Am I A Dick?

by @edent | # # # | 21 comments | Read ~398 times.

Well. Yes, probably. I have a small character flaw. I don't like authority. I question authority. I overreact sometimes.

This is me being stopped under Section 44(2) of The Terrorism Act 2000. I informed the police that I would be videoing and streaming to QIK. The video was cross posted to Phreadz and discussed on BoingBoing.

(Note - the Qik video service died in 2015 and I rehosted a copy of the video on YouTube. The video is missing a few minutes from the end.)

So, is my antagonistic whining at the police useful in any way? In my twisted mind, I see this as a good thing... sometimes. I believe it's up to all of us to occasionally turn around and say "Are you allowed to do that?" To say "Why?" I'm not trying to be melodramatic, but I don't think that enough people perform checks on authority. Power, so they say, corrupts. We've seen how police can be used against the population in Zimbabwe and other countries.

Now, I'm not naive enough to claim "OMFG POLICE STATE!" to being stopped - annoying and distressing as it is. Britain is a hell of a lot better than many other countries. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to make it even better.

A lot of people (especially those whose parents escaped Europe during the war) are vigilant - perhaps over vigilant - against the return of fascism. And the first step towards that kind of rule is to stir up fear and hate in the population and use the civilian police for political purposes. Hence, I suppose, the emotional response.

The UK is not a police state. But it's up to each of us to make sure it doesn't become one. It's up to us to vote, to talk to our MPs, to expose violence and intimidation.

Let me make one thing clear; I have enormous respect for the police. They do a tough job and get a lot of abuse for it. I'm too much of a coward to put myself in harm's way every day like they do. The Security Services' failures are very public - and their successes are very private. We often only get to see the "bad" side of them. That distorts our perception of the work they do to keep all of us safe.

Some people have said that I'm a dick, that I'm looking for my 15MB of fame (excellent turn of phrase), that I'm goading the police for a reaction.

Others think I'm highlighting security theatre, a citizen journalism hero, that I was perfectly reasonable.

Those are a selection of people's thoughts. There are more on digg.

Ultimately, I'm conflicted. I feel that it's right to highlight the silliness of these random searches. I feel that my right to free speech has been exercised and I'm hugely grateful that I live in a society that values and respects the free discourse of ideas.

However, I should have handled it better. I should have been calmer and more professional. I don't think I was in any serious danger of being carted away - but it terrifies me that had I slipped and made comment too provocative I'd now be in jail for 28 days.

I'm grateful to James Bridle for filing a Freedom of Infomation request to the Home Office, via What Do They Know. If these "random" stop and searches result in a significant number of arrests and prosecutions; I'll accept that I'm a hysterical moaner and let them get on with it. If, however, all it accomplishes is to piss off innocent citizens.....

Please, if you care about your freedoms in the UK, join Liberty.

Night all.

(This post comprises a distillation of a number of tweets, comments on digg, phreadz and conversations with people. I'll update it with trackbacks to other blogs covering this when I get some free time.)

21 thoughts on “Am I A Dick?

  1. David Mery says:

    Re: effectiveness of Stop & Search under section 44.

    It is poor for the MPS. From gizmonaut.net/bits/propaganda.html (written some time ago) for instance:

    In the financial year 2003/4, the Metropolitan Police conducted 5,245 ‘Stop and searches’ of pedestrians under section 44(2) of the Terrorism Act 2000. Only two of these were arrested in connection with terrorism, and a further 57 for other reasons.

    In 2004/5, the Metropolitan Police conducted 4,206 ‘Stop and searches’ of pedestrians under section 44(2) of the Terrorism Act 2000. There were 66 resultant arrests: 15 in connection with terrorism, and a further 51 for other reasons.

    The official 2005/6 statistics were eventually published: the number of pedestrians stopped and searched under section 44(2) by the Metropolitan Police jumped 2.7 times to 11,407. Still, less than half a percent were arrested in connection with terrorism.

    (See the original piece for links to sources)

    When I asked a question to the Metropolitan Police Authority about this, it was made clear that the MPA approves of this tactic and that unfortunately the Stop & Search Scrutiny Board scrutinised only the PACE stop and searches and not the S44 ones (I'm not aware of any change since).

