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Asked whether Tomlinson posed a threat, Harwood replied: "Not to me, no."
April 5, 2011 2:16 PM   Subscribe

We have heard how the officer – who had been expected to remain stationed by his van – strayed from his post after grappling with a protester he tried to arrest for spraying graffiti on a colleague's vehicle. He then swung a coat at another protester, pulled a BBC cameraman to the ground, used a palm strike against a man trying to get through a cordon and finally pushed a man he said was threatening a dog handler. Harwood said he was confused, isolated and fearful of his life, and was dealing with a "very hostile" crowd. When we resume in the next few minutes, we should hear finally about his encounter with Tomlinson.
Liveblogging the Ian Tomlinson inquest: Police Constable Simon Harwood explains his alleged attack on Ian Tomlinson
posted by orthogonality (77 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
He was scared for his life, so he attacked an unarmed and unthreatening man who was walking away from him.

Does this vicious bastard not realise that we have eyes to watch YouTube videos? Fuck the Met.
posted by Decani at 2:28 PM on April 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


grappling ... swung ... used a palm strike against a man .. pushed a man ...

Ok.

dealing with a "very hostile" crowd.

Gee, if you were gappling, taking swings, striking and pushing "members of a crowd" - is it any wonder the "crowd" might get "hostile" to 'hostile' actions?
posted by rough ashlar at 2:28 PM on April 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


He seems to have accepted his fate.
posted by parmanparman at 2:29 PM on April 5, 2011


Not to take anything away from what appears to be an inexcusable use of force, but it looks to my untrained eye like he may have been stumbling and a bit disoriented before the officer struck him. He has a strange wide-stance gait and seems a little off balance (maybe I missed a push by the officer before the big one?) If that's truly the case, it's been my experience cops have a very difficult time dealing with anyone behaving a little strangely - it seems to put a person into the "threat" box almost immediately.

Anyway, is there any further info on cause of death and toxicology? It just seems like there may be more here than meets the eye.
posted by SoFlo1 at 2:31 PM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


PC Harwood later admits to the coroner that in fact, he wasn't under threat.
Questioned by the assistant deputy coroner, Judge Peter Thornton QC, Harwood has accepted that the account of events he put in his notebook two weeks after the protests was incorrect.

These relate to Harwood's explanation of the aftermath of his attempt to arrest a protester for daubing graffiti, when he said he came under attack from hundreds of protesters and was in fear for his life. Video cast doubt over that, and Thornton specifically went through the list.

Harwood: At the time I wrote this, I thought I fell to the floor.
Thornton: Do you now accept that this is not correct?
Harwood: Yes
Thornton: That you lost your baton – that is not correct?
Harwood: Yes
Thornton: That you received a blow to the head – that is not correct?
Harwood: Yes
Thornton: And that there were violent and dangerous confrontations – that is not correct?
Harwood: Yes.
Thornton: And you were struck by a missile – that is not correct?
Harwood: Yes.
posted by orthogonality at 2:31 PM on April 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


He seems to have accepted his fate.

Who?

Anyway, is there any further info on cause of death and toxicology?

According to Wikipedia, he had cirrhosis and blunt force trauma to his liver area caused internal bleeding. He was kind of a walking time bomb, not that that excuses the use of force.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:33 PM on April 5, 2011


it looks to my untrained eye like he may have been stumbling and a bit disoriented before the officer struck him.

According to Harwwod, another cop, and a police dog, had also attacked Tomlinson.
12.15pm: Harwood is now being asked to go over all that again. He said that, in the seconds before he struck Tomlinson, he saw another officer push him in the back. "He seemed to remain defiant," he said. "He didn't seem to be moving away."

He then saw at least one dog near Tomlinson. He believed he saw the dog bite Tomlinson in the area of his ankle, he said. "He [Tomlinson] didn't seem to make any adjustment to his direction or speed," he added. "He seemed to remain where he was."
Really, it's worth reading the entire live blog.
posted by orthogonality at 2:34 PM on April 5, 2011


You know, I am really glad the PC is getting his just desserts and all, but I am not sure that in the big picture of things, it is worth it to have so many CCTVs and other video monitoring devices. Sure they are good in a situation like this but it comes at the price of unrelenting 24/7 surveillance. I'm not sure that is a price worth paying.
posted by Rumple at 2:38 PM on April 5, 2011


You know, I am really glad the PC is getting his just desserts and all, but I am not sure that in the big picture of things, it is worth it to have so many CCTVs and other video monitoring devices.

