Oppose intelligence led policing

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Lib-dem ex cop Brian Paddick

Aaron Porter, the NUS leader who has consistently condemned violence and property damage on demonstrations, has now joined ex cop Brian Paddick in calling for the Met to improve its intelligence gathering.

The best case scenario is Mr Porter is ignorant and should talk to a few of the activists and organisers who have been at the sharp end of police intelligence gathering over the last decade.

From past experiences, this is a snapshot of what student activists might expect from ‘improved’ intelligence and data gathering:

• Having to run a gauntlet of police and police cameras just to get to a planning or preparation meeting, never mind a demo;
• FIT teams ‘accompanying’ known activists on demonstrations, even to the point of following them back to their family home, place of work, or in one well documented case to their grandmothers nursing home;
• Thousands of students’ names and details placed on Criminal Intelligence or Domestic Extremism databases;
• Finding a police officer you’ve never seen before knows your name and personal details about you;
• A range of ‘disruption’ activities, to undermine and make life difficult for organisers and activist groups including excessive stop and searches (often many times in one day) and arbitrary arrests. This can also include undercover police officers getting involved with and disrupting activist meetings
• Trolling of websites with a targeted police ‘message’;
• Kettles, kettles and more kettles – they are so useful for data gathering, and for disrupting protest;
• Stop and search, breach of the peace arrests, and accusations of ‘anti-social behaviour’, all tried and trusted methods of getting the personal details of protesters

Over the last decade, the target of police intelligence hasn’t been the so-called criminal element, but the organiser, the facilitator, the groups who get active and make protest happen. These are the people most likely to feel the brunt of police tactics, and suffer real harassment for daring to organise demonstrations. However, the objective is to frighten away as many as possible, including those ‘on the periphery’ – the large contingent who support what is going on, but who may not have the commitment to keep going when the going gets tough.

Police intelligence gathering and ‘disruption’ doesn’t just prevent criminal activity – it seeks to deter people from getting involved in any protest at which criminality can occur. In effect, this means any they don’t like and certainly any with the audacity to not stick to a state approved A-B route or a protest pen.

The ‘harassment style policing’ of intelligence teams has a much greater effect on our civil liberties and our ability to organise and protest than any number of water cannons or horse charges, and must be opposed. As usual, Aaron Porter should be a lot more careful about what he says.

10 thoughts on “Oppose intelligence led policing

  1. Aaron Porter doesn’t care about doing his job properly. He’s just got his eye on the greasy pole to a political career in Parliament like his long time predecessor, Jack Straw.
    He will sit on whatever fence is good for him and his career and to hell with principles!

  2. Your post only makes sense if FIT behaviour can be described correctly as intelligence gathering. Can it?

    I think a smarter move would be to agree with Porter while explaining what would constitute useful, lawful intelligence-gathering in your opinion, and how this contrasts with how FITs behave currently.

  3. Kettles, kettles and more kettles – they are so useful for data gathering, and for disrupting protest;
    i am glad you agree that they work..long may they continue

  4. Dear Paul Stephenson,

    May you be attacked with a kettle/have boiling water poured over you from a kettle/be electricuted by a kettle.

    To your ill health,

    Bond

  5. @Richard: “Your post only makes sense if FIT behaviour can be described correctly as intelligence gathering. Can it?”

    Are you suggesting FITs are not engaged in intelligence gathering? In which case, what the hell are they doing with all those notes, audio tapes and photographs?

    “I think a smarter move would be to agree with Porter while explaining what would constitute useful, lawful intelligence-gathering in your opinion, and how this contrasts with how FITs behave currently.”

    This may come as a shock to anyone under the age of thirty, but there was a time when demonstrations were allowed to happen without the police systematically taking mug shots of everyone.

    And before you say it, yes, the police have always kept tabs on politicos, it was called special branch. But never before have the police been able to collect, collate and analyse huge amounts of data the way technology has enabled them to do now.

    We are in danger of ‘designing out’ not just disorder, but protest and dissent in its entirety. So no, I don’t think it’s a ‘smart move’ to legitimise FIT, or any form of intelligence gatherings at demonstrations.

    Call me old fashioned, but I’d like to be able to attend a demo without ending up on a police database somewhere.

  6. What seems clear to me is that FIT failed completely to provide ‘Forward Intelligence” on December the 9th. What were they doing when Charles and Camilla were driven into the middle of unrest in Regents Street. These pictures give some idea:
    Harrassing Jody McIntyre – http://bit.ly/i4NtCW
    Putting the Boot in: http://bit.ly/g1Uvnt

  7. This has taken it one step too far for me. I can no longer support Aaron as the president of the NUS. I have recently been a victim to such policing, as an organiser of student activism in the UK. The police in my city have taken to stop members of our group in the street, demanding their details. I was arrested after refusing one such request (under the Scottish legal system), I am currently on bail. This is the only crime I have committed.

    I have lost count of the number of occasions I have been recorded by the police, I am beginning to be recognised by officers in the street. I have received anonymous calls, trolling for information.

    They have also been following my online activity.

    I have been in contact with Aaron previously. I am going to be writing him an email shortly.

  8. I would like to say donations to fitwatch are via paypal and other electronic means.

    Do you have a legal (or other?) representative to whom cash donations may be forwarded to?

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