Posts Tagged Police

Section 5 drinking game

In our house, we’ve come up with a new drinking game when watching any of the myriad of emergency services documentaries on TV these days, particularly police ones.

It’s quite simple. Take a drink every time the police arrest someone for a “section 5″ public order offence because they muttered something under their breath when walking away from the police.

(Bonus drink if they previously stated “You can’t arrest me!” or I start ranting about how the police are doing things we’re not allowed to do even to prisoners of war who have just been trying to kill us)

Do not expect to finish the evening sober.

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More and more police powers (But I approve of these ones)

48 hours on from the news that the police will be getting increased powers of prosecution, we’ve learnt there are plans to also give them more power when it comes to dealing with traffic offences. Specifically, they will be able to hand out fixed penaty notices for driving like an inconsiderate dolt tailgating and similar offences, rather than having to take you to court.

It is unusual for me to approve of additional police power, but I like the sound of these ones. Tailgating is a serious problem and one that can’t be addressed by speed cameras and does contribute to accidents. I also believe it is more clear cut than some critics of the proposals seem to think as if you are consistently half a second behind the vehicle in front you are too close. There’s little room for argument there.

I am assuming that drivers given a fixed penalty will be able to opt to go to court as an alternative, however. The news seems to have been released without (And this is far too common with government departments) anything actually being posted on the web sites of any of the departments involved. So, as usual, we’re left to read between the lines from media reports that may or may not be accurate until the promised “written statement” is forthcoming later today.

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Theresa “Police State” May gives the police even more power to harass

After a bit of a break, there’s so much stuff I could write about.

How about Tory MP Nadine Dorries? Sarah Brown commented that she’s never been seen in the same room as a certain ultra right-wing US politician. She’s not the only one to have had this thought as the Independent today branded Nadine Britain’s answer to Sarah Palin. There are certainly similarities, but even the Americans recognised a few years ago that abstenance education doesn’t work. And I’m not entirely sure why she only wants to teach girls either, as boys need to take just as much responsibility.

Or there’s the Torygraph, whose have one of their editors suggesting that only those earning enough money should be entitled to vote. So while some of us were campaigning to try to push progressive changes to democracy through, the Telegraph suggested a return to a system over one hundred and twenty years old.

But Theresa May trumps both those, as usual, with her police reform. She’s already proposed things even the Met – not known for being particularly well behaved, had suggested were akin to a police state. Now she wants to give the police more power to prosecute, without even the pretence of a check and balance of the Crown Prosecution Service.

So, in future, should a Metropolitan Police officer decide you’re not worth unlawfully killing or unlawfully kettling, they can just harass you via the criminal courts instead.

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Theresa May: Metropolitan Police say she’s asking for a Police State

On BBC Radio 4 this morning, Commander Bob Broadhurst, the Metropolitan Police officer in charge of policing the march at the weekend stated “Unless you want to turn this into a police state, I think the powers we’ve got are probably adequate“. (Quote at 2:03.37 on the Today Programme)

Yet according to the BBC News web site, just over an hour ago, Theresa May said “I am willing to consider powers which would ban known hooligans from attending rallies and marches, and I will look into the powers the police already have to force the removal of face coverings and balaclavas. If the police need more help to do their work I will not hesitate in granting it to them“.

So it appears the Home Secretary is considering giving powers to the police that even they think might be a bit draconian?

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Parliamentary discussion on new Police Trans codes

The new police rules on searching anyone Trans, “Annex F”, that I wrote about at the weekend were up for discussion in parliament yesterday. LibDem MP Julian Huppert was kind enough to question the Minister about the topic, even though the minister did not mention Annex F at all in his opening statements.

The debate is online both in video format (The section on Annex F starts around 15:21) and in text format. (This link may become outdated as it’s the rapidly-prepared text version, I shall update it when the permanent version is available.

Here’s what Dr Huppert said on the topic, edited for length:

There is an assumption in the code that gender is binary, and that what must be done is to establish the person’s gender. However, there are a number of intersex conditions, for example, and people who would describe themselves as being somewhere between male and female, which is increasingly recognised in various bits of official documentation.

