence of criminality. This they plainly failed to do when they witnessed Harwood’s attack on a man who was walking away from police lines. Despite standing so close, one of them claimed to have seen nothing at all, while the other two gave very few details of what happened. Discombe appeared to be more concerned with Harwood’s ‘almost perfect’ technique in delivering the blow, than the harm Tomlinson sustained as a victim of an unprovoked attack.
None of them intervened to help Tomlinson, and none of them expressed any concern at Harwood’s use of force.
From the IPCC report:
“PC Discombe describes Mr Tomlinson as falling “forwards but appeared to brace himself on impact with the pavement. He rolled on to his side, leant up and said something to the Officers who were now facing him. I looked away from Mr Tomlinson and did not see him again”.
“In describing the baton strike PC Discombe states that at the moment when he was struck, Mr Tomlinson was walking away from the cordon and that he remembered thinking “that the strike was delivered in an almost perfect training stance”.”
PC Palfrey took even less notice of the attack than Discombe. He stated:
“With regard to the baton strike I do not recall anything other than the strike landing on Ian Tomlinson’s leg... I do not recall the reaction of Ian Tomlinson to either the baton strike or push”.
Ryan Cowlin, despite being only feet away from the incident “had no recollection whatsoever of having seen Mr Tomlinson on 1 April.”
While the three FIT cops above were clearly complicit in the cover up, they were not alone.
- Only one officer who did see the push expressed concern and made a written record of what she had seen. The IPCC concluded that this was a 'matter for concern'
- Detective Inspector Eddie Hall misled pathologists, telling them Tomlinson had ‘fallen to the ground infront of a police van.' According to the IPCC, Hall was ‘reckless’ but did not ‘intend’ to mislead.
- City of London police investigators kept from the IPCC information received from three Met police officers (not the FIT cops above!!) that Tomlinson had been hit and pushed by police.
Discombe, Cowlin and Palfrey did extremely little to dismantle the veil of silence and misinformation that surrounded Tomlinsons death. The complete lack of respect and concern from these FIT cops for a man who was killed for walking the wrong way through a demonstration is truly sickening.
These are highly paid ‘specialist’ intelligence cops who write detailed reports about what shoelaces activists are wearing, and where they might have bought a cup of coffee. They harass and pursue campaigners for protesting in 'the wrong place', or for occupying a branch of RBS. But when a real crime happened, they were looking the other way.
Forward intelligence policing is once again in the media spotlight after news today that a complaint has been launched by a 20 year old student, who claims not only was he falsely, and violent arrested - he sustained a chipped tooth during the arrest- but also the arresting FIT officer colluded with other officers to make up allegations against him.
Fortunately for the student, we can never disregard the utter stupidity of the cops. This particular officer had his voice recorder turned on and managed to capture the entire arrest and subsequent conversation. This information has all been turned over to the IPCC who are investigating the complaint.
It comes as no surprise to Fitwatch that these officers acted in this way - we have seen FIT colluding and acting violently for too many years to be shocked - but it is always good when they are caught in the act and this behaviour is exposed.
If anyone has any further information on who these officers are, please contact Fitwatch as we would, as usual, be happy to publish their names and photographs.
Edward Woollard, who pled guilty to violent disorder for throwing a fire extinguisher off the Tory Party HQ during anti-cuts demonstrations, has been sent down for 2 years and 8 months.
This begs an answer to the question: what exactly is the merit of pleading Guilty in the first place? With the state desperate to deter others from following the example set by the students, it seems the gloves are well and truly off. When an 18-year-old of good character pleads guilty after handing himself in, fully co-operating with the Police investigation and expressing remorse for his actions gets 32 months - an unusually harsh sentence for the circumstances - the Government has made it's position clear. This is entirely political - and if they want a political trial, they should get one.
In the following weeks and months, many school and university students will be waiting with baited breath, not for the results of exams but for the verdict of police investigations into their actions on the Student demonstrations at the end of last year. Whilst, for some of them, this will result in their being charged with offences at the heavier end of the Public Order Act - most likely the notoriously vague and drachonian 'Violent Disorder' - this does not necessarily mean they are guilty. Even if the Police do have crystal clear footage of them, for instance, throwing missiles.
After all, we have the legal right to defend ourselves - and subsequently, what little freedoms we have - from attack by others. This includes the Police and this has been successfully argued in many courtrooms in the past, when demonstrators have been attacked in Police operations of dubious legality and found themselves nicked for Violent Disorder.
