PC Simon Harwood has killed, and so far got away with it.
But the death of Ian Tomlinson was not just the fault of one out of control cop. It was the result of a desire by the Metropolitan Police to use terror, violence and fear to suppress protest.
Even as Harwood walked away from court, leaving the grieving family of the man he killed behind him on the court steps a Met spokesperson tried to distance the force from one of the people it had hired to do its dirty work.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Maxine de Brunner Said that the Met had always intended to hold a misconduct hearing as soon as possible stating that: ‘Papers were served on PC Harwood in November 2010 informing him of the intention to proceed with a gross misconduct hearing.’
The tone of the statement was one of heavy regret as Brunner stood before the press in front of Scotland Yard and claimed: ‘It is clear that insufficient recording and checks meant that detailed information regarding the officer’s misconduct history was not shared at key points.’ Looking into the middle distance she swallowed and concluded, ‘We got that wrong.
But can it isn’t just a woeful lack of employment procedures that led to Harwood’s violent presence at the demonstration on April 1st 2009. It wasn’t just the act of one rogue officer acting out of order that saw an innocent man knocked to the ground and caused to bleed to death.
Harwood had already been accused of violence in 2000, five years after he first joined the police. Having attacked a motorist he was allowed to leave the force due to ‘ill health’ before an inquiry could be conducted into his actions. Days later he rejoined the Met, this time doing a ‘civilian’ job, then transferred to Surrey police where he was allowed to slip back into a uniformed role.
Another officer at Surrey accused Harwood of roughing up a suspect, less than a year after getting back into uniform. At this point he was welcomed back to the Met, and made a member of the Territorial Support Group. Far from stopping an officer being active in the Met an act of violence made him the ideal candidate for a unit notorious for its aggressive and intimidating tactics.
At least five more incidents of violent action by Harwood were complained about after he joined the Met, with complaints coming from both the public and other officers. Each time the Met was able to keep his actions quiet.
So the police recruited a thug, a man with a history of violence, and not only allowed him to carry on, but by helping him to avoid blame encouraged and nurtured him.
April 1st 2009 provided the Met with the perfect opportunity to put this unfettered thug into action. As the colllapsing world economy led to a rising tide of protest against governments and bankers the demonstrations around the Bank of England, while the G20 meeting took place in London, was time and place for them to crush protest.
The response to the various G20 protests was extreme with London flooded with police and peaceful protests, such as Climate Camp, kettled or attacked. Into the middle of this havoc Harwood, and other Territorial Support Officers like him, were sent to show the full indiscriminate force of the law.
At various points of the policing operation Harwood was caught throwing a BBC cameraman to the ground, attacking a protester and getting into confrontations with other protesters before leaping at Ian Tomlinson and delivering the blows that would cause his death.
Harwood was hired to do the Met’s dirty work
Scotland Yard would have us believe that Harwood was a single bad cop, that now he has been singled out, the problem is solved. But every member of the Territorial Support Group, that day dressed in body armour and helmeted either whacked out at members of the public that day, or stood aside while another officer did.
In the inquest into Ian Tomlinson’s death one of Harwood’s side-kicks was interviewed, PC Andrew Hayes was driver of one of the police vans used on the day, as was Harwood. He described how while they were parked up Harwood had grabbed a man he believed was graffittiing one of the vans. Harwood grasped the man and started dragging him by the shoulders. The man’s head was banged against the door of Hayes’ van.
Haye’s statement was quoted to him at the inquest he had said ‘…there was a loud bang and the door was jammed open. The male PC Harwood was bringing along the street had collided either with his left shoulder or the left side of head with the edge of the door……I don’t know whether this was deliberate or accidental, as the male had been struggling to pull free from PC Harwood.’
Hayes claimed at the inquest that when he said he didn’t know whether the man banging his head was ‘deliberate or accidental’ he meant that the man might have deliberately banged his head on the door of the van.
In reality as Harwood brought the man past the van Hayes opened the door making an attack possible. Harwood had deliberately smashed the man into the door that had conveniently been opened. Hayes attempt to claim the man deliberately smashed his head into the door edge is laughable and reveals the attitudes and tactics of the force as a whole.
Increasingly police forces are being caught out, as the IPCC report into the G20 policing states:
‘The evolution of communication technology used to record and access images of violent confrontations between the police and protesters influenced emerging views of the police operation on 1st April. The high volume of publicly sourced footage of the protests, including the events leading up to the death of Ian Tomlinson, has demonstrated the influence of ‘citizen journalists’ – members of the public who play an active role in collecting, analysing and distributing media themselves. Consequently, individual and collective police actions are under enormous public scrutiny.’
This new technology has left police forces exposed in a way the Met had failed to anticipate before the G20 demos, revealing the reality of the force in action. Since Tomlinson forces have struggled to catch up, the myth of the ‘rogue’ police officer has been one they have been quick to nurture.
If you have access to enough footage of any protest you will see officers like Harwood roaming around, dishing out beatings, while others look on or join in. People like Harwood are not acting outside of their force’s strategy they are part of it. While ranks of police in riot gear attack protesters in a more orderly way the ‘rogue’ officers add an extra element of intimidation, and when bad news gets out they also act as fall guys, given as examples of how its ‘just a few rotten apples’.
Eventually Harwood will get his just deserts, Tomlinson’s family plan to pursue the case until they find some justice. But the truth is that he is just an element of a wider strategy of state oppression, providing violent thugs when they are needed, and taking the blame when collective police thuggery is at risk of being exposed.
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