Well, all the video here was shot by amateurs on the street using handhelds. I haven't seen any CCTV footage associated with this event, so I'm not sure what you mean.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:40 PM on April 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


am not sure that in the big picture of things, it is worth it to have so many CCTVs and other video monitoring devices. Sure they are good in a situation like this but it comes at the price of unrelenting 24/7 surveillance. I'm not sure that is a price worth paying.

Particularly given that in this case, they were perfectly useless:
10.25am: The jury is being shown footage of this moment. In the days after Tomlinson's death, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) claimed there was limited CCTV in the area. It was one of the explanations given for not opening a full investigation into Tomlinson's death for almost a week.

But this inquest is suggesting the opposite: almost every relevant moment has been captured, albeit much of it on cameras and mobile phones held by bystanders and handed to the Guardian or uploaded on to YouTube.
posted by zamboni at 2:41 PM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


All police should be filmed as much as is humanly possible, period.
posted by ofthestrait at 2:41 PM on April 5, 2011 [21 favorites]


The Met claimed there was no CCTV coverage, using that as an excuse to delay opening an investigation for a week.

The footage is from the public, using cell phones and handhelds. Literally "crowd-sourced".
posted by orthogonality at 2:43 PM on April 5, 2011


Oops, sorry for the jerking knee.
posted by Rumple at 2:43 PM on April 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sure they are good in a situation like this but it comes at the price of unrelenting 24/7 surveillance. I'm not sure that is a price worth paying.

Speaking as a New Yorker, I would fucking love to have CCTV cameras monitoring this city, and especially the subways. Our police never get out of their cars. If you're alone taking the MTA or walking around, it is just you versus very bad people. I would gladly give up some sort of esoteric dislike of being filmed in order to know that people can't just go around doing whatever they want without fear of being caught.

Just a few months ago, an elderly man was beaten to death outside of a city park two blocks away from me. Crime is rampant here. If you look at the "numbers" it will not show you the myriad of shit that happens that goes unreported. It just really sucks. Going into the subway is like going into the wild west. In a city like NYC, it shouldn't be that way.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:48 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


This does not appear to be a good use of force at all.

All police should be filmed as much as is humanly possible, period.

Agreed. Most departments are starting to film everything. Frankly, in my experience, it has always exonerated the officer. However, in some situations, it will prove misconduct.


Although I do not know what the standard is under which this officer is being judged, in a regular police trial board in the states, this would be a good circumstance as there is (1) no immediate danger to the officer; (2) no direct body to body contact by a large body of protesters with the police line; and (3) an old guy who appears to look nothing like the hoodie-wearing protesters involved.

It does not look good for this officer. The use of force appears totally unnecessary from what I am seeing here.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:51 PM on April 5, 2011


He was kind of a walking time bomb, not that that excuses the use of force.

The eggshell rule holds you take your tort plaintiff as you find him. You are not excused from failing to exercise due care because of a weakness of the plaintiff.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:52 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


The eggshell rule holds you take your tort plaintiff as you find him. You are not excused from failing to exercise due care because of a weakness of the plaintiff.


Right, that's why I said that it didn't excuse the use of force. It's just sad and unfortunate. The cop didn't get up that morning and want to kill anyone, and had Tomlinson been in better condition he would've walked away mostly unscathed. Again, I'm not excusing anything, just noting that it's a sad coincidence of factors.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:56 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would fucking love to have CCTV cameras monitoring this city, and especially the subways.

In the brutality cases, it is exceedingly unlikely any such CCTV footage would ever see light of day.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:56 PM on April 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Just a few months ago, an elderly man was beaten to death outside of a city park two blocks away from me. Crime is rampant here. If you look at the "numbers" it will not show you the myriad of shit that happens that goes unreported. It just really sucks. Going into the subway is like going into the wild west. In a city like NYC, it shouldn't be that way.

I am also a New Yorker and I do not get that sense at all. Maybe it is the areas I frequent. I would hate to have CCTVs everywhere like they do in the UK. it is not an esoteric dislike of being filmed, it is a very real dislike of panopticons.
posted by Falconetti at 2:57 PM on April 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


The cop didn't get up that morning and want to kill anyone,

The cop was ordered to stay by the truck he was assigned to drive. Looks to me as if instead he got bored and decided to "go hunting".
posted by orthogonality at 2:59 PM on April 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Simon Harwood used violence against Ian Tomlinson.