Any good defence lawyer or defendants campaign should have the Met on the stand to account for their own excessive use of violence. Exactly how will they justify the baton charges, the kettling and containment, the horse charges, the mass arrests, the harassment, the planting of out-of-service Police vans, the surveillance and the sheer brutality that led to one demonstrator ending up in hospital with life-threatening head injuries?
This is something for those who are anxiously awaiting charge to consider when reflecting on the events of the day and how this ended up in their arrest:
It's time we put Public Order Policing on trial.
IF YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR LEGAL SITUATION:
* If you live in London, there may soon be a legal drop-in/defendent campaign session up and running from the OffMarket Social Centre in Hackney. Watch this space for more details.
* DON'T PANIC - Remember, even when attending a bail-to-return date with the Police, always say "No Comment". Wait until you have all the evidence from the CPS in front of you and scrutinise it thoroughly with people you trust (obviously NOWHERE NEAR a Police Station!). Although your lawyer will probably be trying their best, they have a lot of work to do and can't always give your case the attention it needs. Help them do their job by meticulously going through everything and making notes on any discrepancies or issues. Even if it looks like they have you bang to rights, there may be other technicalities or legal defences for your actions on the day, so don't be too disheartened.
Aaron Porter, the NUS leader who has consistently condemned violence and property damage on demonstrations, has now joined ex cop Brian Paddick in calling for the Met to improve its intelligence gathering.
The best case scenario is Mr Porter is ignorant and should talk to a few of the activists and organisers who have been at the sharp end of police intelligence gathering over the last decade.
From past experiences, this is a snapshot of what student activists might expect from ‘improved’ intelligence and data gathering:
• Having to run a gauntlet of police and police cameras just to get to a planning or preparation meeting, never mind a demo;
• FIT teams ‘accompanying’ known activists on demonstrations, even to the point of following them back to their family home, place of work, or in one well documented case to their grandmothers nursing home;
• Thousands of students’ names and details placed on Criminal Intelligence or Domestic Extremism databases;
• Finding a police officer you’ve never seen before knows your name and personal details about you;
• A range of ‘disruption’ activities, to undermine and make life difficult for organisers and activist groups including excessive stop and searches (often many times in one day) and arbitrary arrests. This can also include undercover police officers getting involved with and disrupting activist meetings
• Trolling of websites with a targeted police ‘message’;
• Kettles, kettles and more kettles – they are so useful for data gathering, and for disrupting protest;
• Stop and search, breach of the peace arrests, and accusations of ‘anti-social behaviour’, all tried and trusted methods of getting the personal details of protesters
Over the last decade, the target of police intelligence hasn’t been the so-called criminal element, but the organiser, the facilitator, the groups who get active and make protest happen. These are the people most likely to feel the brunt of police tactics, and suffer real harassment for daring to organise demonstrations. However, the objective is to frighten away as many as possible, including those ‘on the periphery’ - the large contingent who support what is going on, but who may not have the commitment to keep going when the going gets tough.
Police intelligence gathering and ‘disruption’ doesn’t just prevent criminal activity – it seeks to deter people from getting involved in any protest at which criminality can occur. In effect, this means any they don’t like and certainly any with the audacity to not stick to a state approved A-B route or a protest pen.
The ‘harassment style policing’ of intelligence teams has a much greater effect on our civil liberties and our ability to organise and protest than any number of water cannons or horse charges, and must be opposed. As usual, Aaron Porter should be a lot more careful about what he says.
A selection of outside agitators from yesterday's demonstration.
Thousands of police were on the streets yesterday, many equipped with hard hats and weapons from the start, all intent on imprisoning protesters in a makeshift detention centre outside the houses of parliament. They viciously and repeatedly beat protesters around the head, leaving one twenty year old with life threatening injuries, and dozens more hospitalised. When protesters continued to push against their lines, they charged horses into the crowd. They threw a journalist to the ground from his wheelchair, and held others on the streets in freezing conditions without medical attention until almost midnight.
This, according to Sir Paul Stephenson, was ‘restraint’. On Radio 4 this morning he claimed we should be grateful that the police escorting Charles and Camilla didn’t open fire on the protesters who attacked the car with paint bombs, a rubbish bin and their bare fists. Given the show of ostentatious wealth paraded in front of young people denied even their EMA, I’d say it was the protesters that showed the restraint.
Hearing the police and some sections of the media dismiss the demonstrators as ‘thugs’ is sickening. The students and school kids out on the streets are fighting for their future, against a load of rich, out of touch MPs who think a £30k debt is mere chicken feed. What the hell are they supposed to do, write a letter?
The students acted with determination and courage. Their efforts to reach Parliament, get into the Treasury and attack Oxford Circus’s Topshop (with chants of 'Pay your taxes!) stretched the police to breaking point. The gloves off brutality of the police showed how close they came to losing control of the situation.
