Articles about policing, political or otherwise

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Jun 2 2011 10:50
Articles about policing, political or otherwise

Yesterday evening I was with about 12 other people standing outside an Edinburgh police station for the second time in a week, waiting for the release of a UK Uncut activist. Unlike the two women arrested during Saturday's action in BHS, this one was arrested at his home four days after the event for breach of the peace, a chargeable offence in Scotland.

There was lots of talk while we waited about "political policing", which ended up with me going off on one, as the rowdy anarcho, about how all policing is political, and labelling the policing of demonstrations as "political" creates a false divide between legitimate and illegitimate policing. It got complicated and I was thinking aloud and not really sure where I was going with it, but now my friend has asked me to write about it for his blog so I said I'd have a go.

I'd like to pick the libcom brain about this before I write anything. One of the things people were saying was that, for example, breaking up a fight between drunks is not political policing, arresting wife-beaters and paedos is not political policing and so on. Another line of reasoning was that labelling some policing as "political" is a good entry point to get people interested before you explain why policing is inherently political. Obviously there's a bunch of stuff on libcom including one of my favourites from The Commune, but if anyone else has any comments or suggestions that'd be ace.

Edit - I don't like paedos or wife beaters, for the record

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Jun 2 2011 11:06

Well, I would say that essentially there are two different elements to policing.

The main one which is an issue for us is the very reason for their foundation - the violent maintenance of class rule. The Bow Street runners (the first police) were founded to break up demonstrations of workers and the poor with clubs, whereas previously the Army used swords, and especially after the Peterloo massacre everyone went nuts about it.

For this reason, the police were universally hated. The first member of the public who murdered a police officer got off as the jury found it to be "justifiable homicide".

So basically the police had to take on some forms of socially useful duties, in order for people to accept them, and not recognise them as essentially the violent attack dogs of the rich. Now that class struggle is at a low ebb, they don't often have to perform their violent role oppressing the working class (like they did during the miners strike), so it can be difficult for some people to see what their actual social function is.

That said, of course they do perform useful social functions, such as locking up paedos, etc. I wouldn't say that sort of policing is "political" necessarily, unless you mean that paedophilia being illegal (or pub fights being illegal) is a political issue, which I suppose you could say, but I'm not sure what the political utility of this argument would be.

Anyway, just a few thoughts off the top of my head…

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Jun 2 2011 11:07

I remember in a previous thread around this subject, someone recommended a pamphlet on the police by the SWP as being pretty good, but I can't remember the name

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Jun 2 2011 16:09

Sorry to make a third post about this, but I was thinking that if you mean that all policing is political, in that what they focus on is driven by a political agenda, then I agree completely. For example, they expend a lot of resources dealing with crime carried out by poor people, but comparatively little attempting to tackle things like corporate or environmental crimes. And of course they spend millions infiltrating environmentalist anarchist groups for intelligence and destructive purposes, but of course they don't attempt to infiltrate banks for insider trading or fraud, or infiltrate private waste management companies to tackle unsafe disposal of waste, etc

rooieravotr
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Jun 2 2011 18:12

Steven:

Quote:
of course they do perform useful social functions, such as locking up paedos, etc.

I think we should be careful how we phrase this. Pedophilia is a desire which cannot be freely acted upon without doing harm to children. Paedos are people who have this desire, and that is problematic. But people having desires - even desires that, if acted upon are hamrful - are not, as such, criminals to be locked up as long as they don't put the desire into harmful practice. It is child molesters, child abusers, child rapists, - not paedos as such - that commit crimes. The crime is in the acting upon the desire, NOT in the desire as such, however sad and problematic such desires are. We should avoid stereotyping a whole category of people simply for having problematic desires. These people should be prevented to act upon these desires, but as long as they succeed in not acting out their desires, these people should not be stigmatized as criminals. There has been more than enough moral panic already.

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Jun 2 2011 18:14

Yeah, fair enough - but of course being a paedophile isn't a crime. Only people who have acted on it can get locked up, I wasn't saying people should be jailed for thought crime!

