‘The End of Policing’ by Alex S Vitale, published by Verso, October 2017
During the 2017 UK general election, the Police Federation ran an extremely successful campaign, eventually taken up for different motivations by both the Labour Party’s left-wing leadership and the right-wing press, arguing a direct link between falling police numbers and rising levels of crime.
Since then, only Rebecca Roberts from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS) has been able to offer any challenge to this idea within the mainstream media. Police numbers have undoubtedly reduced since 2010 but still remain at historically high levels after years of growth. Nevertheless, this explanation for an increase in some types of crime has become an accepted truth: questioning the need for more police officers is seen as straying far outside the Overton window of political acceptability.
‘The End of Policing’, a new book by Brooklyn associate professor Alex S Vitale, goes much further, however, by posing questions that seem almost unthinkable in the US (its main focus) or here in the UK.
What if we really need significantly fewer police officers and more attention to alternatives that are less coercive? What if the police are wholly unsuited to solving many of the problems the state asks them to deal with? Read more
One of the UK’s smallest police forces, Durham Police, is reportedly gathering video captured by officers’ body worn cameras to create a ‘troublemakers’ database – contravening national guidance that officers should not use the technology as an ‘intelligence-gathering tool’.
Body Worn Video cameras, or ‘bodycams’ as they are more usually known, are now a global phenomenon. Most UK police forces use them routinely, as do forces in the US, Australia and Europe. Nor is it just the police that is using this technology: bodycams are routinely worn by bailiffs, security guards, even traffic wardens and council workers.
This is arguably one of the biggest single expansions of surveillance capacity since the introduction of CCTV, and one that is highly profitable for bodycam manufacturers such as Axon (formerly Taser International). Read more
The UN’s Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai is visiting the UK next week. We assess what has changed in relation to the freedom to take part in protests – and what issues remain a concern – since his last official visit three years ago.
Netpol was one of a number of groups who met Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, when he last visited the UK in January 2013. His report on that visit was published in June 2013 [, 588 kB].
Next week we are meeting him again. Here are some issues we think he should consider – and a reminder of how in a number of important respects, little has changed since his last report. Read more
Travelling to the COP21 climate conference in Paris? Make sure you know your rights in case you are stopped under Schedule 7 anti-terrorism powers when leaving or returning to the UK
As far back as 2012, Netpol highlighted the use of stop and search powers under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to interrogate activists travelling in and out of the UK, to determine whether they were allegedly involved in “terrorism”.
People can face detention for up to six hours, have their belongings and vehicles searched and have their DNA and fingerprints taken. Police can make and retain copies of data on mobile phones or laptops and unlike other search powers, there is no right to silence and no ‘reasonable suspicion’ is necessary. Wilfully refusing to comply could result in a fine or potentially up to three months in jail.
Since 2012, Schedule 7 has been used again and again: most recently against international peace activists travelling to a protest in March 2015 at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Burghfield in Berkshire; and earlier this month, against London2Calais volunteers taking humanitarian aid to refugees.
In both cases, campaigners were stopped and detained by British counter-terrorism officers on the Calais side of the Euro-Tunnel. Read more
A new film by Y-Stop aims to highlight rights and vital skills for young people in handling police stop and search incidents.
For more information visit y-stop.org
A legal observer writes:
Last September demonstrators and Legal observers were being bussed from the Stop NATO peace camp in Tredegar Park to the anti war demonstration taking place in Newport, where the No to NATO group joined, among others, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) to march on to Celtic Manor resort which was hosting the summit itself.
Shortly after leaving the peace camp the bus was pulled over by police using section 1 of PACE. The main power used on a daily basis by police. It allows police officers to stop and search a person or vehicle for stolen or prohibited articles. The power can only be exercised if the officer has “reasonable grounds” for suspicion. Stop and Search and Stop and Account are always being abused by the police to gain information and intelligence. Here is a prime example of that abuse of power.
The demos at Stop NATO were peaceful and quite small. Never at any point was the summit under any threat from these peaceful protests. The summit protected by gun ships, with a police and military operation puffing up it’s chest for the world to see. A ring of steel which disrupted anybody going about their normal business and shops shut down for security or from fear-mongering. The police and state over exaggerated the risks from the demonstrations and the numbers of protesters expected, creating an atmosphere of fear. Fear a tool of control.
In a statement, Home Secretary Theresa May acknowledged widespread disquiet about the way stop and search is used, saying: “nobody wins when stop and search is misused. It can be an enormous waste of police time and damage the relationship between the public and police”. May insists that the new scheme will “increase transparency, give us a better understanding of how stop and search is actually being used and help local communities hold the police to account for their use of the powers”.
Fifteen years have passed since the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report examined stop and search in depth and recommended safeguards to try to ensure its proper and consistent use. Recommendation 61 proposed that a full written record should be made of each stop and search. Since then there have been further efforts to reform the power’s use: a requirement was introduced in April 2005, for example, that police officers note the self-defined ethnic origin of a person who is searched, along with their own perception of the individual’s ethnic background.
Nevertheless, statistics showing the level of disproportionality in the use of stop and search against black communities have remained consistently high: in 2013, the Guardian reported that stop and search rates for black and Asian people had doubled since the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, while the rate for white people had risen only slightly. Read more
On Sunday 24 and Monday 25 August, teams of trained, independent ‘Community Monitors’ will observe and record the actions of police officers during this year’s Notting Hill Carnival in west London.
Netpol’s Community Monitoring Project has organised local community scrutiny of the policing operation at the Carnival, working with a group of activists centred around the Community Monitoring Project – West London. ‘Community Monitors’ will observe and gather evidence, talk to attendees about their experiences of street-level policing, hand out legal rights information, and deter police abuse. Read more
On 20 July 2014, a team of trained independent ‘Community Monitors’ will observe and record the actions of police officers and security staff during Birmingham’s popular Simmer Down Reggae Festival.
Community scrutiny of the policing operation in and around Handsworth Park, where the festival takes place, is part of Netpol’s Community Monitoring Project and has been organised alongside 4WardEver UK, Birmingham Ethnic Minorities Association (BEMA) and BirminghamStrong Justice 4 All. Funding from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation enables Netpol to pilot three community monitoring projects in different parts of the country, which aim to increase police accountability over the treatment of individuals and the process of local decision-making in each of the three pilot areas. Similar projects are planned for Manchester and west London. Read more