Many demonstrators also understood the need to resist FIT teams. Even early on two FIT teams had to run away as they were pelted with smoke and paint bombs. Fitwatch would have had a lovely picture of the FIT covered in blue paint, but unfortunately our camera was lost and smashed during a later altercation with a police line, so you’ll just have to imagine it!
The police have promised once again for the ‘full force of the law’ to come down on student demonstrators. The FIT will be trawling though their pictures, and the details taken from students in the Westminster kettle who were forced to give their names before release. Fitwatch advice to students fearing arrest remains as important as ever.
During the last two weeks of protests, FIT and EGTs have been busy around the country trying to document all the new ‘domestic extremists’ suddenly flooding the streets.
Fitwatch have received reports and photos of police teams working across the country from Cornwall to Scotland. However, everywhere they go people are challenging what they are doing and documenting their actions. This post is a round-up from some of the reports we’ve received.
In Leeds on 24 November, fitwatchers were repeatedly threatened with arrest after they took photos and blocked cameras. The police were particularly unhappy when they blocked them filming a group of three local anarchists who were pulled out of the crowd to be searched, and when they tried to capture a group of Asian males who had joined the protest. One fitwatcher had a piece of black cloth confiscated under S60 on the basis it could be used as a mask.
Evidence Gatherers were also present at the Leeds University occupation on 27 November and were particularly perturbed to hear their photos would be going to Fitwatch. The same cameraman was also spotted at the UKUncut demo on 4 December.
For anyone in West Yorkshire, we have the names of two evidence gatherers – PS299 – R Moore and PC5413 Dawson. Please remember to say hello if you see either of them.
In Brighton large numbers of EGTs/FIT were also spotted at the protests on 30 November. Officers present included CT131, CC735, F301, CH570, CS076, CH590 and CC718. Photos to follow, but if anyone has information on these officers please let us know. Protesters in Brighton may also want to check out this spotter card prepared for a Smash EDO demo.
Meanwhile in Oxford, FIT have once again been proving their love of violence, pulling batons on school children protesting on 30 November. During 4 December UKUncut protests, FIT were present with one officer not displaying a number and refusing to provide identification.
FIT have obviously been out at all the big London demos but have often been spotted without the blue flash on their uniform. On 24 November, Fitwatch favourite CO2558 Steve Discombe was seen in normal high vis, but on 30 November he was spotted in both uniforms at different times of the day, and is reported to have lost the 2 from his number. Others such as the two pictured in earlier post (CO5358 and EK 280) were very shy and upset at having been noticed hiding amongst their colleagues and resorted to hiding in a hotel after being followed by fitwatchers.
Finally, G20 Thug Delroy Smellie – now U5042 - has been seen back on FIT duty at the London UKUncut protests. It is a sign of the contempt the Met has for protesters that not only are they letting him police our demos, but they are sending him out on FIT duty. We should be angry he is back and we should not tolerate his presence on protests.
We have always said fitwatching is a tactic which can be done by anyone, anywhere and can be as passive or militant as you want. Fitwatch is not about a few people, but about everyone, everywhere. Huge thanks to all who have taken action, passed on information, and enabled this to happen – if there’s info here people want credited please let us know.
And with a secure server, massive coverage and a clear message that we’re here to stay.
On Monday night we received notification that our site had been suspended due to “attempting to pervert the course of justice” due to our posting offering advice to the Millbank students. Whilst the email requesting the site be closed on the basis it was being used for “criminal activity” came from DI Paul Hoare, from the Police Central e-crime Unit, the authorisation to close was given much closer to home, by acting Detective Inspector Will Hodgeson. Hodgeson, who was involved in the first Fitwatch case, and has sat through many of our trials and appeals, evidently finally had enough and decided to shut us down.
However, through totally underestimating the power of social media, this pathetic attempt has failed miserably. Within minutes of networking what had happened, people were re-publishing the post anywhere and everywhere. There are now over 100 sites carrying the original post – we haven’t managed to count them all. We have been overwhelmed by the support and solidarity and send massive thanks to everyone who’s offered to help and reposted the information. If we haven’t replied personally, it’s only because we’ve been inundated, and haven’t had time.
This was a real attempt to squash dissent and criticism of the police, as well as attempting to stifle common sense advice to protesters subject to a witch hunt by the right wing press. The solidarity given by so many people has ensured this hasn’t happened, and has shown we can fight back. Even if we were to be arrested and prosecuted now, we would still be grateful to CO11 for the amount of publicity they’ve generated for us.
We’re back, and we’re stronger than ever.