Ian Tomlinson died as a direct result of that violence.

Simon Harwood admits that the use of violence was not justified.

Simon Harwood should be in prison.
posted by Jehan at 3:00 PM on April 5, 2011 [9 favorites]


Looks to me as if instead he got bored and decided to "go hunting".

I've got no love for cops and wouldn't want to stand in the way of a good old hate-in, but that's not the same as wanting to kill someone.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:00 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe it is the areas I frequent.

I am talking about the places that, for instance, always have a police shield icon up on this map.

posted by Threeway Handshake at 3:03 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, I don't think Harwood wanted to kill anyone -- by "go hunting" I mean, he wanted a free chance, in the confusion and safely amongst lots of fellow officers, to beat up some hippies.

Killing someone, Harwood would have known, could have meant an investigation, even though in this case there nearly wasn't one.

Harwood got unlucky, because Tomlinson was fragile. Or Tomlinson been a protester, the public would have passed this off with a "he got what he had coming".

Sometimes, you think you can give someone a beating and they'll get better, and you'll have a fun story to regale your felling officers about how the hippie was gasping for air and begging you to stop. This time, no such luck.
posted by orthogonality at 3:07 PM on April 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


Oh, I don't think Harwood wanted to kill anyone -- by "go hunting" I mean, he wanted a free chance, in the confusion and safely amongst lots of fellow officers, to beat up some hippies.

Killing someone, Harwood would have known, could have meant an investigation, even though in this case there nearly wasn't one.


We have no basis in fact to support the idea that he wanted a "free chance" at anything. Speculation like this is worse than useless.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:10 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


He then saw at least one dog near Tomlinson. He believed he saw the dog bite Tomlinson in the area of his ankle, he said. "He [Tomlinson] didn't seem to make any adjustment to his direction or speed," he added. "He seemed to remain where he was."

Hang on, is he implying you're meant to run from police dogs?
posted by Hoopo at 3:11 PM on April 5, 2011


There's an interesting scandal brewing in Ireland about several members of the police who were inadvertently recorded after arresting two female protesters. They jokingly suggest raping them. Ironically this was all captured on the protesters' camera that was still recording them, and which the police returned.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 3:12 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


We have no basis in fact to support the idea that he wanted a "free chance" at anything. Speculation like this is worse than useless.

Being an officer of the SPG TSG is pretty much the proof you need.
posted by Jehan at 3:14 PM on April 5, 2011


Previous Ian Tomlinson FPP's:
Keeping the peace.

No realistic prospect of conviction.
posted by ericb at 3:14 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Most departments are starting to film everything. Frankly, in my experience, it has always exonerated the officer. However, in some situations, it will prove misconduct.

... and will thus be 'not available' due to 'malfunction' or 'security restrictions'. Ask Jean Charles de Menezes or any number of people beaten at the Toronto G20.

"Security" systems run by the state will not protect you from state corruption or abuse of power.
posted by anthill at 3:23 PM on April 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


The jury is being shown footage of this moment. In the days after Tomlinson's death, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) claimed there was limited CCTV in the area.

Ah, memories of the tragic case of Jean Charles de Menezes, and "missing" CCTV footage.
posted by ericb at 3:25 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or, what anthill just said!
posted by ericb at 3:26 PM on April 5, 2011


Shorter version: "He wasn't moving fast enough for my liking, so I killed him."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:26 PM on April 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


"He sat up and looked towards us and he said 'I just wanted to go home'," she said.

"I said 'It's obvious mate, you can't come through'."


I had to look it up to be sure, but Thomlinson was caught in a police tactic called Kettling, where they corral the protesters into an area and prevent them from leaving for food, water, or to use the bathrooms, even when they are acting non-violently.

I've never been caught in it, but this seems like a recipe for turning a non-violent protest into a violent one fairly quickly.
posted by quin at 3:26 PM on April 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


Harwood claimed he was isolated, under serious attack and unable to return to his vehicle. Video shows him surrounded by other officers, turning his back on the protestors, and standing next to another officer who was perfectly able to return to the same vehicle, which was in fact surrounded by police officers.