Surely we are not actually interested in establishing gender. As the police said last night, we are interested in establishing the gender of the officer who should search them; we do not actually care to categorise that person by gender. I am also interested in how much consultation there was on the measures with groups that represent people from the transgender community. I suspect, from the people to whom I have spoken, that there was little.

To go through the details, annex F3 looks at gender recognition certificates. A person who possesses a gender recognition certificate must be treated as their acquired gender. That is very clear, but there is an issue, because the current training provided—certainly to the British Transport police and to the Metropolitan police—specifically states that a gender recognition certificate should not be asked for. … Under paragraph 3(c) of annex F, rather than asking them what preference they have and how they should be dealt with, it would be simpler to ask who should deal with them, which I think would be a better approach.

Section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 makes it an offence to disclose information about gender recognition certificates, except in certain circumstances. There are cases of gender recognition certificates having been demanded inappropriately at various events; Pride was one example. I am worried that what is being said to police is that if they establish this, they should out the person with whom they are dealing to any other police officer who deals with them.

Finally, paragraph 7 of annex F explains what should be done when a person has elected which gender they consider themselves to be, but is not treated as being of that gender. There is nothing that I can see in the rest of the code—perhaps the Minister can point it out to me—that says what should be done when someone whose gender is very clear is not treated as being of that gender. Why are we saying that it is all right not to treat somebody who is transgender as being of the gender that they use to describe themselves?

Having made a number of criticisms of annex F, I should say that I am quite pleased to see that there is an annex F and that the issue has been taken seriously. I just wish that the final outcome had been more perfect.

And it seems that his remarks went down well with other MPs, as Labour’s David Lammy in the subsequent speech stated:

I want to associate myself with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Cambridge. I took the Gender Recognition Act 2004 through Parliament and it was there that I came across the transgender community and learned about the sensitivity of the issue and the discrimination that this small minority group faces in broader society. I hope that the Minister will answer all the questions that have been raised.

Unfortunately, the questions were not answered by Nick Herbert, Conservative Minister for Policing. My guess is that this was due to not having the information and not expecting any questioning on the topic until rather shortly before the meeting rather than any true reluctance:

[Dr Huppert] asked a number of detailed questions on annex F, which is designed to provide additional guidance to the police service on the conduct of searches involving members of the public who appear to be transsexual or transvestite persons. We consulted various lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups.

My hon. Friend asked a number of other detailed questions, but I do not really have time to respond now. I am happy to write to him, but I hope that I can reassure him about how we have represented such a vulnerable section of the community.

I have a couple of issues with that. Mr Herbert states it is guidance on searches of people who appear to be Trans in some way. That’s not actually the title of the section, although it seems that about half way through the notes they change tack away from the “how to deal with someone of uncertain gender” towards “how to deal with trans people”. The former, more generalised approach seems more appropriate but the slip here may be revealing.

Secondly, they apparently consulted with “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups“. Regular readers of my witterings will know this sort of thing annoys me, because he’s saying that it’s likely they went to talk to some LGB organisation and the draft guidelines, which are near impossible to find, probably hadn’t seen a Trans person before this weekend. Dr Huppert described the paperwork as “not quite in the locked filing cabinet, and there was no sign on the door saying, Beware of the leopard, but it was tending in that direction” I hope he was merely giving a holding answer.

As far as I’m aware, the committee only had to look at and comment on the codes and had no power to approve or disapprove them, so there was never really any real chance of getting changes at this point. However, even if nothing comes of this particular exchange it’s cast some light on the issue and it should make ministers and officials increasingly aware of Trans issues, which is good in the long run.

The minister has promised to write to Dr Huppert with more details and if I’m able to get a copy of that response I shall be sure to pass it on.

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New Police rules on searching Trans folk

I’ve just been pointed at the new Police and Criminal Act Code of Practice and the Home Office have (I think without consultation with the community but I’m trying to verify that) produced new rules on searching Trans folk. This isn’t in force yet and the document is still a “Final Draft”, but my understanding is that it’s probably too late to do much to change it. As it stands, they’ll probably come in to force later this year, although they did reach me via the political process so perhaps there is room to exert some influence.

