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.
The following post has been taken from Indymedia. There is no reason to doubt it's authenticity. While it is sickening, it is no surprise to discover undercover police working in this way. There have been other accounts of such things happening.
Update, 25 October 2010: Fitwatch can now confirm the accuracy of following statement. Several other groups have also provided confirmation.
"Mark 'Stone' has been an undercover police officer from 2000 to at least the end of 2009. We are unsure whether he is still a serving police officer or not. His real name is Mark Kennedy. Investigations into this identity revealed evidence that he has been a police officer, and a face-to-face confession has confirmed this. Mark claims that he left the police force in late 2009, and that before becoming an undercover officer he was a Metropolitan police constable.
Please pass this information on to anyone who may have been in contact with Mark in the last decade, both in the UK and abroad."
This was, according to the police, an entirely peaceful march, with no criminal offences taking place. It was predominantly a trade union march, upbeat and with plenty of colourful banners. Yet the police still insisted on imposing strict conditions on the route, refusing to allow the march anywhere near the Conservative Party conference which was the focus of the protests. These conditions were ‘robustly’ enforced with ten foot metal cordons, dogs and huge numbers of police officers.
When, towards the end of the march, some from the anarchist block decided to force the point and leave the authorised route, they were immediately ‘kettled’ - surrounded and held by police and dog units. The fifty or so in the kettle were pushed and shoved towards the car park where coaches were waiting, and were told they would be searched and released. Police cameramen carefully filmed each person as they were searched, getting close up shots of head and shoulders, clothing, shoes and ‘identifying features’. Police also demanded they give their name and address on film. The legality of all this is dubious - the Public Order Act (section 60) gives the police powers to search people for weapons but not, as they did here, to gather intelligence for their database while they are doing it.
When about half of the group objected to being filmed in this way, and refused to co-operate with the search while police cameras were present, the police response was to search them by force. At least one protester was left with severe bruising, another missing clumps of hair. None of the searches resulted in anything ‘untoward’ being found, there were no items seized and no arrests.
Generally the surveillance, while often discrete, was ever present. A large police mobile CCTV van (bearing the words Football Operations) was parked at the march start point. The National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), the unit that exists to keep tabs on ‘domestic extremists’ were there too, gathering their own ‘intel’. A very expensive police helicopter hovered above. And police cameramen took photographs from windows of a number of buildings lining the route (out of reach of Fitwatchers!).
Given the extent of surveillance of their members on this march, it is remarkable (though perhaps not surprising) that the unions don’t do more to question where the line is between ‘facilitating’ protest, and controlling political expression.
The poor old FIT coppers from the shadowy National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) seem to be having a hard time in Edinburgh this week.
A video put out on you tube yesterday showed a great bit of Fitwatching by Climate Camp activists. With determination and some nerve they surrounded NPOIU cop Mark Sully and his expensive long zoom lens camera with scarves and banners. They then held their ground as Sully clearly became frustrated, pointlessly snapping his camera over the banners.
This sort of action is far from being a mere bit of bravado. Sully (CO996) and his sidekick Ian Caswell (1818), are not neutral keepers of the peace, as the police often pretend they are. Their role is to gather intelligence on, and disrupt the actions of climate camp activists. Activists identified photographed by Sully’s long lens camera will find themselves labelled domestic extremists with their own file on NPOIU’s database. Climate campers should buy these guys a drink!
According to reports, Scottish FIT were keen to come across as different to the Met. They were friendly, extremely friendly, happy to hang out on the gate, chatting with the gate shift, passing the time of day. There is nothing wrong with friendly, of course, but activists should know that with a FIT cop all is rarely what it seems. Climate campers would be wise to keep them at a very long arms length, no matter how friendly they are.
Overall policing has been described as fairly low key, perhaps reflecting the desire of RBS to keep the whole thing out of the press. There have been scuffles though, between police and activists outside the RBS building. Two people are reported to have been injured enough to need hospital treatment, both injuries apparently the result of being kicked by police officers. Two others were arrested for breach of the police offences, apparently entirely randomly.
Were you there? Reports on the policing of the site / arrests / assaults on activists are very welcome. Mail us on firstname.lastname@example.org
ACPO have come clean about the number of photographs of political protesters they, and their ‘extremist units’ are holding. According to their website, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) now holds no more than 1822 images. They suggest that these images are purely of a ‘hardcore’ criminal element, and that there is no chance at all of ‘ordinary’ demonstrators finding their way onto such a system.
So can we now relax and take political action without being tagged as ‘extremist’, right? Not quite. Over the years, Fitwatch have learned a thing or two about police databases. And I’d hazard a guess that ACPO is being about as honest as a Tory MP with a moat to be cleaned. They’re not lying exactly. There are just things they’ve forgotten to say.
For one thing, just because they don’t hold an image of you, doesn’t mean they can’t access one if they want to. There are many other police databases that the NPOIU also have access to, such as custody records, which contain images of anyone who has been arrested, even if they have not been charged or convicted.