Harwood claimed to have 'collided' with a BBC cameraman. Video shows him pulling the cameraman to the ground.

Harwood claimed that he was hit on the back of the head by an object thrown by a protestor. Video shows that Harwood's back was towards a building.

Harwood claimed that he was under attack from missiles being thrown ("a crowd of 200 protesters rioting and throwing missiles at me". He said they were attacking him "armed with banners and glass bottles"). Video shows no missiles being thrown.

Harwood claimed that in making a previous arrest that day, a protestor 'ran into' a van door. The video shows Harwood ahead of the protestor, dragging him into the door.

And I know orthogonality has already posted this exchange, but it bears repeating:

Harwood: At the time I wrote this, I thought I fell to the floor.
Thornton: Do you now accept that this is not correct?
Harwood: Yes
Thornton: That you lost your baton – that is not correct?
Harwood: Yes
Thornton: That you received a blow to the head – that is not correct?
Harwood: Yes
Thornton: And that there were violent and dangerous confrontations – that is not correct?
Harwood: Yes.
Thornton: And you were struck by a missile – that is not correct?
Harwood: Yes.

If PC Harwood told the inquest it was sunny, I suspect at this point everyone in the room would look out of the window to check.
posted by reynir at 3:27 PM on April 5, 2011 [15 favorites]


We have no basis in fact to support the idea that he wanted a "free chance" at anything. Speculation like this is worse than useless.

From the inquest:
3.45pm: Testimony is now focusing on the moment, earlier in the evening, when Harwood was based with fellow van drivers stationed around their vehicles.

If you recall, Harwood had been expected to remain by his carrier on the evening Tomlinson died.

He conceded that he was bored at some points. He joined his colleague PC Hayes in his vehicle. Harwood's evidence is that he then could not get to his carrier because the crowd became too dense. He then spotted a male protester daubing graffiti on a van.

It has been pointed out that it was not too crowded for him to try to arrest the suspect, but "too dense" to travel just over two metres further to get to his van.

3.55pm: The man doing the graffiti was just a few metres from a crowd which, according to Harwood's notebook, had been acting very violently toward a police cordon.

The jury has been shown footage of the carrier Harwood said it had been too difficult to get to. Ryder points out that it was surrounded by other police officers.

The jury is also shown footage of the crowd at the time Harwood said they had been throwing missiles. There were no missiles being thrown in the footage.
posted by Jehan at 3:29 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


We have no basis in fact to support the idea that he wanted a "free chance" at anything. Speculation like this is worse than useless.


Indeed. But, along with Reynir's quote, above, we also have footage that shows that at the time that he was supposed to have been isolated from his van, surrounded by an angry mob of protestors and in fear of his life, he was in fact with a group of other peace officers:
Ryder has repeatedly asked Harwood about his claim to have been under serious attack by protesters, in fear for his life and unable to return to his carrier after trying to arrest the suspect.

He mentioned that Harwood's colleague, PC Hayes, was able to return to the van.

Ryder asked repeatedly: "Is that the truth, PC Harwood. Are you telling the truth?" Harwood said it was.

The counsel then asked the jury to be shown new footage. The CCTV footage shows that Harwood is surrounded by a number of other officers, and turns his back to the approaching protesters.
Fact is definitely a two-edged sword on this one.

More interesting than the CCTV arguments, maybe, is that this was the first civil unrest in Britain where the vast majority of protesters and spectators had their own filming devices. So, the unfortunate mechanical failure of the CCTV cameras around these incidents is considerably less damaging. That's assuming you can get to an inquest, of course.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:30 PM on April 5, 2011


At this point Harwood is a proven liar, if nothing else, and frankly you have to bend over backwards to see it as anything other that manslaughter excused by him being a cop. It's sad that he will not be doing time and will be retaining his job, it's even sadder that the authorities probably see that as a good result.
posted by Artw at 3:34 PM on April 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Crime is rampant here. If you look at the "numbers" it will not show you the myriad of shit that happens that goes unreported. It just really sucks. Going into the subway is like going into the wild west. In a city like NYC, it shouldn't be that way.