Actually, the rules apply to anyone whose gender isn’t clear but it’s clearly been written with Trans people in mind. I predict problems when searching cis people who look “a bit odd”!

In one respect, the rules are possibly a good thing given that at the moment it would (I assume) be down to the officers discretion at the time. This is currently open to more opportunity for massive failure and prejudice than after these rules come into force.

The original document is available online and it’s Annex F on page 26 that’s Trans-related. To save you opening the PDF, I’ve reproduced it, slightly edited for brevity, at the end of this post.

My first reaction, and the reaction of a couple of other trans folk who have seen this, is that the GRC mention may be problematic. They do need to cover this as it’s important that if someone does have a GRC they must be treated as their acquired gender. However, I’m not a fan of the phrasing, which is just going to cause police to ask folk on the street for a copy of their GRC, as happened with the Toiletgate 2008 incident. I would suggest that gender markers on other official documents (which of course, people are not obliged to either carry or produce!) should be sufficient here.

It’s not awful – there are far worse things out there such as the prison service guidelines – but it’s a bit clunky and I’m really not sure what the objective of it was when writing it, so it’s hard to formulate a quick response beyond “Huh?”. There’s mention of “causing embarrassment” presumably to the officer doing the searching, so I do wonder if they’re concerned about the contents of someone’s underwear more than anything else. (Something that is of course unrelated to the gender specified on one’s ID)

Another point that came up was that it does assume a binary approach to gender which isn’t ideal, but the other sections upon which the code is based (“searches…may only be carried out by, or in the presence of, persons of the same sex“) mean that it would probably be futile trying to fix this here.

P.S. I’ve heard from elsewhere just as I post this that at least some police forces training on Trans issues is not to ask for a GRC – so PACE may now conflict with that.

ANNEX F ESTABLISHING GENDER OF PERSONS FOR THE PURPOSE OF SEARCHING
1. Certain provisions of this and other Codes explicitly state that searches and other procedures may only be carried out by, or in the presence of, persons of the same sex as the person subject to the search or other procedure.
2. All searches should be carried out with courtesy, consideration and respect for the person concerned. Police officers should show particular sensitivity when dealing with transsexual or transvestite persons. The following approach is designed to minimise embarrassment and secure the co-operation of the person subject to the search.
3. At law, the gender of an individual is their gender as registered at birth unless they possess a gender recognition certificate as issued under section 9 of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, in which case the person’s gender is the acquired gender.
(a) If there is no doubt as to the sex of a person, or there is no reason to suspect that the person is not the sex that they appear to be, they should be dealt with as that sex.
(b) A person who possesses a gender recognition certificate must be treated as their acquired gender.
(c) If the police are not satisfied that the person possesses a gender recognition certificate and there is doubt as to a person’s gender, the person should be asked what gender they consider themselves to be. If the person expresses a preference to be dealt with as a particular gender, they should be asked to sign the search record, the officer’s notebook or, if applicable, their custody record, to indicate and confirm their preference. If appropriate, the person should be treated as being that gender.
(d) If a person is unwilling to make such an election, efforts should be made to determine the predominant lifestyle of the person. For example, if they appear to live predominantly as a woman, they should be treated as such.
(e) If there is still doubt, the person should be dealt with according to the sex that they were born.
5. Once a decision has been made about which gender an individual is to be treated as, where possible before an officer searches that person, the officer should be advised of the doubt as to the person’s gender. This is important so as to maintain the dignity of the officer(s) concerned.

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The “Toiletgate” meeting last night

Many people who read this are probably aware of what’s become known as the “Toiletgate incident“. That’s not my name for it but it fits – it’s not so much the event itself that has people annoyed, but the subsequent apparent “coverup”. I don’t believe it was a cover up, I just thing the Police can sometimes be really clueless about community relations. Maybe that’s just me, I’m a fan of Hanlon’s razor and I tend to assume people are just a bit dim-witted rather than malicious… probably to a fault.

