Category: law & order


You must have heard of the rotten apple fairy tale. You know how it goes. It’s the standard establishment explanation for corruption or incompetence: He/she’s a rotten apple in an otherwise clean barrel. According to this theory, rotten apples are either weak assholes in the guise of human beings who have slipped through organisational screening processes and succumbed to the temptations inherent in positions of power, or deviant individuals who continue their deviance in an environment that gives them ample opportunity so to do.

Police departments, governments and the military tend to use the rotten apple theory, or some variation of it, to minimize public backlash after every exposed atrocity or act of corruption or incompetence.

Another approach is the occupational socialization explanation, the polar opposite of rotten apple theory — rotten barrel theory, if you will. According to this view, the very structure of front-line agencies of the state provides ample opportunity to learn the entrenched patterns of deviant power-based conduct that have been passed down through generations.

A functional explanation may be closer to the truth: corruption and institutionalised barbarism may be inherent in society’s attempts to enforce unenforceable laws and undesirable hegemonies.

The footage below pertains to the current US adventure in Iraq but it could, mutatis mutandis, be about Vietnam, Somalia, or the war against the American people at home.

Click here to watch it.

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Slippery Slope

(First published in May 2006)

Imagine there’s a small town somewhere out in the boondocks. Call it Raggedy End or Shimmering Stone, Dodge City or Nottingham, London, Barnsley, New York…

I’ve got it – let’s call it Slippery Slope.

Now let’s take it out of the boonies and place it in the secret centre of Your Town Anywhere, USA, UK or U Name It.

It exists, it’s a city within a city, it’s Cop Town and the potential for gradual deterioration of moral inhibitions hits you as soon as you arrive, the perceived sense of permissibility for deviant conduct is in the air you inhale at the coach stop as you wait to collect your bags.

There are cops everywhere. This is where they live, where they rest, where they internalise the conditions in which they work, conditions that don’t measure up to the rigours of the usual comfort zones, the ones to which we normal people have become accustomed.

In Slippery Slope cops can be cops.

Undercover work?

False identity and crime inducement?

Every day activities, son, like taking the kids to school or mowing the lawn.

Feeding disinformation to the media?

Making false promises to hostage takers and kidnappers?

Interviewing witnesses with a hidden agenda?

Employing deceptive interrogation techniques?

Making all kinds of excuses to avoid responding to “difficult to solve” crime reports?

Trading days off?

Selling desireable work assignments?

All quotidian aspects of life as a cop in Slippery Slope.

Imagine being a cop: you don’t make much money but you’ve got a heck of a lot of power.

So you learn how to play the game, how to angle yourself into cases requiring court appearances so you can put in for the overtime, how to strain the truth in order (at first) to protect loved ones and crime victims to whom you’re sympathetic, how to bend those skills towards more profitable activity.

Come on, all the guys do it, it’s called being a cop, for feck sake what you gonna do?

You come across more cash on a narcotics bust than the gross national product of some small countries… You gonna hand it over?

No way, my friend, I’ll tell you what your gonna do, what you gotta do.

It’s called the Four-way Shakedown. First you secure the cash, spread some of it around to make sure your buddies are sweet; then you seize the product; then you sell the product; then you arrest your customers for buying the product…

That’s what cops do, son, and in Slippery Slope you don’t have to feel bad about it, any of it.

Routine invasion of privacy via covert surveillance?

It’s like going to the bathroom.

Behaviour inconsistent with norms, values or ethics?

What norms? What values? What ethics?

Forbidden acts involving misuse of office for gain?

Oh yeah!

Wrongdoings, violations of departmental procedure?

Only way to get the job done, son.

Unfair bias towards family or friends?

Well if you can’t look after your own, right…?  

A comment on gun crime in the UK

Below is a comment by Ms Vaughan, which I received in response to my Gun crime in the UK post (11/09/06). I decided to publish it here because of its current relevance.

22 February 2007, 12:31:43 | Ms Vaughan
I am a Connexions Personal Adviser working in South London and I come into contact with young people everyday.