I've taken the NYC subway by myself late at night all over the city (out in Queens as well as Brooklyn and Manhattan) and feel safer doing that than taking the London Underground at night out to my station at the end of the Central Line, where the station is regularly left without any staff on duty. If there are any staff, they are in an office behind a locked door and unless you know where the office is, you would have no idea there is anybody there. They are certainly not on view or available to give any assistance to the passengers. But there are cameras on the station, so at least there's usually video of the crimes to show on Crimewatch.

It absolutely fucking sucks that the officer in the Tomlinson case wasn't prosecuted and I hope after the inquest that the CPS looks at this again.
posted by essexjan at 3:35 PM on April 5, 2011


[Kettling] seems like a recipe for turning a non-violent protest into a violent one fairly quickly

The police are essentially a military organisation: given that they will be better armed, better armoured, with better communications, a chain of command and informed strategic leaders, if they can turn a situation into one that requires a military response, they're likely to win.

I suspect that anyone going near a protest with a camera from now on is likely to find themselves inexplicably walking into doors pretty quickly, and cameraless even quicker.
posted by Grangousier at 3:36 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


TBH It's suprising Kettling hasn't resulted in more fatalities.
posted by Artw at 3:55 PM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would gladly give up some sort of esoteric dislike of being filmed in order to know that people can't just go around doing whatever they want without fear of being caught.
"Whatever. So, I'm out there relieving my bladder, and maybe three or four people can see or take note of what I'm doing. It's New York, so most of those people will be busy, in a hurry, or in a bad mood. Also, since it's New York, they will have seen things a million times worse. Do you remember when you used the bathroom in the subway?"

I shuddered and nodded. I remembered. I can never forget.

"Well, that means it's statistically non-existent. No one saw it, no one recorded it in their brain, and no one will care, even ten seconds from now. It didn't happen."

"That's not true, is it?"

"Yep. You are just something in the air here, like a random pigeon flying by, and as long as you don't take a dump on someone's sport jacket, you just disappear. That's one of the great things about New York, don't you think?"
posted by hippybear at 4:07 PM on April 5, 2011


Speculation like this is worse than useless.

After de Menezes, one might say inquests are worse than useless, using judicial process to allow the crime of manslaughter (if not murder) to not only go unpunished, but to be legitimized by that process itself.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:07 PM on April 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


At this point Harwood is a proven liar, if nothing else, and frankly you have to bend over backwards to see it as anything other that manslaughter excused by him being a cop

I'm absolutely positive this has been said before, but it bears repeating: know your rights, all 3 of them. Number 1, you have the right not to be killed. Murder is a crime, unless it was done by a policeman or an aristocrat.
posted by Hoopo at 4:10 PM on April 5, 2011


So, I'm guessing this is, to some extent, the UK's version of the Rodney King trial? Video showing one thing clearly happening, arguments being made to the contrary?

Will the verdict here match reality any better than it did back then?
posted by hippybear at 4:14 PM on April 5, 2011


I'm a natural pro-Police candidate. I'm a white, English, middle-class, middle-aged, law-abiding man. They're on my side.

And then they get caught lying. Not spinning things to portray them in the best possible light. Not putting their side of things, forcefully. But flat-out lying. "We were under attack" is exposed as "We decided to club a man to death for walking slowly." "He was running through the station" is revealed as "He was walking calmly through the station until we decided to shoot him in the head." CCTV footage disappears. Witnesses are intimidated.

Incompetence I could forgive. Lying I can't.

So this good, white, English, middle-class, middle-aged man assumes that everything the police say is a lie. I can't believe this is a good situation for policing. How can we have effective policing by consent if our police force kills people and covers it up? When the police service comes on and says "we need more funding for this" or "we have a problem with that" all I'm going to hear is "we lie, all the time, about the most serious things. Don't trust us." And if I think that way, what about teenagers, or women, or people not as achingly white as I am?
posted by alasdair at 4:20 PM on April 5, 2011 [33 favorites]


Oh, and a journalist friend of mine suggested Qik, which records to an online location, not to the 'phone. So when your 'phone is taken off you for anti-terrorism reasons, the video of a policeman beating a passer-by for having funny hair is still stored online safely.
posted by alasdair at 4:26 PM on April 5, 2011 [14 favorites]


hippybear: There won't be a verdict, exactly. The Crown Prosecution Service declared that there was no likelihood of securing a prosecution due to the multiple autopsies and the delay in reports from the Metropolitan Police Force and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (cynics have suggested both parties might have been dragging their heels a little).

