Are UK Police Forces Fit For Purpose?
I've had a few disappointing personal experiences of the police force in the UK, mostly when I was young. Such as the time my grandfather reported his friend had fallen and nothing was done until the next day when the old gentleman was found dead. Such as being pulled over in my first car and being made to stand in the rain, whilst answering pointless questions – nothing wrong with the car, no driving offence. Such as being pulled over in my second car for overtaking on a pedestrian crossing when I had done no such thing as independent witnesses testified despite leading questions from the officer concerned, and such as being breathalysed more recently, get this, for obeying the 30mph limit in the presence of a police car and a speed camera – apparently it was suspicious that I didn't speed up after passing the camera as most people apparently do.
When my house was burgled the first time no one was apprehended, but some years later it was pinned on someone who'd committed another burglary, doubtless in return for a good word in court, that is how the system works and that's how the statistics get fixed. Crime solved! When my storage was burgled I had so little confidence in the police I didn't even bother reporting it, I wonder how many more disillusioned citizens do likewise. When my boat (my home at the time) was burgled I did report it, but they closed the case before I'd even managed to submit a list of stolen items, almost forty eight hours later. How's that for efficiency! Although cash converters and pawn brokers are supposed to supply lists of products taken in for cross referencing against stolen items, so maybe they were just a little premature!
Sailing up the east coast of England recently I was interviewed by the river police at Burnham. When I learned they were going to seize a boat 'belonging' to a man arrested for stealing boats and from boats I left a letter about the burglary of my own boat, referring them to the list of my stolen items and the police station that held the report. Not even the courtesy of a reply. When I reported an insurance fraud to Action Fraud, the police department supposedly taking action on fraud I received a letter explaining how they couldn't investigate them all as they're so busy. Keep your fraud small and you might well be ok then seems to be the lesson from that.
Nonetheless my experiences are as nothing compared with many down the years. It is widely believed and still being investigated that in the 1970s Armagh police colluded with and even aided 'loyalist' gangs in committing murders and bombings.
In 1983 film producer Stephen Waldorf was shot in his car. He was mistaken for a criminal who had shot a police officer, it seems certain to me that this was an attempted execution. Sadly they got the wrong man, fortunately Mr Waldorf survived, despite eleven shots directly aimed at him, many of which found their mark and two more aimed at the car. An officer finding Mr Waldorf still alive tried to discharge his weapon one more time to Waldorf's head, only to discover he'd already expended all his ammunition, he therefore pistol whipped the prone and seriously wounded man. In court both the police officers who shot Mr Waldorf were cleared.
In 1999 a man carrying a repaired table leg in a bag was shot dead in the street. In 2009 police repeatedly Tasered a man already confined inside their van, his offence – urinating in an alleyway. In 2010 police failed to protect a young mother and her infant son, despite knowing they were at serious risk, both died at the hands of a crazed murderer. In 2010 a blind stroke victim was Tasered because police thought his white stick was a sword, they then handcuffed the prostrate man before realising their mistake. It's beyond belief or excuse.
This year suspect Mark Duggan was shot dead exiting a taxi. According to national media the evidence of witnesses suggests the shooting was not necessary and conflicts with the police version of events. There is the suspicion that evidence may have been planted or tampered with. There is also testimony that a witness was threatened by officers.
In relation to one of the Taser outrages The Police Action Centre said “The Taser should only be used when there is a life-threatening incident to members of the public or the police”. Naturally similar rules apply to actual firearms, so how can all these police shootings be taking place? I'm sure it's a tough job being a firearms officer and I dare say there are parts of the world where the police are far worse, but there is no excuse in a civilised society for police officers failing to give warnings or for discharging a firearm when there is no direct threat to anyone. Nor is lying acceptable.
This year a politician lost his job on the evidence of police officers, yet secret recordings indicate the police officers' version of events is not entirely true. Senior officers have apologised, but there is a suggestion that an internal investigation's conclusion was altered at the last minute. The officers personally involved in the incident have testified before a select committee. Their testimony is far from convincing and they themselves have conspicuously not apologised, but then to do so would really be to admit malice aforethought.
