Posts tagged: police

Dec 18 2011

Police uniform thoughts

I haven’t been too keen on police uniforms in the UK for some time. With all the changes in equipment over the years, particularly with the addition of the stab-vests/webbing that everything hangs from, it’s made it look rather ad-hoc as well as making it a lot heavier for the officers. And while there’s a definite cost involved, at some point there’s got to be a review to redress this and boil down all the add-ons into singular combined pieces of equipment, lest the domestic police officer end up hauling backpacks of gear around like Marines on a march.

Last night something specific crystallised about it though, and that’s the high-visibility jackets and patches that are now part of the selection.

I don’t know about you, but I associate high-visibility jackets with emergencies; officers or paramedics dragging wounded people to safety, running into burning buildings, floods, disasters, high-peril, high-drama events.

And I think for that reason it’s made me more wary of police patrols. I know it may sound silly, but by donning those same jackets it’s taken an approachable, respectable entity that’s supposed to be a part of a community and turned them into walking ominous suggestions that we’re in an emergency whenever they’re around.

The jackets make me think of disasters rather than safety. And I suspect if you stop to think about it, others would agree.

I doubt anything will be done about it though. To incorporate things like stab-vests, utility-belts, visibility aids and communications into would take time and effort to test, refine and deploy. I’m sure there are more than a few maker/hacker/artistic types like myself who’d leap at the chance to add some oil to smooth the grinding gears of society like this, but frankly even if we came up with a magical ideal new kit layup it would never see use as there are vested interests in legacy supply-chains. What an independent agent or company could make in-house for a tiny budget, a supplier will charge hundreds of times more for (as well as angling to further lock you in to them in future (EG; proprietary communications systems, maintenance contracts, promise of discounts)).

That said though, assuming you already had designs, getting equipment manufactured on a bespoke basis (sending the design out for manufacture by a generic 3rd party) would come in a LOT cheaper. The only issues that might remain are again how much sway those existing supply chains can pressure the decision-makers on choosing it or similarly influence those that decide whether equipment meets specification (as has happened before, altering spec so only one pre-selected choice is possible).

Oct 30 2011

Got punched by a drunken racist

Writing this up while it’s still fairly fresh in my mind.

Got punched in the head. First time I’ve ever been punched “in the wild”. Not pleasant, but not as bad as I’ve been worried it might be.

End of Expo for the day. My phone was out of credit, so no more free texts, and my top-up card was at home. I wandered to The Fox for a drink, but saw no one I knew. With no way to contact them, I decided to head home for cheaper drinks. Once home, dumped my stuff and earnings, and went out again to prepare for Sunday by topping up the phone and Oyster.

Since the other shops in the area were closed, I went to Nisa to see if they did phone top-ups. They did and I left. Receipt is timestamped 22:24. I then popped back in when I realised I should grab some batteries too.
While they were being rung up some loud-mouth and his friend passed the window and yelled something like “Fucking paki’s!”. Me and the shop owner exchanged looks and I said what a fucking idiot those guys were. Said idiot then came into the shop and tried to buy a can of White Lightning. While the shop assistant was running his cans through the till the guy kicked off, started yelling how they should fuck off back to their own country, then threw one of the cans at him. Not hard, it didn’t hurt him. But the shop floor guy told him he shouldn’t be doing that (an understatement). The guy turned on him, swung at him (I think he hit him) then head-butted him in the face (definitely hit him).
While the shop floor guy was trying to fend him off with a broom the guy was trying to grapple at him over, I tried to restrain the guy, or at least get him off him. I only got his right arm though so he swung around and pushed me out the door of the shop, then swung and punched me in the side of the head and knocked me to the ground as a result. His apparently more sober friend then dragged him away. We think to the train station, since a train left a few minutes later and frankly it seems the best way to get out of the area fast.
The police turned up inside of a couple of minutes and took us on a speedy run around the area to see if they were still on the streets. (No such luck, though did spot that the lights were on in the old Focus factory. Very odd since it’s been closed for months now.)
After taking our details they said an ambulance would be on it’s way. A lady suggested the shop floor guy should put some frozen peas on it. He’s got a bit of a lump there, but the redness went down pretty quick. Since I figured we had a few minutes, I popped to the station to top up my Oyster as I’d been intending to after I got the batteries. Got back to Nisa, no ambulance. No ambulance for the next hour actually. At the end I called instead of the manager and found they hadn’t been able to assign one yet as they were very busy. After a short conversation to ally my worries that the police would require it for the report (apparently not), we all went our separate ways.