This inquest itself is seriously delayed, having been begun and immediately adjourned nearly two years ago. At this point, the worst that is likely to happen to him is that he would be sacked for gross misconduct after a "fast-track" disciplinary hearing.

Now it's running, the inquest is there to establish what happened, not to apportion blame. The worst that would immediately happen as a direct result is that Harwood, or the Met, or both, would look bad.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:32 PM on April 5, 2011


This is not the UK version of the Rodney King trial, for many reasons, but mostly because Harwood is not on trial. This is the inquest into what caused Tomlinson's death.

The Crown Prosecution Service - our state prosecutors - decided that there was no chance of a fair trial of Harwood. At the time that they made public this decision, Harwood was referred to as Officer A.

One of the things that contributed to this decision was that there were irreconcilable differences between the first autopsy on Tomlinson, carried out by Freddy Patel - who has since been suspended and other experts.

I live in London and I do not believe one word that comes out of the Met press office. They constantly spin stories before even they themselves know what has happened, with the most obvious example being the black farce that followed the Menezes shooting. I have to keep telling myself that most police officers are good people, and indeed police officers that I have had to deal with personally all have been as far as I can tell, but the Met as an organisation are a horror.

I am almost as disappointed with the CPS, who seem to take a much much more timid line on pursuing prosecution in cases involving the case than otherwise they might. We taxpayers pay the wages of the police and the CPS so that they might uphold the rule of law and they are letting us all down. (tho I see on preview that alasdair and running order squabble fest have made much the same points but quicker and better!)
posted by calico at 4:35 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


At this point, the worst that is likely to happen to him is that he would be sacked for gross misconduct after a "fast-track" disciplinary hearing.

That'd be more than I'd be hoping for. Murdering scumbag or incompetent fuck up, there's no way he should have that job.
posted by Artw at 4:37 PM on April 5, 2011


The Crown Prosecution Service - our state prosecutors - decided that there was no chance of a fair trial of Harwood.

And you who philosophize disgrace
And criticize all fears
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now is the time for your tears
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:43 PM on April 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


(late, but what I meant as you probably already know and slightly resent me for insulting your intelligence by pointing out for is that I meant to say "in cases involving the police than otherwise they might")
posted by calico at 4:49 PM on April 5, 2011


I just wanted to add a few data points to this. I have nothing to say about this particular case but I have spent literally months riding around with the Met, hanging around in Police canteens, drinking with cops and dealing with Met PR flacks.

It's absolutely true that most London cops are very decent people with long fuses and an amazing capacity to take shit. But being a cop changes you. You see the outside world as potentially criminal, and you are the person who is called on to clean up the messes nobody else wants to deal with. You see people you know are criminals walking away from courts because of lack of evidence. The scales of justice seem very heavily weighted against you. You spend long, long hours with people who you need to be absolutely sure will turn up to protect you when the shit hits the fan. Moreover, most Met cops are drawn from outside areas -- Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle -- and have no direct personal knowledge of the communities they are dealing with.

So cops absolutely collaborate on notes, make shit up, lie about things. Whatever is going to make life easiest. It's so common it's not even commented on. That's just how you do it.

That said, they are still basically the good guys.

The TSG however (Territorial Support Group), to which this guy belonged, are another matter. They have separate quarters from regular cops and are widely disliked. They basically only get involved when there's a fight. When you go into one of their canteens, they're filled with copies of Guns and Ammo. They have a different command structure and a different ethos. In my experience they are quite genuinely a frightening bunch of people. They exist to kick ass and they like it. When you go out with the TSG they are continually ready to rumble. It is a very macho culture and nothing at all about what happened that day is surprising to me. Not even a bit.

