UK police watchdog finally gets off its butt to investigate terrorism detention-and-search of children, theft of electronics

The UK police watchdog is finally looking into the widespread use of anti-terrorism stop-and-search powers by cops. The event that spurred them into it? Two plainclothes cops stopped a 43-year-old man and his 11-year-old daughter and her six-year-old friend. They took the man's USB sticks, phones, camera and CD, made him stand in front of a CCTV to be photographed, and then they searched and photographed the children.

They never told the man where he could go to get his property returned. They never returned it. Where I come from, that's called "being mugged."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said todayit would "manage" the investigation into the incident in July, meaning that an independent investigator will control the inquiry conducted by the Met's Directorate of Professional Standards...

In a statement today, the IPCC said: "The complainant states that, when he asked under what legislation his property was being seized, he was told it was under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. He also complained that he was given no information as to when he could retrieve his goods or who to contact in order to do so, and that there was no communication from police despite assurances that he would be told when he could collect his things."

Police investigated over stop and search of man and children under terror law

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  1. I’m utterly shocked that giving police a vague, undefined reason to stop and search everybody would result in this sort of thing. utterly unpredictable!

  2. Were they really cops? The post says they were plainclothes cops. Sounds like a pretty safe way of mugging people: tell them you’re plainclothes cops, so they are more likely to cooperate, and don’t wear cop uniforms, so you don’t get busted for impersonating police officers. On the crime shows on tv you see plainclothes officers waving around badges that you can buy at any gag-gift shop.

  3. Or What next – maybe they will shoot unarmed Brazilian plumber.

    Or harass people on the tube for carrying a bit of plant.

  4. Wow!
    Someone needs to dig up Churchill & let him know that the Nazi’s have taken over The UK.

    Sad thing is.. give it another 5-10 years and we in the US will be in the same boat.

  5. “What’s an 11-year-old doing with a 6-year-old friend?”

    Seeing the sights in London, apparently. Pretty silly question.

    My daughter will tell you that one of her best friends is the daughter of my old college friend. They’re both fans of the same TV show. There’s about a nine-year difference in their ages.

  6. I for one would insist on taking any plainclothes ‘officer’ to the station before handing over any property, and I would demand a copy of the paper trail.

    Even if they are real police, they’re probably thieves.

  7. “Citizen, under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 I’m going to have to confiscate all your internal organs.” “Baaaaaa, whatever you feel is best officer.”

  8. According to the BBC news website version of this story, there were 157,290 stop and searches carried out in London last year.

    The story goes on to say that “Stop and searches led to 1,200 arrests in the year to September 2008” although it’s not clear if this means in London or the UK entire.

    I’d love to see the numerical breakdown of reasons for the actual arrest: I’m guessing the majority are either drug or knife possession and that very, very few hold any reasonable relation to terrorism.

  9. Someone on the Guardian site seems to think that plain clothes officers aren’t allowed to stop-and-search under those circumstances.

    Plus, the business about having them stand in front of a CCTV camera seems out of kilter to me, not like I would know.

  10. Odd no one posted the news where CCTV caught a few terrorists planning on setting off these soda bottle bombs on a number of flights and then totally slowed down the airport as a result.

  11. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that the reason this case out of all the others is getting ‘investigated’ is because they already know it was a couple of con artists.

  12. Apparently, for a search to be conducted under section 44, the officer in question must be in uniform. This sounds more and more like an updated version of why a London copper always has the time.

  13. Santa’s Knee here.

    V: “We’re oft to blame, and this is too much proved, that with devotion’s visage and pious action we do sugar on the devil himself.”

    Baldy Fingerman: What does that mean?

    V: “Spare the Rod.”

  14. Decided not to log in for this one.

    The fact that they asked the fellow to step in front of the CCTV is interesting. If the CCTV were real, and they knew that, they would also know that they were on CCTV – which suggests that they were sure there would be no worries they would be arrested. So either a.) they really are cops, or b.) they’re in cahoots with whoever monitors the CCTV camera, or c.) the CCTV camera was fake and they knew it.

    So either there are corrupt cops involved, or CCTV cameras are worthless.

