Thursday, 9 April 2009

Breaking news: police attacks on civilians 'damage public confidence'

We're heading into the long weekend, and your neighbourhood mongoose has been watching with interest but very little commentary the unfolding saga of the latest Met police snafu. Video filmed by a bystander revealed that during the G20 protests, an officer struck 47-year-old Ian Tomlinson as he was walking by with his hands in his pockets, and pushed him to the ground. Shortly thereafter, Tomlinson had a heart attack and died. Events have certainly been shaped into what Sandra Laville and Paul Lewis of the Guardian call the management of a death: without the damning video and photographic evidence hanging over their heads, it seems the authorities would have swept away with vague mumblings all calls for an inquest into Tomlinson's death. And what I also find worrying is this: whether it results in a death or not, this is a criminal act. It is not alright for Metropolitan police to assault a civilian provided it doesn't end in death. Mr. Tomlinson's passing highlighted a heinous act, but based on other accounts, it was one of many perpetrated by police that day.

A clearer shot of the first strike can be seen here.

The officer directly involved has come forward, and as the victim's family and the public await the next moves (a Facebook group has been created calling for justice for Tomlinson), police are once again whining about 'erosion of public confidence'. Yes, public confidence in the police force is desirable. But it's not brain surgery, so quit acting like it's some complicated balancing act, and further, like it's some official goal that is completely separate from plain human decency and treating people with respect. You want to restore public confidence? Try not practicing apartheid in your own ranks; or not telling rape victims to fuck off; or I don't know, not attacking passersby and violently shoving them to the ground. You don't inspire public confidence just by carrying a stick and wearing a funny hat; at the very minimum, you have to establish some distinction between you as a police force and the criminals you're meant to be protecting us from. As it stands, that line is somewhere between blurred and non-existent.

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