Anyway, as a result of the incident there was a public meeting last night with Commander Steve Allen, who is in charge of the City of Westminster police. I deal with the police semi-routinely as part of my job working for a communications provider – I nearly ended up having to take the stand in a high-profile terrorism case recently, but things changed at the last second and I didn’t need to. One impression I was left with from dealing with the police over that incident is that they have a very particular view of the world. I regard myself as somewhat of a liberal whereas the view of officers involved in fighting terrorism is decidedly anti-liberal – one police officer involved complained that his job would be much easier if Microsoft put back doors in Windows so they could easily decrypt data. Needless to say, that’s not a view I share. Because of that I went in to last night’s meeting perhaps not with a negative frame of mind, but not expecting that much would change as a result – lots of high level platitudes and promises to do things but no real action. I felt that Steve Allen actually wanted to make a difference on the ground, even quoting Emerson – “What you do speaks so loud, that I cannot hear what you say.” That was unexpected so I came away with a positive feeling from the meeting overall – I may be unusual in that however, as the general vibe I’ve had is that other people weren’t so happy. That positive feeling doesn’t mean I think the police have got it right – yet – but at least they’re trying.

Many versions of the events of that afternoon have circulated and I don’t think we were going to agree on a single version of events last night – if you have 30 witnesses to an event you’ll get 30 versions of the truth and all that – but it was still interesting to hear from people what happened face-to-face as one gets a better impression than on the Internet and a few gaps were filled in for me. I’ll mention any bits that there appears to be some dispute over – much of it everyone seems agreed on however.

After Pride, went to use the ladies at Trafalgar Square and was refused entry by a steward from an external stewarding company and told she had to use the disabled toilets instead. (Pride said that the stewarding company invovled are one of the better ones and if it had been most of the other ones, it would have been “A lot worse”. That’s… not encouraging) We now know this decision (Which is illegal, for those who aren’t clear about it!) was taken as “Health and Safety” decision – Paul, the chair of Pride, confirmed this – although it’s not clear who took that decision. (I.e. Pride staff or someone working for the stewarding company) The implication was it was someone working for Pride but this wasn’t confirmed. This decision was taken because a transwoman was assaulted by a bloke in the ladies a while before, although we don’t have any information on what exactly took place and how on earth a decision to exclude trans people from the appropriate toilets arises from that event confuses the hell out of me but I’ve seen the most bizarre things defended on the grounds of health and safety before – including a doctors surgery that refused to allow in pushchairs because of H&S and when I asked about wheelchairs said they were banned too. Because of hygene. (We changed GPs at that point)

After this event Roz, understandably a little miffed, went away and came back with a number of other trans people, who stood outside the toilet with the placards that they still had from the march. It seems that the steward at the toilets got on the phone to someone else and said they were being “attacked by a bunch of trannies” or words to that effect. Quite quickly (Based on the fact the LGBT liason officer was coming out of the toilets when he saw the situation – I guess it hadn’t started when he went in) a more senior steward became involved, spoke to Roz and relented, letting her use the ladies.

At this point, versions of events get a little more woolly. The press release put out by the police after the incident implied that “inappropriate language” was used by the trans community and that a steward was barged up against the wall. The version of events I’m more inclined to believe and one that is apparently supported by CCTV evidence (I’ve not seen the CCTV footage myself and I’m not sure anyone outside the police has) is that the inappropriate language was used by the stewarding staff or some other non-trans person and that the steward wasn’t barged but jumped back because some barrier came down. (I’m not clear on what this barrier was or is or why it came down) I don’t know if all these events happened before Roz went into the toilet, while she was in there or after or indeed if it happened before or after the off-duty police officer – also an LGBT liaison officer – came out of the toilet. At some point however, it seems the police officer threatened to arrest people for an unauthorised demonstration (Even the stewards had not asked people to leave at this point) and also in conversation with Roz told her that she needed a Gender Recognition Certificate to use the toilets.

