As local CSG blockades gather momentum, and numbers swell at blockade camps, I’d just like to draw attention to something that happened at the Glenugie blockade, in the hope that by “calling” it, it might help reduce future incidences.
What happened was this. A small number of the riot police (photos of two below) weren’t wearing ID patches.
Big deal? Well, the British Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Dennis O’Connor, thinks so. He said in 2009, about reports of police not wearing their identification numbers at that year’s G20 protests, “It is utterly unacceptable to be not wearing their numbers. I am very concerned with that issue. I firmly hope that will be rectified with some certainty … I would expect people in public order and other situations to wear their [identification] … it acts as a good check and balance.”
An official report into London policing says (p9) that “any lack of police identification is an inhibiter to accountability and generates a question mark about the control of staff. This is why, as the MPS [London Metropolitan Police Service] acknowledges, proper identification of all police officers is important, particularly when the use of force is a possibility.”
NSW also accepts the importance of easily-identified police. Police Regulation 73 says: “A member of the NSW Police Force is to wear a name-plate in such manner, and containing such particulars, as the Commissioner may from time to time direct, unless the member is exempted by the Commissioner from having to wear such a name-plate.” The NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said in 2007 that “identification is compulsory and police will wear overalls with velcro name tags in the future.”
Perhaps he’s changed his mind, and that’s why these nice officers didn’t think it important to wear their ID:
This man (below) has removed his velcro ID patch (it should be in the white circle). When I asked him his name, he said it was “George….George Bush”. He might have been telling the truth, although the way he said it implied that he wasn’t.
This man (below), who also has no ID patch, said his name was “James Herbert”.
A quick google tells me that this isn’t the first time officers have neglected their name patches.
Police not wearing badges at Climate Camp protest: 13 July 2008
An example of the weakness of the Ombudsman’s office in relation to following up police officers refusing to wear identification concerned the Newcastle Climate Camp protest on 13 July 2008. On 15 July 2008, Copwatch volunteers made a written complaint (ref C2008/5292) with police responding on the 12 November 2008, saying “Your correspondence has been recorded…[but] further investigation or enquiry in this matter is at this time declined…” No further explanation was given. The Ombudsman’s office endorsed this course of action, saying in a letter of 27 November 2008 that “I am satisfied that police have generally handled the complaint effectively and in a timely manner.”
- And others (same site):
Similar complaints and inaction from the police and the Ombudsman’s office has occurred in relation to police officers removing their badges during the anti-Pope protest in July 2008 (ref:C2008/5360), and anti-Israeli protest in central Sydney on 29 December 2009 and an anti-Israeli protest on 18 January 2009 … Complaints about any of this will almost always lead to the police refusing to take any action and then for the Ombudsman’s office to later state that taking no action is acceptable. Photographs of police misbehaving at protests have been returned to the complainant on the basis that without a name it is not possible to identify the police concerned, as there are over 15,000 police officers in NSW.
From all reports, the local police who attended the blockade at Glenugie (not just on “crunch day”, but also over the previous 47 days) were mostly friendly and helpful. I understand that police often pretend to be friendly in an attempt to elicit information, but I’m still optimistic that many of the local police are in fact sympathetic. How could they not be? They have to live here too. And surely the police are intelligent enough to see through the government/industry propaganda?
Even the Riot Squad that came up for the day on Monday the 7th was mostly polite, and on occasion even jocular.
However, it’s really important that when police are on duty, they are identifiable. Police have enormous power over individual citizens – psychologically and physically as well as legally – and it’s important that there are enforced structures in place to prevent individual police abusing that power. Without obvious identification that encourages accountability, it would be easy for a police officer to abuse the psychological power of his uniform or the physical power of his gun/taser, which means even law-abiding citizens would have reason to fear them. And that means that lawful protest (like the stop-CSG movement) would be stifled.
Perhaps the police liaison people could have a word?