Police chiefs demand ‘summary powers’

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THE Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) is demanding that their forces be given powers to dispense ‘instant police justice’. This is revealed in the latest issue of Police Professional, ACPO’s house magazine.

Surrey’s Assistant Chief Constable, Mark Rowley, who is ACPO’s spokesman on the so-called ‘modernisation’ of police work, is the author of an article on this and his views were given widespread publicity by the media yesterday.

Rowley said it was about time that officers involved in neighbourhood policing were given powers that would ‘bite’ to deal with ‘anti-social behaviour’. These new measures are targeted at youth in particular.

His plans include giving police officers the powers to issue official warnings, or fixed-penalty fines, on the spot to youth and ban them from city centres at certain times of the day ‘for an appropriate period’.

It is proposed that police officers will have powers directed at groups of young people in some neighbourhoods. They will dispense banning orders forbidding youth from associating with one another in public, in certain places, for three months. If they defy the ban then they will face being arrested and taken to court immediately to face a fine, or have an ASBO imposed on them.

Drivers stopped on more than one occasion with no driving license and documentation for the vehicle, will face having the car impounded and crushed, and receive an instant driving ban from a police officer. The victim of such treatment will only be able to challenge this in court after the event. They will be guilty unless they can prove their innocence in court!

Finally, it is being proposed that ACPO demands new ‘sus laws’, enabling police officers to stop and search anyone on the basis of ‘reasonable suspicion’.

Rowley wrote in the magazine: ‘It is therefore time to debate whether constables should be given substantial additional, discretionary, summary powers to meet these challenges . . .

‘Such powers would effectively bring existing criminal justice powers to the street. We could move from the police referring and the courts sentencing to the police solving and the courts providing scrutiny.’

Commenting on Rowley’s proposals, a spokeswoman for the civil liberties group, Liberty, said: ‘This looks like instant police justice and a return to the infamous sus laws.’

Apart from the content of the proposals that is causing alarm and anger because they are such an extensive attack on democratic rights, equally significant is the timing of the publicity campaign by the police chiefs.

This comes at the end of a week in which, last Wednesday, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), manned by the MI5 and MI6 secret police, initiated a huge police operation in the early hours of the morning in east London, Birmingham and High Wycombe, in which 24 people were arrested under ‘anti-terrorism’ laws.

Labour’s Home Secretary John Reid rubber-stamped the operation and with Transport Minister Douglas Alexander launched a massive crackdown at airports. Passengers were confronted by armed police and herded around terminals for hours, while their flights were cancelled or delayed.

ACPO’s call for ‘summary powers’ yesterday was not addressed to ministers and MPs. Parliament is in recess and most ministers are on their holidays.

Instead, with Blair’s government disintegrating before their eyes and a Tory leadership that does not inspire confidence that it can take on and defeat the working class and the youth, the secret police forces are staging operations and the ‘political policemen’ are attempting to take centre stage to publicise their plans.

This must be a warning to the whole working class and the trade union movement. As a result of the capitalist crisis, there are forces within the ruling class and the capitalist state today that want to scrap democratic rights and attack the organised workers’ movement.

It is clear that the Blair regime has spawned these forces because it supports and encourages them with talk of ‘rebalancing’ the criminal justice system.

There must be an urgent mass mobilisation of the trade union movement for a general strike to bring down the Blair government in order to go forward to a workers’ government that will disband these police agencies and guarantee the rights of workers and youth.