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Friday, July 25, 2008

Assault Police/Police Assault

The police are frequently accused of brutality, and this kind of thing doesn't do us any good. For my linkally-deficient readers, PC Daniel Gaffney of GMP has been found guilty of punching a 12-year-old boy in the face.

Because of cases like this, the rest of us have to tread on eggshells. Most people, on seeing two or three drunks scrapping outside a nightclub on a Friday night, probably cross the road and call the police. Or just cross the road. The police run towards it. While we're running, we're taking in the scene in front of us, working out who the main aggressor is, figuring out whether his pals will join in if we go hands-on, and talking on the radio to get colleagues to our assistance. We're also trying to decide what kind of take-down will make the prettiest picture on the CCTV.

Cynical?

I've been involved in scraps where six of us have struggled to restrain a drunk. There was one of us on each limb and two on his legs/back and he was still resisting. The guys on his arms put in some strikes to try and make his arms bend so he could be handcuffed. The guys on his legs did the same to prevent themselves being kicked. Eventually, sweating, battered and bruised, we limped with him into custody and got him into a cell.

I went to watch the CCTV later. All you could see was six cops sitting on a guy whilst punching and kicking him mercilessly. It wasn't like that, but that's what the camera saw. His resistance, his biting, screaming, snarling, ranting and flailing, was all totally obscured by a parked taxi and our own bodies.

Police brutality exists. I've seen it, rarely, and in very minor form (if it can ever be considered minor). But it isn't as common as people think. It isn't what we all aspire to, or what we joined the police for. And I shouldn't have to be thinking about it whilst trying to defend myself and others from serious injury or death.

Cases like PC Gaffney's make life harder for the rest of us.


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22 Comments:

Anonymous PC Michael Pinkstone said...

I think there are 3 types of fighting force used by police when they are involved in typical 'aggro' situations with violent persons:

Rough
Excessive
Brutal

I've seen rough, and I've been rough - you have to. Any use of control on a suspect who is kicking off is going to be rough. It will look rough, sound rough and generally result in some minor bruising, grazing and blood-curdling threats of revenge. Such incidents very rarely make it all the way to the national news, probably because they happen every day. If any complaints arise out of them, they are usually resolved locally and without much hassle.

Excessive is a different kettle of fish. And it would seem in this case that PC Gaffney has been excessive. Unfortunately for him, as much as that obnoxious little sh*t most likely thoroughly 'deserved' a good, solid thump ... it wasn't his right or his reason to give it. Hence he finds himself in hot water.

Brutality is completely different. I've never seen police brutality first hand, and I never hope to. And despite what we say over a pint when talking about what those kinds of people really need (comments and feelings that are undoubtedly 'brutal ')... well, it isn't up to us to dish it out. And that is probably a good thing.

Good post about a troublesome and sticky subject.

25 July, 2008 18:18

 
Anonymous notellin said...

This sounds like one of those cases where the bobby allowed himself to be wound up by this 'lad' (I am being polite) and when he was directed to strip search (which no one likes) for a firearm which the lad claimed he had, the Officer just snapped.

It goes without saying the lad in question probably knew that making claims like this may annoy and at least definitely delay the Officers. I wouldn't be surprised if this lad also claimed to be suicidal, suffering from claustrophobia so he cant go in cell and in need of trip to hospital for an endless series of imaginary conditions which we cant afford to ignore in case they are true.

To me this seems like a sad case of Bobby loosing his temper, i say this as in this era Dirty Harry type cops don't survive as long as they used to and he would have been unlikely to get to 7 years service.

Its very hard to justify punching a 12 year old in the face and spreading his nose. He would have to be the biggest 12 year old ever, with a gang of friends or in possession of a weapon or about to harm himself in such a way a good right cross was the only means of protecting him from himself.

Of course i may be wrong, he might just have been a violent cop.

Regardless were the Police and we cant afford to loose our tempers or worse, because that just makes us, them, if not worse as we have responsibilities and occupy positions of trust.

Being a Police Officer is a constant exercise in personal mental and physical control. Were expected to override our intrinsic animal instincts and possess almost superhuman levels of discipline, emotional control and physical skills to neutralise a violent offender with unrealistically small amounts of force ala Dr Spoc sleep grip thing.

I suppose if you ever get to the point where you think you have reached your limits and your loosing control, perhaps a none confrontational office job would be best for a bit. The only problem is that if you turn around and ask for one on those grounds they might turf you out, best to think of another reason.

25 July, 2008 18:48

 
Blogger blueknight said...

Not knowing the full facts, I never like to comment on individual cases, but I wonder if Officers get enough Unarmed Defence Trg and quikcuff training. I remember mine was one day a year. What I am saying is that the PC was probably justified in taking some sort of pre emptive action, but a punch in the guts or a 'dead leg' might have been a better option.

