Vigilance, not praise, keeps our police decent


Excellent article over on today about the dangers of unexamined pro-police sentiment following the recent riots:

British police probably are, ultimately, the best in the world. In the same way that we return home from holiday full of appreciation for the BBC, Brits in Europe and America quickly come to appreciate the moderation and humility of our police force.

This did not occur because the British are somehow innately superior. It happened because we hound the police. We criticise them, we regulate them and we monitor them. The police are the most dangerous thing in the world. They are the mechanism the state uses to interfere with what you do. They are to be tolerated, not loved. It's by vigilance, not praise, that we keep them decent.

Read the whole article here: Don't let police off the hook

Recording stop and search

There's no law against recording a stop and search, and police forces have been regularly advised by ACPO to allow this kind of monitoring of their duties (as long as the person recording does not attempt to interfere). The Met have a statement about this on their website:

Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.

However, the reality is that even officers of a reasonably senior rank, such as this Inspector, are not happy for them and their colleagues to be recorded, and will do everything they can to prevent it:

Violent Disorder and Authoritarian Rhetoric

"The peasants are revolting." That has been a cry of the ruling elite for centuries, and the Prime Minister, David Cameron, was no less scathing of the rioters that have disturbed the capitalist cosiness of the British consumer. Mr Cameron, initially slow to respond to the escalating riots that have now spread to many parts of England, was very quick with his words: "There are pockets of our society that are not just broken, but frankly sick," he said. Revolting indeed.

Let's be very clear: rioting, the looting of shops and the violent attacks on persons and property is not acceptable. The revolutions that are sweeping the Arab world, albeit seemingly stalled for the time being, have been built on the premise of peaceful demonstration. The riots in the UK have no clear political purpose, yet there is a strong underlying frustration amongst many sections of society, not just blacks, not just the youth, even though those groups seem to be amongst the most dispossessed in Britain today.

Against Authoritarian Crackdowns

As riots ripped through London and spread out to the old industrial towns of the north, the public was not in the mood for understanding.

Instead, huge numbers of ordinary people- including those hurt by the riots and those whose only knowledge of it comes from news broadcasts- are openly backing some of the most authoritarian ideas this country has ever contemplated.

A British political disease

From today's Guardian:

It's a British political disease, this, the suspiciously neat, aggressively spun response to a passing media hurricane. New Labour were past masters at it; and Cameron's Tories are worryingly diligent students. Much later on, when the headlines have faded, it often turns out the legislation wasn't properly followed through, or only dealt with a fraction of the problem, or hasn't changed anything.

Jackie Ashley is talking about the role of feminism in tackling the sexualisation of young girls, but the quoted text is spot on for any number of issues where the tabloids have seemingly driven government policy over the last 10+ years. Most particularly the last sentence.

OpenTech 2011 talk

Here's a rough transcript of the talk we gave at OpenTech today, and a PDF copy of our slides.

Thank you to everyone who spoke to us there - it was good to meet several of our Twitter followers as well as lots of new people - and particular thanks to Sam for organising the event and inviting us to talk.

Update: OpenTech have just given us a recording of our talk too.

The Royal Wedding: celebrate or else

Most of us may consider our monarchy to be 'symbolic' rather than having real power - but what are they symbols of? In the run up to the royal wedding this Friday it's clear that it will be a grandiose occasion, a display of wealth and status by the establishment. If you examine the plans for policing the event, it becomes evident that police are still primarily defenders of the state - not defenders of the people.

#26March - a social media timeline

Selected highlights from yesterday's social media:

Sukey - crowd-sourced info for protestors

Tags: , ,

Press release from the Sukey project, launching at midnight tonight:

The group who gave you pictures of Godzilla in the Thames from the protests against the student fees increase are back with a new website and mobile phone application to help keep peaceful protesters safe.

Every week, more and more people of all ages and from all walks of life are taking to the streets to show their unease at the depth, speed and savagery of coalition cuts to social services, education, library closures, restructuring of the NHS and the proposed sell-off of Britain's forests. These are the largest series of demonstration in the UK since the Stop the War protests in 2003.

In order to keep peaceful protesters informed with live information that will assist them in keeping clear of trouble spots, avoid injury and from being unnecessarily detained a group of talented young computer experts has developed a free product called Sukey.

Infiltration and incitement


Go on any protest or demonstration and you will be filmed by the police. Those wielding the cameras are FIT (Forward Intelligence Teams). FIT Watch do their best to highlight what FIT are doing.

But they probably already know who you are, what you are doing, where you live, how you think.

Go to any meeting and you will always find at least one individual who does his or her best to disrupt, create negative vibes. People will leave as a result of their behaviour. Then there are others who are gung ho, suggest all sorts of ridiculous actions, which too many people get carried away with, but a moment’s calm reflection shows to be nonsense.

I used to to think these were simply nutters, dysfunctional people lacking in any common sense or social skills. Well now we know they are just as likely to be undercover police officers who are infiltrating, informing on and disrupting green and other activists.