    On one hand it is claimed that these stop and searches are done to disrupt, but on the other the Home Office is surprisingly reluctant to divulge where the S44 powers apply. Spyblog has an FOIA request still pending.

    It is clear that in your case, the police didn't find you much of a risk as they made no attempt to isolate you from all the traffic in Waterloo station. Also the officers you filmed have badges marked Counter Terrorism Proactive Unit (CTPU) which is a British Transport Unit - so they may have a different track record to the MPS officers. According to its 2007 annual report "BTP carried out some 30,000 stops under Section 44 last year, almost as many as every other police force combined."

    br -d

  2. Terence

    I am somewhat shocked but not surprised at the incident. I am reminded of something Benjamin Franklin once said: "Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security."

    Looks like we're all going slowly to hell in a very small handbasket.

    Keep the faith!

    =:~)

  3. Terrence, maybe you were a dick, but sometimes it's necessary . We only get the rights that we defend, and insist upon.

    However professionally they behaved, the police occasionally (at least) need to be reminded what they are doing, and who is the employer, and who is the employee. Maybe if enough people do it, they'll complain up the chain , with the policy makers eventually getting hit with it.

    Good job!

    Here's one from a fellow traveler , of sorts, in New York.

    Also , the next big thing in security.

    Cheers,
    - Mike

  4. Luther says:

    Fair play to you, mate.
    The 'I'm just doing my job' schtick doesn't wash when the job they're doing is increasingly eroding our basic human rights.
    Policies like this are far more about looking tough on terorism than actually tackling it in any meaningful way.
    For this reason I think we should all act like dicks when searched. Dick power! Or something.
    Blogged you here: http://lutherapblissett.blogspot.com/ btw.

  5. RWAL says:

    Sorry, I don't get your problem. Are you a good looking rebel who plays by his own rules then, is that it?

  6. me says:

    This is scary stuff, in an insidious, slowly-warm-the-water-until-the-frog-boils kind of a way. Thanks for doing this: actually seeing this happening brings home the everyday erosion of civil rights we're experiencing in this country. Out of interest what is the worst they could do to you if you refused to be searched, once they'd arrested you?

  7. I didn't think you were a dick at all. I think a good comment you could have made to them was,

    "I wonder what the fall-out would be if an actual terrorist incident happens at this moment and you are caught being filmed spending way too long with a person who neither looks like a terrorist and you admittedly had no real suspicion about?"

    It was obvious that he was just abusing his power to annoy you. I thought you were quite composed under the circumstances.

  8. "It is poor for the MPS"

    This search was carried out by the British Transport Police though, not trying to say they're any better or worse but these chaps weren't in the Met.

  9. I don’t think you were a dick either. Now, I won’t repeat what many others have said, but want to add this: Asking the police for proper identification (and taking down their details) is good practice even if you are satisfied that their actions are perfectly reasonable. This should be done simply to insist on accountability.
    If people can and do hold the police accountable for their actions, and ascertain the legality of police measures, they are contributing to the checks and balances of a liberal democracy. The police therefore shouldn’t take this personally. You were simply doing your job –as a good citizen.
    PS: liberty has a monitoring form for section 44 searches here: http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/issues/6-free-speech/44-search-monitoring.PDF

  10. A lot of people (especially those whose parents escaped Europe during the war) are vigilant - perhaps over vigilant - against the return of fascism.
    you sure to know how it worked in the beginning, the years before the war broke out? they didn't come with the hammer, they did it piece by piece with subtlety. here a tiny cut, there a little bit and so on. just like they do today.
    as for being vigilant ... fascism has changed its face since the end of war. and when it might return, it would look totally different from what we know from history. look at italy, berlusconi, for example.

    And the first step towards that kind of rule is to stir up fear and hate in the population and use the civilian police for political purposes.
    juk, and if you would think a little bit more ... you would find out, that maybe we aren't at the second point right now, but probably on the best way to it. sooner or later, but for sure.

