Police Intelligence

There has been a great deal written recently on the bungling police tactics used in the raid on a house in Forest Gate (in a nutshell: 250 police pile into a house, shoot a Muslim man for no apparent reason, drag two guys down stairs, arrest them for terrorist offences, trash their house, interrogate them for a week and then release them with no charge, followed by a hearty "sorry"). Not exactly great PR for the police. Their catch-all excuse is, naturally, fighting terrorism.

Well, just in case you think you might be safe from suspicion if you're a non-Muslim, then think again. There seems to be little the Police won't do under the "terrorism" banner.

Just the other day I was looking out of the window in a residential street in Hackney, East London. I was witnessing a vehicle towing truck preparing to pluck a car from the road and take it away. Looking closely, I saw that the car had an occupant: a terrified woman clutching a new born baby in her arms. I decided, naturally, that this was far too good a photo opportunity to pass, so I grabbed by camera and went out onto the road. By some bizarre coincidence, by the time I got outside, a van full of police officers had also decided to take a closer look.

I snapped away at this strange scene, trying to capture the poor woman's horror as the burly removal men in yellow jackets wrestled with various lifting contraptions around her car. Then a police officer approached me and demanded that I stop taking photographs. As far as I was aware I didn't consider this an offence so I naturally refused. He then produced his notebook and demanded my name and address. What had I done wrong, I asked? His answer was "hostile reconnaissance". He then informed me that "it was a tactic used by terrorists" and that I was acting "suspiciously". So now I'm a terrorist for taking photographs! I tried to point out that the police were in the way of my photographs and that it was not my intention to photograph them, but he still insisted that I was conducting hostile reconnaissance. A small exchange of heated words between myself and this moron was halted by a second police officer who formally instructed me to "fuck off" and took his colleague away.

I know this is hardly earth shattering news, but it does show that the police will use "terrorism" for pretty much anything nowadays. If you have a similar story then please, please tell all.

"Police Intelligence" – the greatest oxymoron since "Friendly Fire"

2 Responses to “Police Intelligence”

  1. David Mery Says:

    During my Police interview, the interviewing officer stated that one of the reasons that led to the decision to arrest me was that some unidentified staff from the company were I worked at the time had been seen taking photographs in Southwark tube station with camera-phones.

    I received many emails from people having been stopped and searched and some even arrested for taking pictures or even just when sketching (one of the South Bank Complex buildings). The last such email was from a Londoner claiming to have been arrested for seven hours, with his car and flat searched, for taking a picture including a petrol station.

    This is how I raised it with the Metropolitan Police Authority: "<snip>[url=http://gizmonaut.net/bits/suspect.html#20060525]What actions are taken by the MPA so that Londoners can stop being paranoid about which aspect of our behaviour or clothing, or which picture we take will be used as an excuse for detainment, arrest or shooting by the MPS?[/url] <snip>"

    It will be interesting to see what will happen with on one hand the Mayor of London asking Londoners to participate in the Rise Photo Competition 2006 and on the other the MPS considering this activity: "hostile reconnaissance"

    br -d

  2. Will Says:

    Which reminds me of an incident, 17th August 2004. This is my letter to my MP at the time, Iain Coleman MP for Hammersmith and Fulham. The complaint was made to the IPCC and in response I recieved a telepone call from the relevant police departement expressing sincere apologies and a thorough investigation into current practices. I suspect, however, that nothing was actually done.

    Dear Mr Coleman,

    On Thursday 12th August at approximately 4.45pm, I was commuting back home to Hammersmith from my workplace in the city, when I was stopped by the police conducting a roadside check on The Mall, just by Buckingham Palace. As a motorcyclist, this is something that I have become used to in London, but the reason for this letter is because what I experienced was very worrying indeed.

    The reason is as follows. After I was asked to dismount my motorcycle I immediately asked why I had been stopped. The officer cited that they were acting under the Terrorism Act and were conducting operations on the request of the home secretary. It is my belief that under the Road Traffic Act, the police are empowered to stop any vehicle that they suspect of committing an offence. Under the Terrorism Act, they do not require any suspicion to stop vehicles.

    When I asked the officer why they chose to stop me, he replied that I had “an unusual looking bike”. I asked for clarification as to my bike's unusual nature, to which he identified that it was the colour, orange, that had drawn his attention. The officer also stated that they were conducting the operation under the additional mandate of immigration control. Whilst being stopped is in itself harmless, it nevertheless alarmed and angered me. It would appear that the police are using the Terrorism Act to perform standard roadside checks for motoring offences. If my motorbike being pulled over was a unique instance then I would consider it acceptable, but I saw no less than three motorcycles being pulled over at the same time.

    If the police consider motorcyclists an equal threat from either terrorism or immigration when compared to cars, vans or lorries, then I would suggest that their judgement is flawed. If, as I suspect, they have lost focus on terrorism prevention and are more concerned with minor motoring offences then I implore you as representative for my constituency to make a complaint to the IPCC. I would also like clarification of police policy in this area. I do not object to being stopped per se, but I do object to the police misusing their powers, especially now that the home secretary is considering extending them.

    I strongly believe that in order for the police to effectively defend this country from terrorism, they need cooperation from the public, and for cooperation to be achieved it is essential that there is trust between both parties. From my experience last Thursday, my trust in the police force has been badly eroded.

    I look forward to hearing your views on this matter.

    Yours sincerely,