Met chief demands police be beyond the law

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IT emerged yesterday that the commissioner of the Metropolitan police, Sir Paul Stephenson, has been lobbying the Tory home secretary for changes in the law that would effectively place the police above the rule of law.

In a confidential letter to Theresa May sent last June, Stephenson, one of the most senior and influential police officers in the country, called for changes to make it harder for members of the public to sue the police for damages in the civil courts.

Given that the vast majority of civil actions against the police involve allegations of police brutality and wrongful arrest, they are clearly getting fed up with having to defend themselves in the courtroom.

Increasingly members of the public with grievances are forced into civil action because of the seeming inability of the official complaints procedures or the public prosecution service to uphold any action against the police.

Just last week, a public inquiry was opened into the shooting at close range by police of Azelle Rodney as he sat in the back seat of a car in north London back in April 2005.

No inquest into the shooting of this unarmed 24-year-old has been possible because the police have refused to allow information relating to this shooting to be made available even to a coroner.

None of the police involved have faced prosecution or any sanctions.

In the notorious case of Jean Charles de Menezes, shot six times in the head at point blank range at Stockwell Tube Station, again no prosecution or even disciplinary action was taken against those responsible.

Similarly, the Director of Public Prosecutions has ruled out any prosecution of the police officer filmed striking and shoving to the ground the newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson, who died almost immediately afterwards, despite the fact that the entire incident was captured on film.

What these, and many other similar incidents have in common is that, despite the fact that no police officer has ever faced a court over them, the public outcry and pressure from families has led to embarrassment, for the police, and civil action by families.

For Stephenson it is clearly not enough that the police are not prosecuted, he now wants to make it impossible for the truth to emerge at all.

This is made clear in another of his demands to the home secretary, that members of the public requesting information about police activities under the Freedom of Information Act, be charged a fee as a deterrent.

Stephenson also has a message for any police officer who wants to break ranks by claiming discrimination or unfair treatment.

He wants to load higher costs on officers or other staff taking the force to an employment tribunal. He is threatening them with potentially thousands of pounds of costs if they do go to a tribunal.

What is worrying Stephenson and the police hierarchy is that as the slump bites and thousands of workers and youth are forced into confrontation over jobs and the defence of the welfare system, the police are more and more exposed as the ‘bodies of armed men’ that exist to defend capitalism against the working class.

Under these conditions, they want the police to be completely above all law and free from any public scrutiny.

What is clear is that capitalist ‘democracy’ is rapidly being transformed under the impact of the crisis and that elements within the ruling class are moving towards a police state.

This threat can only be answered by a general strike, a workers government and the destruction of the capitalist state and sweeping away its bodies of armed men.