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Jun 2 2011 19:46

I'm not some one who often uses situationist terms, but I think there is a large extent to which policing is a 'spectacular' activity. Policing is a pretty inefficient way to cut most crime, after all (I imagine it would be an efficient way of cutting highly centralised crimes like really large scale pollution or financial abuses though, if they ever tried), but is a very effective way of shaping thinking about deviance, authority and so on. The best thing police do for most workers in their lives is issue one of those reports so you can claim insurance when your stuff is stolen.

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Jun 3 2011 08:10
Steven wrote:
I remember in a previous thread around this subject, someone recommended a pamphlet on the police by the SWP as being pretty good, but I can't remember the name

Is it this book that you were thinking of, Steven?

CRIME, CLASS AND CORRUPTION: POLITICS OF THE POLICE by Audrey Farrell.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/CRIME-CLASS-CORRUPTION-POLITICS-POLICE/dp/B000S9HQC8

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Jun 4 2011 11:19
steven wrote:
The Bow Street runners (the first police) were founded to break up demonstrations of workers and the poor with clubs, whereas previously the Army used swords, and especially after the Peterloo massacre everyone went nuts about it.

I don't think the above is right. This implies the opposite;

Quote:
In the 1820s, London's embryo police force in all but name was still not enough to control the crime of the booming city. However, there was great public opposition to setting up a formal police force. This was mainly due to fears of a police state like revolutionary France, and the use of military force to quell disturbances. (Old public memories of London's Gordon Riots of 1780 were revived in 1819 by the 'Peterloo Massacre' in Manchester.) The man to steer the Act to establish the Metropolitan Police successfully through parliament between the rocks of public order and civil liberty was Sir Robert Peel, then Home Secretary, in 1829. http://libcom.org/forums/general/articles-about-policing-political-or-otherwise-02062011

The Runners were set up to deal with increasing crime in the growing cities and expanding economy. Though they were on occasion used against workers;

Quote:
The Friendly Society of the United Operative Tin-Plate Workers of Wolverhampton was started to 'dispense necessary relief to such of its members as may be out of employ' .

However, trade unions were to be illegal for a further 23 years, after taking part in a strike in 1819 (probably in relation to the 'Peterloo massacre'), the society's meeting room was raided by the Bow Street Runners. Members hoped to delay the police by blocking access to the premises in order for the officials to destroy documents and records held by the society (Consequently the earliest surviving document of the Friendly Society is a printed Rule Book dating from 1834). Despite these valiant efforts the police did manage to break in by force of numbers and arrests were made.

Five of those arrested in the raid were convicted and as punishment were transported to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania), this being 15 years earlier than the more often cited transportation of the six farm workers from the tiny village of Tolpuddle in Dorset for the same 'crime' .http://www.wolvestuc.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=371:unknown-history-of-wolverhampton-trade-unionists&catid=48:wolverhampton-bilston-and-district-tuc&Itemid=46

...but the Runners' small numbers would've been generally ineffective against workers' demonstrations of the time; eg, Peterloo was 50,000.

Quote:
Henry Fielding, chief magistrate for Westminster, at Bow Street ... In 1750, ... formed the first paid police force, who became known as the Bow Street Runners. They were few in number but did manage to break up some of the major criminal gangs.

Before the turn of the century, seven more London magistrates' offices had been created, also empowered to employ paid full-time constables, who could arrest on suspicion of crime, and not just after the crime had been committed. By then, the Bow Street Runners were 70 strong and London had a total of 120 full-time police officers. http://www.police999.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1339%3Athe-police-serving-the-community&catid=56%3Apolice-history&Itemid=95&limitstart=1

Their initial work was;