There has long been a suggestion of institutional racism in the police force and the Stephen Lawrence case and others appears to bear this out. Small wonder then that so many citizens have little or no confidence in the police. All of which seems to suggest there's far more to worry about than relatively minor crimes. In fact we need to worry about all of it.
So what is needed? The first thing we need is a police force that's fit for purpose. They have to be honest and then transparent. Next they have to realise they are subject to the law not above it and finally they have to be more concerned with preventing and solving crime than with fixing the statistics. In New York, when a new police chief ordered the troops to crack down on Metro fare dodgers there was an outcry, why bother with fare dodgers when people are getting murdered down there they said. What happened when they cracked down on fare dodgers and small crimes was they caught the big criminals too. They changed the culture and they changed the environment.
And lets not forget that amongst today's small time crooks are tomorrows big time criminals. It's time to take all crime seriously. The politicians tell us crime is declining, particularly burglary, but shortly after my most recent burglary I was saw several of my Facebook friends reporting burglaries too. There is a current advertising campaign on mainstream television by an insurance company; the thrust of their campaign is that they will offer personalised help in the event of a burglary, “like any decent person would”. Odd time to run that campaign if burglaries are in decline as politicians tell us they are. Believe me the insurance companies KNOW what's going on!
We need to clean up, scrutinize and monitor the police, they are not judge, jury and executioner. We also need to free up the police somewhat so they spend more time investigating crime, all crime, and less time pen pushing. We need to legalise many drugs, but help the addicts who are also victims of crime. By doing so we will put the gangs and criminals who smuggle and supply drugs out of business and as a bonus reduce burglaries perpetrated to get money for the next fix. Not to mention breaking the ridiculous circle of banning legal highs as they come along only for the manufacturers to come up with new recipes and compounds that kill our young people. We need effective jails and meaningful sentencing more than we need nuclear weapons. And here's the most radical one, we need honest police and honest politicians, not spin, fake statistics or PR.
I recently blogged about the need to be friends with Turkey. Within days violence broke out. This does not mean I back-pedal on my original comments at all. Tragically it may mean we in Western Europe have left things too late.
Ataturk's division of State from religion demonstrated great wisdom, Turkey's current dictator has no such wisdom, hence the violence. Many of us have visited Turkey as tourists, I have personally spent a great deal of time there and have many friends there, both Turkish and 'westerners'.
To lose Turkey as a great and moderate trading partner and friend would be a huge loss, so do not underestimate the importance of what is happening there. The Turkish media is suppressed and 'news' that is put out is controlled. The article I post here was written by sailing friends of mine, I know them well enough to absolutely vouch for the truth of it. Please read it and consider what you might do to help, on which subject I will shortly be offering some suggestions put forward by another friend of mine in Turkey.
Subject: Fwd: A day at the park a.k.a. pepper spray in the face and police violence
Hi People, excuse the lack of a personal touch but it seems the mainstream media is not doing much in the way of reporting peaceful protest in Taksim Square.
Banu and I were in Istanbul to buy a car when a decision, by the prime minister, to raze one of the last green spaces in the city to build another shopping mall was made.
A protest to try to stop the bulldozers and chainsaws was organised, after a night this was pretty brutally put down by police with tear gas, water canon and pepper spray and metal barricading erected around the "building site".
Undeterred, protesters organised meeting points in various spots around Taksim Square.
At about 5 in the afternoon we headed, rather poorly equipped - scarves over our noses, and sunglasses, for the area, Banu's apartment is quite close so we walked and as a consequence found ourselves coming from a less populated direction and were between the main body of protesters and the police who were preparing to charge with rocket propelled tear gas and water cannon, we photographed for face book display and continued across the square between both parties, then the assault started, an unbelievable attack given that the protesters were doing nothing more than waving placards, we had to run, I took a glancing blow on the head from a tear gas canister but otherwise all was well and we were able to observe the cowardly bullying actions of the police in the their Darth Vader uniforms as they fired tear gas canisters into the crowd, from the relative security provided by standing in front of a glass fronted bank building. At the same time a police armoured water canon truck was hunting down a lone protester, as it turns out, a brilliant astrophysicist, repeatedly bringing him to his knees every time he staggered to his feet. An unconfirmed (by the government)report has him dead from internal injuries. It would not surprise me, if true,as the canon operator aimed unerringly for his kidneys and head. ( Others have been blinded by water canon ripping out eye balls).
