Who polices the police? Is a question that has vexed many in recent decades, and remains largely unanswered. This years protests against police brutality & racism, as epitomised by the Black Lives Matter protests, has once again put the question high on the agenda…although not it seems on the agenda of our political elites – they’ve been far to busy trying to get the police to do their dirty work for them during the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, and keeping them on side with more police recruits and unusually good levels of public sector pay.
So as ever it is activists & campaigners leading the way, emerging from, or working with, social movements that have begun to challenge racist & class biased policing. No surprise then that Bristol sees the stirrings of a new’ish local campaign this Saturday at 2pm, with an online workshop entitled ‘Who Polices The Police?’ Places are free but limited, and you need to pre-register here! This is a joint workshop from StopWatch (website) and Bristol Copwatch (twitter and FB), and the intro text for the event tells us:
“UK policing disproportionately targets people of colour in the UK, with a range of police powers used to target and harass communities. Through this workshop, you will get an overview of how Stop and Search is used by Police nationally across the UK and in Bristol, and gain practical knowledge to help you assert your rights. Learn about:
> The history of Police racism in the UK
> Practical “Know your rights” information for community self defence
> How to “Cop Watch”: holding the police accountable
Further queries, and any access or support needs contact bristolcopwatch[at]riseup.net by email.”
Bristol Copwatch is a new community-focused police monitoring group, their poster (below) & social media feeds explain more about them. StopWatch is a decade old coalition of legal experts, academics, citizens and civil liberties campaigners. They aim to address excess and disproportionate stop and search, promote best practice and ensure fair, effective policing for all. StopWatch’s recent report on A&SPolice is worth reading in full here before Saturday’s workshop. Amongst other facts, it shows us that:
– Black people in Avon and Somerset were searched at almost seven and a half times the rate of White people
– People from Mixed backgrounds were searched at just over four times the rate of White people
– Asians were searched at one and a half times the rate of Whites
– Chinese or other ethnicities were searched at half the rate of Whites
Both Copwatch & StopWatch are part of a decades old tradition of campaigns attempting to bring some real life accountability to policing in the UK – Stop Watch’s partner organisations are indicative of such groups. Other notable campaigning groups across various aspects of policing include Network for Police Monitoring (NetPol), Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS), United Families & Friends Campaign (UFFC), INQUEST (deaths in custody), 4WardEver.UK & their useful links pages. Locally of course we have Bristol Defendant Solidarity. The best & most reliable campaigns & support groups are independent of any state funding (be it nationally or locally) – because once you accept state funding, you are halfway to becoming a part of the state, which is what the police are a key part of & enforcers for – doing the bidding of the political elites.
As The Independent stated in an editorial way back in 2013 about the IPCC: “Who polices the police? No one apparently.” The IPCC were then replaced by the IOPC…but if we look at this news report of a recent complaint about local policing to the IOPC, we find that the complaint was referred straight back to A&SPolice to investigate it – yes, investigate themselves!?!
If we want the police to be accountable we’ll need to take action ourselves.