Quote:
Similar to the unofficial 'thief-takers' (men who would solve petty crime for a fee), they represented a formalisation and regularisation of existing policing methods. What made them different from the thief-takers was their formal attachment to the Bow Street magistrates' office, and that they were paid by the magistrate with funds from central government. They worked out of Fielding's office and court at No. 4 Bow Street, and did not patrol but served writs and arrested offenders on the authority of the magistrates, travelling nationwide to apprehend criminals.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bow_Street_Runners

From 1748, Henry Fielding expanded the work at Bow Street and his work was continued in 1754 by his blind half brother John. The Bow Street Runners were the earliest form of detective force operating from the courts to enforce the decisions of magistrates. ... In 1763 John Fielding introduced the Bow Street horse patrol to make the highways around London safer. Funding lasted for only 18 months. He also became responsible for street lighting and lamp posts in an eighteenth century initiative similar to more modern moves to link street lighting with crime prevention. In 1796 Patrick Colquoun published his treatise on the Police of the River Thames which led directly to the establishment of the Marine Police at Wapping, and a dramatic fall in crime and corruption then rampant throughout the London docks. Wapping remains the headquarters of Thames Division to this day. http://www.met.police.uk/history/archives.htm

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Jun 4 2011 11:52

whoops, I wonder where I got that from then… I'd better do some more reading around this when I get a chance

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Jun 5 2011 23:17

Thanks everyone! Ok I'll steer clear of the Bow Street runners thing for now then. I'm mostly trying to stick to the ideas that -

*police arresting/harassing people doing the anarchies is not "illegitimate" policing, it's exactly what they're paid to do, and we should expect to be arrested/harassed when doing the anarchies, even though its shit
*police harass marginal/vulnerable sections of society all the time, this is "political"
*complaining about "political" policing on demos etc suggests that we want the police to be nice to us, and that we believe the line that police are there to facilitate peaceful protest, this is obviously balls and obscures the fact that they're definitely not on our side
*police talking about having their own anti-cuts demos doesn't mean they're on our side, cos they'll still be back to cracking heads, breaking picket lines and escorting bailiffs the next day
*just cos police can be "nice" and well meaning as individuals doesn't mean it's just the bad apples who will beat the shit out of protesters
*we all need to be on the ball about how to deal with police, and how to support each other when arrests are made.

And yeah, the point about investigating the crimes of the poor but not the rich is a good one. Fuck Batman! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFFDdgRj3nE

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Jun 5 2011 23:20

Oh and if anyone knows the Durutti quote about the state repressing people once their resistance becomes effective that Tommy Ascaso was trying to remember for me today, that'd be super ace.

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Jun 5 2011 23:45
Ramona wrote:
Oh and if anyone knows the Durutti quote about the state repressing people once their resistance becomes effective that Tommy Ascaso was trying to remember for me today, that'd be super ace.

voliá:

Buenaventura Durruti quoted in Abel Paz, Durruti in the Spanish Revolution, p.342 wrote:
They persecute us. Yes, of course they do. We’re a threat to the system they represent. If we don’t want them to harass us, then we should just submit to their laws, integrate ourselves into their system and bureaucratize ourselves to the marrow. Then we can be perfect traitors to the working class, like the Socialists and everyone else who lives at the workers’ expense. They won’t bother us if we do that.
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Jun 6 2011 10:51

Aces thanks Joseph!

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Jun 6 2011 11:41

Yeah I think its important to hammer it home that the police are always political, especially at protests.

Also about the anti-cuts police 'union', you know they played a video of the student protest to Theresa May backed by the Keiser Chiefs 'I Predict A Riot'? I would have cut all their funding just for playing such a shite song

jacobian
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Jun 6 2011 11:51

http://www.struggle.ws/rbr/rbr6/crime.html

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Jun 7 2011 10:58

Done! Kinda trailed off towards the end though. Also up here, will be interested to see what comments if any it gets there smile

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Jun 7 2011 17:13
Arbeiten wrote:

Also about the anti-cuts police 'union', you know they played a video of the student protest to Theresa May backed by the Keiser Chiefs 'I Predict A Riot'? I would have cut all their funding just for playing such a shite song

word!