The TSG has and has always had a paramilitary feel. So when you look at this guy don't think 'London Bobby' because he isn't and wasn't.
posted by unSane at 5:42 PM on April 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


Interesting. What do the Territorial Support Group do when they are not harassing and murdering people at demonstrations?
posted by Artw at 5:45 PM on April 5, 2011


So there's 720 of the buggers, just hanging around, waiting for an opportunity to beat up civilians, and they're basically a continuation of the horribly discredited Special Patrol Group? I think I see an opportunity for cuts that we can all get behind.
posted by Artw at 5:48 PM on April 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


The TSG either sit around in their canteens drinking shitty coffee or cruise around on standby. They cover a large area of several police stations (hence 'territorial') and pile in whenever there's a requirement for physical support of an officer.
posted by unSane at 5:49 PM on April 5, 2011


SPG = TSG
posted by unSane at 5:50 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a shit concept that absolutely leads to this kind of shit. They should be disbanded immediately.
posted by Artw at 5:52 PM on April 5, 2011


Also -- a side note -- I've spent a lot of time with the armed forces and with the honourable exception of the British marines, the TSG were more frightening than any of them. I'd be very happy to go out for a pint with the Army or Navy or (somewhat less so) a bunch of regular Met cops, but I'd just say no to a night out on the town with the boys from TSG.
posted by unSane at 5:55 PM on April 5, 2011


Metropolitan Police squad in G20 riots accused of 159 assaults in past year
posted by Artw at 6:13 PM on April 5, 2011


You have to take the accusations of assault figures with a pinch of salt. I actually investigated a bunch of complaints myself including some particularly horrific ones and it turned out that a substantial proportion of them were basically fights that started when someone objected to being arrested (eg for peeing in a public place) and an officer called for backup.

The cavalry would then come over the hill and the cops would pile on bodies until the arrestee was subdued. This is S.O.P. but it caused a lot of bad feeling because the complainants didn't view the altercation as a fair fight. IE they were quite willing to have a fight with one cop but they viewed the mismatched numbers as unfair.

I've sat in on disciplinary investigations and watched cops literally vomiting up their breakfasts before they went in front of them.

I'm not at all saying that all the allegations are unfounded but my pulled-out-of-my-ass guesstimate is that a maximum of about 25-30% of the complaints are ones you or I would really regard as troubling, and of those only a minority would be really clear cut cases of abuse.

Which is still far too many.

The fault lies not with the cops, in the end, but in the disciplinary system. Cops are terrified of it because they stand to lose job, pension, house, and often marriages if the decision goes badly, but the decision almost never does.
posted by unSane at 6:32 PM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fuck this guy. The internet age has brought about so many of these videos, and it is infuriating that he won't be charged. Especially given his brazen lies.

At the very least, even if they can't prove that the assault caused Tomlinson's death, he should be charged for the assault itself. Then drummed out of the Met.

With a bit of luck, the inquest will be used to form the basis of a civil suit that will bankrupt the bastard. But that's a long row to hoe for the family.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:34 PM on April 5, 2011


Then drummed out of the Met.

Simon Harwood has already "left" the London police force once before due to violent conduct.
posted by Jehan at 6:45 PM on April 5, 2011


And they let him back in and he goes and murders someone?

Fuck that shit.

Cops absolutely should be in fear for their livelihoods if they abuse their power and act like thugs. They shouldn't even be allowed to be security guards if they get caught at it, let alone allowed back into the force.
posted by Artw at 6:49 PM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nice unpology - "if it is the case I had been in any way the cause of Mr Tomlinson's death then I am very sorry."

Utter fucking cunt. And that goes for anyone who has stood by him in this too.
posted by Artw at 6:55 PM on April 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


I think the most useful thing I can do at this point is link to Sukey.

Sukey is a security-conscious news, communications and logistics support service principally for use by demonstrators during demonstrations. It effectively displays real-time police and protest behaviour combining validated information sourced directly from protesters with direct feeds into Sukey combined with feeds from twitter, facebook, SMS, RSS and others. There is a smartphone application and a regular phone version that each allow anyone to volunteer and receive information.
posted by zamboni at 8:13 PM on April 5, 2011


The police are essentially a military organisation: given that they will be better armed, better armoured, with better communications, a chain of command and informed strategic leaders, if they can turn a situation into one that requires a military response, they're likely to win.

The police are not the military. The police are the police. There is a serious difference -- maintaining law and order is a very different task than subduing and holding territory. NYPD does not occupy New York City, they police it.

