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So who exactly IS now classified as a ‘Domestic Extremist’?

22 Apr

Domestic-ExtremistA week ago, the Metropolitan Police responded to a Freedom of Information request asking for the total number of individuals currently classified as potential ‘domestic extremists’ and having their own records on the database of the National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (NDEDIU). The information they supplied was intriguing: they said:

There are currently 2627 individuals on the database that have their own record. However I would like to explain that there is no legal definition of Domestic Extremists and so these individuals may not be classified as potential domestic extremists. However a new definition was recently agreed and publicised by the Commissioner at a MOPAC challenge panel.

The new working definition of Domestic Extremism is therefore;

“Domestic Extremism relates to the activity of groups or individuals who commit or plan serious criminal activity motivated by a political or ideological viewpoint”

To begin with, this explanation suggests that the unit responsible for surveillance of so-called ‘domestic extremists’ may hold individual records on people it doesn’t actually classify as ‘domestic extremists’. What possible reason could they have for doing so?

Secondly, the number of records differs sharply from figures published in the Guardian less than a year ago: the report said a total of 8931 individuals “have their own record”. The paper’s reporter Rob Evans has confirmed this too came from a Freedom of Information request. So what happened to the 6304 ‘missing’ records in the last ten months? Continue reading

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Barton Moss: policing in the absence of democracy

4 Apr

This post by David Cullen first appeared on the Open Democracy website.

police and busOn January 14th Dr. Steve Peers, a legal observer at the anti-fracking ‘protectors’ camp at Barton Moss, was filming three police officers arresting a protester. Video he took shows one of the officers realising they were being filmed, walking up to Steve and pushing him backwards onto the floor. Shortly afterwards another officer walked up to him and jostled him away from the arrest, pushing him down the road. This officer then started repeatedly asking if Steve had been drinking alcohol before aggressively asserting that he had and loudly claiming that Steve had admitted to doing so. Steve was then arrested for refusing to submit to breath test.

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#IPCCFail – tweeting the police complaints watchdog’s “decade of failure”

1 Apr

This article was written for and appears in amended form on the Open Democracy website

IPCCFailToday was the tenth anniversary of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), set up in 2004 to replace another public body, the Police Complaints Authority, which had been wholly discredited by its failures during the 1990s. A creation of recommendations made by the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, the IPCC is charged with ‘increasing public confidence in the police complaints system in England and Wales’ as well as investigating serious complaints. It repeatedly claims to achieve this, but it has been mired in controversy throughout the last decade and in June 2011, its deputy chair Deborah Glass admitted to a private meeting that she accepted that “the police complaints system is not very effective and it doesn’t necessarily give people what they are seeking”. In 2013, a House of Commons Home Affairs Committee report found that the IPCC was “buried under the weight of poor police investigations” leaving the public “bewildered by its continued reliance on the very forces it is investigating”. Continue reading

Police body worn cameras – not the panacea they are claimed to be

19 Nov

essex police

A number of police forces have recently announced that they hold large scale trials of body worn video cameras for all officers on patrol. These cameras will be attached to police uniforms, and can be switched on or off at the discretion of officers. The reaction from civil liberties organisations have been muted, but Netpol has spoken out publicly against the routine use of bodycams, and the implications of further extending police surveillance capacity.

Staffordshire police has now joined Hampshire, Northamptonshire, Sussex, Thames Valley and Avon and Somerset police forces in the use of body cams, having issued 530 cameras at a reported cost of £660 per camera. The chief constable of Scotland’s single police service has said he wants every officer north of the border issued with a body-worn video camera Not all forces share this stance, however – Peter Fahy of Greater Manchester Police has been more circumspect, suggesting that routine police filming could cause ‘distress’ to the public, who may have concerns about where their data will ultimately end up.

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Spies in Blue Bibs

21 Oct
Police Liaison Officers at Tower Hamlets anti-EDL protest, Sept 2013

Police Liaison Officers at Tower Hamlets anti-EDL protest, Sept 2013

Are Police Liaison Officers – suspiciously friendly in their pale blue bibs and now commonplace at marches and demonstrations – really deployed simply to ‘facilitate protest’ and ‘ensure there are no surprises’, or is their role rather more duplicitous? For some time, campaigners from groups involved in the Network for Police Monitoring (NetPol) have suspected there is more to these officers, created in response to severe criticism by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary’s ‘Adapting to Protest’ report of intelligence gathering at the 2009 G20 protests, than their public image suggests. Continue reading

Police set to get new dispersal powers

23 Jul

dispersal area crop

New laws being considered by parliament would allow police to disperse people taking part in a lawful assembly and arrest those that did not comply. There is no need for the demonstration to have been disorderly or violent – the only requirement would be that the dispersal was ‘necessary to reduce the likelihood of anti-social behaviour’. Continue reading

Political surveillance cannot be justified – Netpol statement on Police Spying.

12 Jul

Recent revelations about undercover policing have shown that a number of legal and political campaigns and organisations, including the Newham Monitoring Group, a partner organisation in Netpol, have been subject to covert surveillance operations.

While the police are keen to dismiss criticism as being merely an historic issue, applying to a bygone era, Netpol sees no reason to believe that things have improved in recent years. The covert policing of dissent still lacks any effective internal accountability mechanism or means of independent/public scrutiny. Continue reading

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