Thursday, July 19, 2012
Defend the right to murder posted by Richard Seymour
The police officer who killed Ian Tomlinson has been acquitted. This is a real achievement for the police, in defending PC Simon Harwood. They clearly went to the court with the bigger arsenal. The jury was not aware that the police's key witness, the pathologist Freddy Patel, is such a complete and utter disgrace. They were not aware that he has been struck off the Home Office's register of approved pathologists, that he has made serious 'mistakes' in high profile cases, and that many people believe he is a serial liar (replace 'many people' with 'I', and 'serial' with 'fucking'). They were also not told aware that the suspect, the killer, Simon Harwood, is an accomplished psycho with a string of complaints to his name. One has to assume that the police authorities moved heaven and earth, and used all their considerable institutional power, to ensure this verdict. So, it's an achievement for them.
The question is, why did the police go to such extraordinary efforts? The clue is in the final sentence to the Guardian's report on this: "No police officer has been convicted for manslaughter for a crime committed while on duty since 1986." This is crucial.
To be clear, there have been police officers pursued for crimes committed while off-duty, and these are sometimes taken extremely seriously. There was a well-known recent case of a police officer racially abusing a Pakistani shop owner. He was fired. But the main reason he was fired is because he was silly enough to commit his hate crime while off-duty and inebriated. Had he committed a crime while in uniform and on the job, the authorities would have felt compelled to defend him.
The reasoning can only be this: a) if a crime is committed by a police officer on the job, then it's the police force at stake rather than just one individual, and b) if the crime relates to the handling of members of the public, the police would want to protect the officer's right to determine the parameters of a given situation and use maximum discretion in how they deal with individuals. Implicitly, this means they expect these practices - from racist harrassment to lethal violence - to form part of the repertoire of police action.
This is a major victory for the police in defending the right to murder. One had thought that it couldn't be too long before they killed someone during the student protests, and had they gone on for much longer the strong likelihood is that they would have done. SNow we have a heavily militarised Olympics coming up, which the East End hates. And there is plenty of combustible material in this society, plenty to protest about. And I had already thought it would be surprising if they didn't kill someone this summer. Now I find it hard to imagine that the police won't avail themselves of a right they have so vigorously defended.