We moved on, still photographing, probably a little too cocky, lungs only burning a little, being close to the police we were distanced from the worst of the gas,and came upon a small knot of police,4 armed with assault rifles and tear gas launchers and one with a back pack tank of pepper spray. Banu pointed the camera at them,
they seized her and took the camera. While I wrestled the camera back, all the while shouting in english that no crime had been committed the ape holding Banu was attempting to break her wrist by wrenching her hand to her forearm. Luckily,I think because at that stage at least,raining baton blows on the back of an unarmed tourist wasnt in the job description I managed to get to Banu and with my arms wrapped around started to drag her from her captor, at this point the hero with the pepper spray, at the nod of the guy trying to hold me, put the gun into our faces and hosed us down, that stuff really burns, my 5 euro ray ban knockoffs mostly protected my eyes but poor Banu was totally blinded. The psycho's, having had their fun allowed us to escape.
Another protester/ photographer led us to a nearby burger king which though closed for burgers was being used as a medical station for the gassed and sprayed- as are many other business premises- but boycott starbucks, they closed their doors to teargassed victims trying to escape police. (who have fired gas canisters into buildings and held doors closed on those trying to shelter inside)
After 40 minutes or so with sight mostly returned we ran the gamut again amongst many others with various wounds including an elderly woman sporting a large gravel rash on her leg caused by a water canon assault.
While this has started as a demonstration against the callous destruction of one of the few green spots in the city it has turned into a more general denouncement of an increasingly autocratic and dictatorial government that while claiming secular status is actively building mosques and pushing an islamist manifest.
Where it will lead I have no idea but sadly protest is leading to riot, whether by idiot elements within the protest movement or by cynical government agents we will ever know but either way will give the excuse for harsher police action. Active reporting by foreign news organisations is desperately needed, write to your local paper!!!
We, regrettably had to return to Bozburun to attend to dog and boat, plus I have a job to do but felt like traitors as we drove south.(we did make Marmaris in time to join the protest there, support is erupting through out the country. Regards to all, Banu and Pete
The Good News in Turkey
by Daniel PipesLos Angeles Times
June 4, 2013
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How to interpret the recent unrest on the streets of Istanbul and about 65 other Turkish cities? Specifically, is it comparable to the Arab uprisings over the last 2½ years in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain?
On one level, they appear unrelated, for Turkey is a far more advanced country, with a democratic culture and a modern economy. But two connections — autocracy and Syria — do tie them together, suggesting that the Turkish demonstrations could have a potentially deep importance.
The rebellion did not come out of nowhere. I was in Istanbul last fall, and it was clear then that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's dictatorial tendencies worried Turks more than his Islamic aspirations. I heard unceasing criticisms about his being "intoxicated with power," an "informal caliph" and "Turkey's elected chief social engineer."
Turks enumerated to me a lengthy list of authoritarian symptoms they suffered from the decade-long rule by Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party, or AKP: suppression of political criticism, crony capitalism, manipulation of the judiciary, unjust imprisonment, show trials and a disregard for the separation of powers. In particular, they evinced annoyance at the way Erdoğan seeks to impose his personal tastes on the country.
The demonstrations since Friday are protesting these actions and more. What began as a localized dispute over the uprooting of a small park at Taksim Square in the heart of modern Istanbul has rapidly grown into a national statement of defiance.
Erdoğan is no Moammar Kadafi or Bashar Assad, and he will not massacre peaceful demonstrators, but heavy-handed police operations have reportedly led to 2,300 injured and, according to Amnesty International, two deaths. Further, the prime minister has reacted defiantly, not just insisting on his original plan for the park but announcing he can do whatever he pleases.
As paraphrased by Hürriyet Daily News: "A mosque will be built in Taksim, Erdoğan said. He added that he did not have to take permission from the main opposition leader or a 'few marauders' for the projects, noting that the authority had already been given by people who voted for the AKP."