  15. “Imagine one gang, consisting of the Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings.
    That’s when you start to realize what the police is
    Government funded gang-bangin thugs, that’s what beast is. -ILL BILL

    A black BMW was parked in front of my apartment last week, on a corner both blocking a handicapped ramp and jutting out into the intersection. Despite being there for a few hours it never got ticketed, and cars always getting ticketed there for blocking the ramp. Then I noticed one of those “thin blue line” stickers on the back. Surprise surprise.

  16. For those interested, I’ve been collating some information about Section 44 searches – particularly the breakdown of what people are actually charged for vs. what they’re stopped for – via FOI requests.

    The results can be found here: http://44searches.wordpress.com/

  17. ORKY said

    Were they really cops?

    Okay, if it’s evil thugs they take you to a secluded place and shoot you in the back.
    If it’s cops they take you to a secluded place and shoot you in the back if you try to run.

  18. If it’s cops they take you to a secluded place and shoot you in the back if you try to run.

    British police don’t carry guns, except in some exceptional places (inside airports) or times (if they think there’s someone with a gun).

  19. They drafted and brought in PACE because of the despicable practices habitualised by the Metropolitan Police, and they just later drafted the Terrorism Act so they could go back to stomping on people in the street.

    They don’t need to hold an enquiry, they need to amend Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.

  20. James @17, that’s good work and a good site. Should it surprise anyone if almost all the police actions arising from these searches are for standard criminal offenses, and have nothing to do with terrorism?

    Orky @3 sees the point immediately:

    Were they really cops? The post says they were plainclothes cops. Sounds like a pretty safe way of mugging people: tell them you’re plainclothes cops, so they are more likely to cooperate, and don’t wear cop uniforms, so you don’t get busted for impersonating police officers. On the crime shows on tv you see plainclothes officers waving around badges that you can buy at any gag-gift shop.

    It would be a disturbingly simple scam.

    I don’t see them citing any reason why they took the guy’s mobile phones, USB sticks, and CD. He presented no threat. I doubt this is the first time those officers have pulled this stunt. I also doubt that everyone’s gotten their electronic gear returned.

    Police don’t go out of their way to make extra work for themselves. If they’re conducting searches and taking electronic equipment where there’s no reason to suspect actual criminal or terrorist activity, they’re either harassing the citizenry for their own amusement, or they’re playing “it’s mine unless you force me to return it.”

    In 2008, police used Section 44 searches, designed to combat al-Qaida, to search 2,331 children aged 15 or under, 58 of whom were less than ten years old.

    It’s time to stop giving security and law enforcement personnel blanket permission to do whatever they want, without proper oversight, so they can “fight terrorism.” It just corrupts them.

    Besides, a responsible police force ought not be pushing the idea that you have to obey anyone who claims to be a police officer, security employee, or other variety of public official. Police know there are dozens of cases every year where civilians impersonate them for fun and profit. Here’s an elaborate heist in the UK, an abduction and assault in Canada, and robbers in Dublin posing as City Council employees. In the US, there’ve been two this month in North Carolina alone–one in Charlotte, and one on the ECU campus, as well as an incident just yesterday in Buena Park, CA. Two weeks ago, the LATimes reported on a gang that for three years wore police and FBI uniforms while conducting kidnappings and murders in the San Diego suburbs. Meanwhile, the Dallas police department reports a significant rise in thefts of police equipment.

    I don’t know what the laws are like elsewhere, but in the US you can get just about any law enforcement gear you want from the Galls catalogue or one of their competitors, including law enforcement-specific modifications and insignia for automobiles. The only mildly tricky items are law enforcement badges customized for a particular unit or area, and the controls on those could be beaten by your average teenager.

  21. The last time I saw an AAA travel guide for NYC (in 1991, IIRC), it warned as to the specific pattern of flashing and colored lights which police use to pull people over – and further warned NEVER to pull over for any other patterns of flashing lights.

    That warning must have been in there for a reason.

  22. Canuck, the guy from the Dallas police department said much the same thing:

    Defenbaugh recommends people use caution if they see flashing blue lights.

    “I don’t think you are going to ever get in trouble with any public law enforcement entity for going to a public place to pull over for a policeman,” he said.

  23. @24 “British police don’t carry guns, except in some exceptional places (inside airports…”

    British police very rarely walk anywhere anymore – and there are often guns in police vehicles, (I believe).

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