In light of the recent shootings in the Black community involving young people, I feel that it is now time for us to offer practical ways to tackle the problems and move forward.

I believe that everyone in our community should be coming together now. I think that they need to be shown that they can overcome all things with only a little determination, confidence in oneself and nurturing from family and school.

I am pleased to share with you a web site that promotes this and will be of interest to everyone in our community: http://www.school-info4u.com

A particular demand exists for a web site that delivers clear and specific advice to parents and carers who are raising African-Caribbean children.

School-info4u.com has the leverage to make a difference.

This free resource aims to tackle many of the problems that are causing these young people to ‘go off track’. This might be in relation to various issues, ranging from school exclusion, gang culture etc.

I guess most people might find it deeply uncomfortable talking about what’s really going on with the state of our youth. But as long as we choose complacency over awareness, we can’t change the status quo. In fact, the problems will likely grow in magnitude until people are finally forced to open their eyes and deal with the consequences. As is the case now!

The sooner each one of us decides that we do want to know, and that we are willing to invite others to open their eyes too, the more easily we will be able to turn this situation around. I guess that this won’t happen overnight, but I retain optimism…a flicker of hope in these difficult times! 

For me it’s all about trying to do my little bit to try and transform our community…’ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach’.

I believe that any small thing that one person can do to help another will make all the difference and I feel as though I am doing this with the School-info4u.com project.

Take a look at http://www.school-info4u.com

Kindest regards

Ms Vaughan

UCLA tazer attack by campus cops video

Albert Einstein said: 

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing…”

Gun crime in the UK

While gun ownership in the UK is perhaps more tightly controlled than in any other European country, with gun crime constituting less than 1% of total crime, it is a fact that guns and incidents involving firearms are a quotidian feature of modern city life. So much so that out of the almost 11,000 firearms offences committed each year in England and Wales, most are not even reported in the media.

In London there is a shooting once a day; there are on average two and a half fatal woundings each month. Figures are higher up north. In Manchester two and a half offences occur each day; most of those are committed by young men between the ages of 15 and 20.

The latest victim of UK gun crime, in Manchester’s Moss Side district — dubbed ‘the British Bronx’ — was not gang-connected, according to detectives. He was a nice kid, a softly spoken 15 year old, his mother’s “precious baby”, who often helped his pastor at the local Seventh Day Adventist Church.

He stopped 3 bullets from a semi-automatic weapon. Police said yesterday they believe the killing was a case of mistaken identity.

Last night his mother spelt out his name in candles on the patio of the house where he lived.

His name was Jesse James.

Click here for Teens and Guns: The Shocking Truth

Leeds man Mirza Tahir Hussain, sentenced to death under Sharia law 18 years ago, has been granted a further stay of execution until 1 October.

The article below, which I wrote and first published in May of this year, provides a background to the case.

It was nearly dusk when Mirza Hussain reached Rawalpindi.

He had arrived in Karachi the previous day and had stayed overnight there, setting off before noon to visit relatives.

The 18 year old British-Pakistani was a long way from his home in Leeds, where he had lived since migrating to England with his parents as a boy.

He had been educated and brought up there and had trained in the British Territorial Army.

His ultimate destination was Buhbar, a village in Chakwal district, about 56 miles south of Islamabad.

Mirza had been born there and he looked forward to spending Christmas with members of his family, some of whom he had not seen in many years.

The only way to get there from Rawalpindi, however, was by taxi and, initially, he could not find a driver willing to take him.

Tired from his journey, and apprehensive at the prospect of having to spend the night in a strange city, he eventually became involved in a conversation with Janshir Khan, who agreed to take him to Buhbar for 500 rupees.

It was a ride that was to change the young man’s life forever.

As they approached the village of Mandra, Khan allegedly stopped the car and made a sexual proposition to Mirza.

When the youth refused, the driver produced a gun and assaulted him.

In the ensuing scuffle the firearm went off and Khan was shot.