Then as I walked down the Broadway I got propositioned by a prostitute who asked if I liked white/wild girls (unsure, very strong accent) and assured me she didn’t cost much. I politely declined saying I’d just been punched in the head and wasn’t really in the mood for very much of anything of any description. Though honestly, while a shag might have been nice it’s not something I’d feel right paying for.

The racist cuntnick was by my memory;
Skinny, haggard, the sort of face you expect to have been drinking for most of their life. Old skin. Tattoo down most of his arm, somewhat sun-bleached. Blue and white striped jumper, arms rolled up, (narrow stripes, less than an inch). About 5’10”. White, light short shaven hair, maybe 35-40yo.
His friend had darker but also short hair and was more rounded looking. It may have been his mostly grey-brown outfit, but he looked a bit like a darker-eyed David Mitchell. His demeanour suggested where his drunken friend might be dumb enough to wander back past the place bold as brass, the “Mitchell” would probably not come within a mile of the area for months for risk of being recognised.

Police were excellent, they apologised for all 5 of us (3 officers, two of us “victims”) having to cram into the small car and mentioned cutbacks. Not mentioning any specific answer to my response over that comment, but they seemed all too aware that that the police aren’t allowed to go on strike. Noted the incident was being logged as a racist one. Aside from The Cuntnick, I was the only “white” person involved.

Ear is feeling rather warm, but doesn’t seem to have swollen up much. Going to have some hot chocolate rather than the beer I intended to have tho. Did just wipe what seems to be a small trace of blood out from inside my ear canal. Fairly dried tho and I can hear fine. Must have bust some capillaries or something. Have dabbed inside with TCP. STINGS.

Wonder if I’ve any icecream left?

Jun 29 2010

Eye-Fi and mobile phones – instant remote backup of photos?

When I first heard about the Eye-Fi SDHC a couple of years ago, I was very intrigued, but saddened that it seemed so locked in to one service. But time’s gone by now, and it looks like they’ve opened their doors a lot wider.
The Eye-Fi is an up to 8Gb SD card with a built-in 802.11n wifi functionality. The idea is that when a photo is taken, it’s stored and also uploaded by any open wifi point to the web service. And now there’s a number of services including YouTube, but more importantly I feel, the open-source Gallery 2. The Gallery 2 option means it can now upload to your own personal webspace, located in the country and legal protections of your choice.

However it still requires you to get within 27meters (max) of an open wifi point. And with the spectre of an un-redacted Digital Economy Act looming, open wifi points may soon become rather thin on the ground.

However, one of the things that came up in the original discussion of the Eye-Fi was the idea of using a data-enabled SmartPhone with wifi as a bridge. Eye-Fi talks to your phone via 802.11n, phone talks to the internet via 3G or other mobile broadband. It’s a delightfully simple and compelling concept, but one that has apparently seen little development. Perhaps I’ve simply not found it yet, but it’s hard to find discussion of the subject past 2007.
Certainly you could use a laptop for the same purpose, but that shouldn’t be necessary, particularly as open-source phones such as the Android now exist, where the necessary programming should be relatively simple. And in any case, the uptime comparisons are unlikely to favour it.

In a world where police can illegally demand or force you to delete the video and images from your camera, I for one would treasure the warm inner glow from knowing that while the originals are gone, identical copies have already transferred to my phone and on to a secure server on the other side of the planet.

So if anyone knows of a bit of software to turn your SmartPhone into a passive wifi access-point/bridge, I’d love to hear about it, as I’m sure others would.

Jun 29 2010

Misuse of police powers, case analysis

As nice to start the day online with some annoying news. Thanks to BoingBoing for the link this..

Two police officers stopped a teenage photographer from taking pictures of an Armed Forces Day parade – and then claimed they did not need a law to detain him.

It requires a bit of attention, but I recommend listening to the audio recording the teenage photographer made. The particulars of what the 16yo photographer (student and part-time freelance journalist) is doing wrong changes at least twice a minute. In order it goes:
(actual accusations are in BOLD, items of note are in ITALIC)
Unclear portions in [square brackets].

