Westside Action

a motley crew of anarchists and activists from Bristol, Bath and South Wales

Kingsnorth Police Report: Poor Handwriting Slammed

You may have thought that unjustified stop and searches, assaults and raids may have been the focus of the report. But apparently, the fact that some Officers have ineligable handwriting is, as Emily Apple of Fitwatch and now the Guardian (!) says in her article (below) is  apparently of more concern than, for instance,  the fact that her and Val Swain were brutally arrested and then remanded for 3 days, only later to have their charges dropped.

Emily Apple (Guardian Article) :

The soundbites sound good. A report into the policing of Kingsnorth has stated the use of blanket stop and search powers were “disproportionate and counterproductive” and show a failed command structure displaying incompetent leadership and poor communication.

However, the motivation behind these findings needs to be examined. The report is not concerned with the rights of protesters but protecting the integrity of the police force. Yes, the searches were criticised, but not for the right reasons. Instead of finding the searches contravened civil liberties, the report worries about the effect a judicial review might have on the force, stating they were “counterproductive” because of “organisational vulnerability through legal challenge”. Instead of using the opportunity to condemn the blanket use of section 1 stop and searches as an abuse of civil liberties, even more draconian legislation is called for asking for further powers, presumably to counteract the effects of any pesky judicial interference.

None of the civil liberties concerns raised by activists and politicians in relation to the camp are addressed. In fact, the report praises the police for meeting one of their key objectives of “facilitating peaceful protest”, which is simply not true. Facilitating protest must include adherence to all human rights law, including the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. Stating that, during a protest which extended over several days, the police facilitated one march at the end of the week ignores all the civil liberties abuses which took place at the camp itself.

While no mention is made of the use of excessive violence by officers using batons strikes against peaceful protesters, the handwriting of officers is criticised, with fewer than 25% of all forms legible. However, instead of criticising the need for 8,000-plus searches, the report laments the fact there weren’t more details to put onto the police database. The fact details of thousands of protesters has been entered into a database is not examined, nor is the admission this information is disseminated to the Forward Intelligence Teams (Fits), and that people should not give the police personal details if they do not want to end up on such a database.

Meanwhile, another report commissioned by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), has not been released, even to the IPCC. The findings were seemingly not to the liking of senior police officers, who ordered this current report to be written instead. Despite promises by the policing minister, David Hanson, to publish the original report, this has not been done, and we are left with a report which is hostile to demonstrators and repressive in tone.

The recommendations of the HMIC report to move towards a less confrontational model of policing will never be achieved unless the attitude of the police changes towards demonstrators. However, the biggest test for all the reports will be seen on the streets over the next couple of months. Climate Camp is returning to London in August, while in September activists return to the City for a mass protest against the DSEi arms fair.

It is clear from this report, and from examples such as the suggestion, made by City of London police during a meeting with the family of Ian Tomlinson and the IPCC, that Tomlinson might have been attacked by a protester “dressed in police uniform”, that the mindset of the police has not altered. It is important they are held to account on the streets, and anyone who has any concerns over the policing of protests and civil liberties should attend these events to monitor and challenge this policing for themselves.

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