25 July, 2008 21:44

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Using force in a lawfl and safe manner never looks pretty.

I wonder if all the money spent on PR and civillians could be better spent educating the public about this.

25 July, 2008 22:36

 
Blogger Ex-RUC said...

Like blueknight I hate to comment on a particular case but I have to remember the times it took six of us to get one drunken fighter into the back of the Land Rover. On CCTV it would have looked terrible but on the ground it seemed reasonable minimil force.

25 July, 2008 23:54

 
Anonymous notellin said...

The thing that i always try to remember when i hear about jobs like this is that we never know the full facts, its easy to judge and anyone of us at any time could get accused of such a thing, Its also worth remembering that we all have our snapping points and you don't know you have snapped until its too late. The only reliable is working with people you trust who will stop you before that fateful action takes place.

I like to think that my fuse is longer than i would ever need, but that may be just a conceit as you never really know. Too many factors to be sure of anything.

26 July, 2008 00:22

 
Anonymous Geraint said...

Where's that famous apologist for police brutality, Metcountymounty?

In the meantime WPC Bloggs, these instances of Police Brutality, that you say that you yourself witnessed with your own mortal eyes... did you report them?

26 July, 2008 01:58

 
Blogger Noggsy said...

Excellent post Bloggsy, I feel exactly the same way.

Geraint - she said she had never witnessed brutality (RTFQ). In terms of reporting excessive force, I have never reported anyone, but have taken them to one side and had a word, which seems to me to be a proportionate response given the circs. I hope that if I ever did see brutality, I wouldn't be reporting the bobby, rather, restraining them/locking them up.

None of us are above the law, but we have to work with and trust our colleagues. I suppose it all depends where your personal line in the sand lies.

26 July, 2008 09:46

 
Anonymous Dave H. said...

Thinking of Ms Comer’s side of the story, could the 'drunks scrapping outside a nightclub' in fact be sober, upright epileptics with the misfortune to suffer a collective fit?

Nightjack also posted on this general topic on the 20th July. He made an inspired proposal for all us MOPs disturbed by video footage of violent arrests (I imagine you get plenty in weather like this).

26 July, 2008 14:29

 
Anonymous geraint said...

noggsy - she says that she has seen it but rarely

One is enough. Was it reported?

(Like Hell!)

26 July, 2008 14:55

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geraint

we all cover for colleagues who may have the odd bad day. it's called teamwork.

In my job it means making sure that the needs of the clients that we deal with are met - no threats, violence or any such stuff. Our job is thankfully tame.

However, if a colleague was continually letting the team down we'd expect management to deal with it.

In short, you don't ditch a team member just for one bad day or misjudgement.

I'd support any police officer who made a mistake, and I'd rely on their management to deal with any repeated mistakes.

26 July, 2008 16:15

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Geraint (as you are now calling yourself), since you asked, no I didn't report it. I was very young in service and it was a much more experienced colleague, which makes it very difficult even to voice your disapproval. But we are talking about an ill-judged tweak of the handcuffs - which is why I called it "minor" - rather than a punch/kick/beating. There are individual cops who do abuse their power. Everyone knows who they are and the moment they over-step the mark PSD will be down on them like a tonne of bricks and not one colleague will support them. That seems to be what has happened here - without knowing all the facts, of course.

26 July, 2008 16:49

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geraint,

Who exactly do you think took the stand and gave evidence against PC Gaffney? The young lad that was later found guilty of affray and, in his statement for this trial, gave every reason for PC Gaffney to punch him in the face?

No, it was one of his colleagues that believed the response to the 12 year old running at him was hugely over the top.

Just so you know...

26 July, 2008 19:10

 
Blogger Metcountymounty said...

@Geraint (cuddles?) since when have I ever apologised or defended brutality? All I've ever said is force is and can be justified in many circumstances where members of the public who aren't appraised with the full facts or an iota of training think that it may be unlawful or excessive.

We're trained in how and when to use force if necessary and are repeatedly exposed to the environments in which force is necessary for defence or restraint and constant exposure to that allows us to be able to read signs of potential violence or danger that you simply can't pick up after a couple of night shifts.

If you are who I think you are then remember that you just count for a living, we're the ones trained in the practical aspects of criminal law, judges and solicitors are the experts in the technical aspects and you simply provide empty opinion on things you know nothing about.

If force is used then it has to be justified, if it isn't justifiable then there are ramifications (and yes I have raised issue with other colleagues use of force in the past) which is where the technical experts decide. Trial by media or trial by tabloid reading armchair experts about Police use of force is helpful to neither us, nor the public. When we are in a situation second guessing for even a split second can get us or members of the public injured or worse. Slagging off police officers every time about even so much as a raised voice or a strike helps no one.