Also of course, they are not opposed to cuts in general but only cuts to themselves

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Jun 7 2011 21:50

Dammit why didn't I make that point?

BlackFlag
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Jun 22 2011 20:22

Sorry if this is a bit late but this is a really good article regarding why the modern police force was created (i.e. for social control and to protect the ruling classes).

The Demand For Order And The Birth Of Modern Policing

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Jul 13 2011 14:00

Thanks everyone! I'm going to write a response to this http://bit.ly/pupzaP on my friend's blog about why we *shouldn't* be in solidarity with the police, if anyone's got any burning points you think should be raised. I'll be going with

*They openly support cuts in other sectors, so saying "their fight is our fight" is nonsense
*They are still going to be the ones breaking up occupations, defending scabs, aiding bailiffs, beating up protestors etc etc, so saying "their fight is our fight" is nonsense
*The argument that we should support them because "they are human" is empty rhetoric, yes their jobs and everything are threatened, but we show solidarity along class lines, and they're not on our side
*Its not about some cops being nice people or having families or whatever, its the structural role they as a whole play in society

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Jul 13 2011 14:54

I have nothing burning to add to your list, but that article nearly burnt my eyes out.... eek

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Jul 13 2011 17:04

Although the police might face similar cuts to the rest of us and when they complain they may use similar language they have also explicitly cited unrest due to cuts as a reason that they shouldn't be cut.

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Jul 13 2011 18:10

Good point jef. Now it seems like the debate they want to have is whether or not police count as workers. And whether or not they're workers with "false consciousness". Thoughts? I mean, I think police aren't workers like you or I, despite selling their labour for a wage...

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Jul 14 2011 09:02

To be honest, I think the argument about whether they are technically workers or not is irrelevant.

What matters for us is not the working class in itself, but the working class for itself. I.e. the working class fighting in its own interest.

The working class in itself may contain police, soldiers killing other workers, racists, rapists, etc, so this isn't something we glorify as such.

Police are certainly not part of the working class fighting in its own interest (the exact opposite in fact) - and they only can be when they refuse their roles and mutiny or quit, like soldiers for example. Except of course history shows that police are very unlikely to have the sort of mutinies or "switching sides" that has happened quite often with the Armed Forces.

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Jul 14 2011 11:06

Yeah that's a really good point. I think I'm gonna hold off responding for now though, the comments under the article are making me want to cry

Quote:
Going to make a comment here about the ongoing twitter argument: Saying that the police defend capital is laughable and shows that you’re confusing a street protest with a true revolution. If the people rose up in a revolt against the owners of capital there wouldn’t be enough police in the world to stop them. The police are simply easy targets for your fury because they are the obvious embodyment of the state at protests, when you feel that you are closest to the revolution, i.e. they are what’s stopping the revolution.

Ongoing twitter argument being me vs Max and Adam Ramsay.

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Jul 14 2011 12:00

Similar discussion in Manchester here.

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Jul 14 2011 15:16

Joseph I read the title to that piece and I couldn't bare to read on. The police joining an anarcho-syndaclist union, what planet is he on!

As for that Max guy, I see the point he is trying to make but they are dripping in naivety.

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Jul 14 2011 15:35
Arbeiten wrote:
Joseph I read the title to that piece and I couldn't bare to read on. The police joining an anarcho-syndaclist union, what planet is he on!

thing is, i'd be delighted if we were being approached by rank-and-file coppers who wanted to organise industrial action, as it would be a sign the state was losing control of its repressive apparatus. we may even put such coppers in touch with one another, maybe even encourage them to form an independent network etc, and - assuming they were anarcho-syndicalists and so critical of their own social role - conceivably even support industrial actions (if they were against say, routine arming of the police, or new repressive powers, or something else of that ilk). but there's an obvious conflict of interest between being a copper and being a revolutionary union activist, and in any case this is an entirely hypothetical problem as i can't see any cops approaching anarchists for organising help any time soon.