ANOTHER very successful Notting Hill Carnival has just drawn to a close with around a million people on the streets of west London having a good time.
Television news bulletins have been full of colourful pictures of people in fantastic and beautiful costumes dancing along to the music and they always include a few shots of police officers joining in the fun.
But those bulletins have totally failed to inform us that prior to the event 656 people were arrested, not on the basis of any crime they had committed but on the basis of crimes that senior police officers thought they might be going to commit.
David Musker, the Metropolitan Police gold commander for the event, admitted that he does not care what he arrests people for. He said: “I don’t really care what we arrest them for, I’ll be [as] lawfully audacious as I can to get them off the streets.
“So whether they’ve got heroin or they’ve got other class A drugs, [are] drug dealing, [or] serious violence takes place at carnival, we will try to target them and get them off the streets.”
According to the Guardian, many people were been released on pre-charge bail. This means the police have yet to decide whether there is enough evidence to charge them with any offence. But it does mean they can impose bail conditions.
And most were banned from the area where the carnival takes place.
As the Canary on-line news agency previously reported, the police were already facing accusations of racism for the way they had been conducted their policing operation.
And as a spokesperson for the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) told the Canary: “Carnival receives this treatment precisely because it is the UK’s largest celebration of Caribbean culture.
“It helps the police to justify the continued targeting of black communities for the disproportionate use of stop and search powers in London. It reinforces the deeply racist idea that these communities are somehow intrinsically – and uniquely – linked to violence and drug use.
“The Met is also facing criticism for its use of facial recognition software at the carnival. Musker claimed about the software: ‘It’s not loaded; it’s loaded with people who we know are involved with criminality, who are wanted. It’s not a speculative search tool.’
“But given the police hold more than 20 million images in their facial recognition database, this statement may give little comfort. Musker also claimed to have consulted privacy groups to ensure ‘that what we are doing is proportionate, legal and effective’.
“But it is not ‘proportionate’ to arrest 656 people when the person in charge of the policing operation doesn’t care what they’re arrested for.
“It is not ‘proportionate’ to scan whole crowds to see if they match an image. Whether it is ‘legal’ or not is something that will be decided in the future.
“And ‘effective’ is at best unknown, and only relevant if no one cares about our civil liberties.
“Using pre-charge bail conditions to keep people away from events is nothing new. It is a tactic that the police have often used against protesters. And it has faced much criticism.
“But this is on a massive scale, and from a Met commander who appears to be utterly blasé about what he’s doing. This policing operation should worry us all. From pre-emptive arrests to facial scanning, this is not the sort of society any of us should want to live in.”