    The UK is not a police state. But it's up to each of us to make sure it doesn't become one.
    comparing with the country i'm currently living in, i must say, i'm doubting your words a bit. no, a lot. so, all those things, that your mps and other politicans boxed through in the almighty name of 'war on terror' and justified with the assumed sense of security - yes, now every thing is safe, because we can see ... blah - do you really think, they still fall under the description of democracy? human dignity as defined by civil rights? so it's ok to be watched on every step by cctv, searched, checked, fingerprinted, trackrecorded of every move you make from a to b and what ever else they come up with because its for ... what exactly? because you could be potentially suspected to be some kind of baddie?

    as for up to us to make sure ... obviously there's a lot of acceptance for those things, or otherwise they wouldn't be done that easy. or is it really the same like over here, that there are indeed ppl who try to fight the passing of some of those 'enhanced security' laws.

    on the other hand, it's rather ironic, that 70 years ago, every one had that book at home, so in theory they knew, what would happen. and yet, their realization might have been too late. which leaves me wondering ... where do we stand today in context to those?

    although, one thing i'd also like to know. what exactly would happen, when i say that if they go on with their search without any claim or evidence for what i'm potentially suspected to be? and more so, when i tell them, if they do so, i'm going to sue them for violation of privacy? or is that something that doesn't exist any longer in the uk, the right for privacy and all that's tied or associated with it?

    [one last note ... i found you over that one ... http://alles-schallundrauch.blogspot.com/2008/08/willkommen-in-grossbritannien-und-jetzt.html%5D

  11. Randwulf says:

    Randwulf from Canada here, the same one from comment #78 in the Boingboing thread. Signed up for a Blogger account so I could comment on the question "Am I Dick?".

    Short non-inflammatory answer - No.

    Somewhat longer but rather inflammatory answer - No, you are not a dick, but Gia would certainly make a very Good German.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Germans

    Having been stopped several times in the last few years by police, whose paranoid and aggressive behavior leads me to the point of sometimes suspecting there is a chemical reason for it on their part, has soured me on them I'm afraid. Where I was brought up by my parents to believe they were your friends, such is not the case anymore. Most nowadays, if not all, seem to have the mindset of "There are no innocent people out there, only people we haven't caught yet." and it shows.

    As such, unless I need them for something, I have no dealings with them whatsoever. In saying so doesn't mean I am anti-police but because I have been made to be suspicious and always on my guard around them I would have to say I am instead neutral and non-supportive. They are just another employee of the government, they are not my friend.

    Friends are people who you willingly invite to parties because you enjoy their company. But there is always that guy, a friend of a friend perhaps, who shows up to the party, knocks things over, steps on the cat, drops his cigarette butts into empty glasses and just seems to an all around idiot. Heaven help you if he drinks heavily because then he wants to start picking fights. You don't exactly hate him, but you sure don't want him around. Police are to me, that guy.

    All my stuff aside though, watching the video made my blood boil and I commend you for keeping your cool. I don't know that I could say the same for myself. I don't know whether I would be so overwhelmed with anger and outrage that I would become dumbly numb and acquiescent or start furiously lashing out, with the former being a crushing blow to my pride and the latter causing me to spend some time in jail. You'd found a middle ground between the two, being enough in control of yourself and the situation to film the event, such that both your pride and your police record are intact and my hat's off to you.

    For the Gias in the world, well, all I can say is that they deserve what they tolerate and we'll see them in the camps, if they aren't instead the ones turning people in.

    Cheers!

  12. Did that look like freedom? Please keep spreading the word about freedom and liberty! The Main Stream Society needs to hear it! and its people like you that will have to be the one that gives it! (Main stream media will do no such thing!) Thanks for posting this!! And I am going to post it on my blog! (I have a radio show in the US) http://www.libertycafe.wordpress.com

  13. I think you're right exposing the police state. You say that it's not a police state yet and there I don't agree. It is and you show exactly that. Let me tell you where do I draw the line. The police detains you for no reason and violate your rights (freedom, privacy, defense) without consequences. That's exactly a police state.