  • Taking photographs of children – Public event in a public place, not illegal.
  • Taking photographs of military personnel – Public event in a public place, not illegal.
  • Implying he’s not answering questions properly/to their satisfaction – Unknown prior to where the recording starts.
  • Taking photographs of the officer questioning him is “drawing attention to himself” – True, but not illegal. Mr Mattsson states it’s due to them grabbing his arm.
  • No answer to what law he’s being asked for his details under, just more demands for the details – Possibly illegal to not provide details, but only if officers have provable grounds for suspicion (IIRC).
  • At the fourth time Mr Mattsson asks “Under what law are you taking my details” the officer replies “[we] don’t have to have any law to take your details” (@1m into recording) – Strictly speaking you could argue that you don’t need a law for the act of taking someones details if offered, but these details are being coerced, and secondly as they’re being taken by an on-duty police officer are subject to both the law and data-protection act.
  • Identified as taking photographs [of the event] and that “he can’t be doing that, unless he’s been given permission to do that” – Untrue, public event took place in a public space.
  • “When you’re asked to stop taking photographs of children, it becomes a little bit of a grey-area, yeah?” – Again, not true when it’s a public event in a public place (unless they’ve got some particular reason to suspect ulterior motives, I believe).
  • “You’re not being detained.” “Then why did you prevent me from leaving?” “Because you were acting the silliest[?]” “But that’s detaining.” “You know you were[n’t?], you were running around, being stupid [again/ and gay].” (@1m41s)
  • Is told he can go if he stays in a particular area, because they’re trying to form up the parade. Re-states that it’s a public area. – Probably the most legitimate complaint on the polices part here. If they’re trying to get the parade set up, having someone wandering through taking photos could get in their way. Not illegal, but rather rude if Mr Mattsson is actually getting in their way.
  • The above is probably the longest single argument, and does seem to be the nub of the matter. The police want everyone out of the way while they set up, which is understandable. However it rapidly descends back into attempting to force Mr Mattsson to leave by illegal threats rather than just asking. Possibly if the officer had just asked if he could step back to clear the space, rather than threatening him…?
  • Claims by police that Mr Mattsson needs signed parental consent forms to take photographs of the children present – Not true when for editorial use.
  • Breach of the peace (@3m30s) – Debatable, but unlikely when accused is only repeatedly asking what he’s being held under.
  • Hazard to the public (@3m35s) – Again, unlikely as no physical acts have occurred. At worst, he’s being a nuisance to the parade set-up.
  • Tells him that he will get trampled by soldiers (@3m45s) – I thought this was a childrens/cadets parade?
  • “We are concerned about terrorism at this event. Taking photographs of police officers and police staff is a criminal offence under these circumstances.” “No it’s not.” “Right, I’m John Fisher, I’m in charge of this parade. I’m not going to enter into a state with you [illegible]” (@3m53s) – Now escalating into terrorism threats?
  • “Can you tell me what law it’s an offence under?” “Young man, you are an agitator. [illegible] You clearly are. You are recording what I’m saying for later reference. I have better things to do; go away.” (@4m11s) – I agree that John Fisher has better things he could be doing.
  • Told he will not “disrupt” the parade and that he has to stay in a specific area, and he will not pass. Told that he’s not being detained but that he will not walk past him (the officer). (@4m48s) – It is a public space, and strictly speaking the officer has no right to block his way unless he genuinely believes someone’s in danger (again, IIRC). Does then state “I am concerned for your safety.” (@4m58s)
  • “You know what? I consider you a threat under the terrorism act young man.” “Hey, give me my camera back! Give me my camera back!” -sounds of scuffling- “Under what law am I being detained officer?? [muffled]” (@5m22s)
  • Fisher: “Right [I’ve/we’ve] had enough..” Mattsson: “Hands off me please! Hey, give me that camera!” Fisher: “[illegible] walk this way..” Mattsson: “Under what law am I being detained officer?! Under what law am I being detained officer?? Can you please take your hands off me and tell me under what law I am being detained? Hands off me! If I’m being arrested you have to tell me what law it is under! Is that correct? Oi! [a yell and sound of a fall into echoing space] Fuck! Did you just PUSH me down the stairs??” Fisher: “It’s a public order offence to swear in this area.” Mattsson: “You pushed me down the stairs!” (starts @5m23s) – That’s the sound of three Metropolitan Police Officers taking the camera from a 16yo journalist and pushing him down some steps, then telling him off for swearing once.
  • Mattsson: “The officer just pushed me down the stairs!!” Officer: “And you stay down there.”
  • Officer: “Please do not take photos of me because it will prevent me from doing covert operations in the future.” (@6m48s) – Untrue. Only covers officers currently engaged in covert operations (IIRC).
  • “Under my public privacy law I do not wish you to [take my photograph – talked over]” “No, in a public space there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.”
  • Mattsson: “Breach of the peace, how?” Fisher: “You know what you were doing.” Mattsson: “I took a photo and that’s my right to do so.” Fisher: “It was, and we support your right to [?] this parade is a reasonable way. However what you will not do is purposefully disrupt..” [interrupting] Mattsson: “I did not purposefully disrupt! One of the uniformed staff..” Fisher: “[?] ..Look, you’re recording what I’m saying. [stop recording. – muffled]” Mattsson: “No, I’m not going to stop recording.” Fisher: “I’ve told you why you’re detained. You ARE detained. I’m the inspector Fish[er?], under my authority, to prevent a breach of the peace, because of the anxiety you were causing to members of the public back there..” Mattsson: “The anxiety I was causing taking pictures?” Fisher: “Fair enough. I’m obliged to [? – something “for transport”?], you are detained for acting in an anti-social manner.. [illegible]” [interrupting] Mattsson: “I have not been acting in an antisocial manner. Under what law am I going to supply my details?” Fisher: “Under the breach of the peace law.” Officer: “[illegible] ..down at the police station, you’re under arrest.”(@7m08s)
  • Video ends on some of the shots Mattsson took at the parade.

