Posts Tagged ‘‘Stop and Search’’

Jimmy Dore: Stop and Search Policing Now Shown to Be Rubbish

July 11, 2016

This is another fascinating piece from the American comedian Jimmy Dore, who turns up regularly on The Young Turks internet show. In this video he discusses an article in one of the New York Papers, reporting a study that has shown ‘broken windows’ policing to be complete rubbish. ‘Broken windows’ policing is the name given to the police strategy of prosecuting people for minor offences – what are called ‘quality of life’ offences, like graffiti, riding your bike on the pavement and so on, in the expectation that cracking down on minor crimes will lead to a drop in major felonies. It includes ‘stop and frisk’ – what over here is called ‘stop and search’ – in which people are stopped and searched at random by the rozzers.

The ‘broken windows’ strategy takes its name from an official experiment, in which a car was left in the road with its bonnet up in two different neighbourhoods. One, I think, was a rough part of New York. Within hours, the car had been stripped. They then left a similar vehicle in an upmarket neighbourhood in California – Palo Alto. The car was left alone. So the experimenters broke one of its windows. It was only after they did that, that the car was gutted. And so they came to the conclusion that to cut down on major crime, you have to start with minor misdemeanours.

Except that it doesn’t. An official study shows that it has no effect. Dore and the others off camera describe how such arrests can wreck a person’s life in the US. If you’re arrested for a felony, you can’t get a student loan and you automatically lose your right to vote, along with other disastrous consequences. Stop and frisk policing is similarly false. 87 per cent of those stopped are Black or Latino in America, but in only six per cent of cases does this lead to an arrest, and only half of those result in a conviction. Meanwhile, as they point out, it’s a massive way to increase Black and Latino alienation from the cops. Dore mentions some of the many over-reactions of the police to perceived Black criminality. Like a case where a teenage boy was followed by helicopter, because he jumped a turn-style. Meanwhile, according to Dore, a CCTV camera elsewhere had recorded the cops choking a man to death.

‘Broken windows’ policing and stop and frisk also have no effect on crime, which has been declining in America for decades anyway. So there’s no reason why these policies, which are only punishing ethnic minorities unfairly, and driving them away from the police, should be continued.

I’m reblogging this, as although the study relates to America, it is clearly relevant to the situation over here. There have been complaints by the Black community in London against the police using ‘stop and search’ there. As for ‘broken windows’ policing, something similar has been advocated by members of the Conservative right, like Peter Hitchens. (In fairness, I should qualify that: Hitchens was not in favour of Thatcher’s sale of council housing, and does not support private prisons, both of which seem to be standard Tory, and New Labour, policies). In his Mail on Sunday column a few years ago, Hitchens cited the pattern of policing before the First World War as the reason for that time’s comparatively low rate of serious crime. This was a time when people were arrested and jailed for very minor crimes like drunkenness, sleeping rough and so on. I think Hitchens’ attitude is that if people are punished for ‘quality of life’ offences, they’ll acquire some self-respect and start to behave like responsible citizens. This shows that they won’t.

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Armed Police and the Threat of Political Oppression

December 30, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political reported a few days ago the government’s latest plan to tackle the terrorist threat: armed police. It seems one of the Paris murderers had pictures of Birmingham on his mobile, suggesting that the Islamists were planning an attack there. The government has stated that, at present, it takes too long for armed police units to respond, and are considering arming the police as that they can react immediately to a terrorist attack, or threat of one.

See Mike’s article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/27/police-have-been-used-by-politicians-as-tools-of-oppression-should-they-have-guns-to-fight-terrorists/

Mike raises the point that armed police have been used as instruments of political oppression, and asks whether anyone thinks it would be a good idea to give them guns now, with this present highly authoritarian government.

It wouldn’t. In fact, it would be a disaster, and potentially make the situation much worse.

Before we come to the issue of armed police being used to suppress freedom and civil liberties, there is the whole issue of how far the public can trust armed police to protect the innocent. And there’s a very large question mark over this. There’s a massive controversy in America at this very moment over ‘Black Lives Matter’, a protest movement that points to the disproportionate number of Black Americans who have been shot and killed by the police unnecessarily. These have included people, who have been unarmed, or were simply running away from the police. Some were violent, but did not present such a threat that lethal force had to be employed. They could simply have been restrained by the cops using their own physical force, or batons and tasers. Unarmed Whites have also been needlessly killed by the rozzers, but the Black community is particularly subject to this kind of lethal policing. This is possibly due to Blacks being perceived as innately more violent, thuggish and threatening than Whites.