Erdoğan is saying, in other words, that having voted the AKP into office, Turks have given him authority to do anything he wants. He is the elected, unaccountable padishah. Well, the demonstrators and those hitherto eager foreign investors have something to say about that, perhaps putting the country's China-like economic growth at risk.
Significantly, Abdullah Gül, the president of Turkey and increasingly Erdoğan's rival, adopted a very different approach to the protests. "Democracy does not only mean elections," he said. "The messages delivered with good intentions have been received." By distancing himself from the prime minister, Gül exacerbated Erdoğan's isolation.
As for Syria, after a charmed near-decade in power, Erdoğan made his first major miscalculation by intensely involving Turkey in the Syrian civil war. He acted with pique when Assad, the Syrian despot and a onetime buddy, ignored his (sound) advice to make reforms. Not one to take well to being rebuffed, Erdoğan responded emotionally and thrust his country into the civil war, hosting the rebels, provisioning and arming them and trying to guide them.
The results have been close to disastrous from Turkey's viewpoint. The country has experienced new hostilities with Moscow, Tehran and Baghdad, lost both overland trade routes to the Persian Gulf and trade with Syria, suffered terrorism on Turkish soil (in Reyhanli) and — perhaps most ominous — witnessed tensions surge between its stridently Sunni government and the country's heterodox Muslim populations.
Thanks to the Syrian imbroglio, Turkey has lost its enviable position of strength and popularity — its "zero problems with neighbors" policy that brought with it real accomplishments — in favor of a sense of being surrounded by foes. If President Obama once bragged of his "close working relationship" with Erdoğan, last month's White House meeting between the two showed neither the personal chemistry nor the practical results vis-à-vis Syria that Erdoğan had sought.
In short, it appears that a decade of electoral calm, political stability and plentiful foreign investment has come to a halt and a new, more difficult era has begun for the AKP government. The moribund opposition parties may find their voice. The antiwar faction may feel emboldened. The secularists may be able to tap the wide unhappiness with the regime's efforts to corral citizens into becoming more (Islamically) virtuous.
This is excellent news. Turkey has been heading in the wrong direction under the AKP. Although a democracy, the AKP government has jailed more journalists than any other state in the world. Although secular, it has with growing urgency imposed arrays of Islamist regulations, including last week's rushed limitation on alcohol as well as warnings against public displays of affection.
Although a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Turkey engaged in 2010 in a joint air exercise with China. Although an applicant to the European Union, it plays footsie with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, founded in 1996 by Russian and Chinese leaders as an anti-NATO grouping. Although supposedly an American ally, Turkey has humiliated Israel, called Zionism a "crime against humanity," and acclaimed the terror-listed Hamas organization.
Thanks to the demonstrations, we can be newly hopeful that Turkey may avoid the path it had been on, that of despotism, Islamification and increasingly rogue foreign relations. Perhaps its secular, democratic and pro-Western heritage can be revived.
Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum and a columnist for National Review.
From Jean Philippe, Turkey's Violent Protests in Context
The rapid escalation of anti-government protests in Turkey in recent days has exposed a number of long-dormant fault lines in the country's complex political landscape. But even as the appeal of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (also known by its
Turkish acronym, AKP) is beginning to erode, it will remain a powerful force in Turkish politics for some time to come, with its still-significant base of support throughout the country and the lack of a credible political alternative in the next elections.
The foundation for the current unrest was laid May 28, when a small group of mostly young environmentalists gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square for a sit-in to protest a planned demolition of walls, uprooting of trees and the perceived desecration of historical sites in the square's Gezi Park. The initially peaceful demonstration turned violent the night of May 30, when police tried to break up what had grown to more than 100 protesters.
The environmental protesters were joined the next day by high-level representatives of the Justice and Development Party's main opposition, the secular Republican People's Party (known as CHP). The message of the protests soon evolved from saving Gezi Park's trees to condemning Erdogan and his party for a litany of complaints. Anti-government chants included "Down with the dictator," "Tayyip, resign," and "Unite against fascism."
