New Internationalist

Shouldn’t police chase the real criminals?

On Sunday, the Guardian’s website ran a bizarre piece about British police officers infiltrating activist groups in the 1980s. And as we know from the recent Mark Kennedy case (among others) this is still happening today. For most people who know Britain, it’s unbelievable, completely surreal.

It was obviously a huge breach of the trust placed by some victims who had formed serious relationships, and were presumably in love, with the fake activist cops: a total betrayal of innocent individuals. That the police have conned them so cruelly, merely to get inconsequential information, is simply not acceptable.

Apparently, in the skewed policing system, hardened criminals seem to have more rights. This was long before 9\11, mind you, so no major threats to national security. Perhaps it was Thatcherism: putting peaceniks, protesters and leftists in their place along with crushing the unions.

A lot of people, tourists especially, may find it strange because the ‘London Bobby’ is something of an iconic figure worldwide. It’s impossible to connect the image of your average British Bobby with such a sinister and devious operation. The spy from the Guardian article with his longish tousled hair, certainly didn’t look like a cop or 007 type. If you excuse the stereotyping, he actually looks like how I imagine a chap from Greenpeace would look!

There's a distinct feeling of outrage, because, for God’s sake, Greenpeace activists are obviously not the epitome evil. Can’t the police see that?

I'm intrigued by this question when I read about protests around the world. And when I watch police brutality like the pepper-spraying of an unarmed woman protester during the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York, I wonder, what goes on in their heads that they can’t differentiate between murderers, rapists, paedophiles and ordinary, decent citizens fighting for their rights?

Activists are generally fighting for the rights of the community and this community includes the police and their families. So how do the police manage to totally prevent themselves from identifying and sympathizing with these groups?

Do they not see that the protesters in New York, Chicago and London are the good guys? Is the police force so dumbed down that its members stop thinking? Surely even the average policeman is outraged and disgusted by the happenings of the last few years when bankers and CEOs walked off with millions while old people who've worked hard all their lives are told their pensions have vanished into thin air? Can they not feel the injustice of it all?

In the US, some marines have crossed over to the protests, saying they've had enough. So if the army, which is trained to obey orders without question and drilled into accepting a chain of command that is centuries, possibly millennia, old, can begin to see the light, why not the police?

During the Indian fight against colonialism, Gandhi and the Freedom Movement had a lot of the police and army on their side. Though of course, there were men who remained loyal to the bosses who paid their salaries.

I saw a YouTube video where US protesters had placards telling the police: ‘Wall Street is taking your money too.’ When Britain marched against the poll tax, did the police not feel the protesters were fighting their fight too?

How about if all of us, folk who want a decent world, free of corruption and injustice, look at infiltrating the establishment? We could find a way to educate the police about the fact that it’s important to think, to feel, to understand that this is a fight for a better, cleaner world for all of us.

Can organizers and activist trainers put this into their handbooks? 

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