I think perhaps the key to this is the point where the article describes the officer as “an adult cadet officer”. Presumably that means he was one of the officers directly organising the event, so there exists the possibility that it was a sense of infringed personal superiority that caused him to threaten Mr Mattsson so. It’s an aspect of human nature we expect police officers to be able to overcome, specifically so we receive fair an impartial treatment in the eyes of the law.

However instead we see the young (in fact, in the eyes of the law, juvenile) reporter accused of, in order; Taking photos of children, taking photos of the military, annoying the officers by not providing details, “drawing attention to himself”, taking photos in a public place without permission, taking photos of children without permission, lack of consent forms, a breach of the peace, being a hazard to the public, that he’d be in harms way from the parade, implying that he might be working for terrorists, of being an “agitator”, of revealing a police officer in convert operations, of a public order act for swearing, another breach of the peace, causing anxiety to the public and finally breach of the peace again (for which he is apparently arrested).

As well as being told he didn’t have to be charged to legally required to provide his details, he’s told to stay in a particular area with no cordon or (apparent) reason for it; in a public space that’s detention without cause. He also apparently has his camera taken from him at one point and is (unintentionally?) pushed down a flight of 4 steps.

Additionally he’s escorted forcefully away as a threat under the terrorism act, before being charged for a mere breach of the peace.

All in under 9 minutes, by three police officers on a 16 year old boy taking photographs of a parade.

Maybe Mattsson is a freak 16yo; a 6’5″ brick shit-house with neo-nazi tattoos all over his face, and the police and public were understandably cautious of him. But from his voice, the fact he’s a part-time reporter as his hobby and has a very complete knowledge of his citizens rights, I don’t imagine that’s the case. I can readily imagine Mattsson being about 5’6″, fairly slim, a bit pale, occasionally bookish, and finding reporting a creative outlet. And possessing a great deal of self control.

The only argument for this sort of behaviour is that Mattsson was a minor nuisance to the officers involved, and maybe Mattsson should have just stayed out of their way as asked. In day to day civilian life, that can be a valid argument; sometimes it’s best to ignore people who’re being officious ass-holes. However these people were the police. The people we’re supposed to defer our own personal defence to. The people we are told by law that we are to rely on for our safety and liberty. So yes, when they start throwing illegal threats around and attempt to bully us into doing what they want with no legal backing, you have to stand up for what’s in the letter of the law. It may seem pedantic to some, but if you don’t then you loose control completely.

In this case, short of rolling over for police officers who were themselves breaking the law, I see nothing Mattsson could have done differently. I can’t think of a better example of police bullying than what happened here. The police wanted him to do something they had no official power to force him to do, so illegally threatened him with everything they could think of.

Jules Mattsson’s own blog of the incident can be found HERE. Praise be, connectivity.

(note: the Independent states Mattsson is 16, his YouTube account states 19. Will see which is correct.)

Alibi3col theme by Themocracy