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Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Police Lie

Is that a big surprise? To some people, I guess that it is. “If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear” I hear people say. What planet are they living on? Plainly, one in which perfectly designed robots are invested with the power of the state, not fallible human beings. Human beings who are capable of being hateful and prejudiced, stupid and corrupt. Human beings who are also capable of being good, even great people. That said, we cannot dismiss out-of-hand the suggestion that the police service, and other institutions that grant their members great power, both attract a greater proportion of shits and shape those who are not yet into shits. This certainly was the case in the past, and is certainly the case abroad. Are we so special, by some virtue of Britishness, or some peculiarity of this point in history, that we are a people apart from the world as it exists and history as it happened? Plainly not, though some fools seem happy to suggest that we are.

So, where did the police lie? Or more accurately, so this does not become some gargantuan index of corruption and murder, where have the police just lied in a high profile case? Well, the shooting of Mr De Menezes, that is where. Lenin and China Mieville have posted more than adequately on the report by ITN that the circumstances of the shooting of Mr De Menezes appear to be completely add odds with the police reports of the events. Will this silence the disturbingly blood-thirsty advocates of shoot-to-kill policies? I would gamble my mortgage that it would not. Some people are shits, and others are stupid. Jon has a good post on just how we are persuaded to accept police impunity, while this exchange, culled from the comments boxes at Conservative Commentary, shows just how stupid, or shitty, some people can be:

Number of potential bombers shot: 1
Possible lives saved: 100+
Life lost: 1

Lets see who the statistics support now, hrm?
Joseph Cullen

Perhaps the police should just start picking off potential bombers at random at the Tube entrance; think of all those possible lives saved.

So, the lessons that I have learned over the past few weeks are this: when anyone complains about how something is done in Britain, for example, when they ask for a more draconian criminal justice system, moan about liberalism or demand that we adopt the working practices of exploited Third World workers, the appropriate response is; “Get the fuck out of Britain if you hate it.” That seems to pass for reason on the right. And two, if I knock someone down, or otherwise harm them, I can use the other favourite argument of the right and reactionary left; “They could have been a suicide bomber – you should thank me.”

Shits. And I have not even started on Gate Gourmet yet.

I think the question is whether it is actually an outright lie or whether it’s something more complicated. Obviously something happened and one set of events unfolded, but in talking about those events people have to come from their own contexts and backgrounds. I'm no postmodernist and I certainly do hold to the proposition that it is possible to establish some kind of objective truth about situations - the problem is that certain people (i.e. the police) hold more power and influence concerning what is included or excluded from the accepted account: the account that is most likely to be taken as the 'real' (objective) truth. The media also hold such power, as we are now witnessing. A complex issue indeed.

There is also a psychological element I would suggest. Because we only 'see' a tiny amount of the world we must construct the remainder for ourselves. An interesting point to consider is: what fantasy material do we have to draw on to picture something we only half see, but which broadly fits into a genre we recognise? - like when we see a man running from the police; or perhaps, what the police 'see' when they are in hot pursuit of someone, even if he never quickened his pace? Or when we are asked to re-call what we ‘saw’ when it turns out the police were after someone? ‘Oh yes’, you might think, ‘he looked like a shady character’.

Maybe the police aren’t liars per se. Maybe it’s the whole system that’s up the shit.
Oh, that is certainly the case where the immediate eywitness accounts are considered.

But the police knew that he was not wearing a bulky jacket. They knew that he did not run from the police. They knew that he did not vault a barrier. They knew that the CCTV was working.

They knew all of these things, yet decided that they would persuade us of the opposite. They are liars.
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