    Random searches never ever result in more security. They main goal is to control the general population and show action. If you're into something bad, you have to be a real idiot to get caught by a random search. Terrorism is just an excuse. You have been suffering this outrageous violation of your rights for 8 years and they didn't find terrorist, they didn't stop any, they'll never do. Junkies maybe, petty thieves. 15 in connection with terrorism means some guys that look like they were slightly related to a racial group or religious group where the incidence of terrorism is a little higher than the normal. As David Mery mentions, the rate right violations to results is incredible low. Any worker in the private market with a score like that would have been sacked the first week.

    From a practical point of view, compare the statistics between real crime (damage done to persons and their properties) and "terrorism". Then compare the use of resources between criminal prevention and war on terrorism. Where would you want your resources (the wealth you produce with your hard work)? Terrorism rarely affects your life, but if you're living in a modern urban environment I'm sure crime did already. And your chances of getting hit again are going up every day.

    The police state puts the productive population under control. It helps to enforce conformity and submission (funny thing, that's exactly the meaning on the word Islam). The police state feeds from the wealth of the productive population because it produces nothing by itself. And free citizens are bad servants, free citizens question authority, free citizens are likely to keep their wealth to themselves, free citizens rarely conform to socialist powerful police states and, by definition, they never submit.
    The police state is there to remind you that they're in control, that you're being watched and that there's nothing you can do to oppose it... for your own good.

  14. utterly ridiculous - and a complete waste of police resources..

    when was the last time an english white guy blew himself up whilst shouting "allahu akbar"...?

    random searches are because of politically correct bollocks lest we "offend" the Islamists.

  15. John. Your comments are abhorrent to me. I published them because I don't believe in censorship. Luckily, I live in a country where I can reply to your moronic drivel with facts.

    The last time I saw white Christians* trying to blow up people and property was 5th March, 2001. But the white Christians have a long history of bombing, killing and maiming.

    Some of them even tried to blow up the Murrah Building.

    In addition, I often see people of all hues being searched. As there's often no way to tell a person's belief in an imaginary friend from sight alone, I don't see how these searches can be "politically correct".

    T
    *I leave it as an exercise to the reader as to whether they should be considered English, British, Irish, or something else.

  16. Terence - I received a response to my FOI request. More details here: http://44searches.wordpress.com/

  17. Hi,
    I am a journalist working for an Italian magazine. We are now working on the next issue about terrorism focusing on the "terror of fear" spread out by Western governments after 9/11.
    We are trying to get in touch with common people who for any reason got stopped or arrested under the charge of terrorism, but in the end realesed because never proved to be guilty.
    We are trying to underline how counter terrorism is in fact becoming a new tool to control people, making everyone a potential terrorist.
    I read your story, would you be interested in being portrayed in the next issue of our magazine?
    If so, please do let me know as soon as you can.
    Thanks,
    Elena Favilli
    [email protected]

  18. I am a journalist working for Colors magazine. We are now working on the next issue about terrorism focusing on the "terror of fear" spread out by Western governments after 9/11.
    We are trying to get in touch with common people who for any reason got stopped or arrested under the charge of terrorism, but in the end realesed because never proved to be guilty.
    We are trying to underline how counter terrorism is in fact becoming a new tool to control people, making everyone a potential terrorist.
    I read you've been stopped several times only for taking pictures, would you be interested in being portrayed in the next issue of Colors magazine?
    If so, please do let me know as soon as you can.
    Thanks,
    Elena

  19. I am a journalist working for an Italian magazine. We are now working on the next issue about terrorism focusing on the "terror of fear" spread out by Western governments after 9/11.
    We are trying to get in touch with common people who for any reason got stopped or arrested under the charge of terrorism, but in the end released because never proved to be guilty.
    We are trying to underline how counter terrorism is in fact becoming a new tool to control people, making everyone a potential terrorist.
    I read your story, would you be interested in being portrayed in the next issue of our magazine?
    If so, please do let me know as soon as you can.
    Thanks,
    Elena

  20. Mark Smyth says:

    i am considering changing the name of my band from Angelica to "the mupski´s"

    in the history of dicks i think i take the biscuit, or wafer or whatever

  21. Civil liberties are a one way ratchet, once you lose them you never get them given back.

    The last thing you are been here is a dick; in fact the only conceivable reason I can imagine people would call you that is because when you make a stand you ultimately remind them how much of a coward they really are.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.