That’s only going to get peoples backs up. Firstly, the historical view is that if a transperson reports a crime, particularly a transphobic one, that they’re more likely to end up in a police cell than the perpetrators. One would hope that’s just historical, but threatening to arrest people who are peacefully demonstrating against an illegal act, albeit a civil rather than criminal one, that’s still taking place (And I believe it’s widely accepted that was happened was clearly and 100% illegal) is really going to reinforce that historical view. made the point that as a result of what happened here, trans people are again less likely to report transphobia, for fear that even if an LGBT liaison officer turns up that they’ll side with those committing the offence. The GRC thing is another sore point – I was sceptical when I first heard about the act and I’ve since heard I’m not the only one and the sceptics amongst us have at least partially been vindicated. There have been stories of banks, building societies and employers refusing to change people’s names on records until they can produce a GRC, which is most definitely not what the GRC is about – you have to have fully transitioned for two years before you can even apply for one! And it’s a piece of legislation that the trans community fought for to improve our rights and so that we don’t have to “out” ourselves with old birth certificates, not something that we would expect to be turned around and used against us like this to deny rights we already had. (I think even asking someone if they have a GRC is dodgy, legally, but I haven’t checked that out)

This, I think, is where Steve Allen got it very, very badly wrong. The press release the next day said that he backed up the actions of the officer involved. What I think he should have said and probably what he actually meant was that he backed up the intentions of the officer involved, but should have quickly acknowledged that he’d made a mistake – due to lack of diversity training – about the actual actions. Steve Allen did make the point that if that one officer got it wrong, he can hardly tell that officer off because the chances are every other officer would have got it wrong too and that’s the big issue – lack of awareness. It seems that the situation should have been referred up the chain of command to the officer in charge on the day, but that didn’t happen and that was a failing on behalf of the police they were willing to admit to.

About half an hour after these events happened and everyone had left, it appears the stewards reinstated their “no transwomen in the ladies” policy. As a result of this, one transwoman ended up in the blokes loos, where she was sexually assaulted. A friend of hers was there last night but she herself wasn’t and as far as I’m aware she hasn’t said anything publicly, so details are thin on the ground and understandably if she doesn’t want to come forward, things have to remain confidential. Pride London weren’t aware of that incident prior to yesterday and Steve Allen couldn’t find the details on the police computers so not much has happened as a result, but he did give his business card to the victim’s friend so they can forward on the details. The victim did receive a letter from the police saying that an investigation was underway so we know it was definitely reported correctly adn the letter will have the reference numbers on it that Steve Allen can use to find out the details. My guess is that the he coudln’t find it on the computer because the incident wasn’t recorded as trans-related, which in itself is concerning.

The mess didn’t end there, although most of the rest of it just goes to show how slow and rumbling a large corporation like the police can be and how they can really stick their foot in it without even trying. There was a conversation between Roz and the police, and it was mutually agreed that it would be handled at a local level and that the police would revise their training as a result of the incident – at the time, everyone who went seemed if not happy with the outcome, at least placated. However, the Met were under pressure to publicly release something quickly to try to assure people that something was happening and although Commander Steve Allen’s letter was run past an internal LGBT group who look at such things, the revised version – which removed much of the content that annoyed people – didn’t make it back to him until after it had been sent out. The release just served to add fuel to a fire that might otherwise have died out of it’s own accord.

The general feeling in the meeting was anger, mostly at Pride and the Met for the misleading press releases which they hadn’t up until then apologised before. I don’t think much was said that addressed that anger, because it seemed like they just weren’t getting it. Amazingly, there was a transwoman with Paul, the chair of Pride, who stood up and tried to say that we were all getting uptight about something very minor. Of all people, as a transwoman, I’d have thought she’d have got it but she really, really didn’t and was probably worse than anyone else in her attitude! (The reaction of others in the meeting was immediate and vocal – she sat down again very quickly) It’s not just that Roz was refused access. It’s that it happened at Pride of all places. And it’s not just that she was refused access, but that the police backed up the steward and threatened to arrest trans people. And not just that the police did that, but that the officer involved was an LGBT liaison officer who of all people should have known better. And not just that, but that a press release a few days later implied that the trans community was at fault.

That’s not minor. When a minority group can’t talk to the police without fear of being arrested or publicly vilified by them, who can we turn to?

Steve Allen said he’d get something out by 1000 today, but I haven’t seen anything – I don’t know who it will have been sent to however. And I hope this time it gets run past the internal LGBT group…

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