The protests grew rapidly when the weekend began, with more than 10,000 people gathering in Taksim Square on June 1. Many of these made their way to the square from the district of Kadikoy, a Republican People's Party stronghold on the Asian side of Istanbul, by walking across the Bosphorus Bridge banging pots and pans in defiance of laws against pedestrian use of the bridge. Some reportedly threw Molotov cocktails, fireworks and stones at police, prompting the use of tear gas and water cannons on the protesters. However, this quickly drew condemnation, leading the government to temporarily withdraw police at the cost of allowing more protesters to gather.
Erdogan's response was defiant. While admitting excessive force by the police and ordering an investigation of the matter, he said that he would not give in to "wild extremists" who belong to an "ideological" as opposed to "environmental" movement and that he would bring out a million supporters from his party for every 100,000 protesters. The same night, riots broke out and some 5,000 protesters threw stones at the prime minister's office in the Besiktas neighborhood in Istanbul.
On the morning of June 2, heavy rains kept protesters away from Taksim Square save for a few dozen who huddled around bonfires. More protesters made their way back to the square in the afternoon while Erdogan made another defiant speech blaming the Republican People's Party for the unrest and vowing to proceed with the development plans. Clashes between police and protesters have resumed, and close to 1,000 people have been detained and dozens injured.
The size and scope of the protests must be kept in perspective. By the end of June 1, protests had reportedly spread to Izmir, Eskisehir, Mugla, Yalova, Antalya, Bolu, Adana, Ankara, Kayseri and Konya. Many of the areas where protests were reported are also areas where the Republican People's Party would be expected to bring out a large number of supporters.
Konya, Kayseri and Ankara, strong sources of support for the Justice and Development Party, were notable exceptions. The largest protests, in Istanbul and Izmir, brought out predominantly young protesters in the tens of thousands. The protests would be highly significant if they grow to the hundreds of thousands, include a wider demographic and geographically extend to areas with traditionally strong support for the ruling party.
The protests so far do not indicate that Erdogan's party is at serious or imminent risk of losing its grip on power, but they do reveal limits to the prime minister's political ambitions. Erdogan is attempting to extract votes from a slow-moving and highly fragile peace process with the Kurdistan Workers' Party to help him get enough support for a constitutional referendum. The referendum would transform Turkey from a parliamentary system to a presidential system and thus enable Erdogan, whose term as prime minister expires in 2015, to continue leading Turkey as president beyond 2014, when presidential elections are scheduled. The sight of protesters from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (known as the BDP) joining Republican People's Party supporters for the June 1 protests does not bode well for Erdogan's plan to rely on those votes in the constitutional referendum. Though the Justice and Development Party, which remains highly popular with Turkey's more conservative populace in the Anatolian interior, so far does not face a credible political contender for the October local elections or 2015 parliamentary elections, Erdogan's political maneuvering to become president will face more resistance.
The ruling party's main secular opposition is alarmed at Erdogan's policies that compromise the core founding principles of the state as defined by Kemal Ataturk. From social measures that ban the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. to foreign policy measures that have Turkey trying to mold and influence Islamist rebel groups in Syria, these are policies that directly undermine the Ataturkian mandate that Turkey must remain secular and avoid overextending itself beyond the republic's borders. But the growing dissent against the party is not a simple Islamist-secular divide, either. A perception has developed among a growing number of Turks that the party is pursuing an aggressive form of capitalism that defies environmental considerations as well as Islamic values. Within business circles, frustration is building over the number of concessions handed out to Erdogan's closest allies.
The polarization of the state could be plainly seen in the reporting of the Gezi Park protests. The protests appear to have emboldened once critical newspapers such as Hurriyet to reassume an anti-ruling party stance unseen in the recent years of Erdogan's media taming. Hurriyet has broadcast Erdogan's "defeat" with headlines such as "Erdogan no longer almighty." On the other end of the political spectrum, the state-funded news agency Anatolia is reporting the protests as a "brawl" between police and firework-throwing youth extremists, while stressing a democratic message that the government permitted the Republican People's Party to demonstrate in Taksim.
