Saturday, February 28, 2009

London round-up

Police predict ‘summer of rage’

A SENIOR London police officer last week predicted that growing numbers of people losing their jobs and homes through the economic crisis are likely to take to the streets to demonstrate against financial institutions.
Superintendent David Hartshorn, who heads the Metropolitan Police public order branch, said his force is preparing to cope with hundreds of middle class individuals who would never have considered joining demonstrations may seek to vent their anger through potentially violent mass protests.
The police definition of middle class probably extends to anyone who has had a regular job and or a mortgage, reserving the term working class for the low paid who live on council estates.
Hartshorn said that banks, especially those still paying big bonuses after multi-billion pound taxpayer bail-outs, will become “visible targets”, along with other financial institutions in the City which are being blamed for the financial crisis.
To most of our readers this prediction of a sudden dawning of class consciousness may seem welcome and long overdue. But Hartshorn could be signalling changes in Met policy towards demonstrators, going back to the policies of confrontation that marked the miners’ and poll tax campaigns in the days before Ken Livingstone was Mayor of London and before the existence of the Greater London Authority police authority.

Met accused of apartheid

AN ASIAN community police officer formerly employed at Belgravia police station in London last week told an employment tribunal that the Metropolitan police still has a “culture of apartheid”.
Police community support officer Asad Saeed claims white officers framed him over an alleged assault on a vagrant in a McDonald’s burger restaurant in central London.
Saeed was ordered to be dismissed, but was later reinstated on appeal. Both hearings heard allegations of racism that Scotland Yard thought belonged to the “canteen culture” of two decades ago.
According to Saeed’s claim, which has been leaked to the press, one senior white officer privately wrote he believed some of the racism allegations. The internal police hearing heard, and Saeed claims in his employment tribunal hearing, that:

• Saeed was framed after complaining about racist behaviour by two white colleagues.
• One white officer made “threats of violence against other ethnic colleagues”.
• His complaints were ignored by senior officers, who turned a blind eye to the “apartheid culture”.
• White officers refused to allow black officers in their van.
• White officers refused to send a van out to pick up ethnic minority colleagues.
• Officers gambled inside the station’s common room for “large sums of cash”.
• Some white officers wrote up false stop-and-search forms “using east European names” they had made up.
• One officer sold “counterfeit merchandise inside [the police station]”.
• Handwritten notes from the disciplinary hearing that first dismissed the Muslim officer from the force were “inadvertently … mislaid”.

In his claim, Saeed says police bosses withheld from him CCTV evidence from the alleged assault that led to his dismissal. When he obtained it, he says, it showed he had not attacked anyone. Furthermore, one of his white colleagues who claimed to have witnessed the assault was not in the restaurant.
Saeed’s claims are all the more embarrassing because they were made public on the same day that new Met chief Sir Paul Stephenson was making a public speech to mark the 10th anniversary of the McPherson report, and was claiming that the Met was no longer institutionally racist.

Doreen Lawrence accuses police

TEN YEARS after the landmark inquiry into the appalling and way that local police responded to the racist murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence, his mother Doreen says that police are still failing black Britons and delivering them a second class service.
She was speaking to the Guardian to mark the approaching anniversary of the McPherson report into the murder of her son which found that police “professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership” lead to blunders that have allowed the killers to escape justice.
Doreen Lawrence said there have been positive changes in Britain but the mothers of other victims of racist murder have sought her advice because they too felt the police had let them down.
“Some mothers say they don’t feel as if they’ve been treated the same way as white victims’ families. Families out there are still feeling the same way I did when Stephen was killed.”
The McPherson report was scathing on the insensitivity of the police towards the bereaved Lawrence family and found that they were treated unsympathetically, had information withheld from them and the police would not accept that the murder was racist.
Doreen Lawrence says mothers are still contacting her with the same complaints.
Last week Stephen Otter, the Association of Chief Police Officer’s race and diversity spokesperson, claimed: “So much has changed over the past 10 years that I don’t thing it is right to label us institutionally racist.”
But Doreen Lawrence complains that after initial improvements, mainly at the higher levels, the police have lost interest in combating racist violence and new “anti-terror” laws mean that once again, Asian and black young people are being stopped and searched in large numbers.
“It comes down to racism again. Because of the colour of your skin, automatically if you are a black person, you must be into criminality,” said Lawrence.
She criticised the downgrading of the Commission for Racial Equality when it was merged with gender and disability equal rights groups to form the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
“Ten years on I think a lot of people have become complacent. They feel ‘we’ve done that, got the T-shirt; let’s move on’. The reality is we haven’t.
“Race is just wiped out of all the vocabulary, they use the word diversity, they seem to be more comfortable with it. I would not say they have given up caring about race. I just feel they believe they have addressed it.”
Her words echo the experiences of Dev Barrah of the Greenwich Council for Racial Equality, who has been combating racist violence in the London Borough of Greenwich for more than two decades now.
He reported that after the McPherson report, senior police were eager to improve and to work with him, learning how to respond to the needs of the local mixed, low-income community.
But those officers have moved on; new ones arrive and the process of education goes back to square one. Many officers see dealing with racism and community issues as a box to be ticked as they rise through the ranks; once they’ve done it they can forget it and move on with their careers.

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