Saturday, April 11, 2009

CCTV on the police

After being caught lying one too many times, the police in Britain cannot be trusted.

Marina Hyde in today's Guardian calls for "inverse surveillance" of the police as the only means of holding them accountable. As allegations of brutality at the G20 demo continue to pile up, even the most "serially deferential" are now waking up to the fact that "1,000 death in police custody in the previous 30 years, without a single conviction" isn't really the track record a democratic country would want to boast.

The British public, from your average Daily Mail reader to the fiercest Guardianista, like to routinely boast that the UK has never fallen pray to the horrors of fascism.

We may, however, want to watch out for complacency. Because the British state may not be a fascist one, but the complete unaccountability of our men in uniform, caught telling porky pies one too many times, is starting to look more like 1970s' Argentina than any self-congratulatory idea of 'Cradle of Democracy'.

Like former Met Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick writes in today's Independent, "the Tomlinson case and those of Jean Charles de Menezes and Mark Saunders, raise the spectre that the bad old days of British policing may be returning, of 'canteen culture', the use of excessive force and of a police service that appears to be unaccountable – the officer concerned in the case of Mr Tomlinson apparently being allowed to cover his face and numerals".

And perhaps we could do with taking a leaf out of Catalonia (Spain) where, since hidden CCTVs were installed in all police stations in 2007, people's reports of beatings and mistreatment while in police custody have gone down by 42%.

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