Different set of actions, of ethics, of accountabilities, of successes and failures. It is of course possible to militarize a police force. But you lose things when you do.
posted by effugas at 11:30 PM on April 5, 2011


Burhanistan,

Sorry, I meant the police officer, as he appears (to me) to accept culpability for his actions in the courtroom.
posted by parmanparman at 11:38 PM on April 5, 2011


We have no basis in fact to support the idea that he wanted a "free chance" at anything. Speculation like this is worse than useless.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:10 PM on April 5


Sorry and all that, but I have too much personal experience of the behaviour of the Met over the last 30 years to refrain from indulging in such speculation.
posted by Decani at 12:28 AM on April 6, 2011


Justice for Ian
posted by Abiezer at 1:25 AM on April 6, 2011


More details too at the Ian Tomlinson Family Campaign.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 2:35 AM on April 6, 2011


We have no basis in fact to support the idea that he wanted a "free chance" at anything. Speculation like this is worse than useless.

Except for the bit where he's been arseholed out of the police force once before for thuggish behaviour, which means he had to lie to get back in, and has then left his station to pick fights with people. When you're an officer who keeps indulging in such extreme violence you are hauled up for it not once but multiple times in your career then yes, we do have plenty of basis to suspect such.

Perhaps you should actually aquaint yourself with the history of the case before passing out your disdanful bon mots.
posted by rodgerd at 2:38 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


parmanparman Sorry, I meant the police officer, as he appears (to me) to accept culpability for his actions in the courtroom.


It's counterintuitive, but it's important to remember that this isn't a courtroom - physically, it's taking place in a reconciliation center, and procedurally it's an inquest.

To put this in Los Angeles terms, what's happened is roughly equivalent to the LAPD releasing a statement immediately saying that Rodney King walked into a wall and fell over, and was then beaten up by bystanders while the Police tried in vain to rescue him. They also suggest to the King family that the man in LAPD uniform who appeared to push King into the wall was in fact an unemployed actor making a living as an LAPD-themed strippergram.

The LAPD is then asked to investigate the beating itself, until videos arrive at the LA Times showing the police hitting him with batons. At that point, Internal Affairs takes over the investigation. The investigation is then put on hold for a month while IA gets itself together.

Meanwhile, the state-appointed medical examiner reports that King is suffering from a nasty cold, and after protests a new medical examiner is appointed to look at him again. When he reports that actually he is covered in bruises, a third medical examiner is called in to corroborate one or the other report. When he opts for "covered in bruises", the DA's office is asked to consider whether to prosecute the officers involved, but says that the LAPD and Internal Affairs took so long to report that King has healed up completely, and the conflicting accounts from the medical examiners make the case not worth trying.

An inquest is convened to examine the circumstances of the beatings, but is immediately shut down because the convener does not feel experienced enough to handle the process. When it is finally reconvened, the officers involved in the original event take the stand, knowing that they are in no danger of prosecution, and while denying culpability explain that if they can help the King family to gain some measure of closure, they are happy to help.

It's... pretty odd.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:05 AM on April 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Just to be clear, in England a Coroner's Court is indeed a court of law under the control of the Ministry of Justice The coroner may compel witnesses to testify using a subpoena and people found to be lying are are guilty of perjury. He also has the power of arrest and may sequester the jury if there is one. A verdict of unlawful killing will usually provoked a criminal inquiry.

However the Coroner's only duty -- and the inquest's only purpose -- is to ascertain the name of the deceased and the cause of death.
posted by unSane at 5:43 AM on April 6, 2011


Oh, sure - if someone manages to break the law in the inquest, either by lying under oath or by punching the coroner in the face, it's legally on. But nobody is on trial.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:53 AM on April 6, 2011


Inquests in the British sense (and the Canadian sense) don't really have a counterpart in US legal culture. A Grand Jury in US term is possibly closest, but my non-expert view is that they're not as comprehensive. Inquests are not trials, but they can name names and can find fault, within their terms of reference. Their purpose is to settle a matter of fact. With a broad reference, they can be even more wide-ranging than a civil or criminal trial. The rules of evidence are different and the range of inquiry (relevance of evidence) can be much broader.
posted by bonehead at 11:02 AM on April 6, 2011


Here in Seattle, we held an inquest into the police shooting of John T Williams, the results of which were used as justification by the local DA not to attempt a prosecution, even though the police's own review board ruled decisively that the shooting was "not justified".

Meanwhile, the Seattle Police Department has agreed to pay $32,000 in a lawsuit filed by defense attorneys who found out that the police department's guidelines for filling out a domestic violence complaint specifically urged people filing reports to leave out relevant information.
posted by nomisxid at 12:48 PM on April 6, 2011


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