Campaign Against Arms Trade and Netpol have released a report exposing the militarised nature of British policing.

A Very British Problem: The Evolution of Britain’s Militarised Policing Industrial Complex exposes the increasingly blurry line between the police and the military. It further shows that a war mentality has infiltrated policing – from counter-terrorism to anti-protest policing to border control to the policing of gangs.

The report focuses on several key areas. These include the paramilitary policing of protests; border control and counter terrorism; surveillance; the private tech sector; and Britain’s global role in militarised policing.

Busting the policing by consent myth

The report busts the myth that the police in the UK govern, or have ever governed by consent. It lays out, what those from marginalised communities know all too well, that institutionalised and structural racism results in over policing, excessive force and disproportionate criminalisation. 

Even before the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act (PCSC), the police used their powers to excessively surveil and repress protest and label activists as domestic extremists or aggravated activists. The undercover policing scandal shows the lengths the police will go to to spy on and disrupt anyone dissenting from the status quo – whether that’s anti-arms trade protesters, families for justice campaigners or environmental activists. 

The UK is complicit in repressive policing around the globe

However, as Sam Perlo-Freeman from CAAT, the report also exposes the fact that the UK police are complicit in repressive policing on an international scale:

Policing in the UK is becoming steadily more repressive; but it’s not just about what the UK is doing to its own citizens. The UK trains foreign police and security services, especially around border control.

Britain is also the second biggest arms trader in the world and the fourth largest exporter of security technology. It is a major supplier of anti-protest equipment, such as tear gas, riot shields, and rubber bullets, as well as telecommunications interception technology – often to countries with terrible human rights records and a history of repressive policing. This means the UK is complicit in repressing protest across the globe

Report author Dr Keren Weitzberg stated:

Militarised policing is a longstanding British phenomenon with deep roots in the country’s colonial past. The police are increasingly relying on high-tech, data-driven, and military-grade technology to surveil the British population, and through the exchange of ideas, tactics and technologies, the UK government has played an outsize role in shaping global trends in militarised policing

Resisting repressive policing

With the PCSC Act, and the Public Ordrer Bill we’re more likely to see increased criminalisation and surveillance of protesters.

As the government takes more action to crush protest, this reports highlights the fact that we all need to resist repressive policing. It’s down to all of us to monitor what the police are doing and to defend our right to dissent.