And we’ve seen the same phenomenon here in Britain. There were the riots nearly four years ago over the death of Mark Duggan, the criminal who was shot by the police despite being unarmed. And when I was at school, back in the 1980s, there was a huge outcry then after a Black child was accidentally shot by a police officer while searching the child’s bedroom during a raid. There was also another incident in my home city of Bristol, where the cops shot a man, who they believed was armed. He was carrying not a firearm, but a chair leg, and shouting, ‘it’s a chair leg’, when they shot him.

The problem in America is that the police are too willing to use firearms in preference and other, less extreme methods of capturing or subduing a suspect. And I’m afraid that if we arm the police, they will follow this same precedent. And it concerns British police officers as well. Last summer I was talking to the partner of a British police officer, a woman, who has herself tackled violent offenders. He told me that his wife has successfully disarmed potentially lethal situations using simple negotiation, though she had used her own strength when necessary. She believed, along with others in the force, in policing by consent. You can only successfully police a community when that community trusts you. This will may be lost if officers come to rely too much on their firearms. And as far as the American officers, who automatically shot the suspect in response to a potentially violent situation, she had nothing but disdain. They were badly trained. She took pride in the fact that, no matter what dangers she encountered during her working day, she could end her shift knowing that nobody had died.

All this is likely to be jeopardised by arming the police, and especially if they are supposed to be armed against the threat of militant Islamism. There’s already massive discontent amongst Black British about the ‘stop and search’ policy in London, which has seen a disproportionate number of Blacks stopped and harassed by the Fuzz as potential suspects, simply because of their ethnicity. If this attitude is transferred to Muslims, it will provoke similar levels of discontent amongst them. At the moment the authorities are helped by ordinary Muslims, who do report individuals or actions they find suspicious. This will be lost if Muslims believe they’re under suspicion, simply because of they’re faith, with the ordinary and moderate lumped in with the extremists. It’ll isolate those, who still want to help the authorities, who will risk being branded ‘chocolate Muslims’, the Muslim equivalent of the term ‘Uncle Tom’. And it may alienate some even further, driving them into extremism rather than away.

And armed police in general are a real threat to freedom. The communist authorities in the Eastern bloc used military police units to clamp down on civil unrest and demands for democracy. And Putin is pretty much still doing it in today’s nominally democratic Russia. This government is all too willing to turn them into an authoritarian force. Remember the way the police were used to crush the miners’ strike in the 1980s? Blair and the Tories have passed successive legislation to ban and suppress protest marches and demonstrations, especially in front of parliament and Downing Street. There are any number of account of the cops using excessive force against marchers during riots. And one of the provisions in the government’s anti-trade union legislation, which fortunately didn’t get passed, was that strikers and picketers should have to give their names to the police. This was too much even for David Davies, on the Right of the Tory party, who declared it to be ‘Francoist’. And so it is.

The present government are highly authoritarian, and are doing everything they can to stifle dissent and democratic questioning of their authority. Given past examples, it’s absolutely certain that they will used an armed police force to suppress what remaining liberties we have. They’re pretty much Fascists already. They just wear business suits instead of black shirts and jackboots.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen from the French Revolution

April 16, 2014

Artisan Washerwom pic

An artisan and a washerwoman toast the health of the French Revolution as members of the ignored and oppressed ‘Third Estate’.

I found this text of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen made by the French Revolutionaries in 1789 in D.G. Wright’s Revolution and Teror in France 1789-1795 (Harlow: Longman 1974). Although it’s very much the view of patriotic French middle class, it is still one of the founding statements of modern democracy and political liberty. Here it is:

The representatives of the French people, sitting in the National Assembly considering that ignorance of, neglect of, and contempt for the rights of man are the sole causes of public misfortune and the corruption of governments, have resolved to set out in a solemn declaration the natural, inalienable and sacred rights of man, in order that this declaration, constantly before all members of the civic body, will constantly remind them of their rights and duties, in order that acts of legislative and executive power can be frequently compared with the purpose of every political institution, thus making them more respected, in order that the demands of the citizens, henceforth founded on simple and irrefutable principles, will always tend towards the maintenance of the constitution and the happiness of everyone.

I Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions can only be founded on communal utility.

II The purpose of all political associations is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression.

III The principle of all sovereignty emanates essentially from the nation. No group of men, no individual, can exercise any authority which does not specifically emanate from it.