26 July, 2008 22:24

 
Anonymous xoggoth said...

I can't say I have ever assaulted a police office or anyone else while drunk but it is odd how much stronger you seem to be when you are. Things you can scarcely lift when sober you can pick up and hurl with ease when sozzled. Perhaps you just don't feel the strain so much.

26 July, 2008 23:29

 
OpenID inspectorgadget said...

Once upon a time..... 12 year olds used to do what they were asked by police officers, teachers, parents, park keepers etc etc

Some still do.

Now, thanks to years of 'Liberal Elite' policy making, increasing numbers don't.

Consequences: a general slide into anarchy on both sides.

27 July, 2008 13:37

 
Anonymous MarkUK said...

A few police officers sometimes abuse their powers and thump someone who they have no right to thump. A punch from a grown man to a 12yo is most likely to be excessive.

However, society being what it is, I'm surprised that more charges aren't brought (and dismissed).

I am a First Responder - a volunteer working with the ambulance service. We don't get sent to likely trouble.

(A while back, two of our Unit got sent to a patient with difficulty in breathing. One is ex-police and the other is well-trained in kick-boxing, but they both felt intimidated in the house full of smack-heads. We won't be sent there again, and the ambulance service will ask for police back-up before the crew goes in.)

However, at the last training session I went to (with another Unit), we got a couple of hours on "conflict resolution" - aka self-defence. We were shown moves that "look OK on CCTV"!

More disturbing than that was the fact that our instructor was a serving paramedic - it's a bogger when he has to know things like that, up to the standard he does.

27 July, 2008 22:11

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "trouble" with cases like this is STEREOTYPING. Yes, it makes it harder for the rest of the serving police officers, because of the negative press about the case.

The SAME can be said about sick people on Incapacity Benefit, or even single mums, on benefits. A small minority who abuse the system, and get caught, because of the publicity, everyone else gets tarred with the same brush.

Politicians have had a recent taste of this unpleasant aspect of society and in particular, the press.

The "trouble" is perfectionism, which, from the very "top" tries to insist on all too often, unreasonably high standards, which mere humans often fail to achieve.

I'm not condoning the PC who punched the 12 year old in the face, but the press and the public should have enough sense to realise that NOBODY is perfect all the time. People make mistakes. That is what life is all about, and learning from them.

I blame Maggie Thatcher for a lot of the BOLLOX that is now going on, the stress that parents, teachers and cops are under, and the unruly behaviour of many kids. She and her government started this decline because of the way the Child Protection System was implemented. NuLabour [same old Tories] then just made matters worse. Meanwhile the odd out of control yob is likely to get a punch from a stressed out cop.
Sh*t happens.
DQ

28 July, 2008 01:19

 
Anonymous geraint said...

anon 16:15@ - you say police brutality usually occurs because someone is having a "bad day"? and you stick together and cover it up because of teamwork and would not be inclined to report it. Regargless of the fact that it criminal behaviour - it is by one of your own. So that's OK then.

Well at least you're honest about it.

- PC Bloggs, how long ago could this offence be that you saw? You've not been in the job *that* long.. and is there a statute of limitations on criminal assault in this country? You still know this guy's name - so why not do your sworn duty and let due process determine whether or not he should be prosecuted. Or there again, sanction criminal behaviour because it by one of your own, eh?


Metcounty mounty - go look up what "apologist" actually means, theres a clever chap. [Hint it is NOT someone who apologises]... talk about irony (sigh)

28 July, 2008 19:21

 
Anonymous Tpk361 said...

Idiotic political correctness in the media and in the higher ranks now means that the copper on the beat is constantly assessing how his or her actions will be percieved, rather than relying on, and acting on instinct and common sense. I'm sure there are serving Police Officers who are thuggish arseholes. I'm equally sure that these are few and far between. I am not a police officer and had a few run-ins with the boys(and girls) in blue as a silly teenager (Had a few well-deserved slaps from Olham Constabulary as well, but only coz I deserved it!). But I am not and never was a Police-basher. They are doing a very difficult job and need far more support from the general public than they seem to get at the moment. Our hostility would be better aimed at at anti-social scrotes than aiming at the people who are trying to help and defend us from these scum

28 July, 2008 22:00

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tpk361 - you are not a serving police officer you say?

Really?

28 July, 2008 23:29

 
Blogger Metcountymounty said...

geraint (sigh...) as I said... never have defended therefore I can't be an apologist. Still like a fish on a hook aren't you? perhaps you should stop assuming we're all thick simple plod eh?

Oh, and irony - to be of or like Iron.

29 July, 2008 11:11

 

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