Far more interesting is reporting from the Justice and Development Party's traditional sources of support. Yeni Safak, a newspaper close to the ruling party, has condemned the park project and sympathized with the protesters. The same was seen in Zaman newspaper, run by followers of the moderate Islamist Gulen movement. The Gulenists form a crucial component of the ruling party's broader support base but also keep their distance from the ruling party. The movement has been increasingly critical of Erdogan, strongly suggesting that he and his party have become too powerful. Editorials from the newspaper admonished Erdogan for his "excessive" behavior and sided with the protesters.
Though dissent is rising, Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party still have a substantial support base, and the opposition continues to lack a credible political alternative (local elections scheduled for October likely will indicate how much support for the party has waned). At the same time, Turkey is pursuing a highly ambitious agenda abroad, from negotiating peace with Kurdish militants and developing oil pipelines in Iraqi Kurdistan to trying to fend off Syrian-backed militant attacks. Turkey was already highly constrained in pursuing these foreign policy goals, but they will take second place to Turkey's growing political distractions at home as Erdogan prioritizes the growing domestic challenges and as foreign adversaries such as Syria try to take advantage of preoccupied Turkish security forces to try to sponsor more attacks inside Turkey.
Democrats, liberals and the AK Party
6 June 2013
The Gezi Park protests are still continuing. All of us are trying to digest what happened and what it means for our society, politics and future. One of the highlights reflecting pro-government thinking occurred during the height of the protests. Taha Ozhan, the head of the pro-government think tank SETA, tweeted the following: “State employees' Kemalism that mismanaged the republic rallies has been upgraded to lumpen Kemalism through the enabling of liberal duplicity.”
Ozhan expressed his frustration with Turkey's democrats and liberals, who by and large supported the protests from the outset. This is rather understandable as Turkey's democrats and liberals had been supporting the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) agenda from 2003 to 2010. After all, the AK Party was then clearly the most progressive force in the country. Confronted with daunting challenges from the Kemalist deep state, the AK Party was the primary force in transforming civil-military relations, bringing Turkey to the negotiating table with the EU and facilitating impressive economic growth. I myself was in the ranks of the AK Party, defending it at every platform, foreign and domestic, most forcefully when it was faced with the absurd closure case in 2008. In 2010 a crucial constitutional amendment was passed by 58 percent of voters in a hard-fought referendum due to a comprehensive coalition that included the AK Party, democrats, liberals, Kurds and many Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) supporters.
What has happened since 2010? First, in 2011 the parliamentary group was radically overhauled. A massive purge of those who were seen as more centrist and liberal occurred. Many who were critical in shaping the perception that the party was moving to the center in 2007 were expelled. Then the party congress in September 2012 completed the job by purging similar elements from the party's executive organs. The Turkish media initially reported that it was a purge of people close to President Abdullah Gül, but there was more to it.
In April of this year, Aziz Babuscu, the powerful chairman of the İstanbul party organization, openly said the party was parting ways with Turkey's liberals. In the bluntest manner, he said that there was no longer a need for liberals with whom the AK Party cooperated to dissolve the first republic. Babuscu said: “Those with whom we were stakeholders throughout the past 10 years will not be our stakeholders in the coming decade. … Let us say the liberals, in one way or another, were stakeholders in this process, but the future is a process of construction. This construction era will not be as they [liberals] wish. Hence, they [liberals] will no longer be with us. … The Turkey that we will construct, the future that we will bring about, is not going to be a future that they will be able to accept.” Babuscu denied his comments the next day, but the quotes came from the Anatolia news agency, and many in the hall confirmed to me that he actually uttered them.
Given the harsh response to the peaceful Gezi Park demonstrators on Friday morning, the inflammatory statements by the prime minister as well as many other mistakes, why was it such a surprise that Turkey's democrats and liberals chose to side with the protesters? Babuscu's comments confirm the AK Party intended to part ways long ago. Lumping democrats and liberals together with Kemalists is not only unjust but also demonstrates a lack of cognition of what actually happened in Taksim and elsewhere in the country. Blaming democrats and liberals for the blatant mistakes the government made throughout this crisis is irresponsible. Liberals are not engaged in duplicity. They still stand for the freedoms and ideals they defended from 2003 to 2010. If any party in this coalition has changed it was not the liberals.