IV Liberty consists in being able to do whatever does not harm others. Hence the exercise of the natural rights of every man is limited only by the need for other members of society to exercise the same rights. These limits can only be determined by the law.

V The law only has the right to prohibit actions harmful to society. What is not prohibited by law cannot be forbidden, and nobody can be forced to do what the law does not require.

VI The law is the expression of the general will. All citizens have the right to take part personally, or through their representatives, in the making of the law. It should be the same for everyone, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally admissible to all honours, offices and public employment, according to their capacity and without any distinction other than those of their integrity and talents.

VII A man can only be accused, arrested or detained in cases determined by law, and according to the procedure it requires. Those who solicit, encourage, execute or cause to be executed arbitrary orders must be punished, but every citizen called up or arrested in the name of the law must obey instantly; resistance renders him culpable.

VIII The law must only require punishments that are strictly and evidently necessary and a person can only be punished according to an established law passed before the offence and legally applied.

IX Every man being presumed innocent until he has been declared guilty, if it is necessary to arrest him, all severity beyond what is necessary to secure his arrest shall be severely punished by law.

X No man ought to be uneasy about his opinions, even his religious beliefs, provided that their manifestation does not interfere with the public order established by the law.

XI The free communication of thought and opinion is one of the most precious rights of man: every citizen can therefore talk, write and publish freely, except that he is responsible for abuses of this liberty in cases determined by the law.

The guaranteeing of the rights of man and the citizen requires a public force: this force is therefore established for everybody’s advantage and not for the particular benefit of the persons who are entrusted with it.

XIII A common contribution is necessary for the maintenance of the public force and for administrative expenses; it must be equally apportioned between all citizens, according to their means.

XIV All citizens have the right, personally or by means of their representatives, to have demonstrated to them the necessity of public taxes, so that they can consent freely to them, can check how they are used, and can determine the shares to be paid, their assessment, collection and duration.

XV The community has the right to hold accountable every public official in its administration.

XVI Every society has no assured guarantee of rights, or a separation of powers, does not possess a constitution.

XVII Property being a sacred and inviolable right, nobody can be deprived of it, except when the public interest, legally defined, evidently requires it, and then on condition there is just compensation in advance.

cameron-toff

David Cameron, whose government represents aristocratic privilege over the working classes, the poor, the disabled, and whose policies violate many of the rights the Revolution declared to be universal and inviolable.

Just reading this list shows how deeply reactionary the Tories and Tory Democrats are. They don’t believe that everyone should have equal rights before the law, nor can this government claim they represent ‘the general will’. They weren’t elected: they took power through a backdoor deal with the Tory Democrats, and were elected anyway on a severely diminished percentage of the population who legally have the right to vote.

They also do not believe in the freedom from arbitrary arrest and open public justice. There is the continuing scandal of the stop and search of Black men. The Tories and their Tory Democrat accomplices also passed a law providing for secret courts meting out a highly Kafkaesque brand of ‘justice’.

We have also seen a gradual diminution and erosion of our right to free speech and freedom of conscience and opinion, under the guise of national security.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen also provides for something like the Freedom of Information Act. As a citizen, it states that we have the right to have it explained to us how our taxes are spent, so that we can freely consent to them. Yet the Tories have consistently refused to issue the information on the number of disabled people, who have died since Atos declared them fit for work. Mike and the other bloggers, who have attempted to obtain this information, have been denounced as ‘vexatious’ for so doing. Johnny Void on his site today has also reported that the government is refusing to release a report documenting the shambolic failure of their ‘welfare-to-work’ programme. They have openly confessed before that they don’t want details of it to be released as this would make it unpopular and prevent it from operating.

And then there is the abomination of the Bedroom Tax. This is a tax, as Mike and the others have shown, and it has been levied on the very poorest to force them out of their homes.

As for the taxation being levied at the same rate so that people can pay according to their means, they have deliberately and flagrantly rejected it. They have awarded massive tax cuts to the rich, while the poor have seen the tax burden increase through indirect taxation.

There is precious little about this government which agrees with this founding document of political and civil liberty. And the Tories know it. They have always stood for privilege and the rights of the feudal and upper middle class elite. In 1789 the French Revolutionaries abolished feudalism, including the forced labour the aristocracy required their serfs to perform. The unpaid internships and workfare are its modern equivalents, and have been reintroduced under the Tories.

And so is democracy destroyed by this most undemocratic of governments.