Mirza kept his head and did what any innocent person would have done had the incident occurred in England.

He drove to the nearest police station.

But, as he was soon to discover to his cost, the police in Pakistan do not operate the way they do in England and Mirza was immediately arrested.

When Khan later died, the boy was charged with his murder, tried, convicted and, in September 1989, sentenced to death by the Session Court.

Upon appeal in November 1992 the High Court in Lahore revoked the death penalty in the light of allegations that the police had fabricated evidence and introduced false witnesses.

The case was returned to the lower court for retrial but Hussain was again convicted.

This time he received a life sentence.

A second appeal was made to the High Court and on May 20 1996 he was acquitted.

Pakistan, however, operates a dual legal system; as well as the secular court, which acquitted him, there is also the Islamic, or Sharia, judiciary.

The following week, as he awaited his release, the case was referred to the Federal Shariat Court on the grounds that the offence with which he had been charged – “haraahbah, or robbery with murder – came under its jurisdiction.

On August 1998 the Shariat Court found
Tahir Mirza Hussain guilty by a split 2-1 verdict and he was again sentenced to death, despite the fact that the system under which he was tried requires an eye-witness or a confession, and the prosecution had neither.

Abdul Waheed Siddiqui, the dissenting judge, said that Hussain was “an innocent, raw youth”, who knew nothing of “the mischief and filth in which the police of this country is engrossed”, and that the police had fabricated evidence in “a shameless manner”.

Mirza has been detained in Islamabad’s notorious Adiala jail for 18 years and was due to be hanged on June 1, two days before his 36th birthday.

After direct appeals by the UK Government and the European Parliament, Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf has intervened and a fresh stay of execution has been granted, allowing the condemned man’s family another month to negotiate a “blood money” deal.

However, even if that is possible, Mirza will remain in prison indefinitely.

Kahn’s family have reportedly rejected a previous offer of £18000 made six years ago. (Don Galloway 27 May 2006)

In response to news of his brother’s latest reprieve, Amjad Hussain said:

“While this further stay of one month gives me and my family a little relief, it is not enough and in many ways it is extending the uncertainty and agony my brother and all of us have now lived with for 18 years.

“We did not ask for this stay. It shows that my brother’s case has got the attention of the Pakistan authorities, but it seems they are still undecided as to whether President Musharraf will step in and stop an innocent man being executed or whether they will let this barbaric punishment go ahead.

“My brother did not commit the crime of murder that he has been convicted of. His trial was unfair and his detention in Pakistan for the last 18 years has destroyed all our lives. Tony Blair must intervene directly now, and I implore President Musharraf to end our agony and commute the sentence immediately.”

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock added:

“This stay is not enough. It does not address the facts that there are serious doubts about the safety of Mirza Tahir Hussain’s conviction and that he still faces execution in a matter of weeks.

“We will continue to press the Pakistani authorities, for as long as it takes, until we know that Mirza Tahir Hussain will not, at any time, be executed. And we expect the UK Government to do the same.”

Summary justice

For some time now Tony Blair has been behind a drive towards what he has described as a “re-balancing” of the criminal justice system.

This week we hear that Mark Rowley, Surrey’s Assistant Chief Constable and ACPO’s spokesman on modernising police methods, is pressing for new powers that would effectively make front-line police officers unaccountable to the courts.

These include:

the power for cops to exclude individuals from certain areas “for an appropriate period” when they have been issued with an informal warning or a fixed penalty fine (by the same officers);

giving neighbourhood constables the right to prohibit individuals from participating in free association if they are deemed by those same officers to be “gang members”;

enabling “reasonable suspicion” for stop and search to be based on previous convictions.

All of which combine to facilitate the conception of a front-line operative who effectively wields all the power of legislator, judge and jury, without any of the constraints applicable in a court of law.

“We could move from the police referring and the courts sentencing to the police solving and the courts providing scrutiny,” says Mr Rowley.

But “scrutiny” would only come into the picture, presumably, if the individuals concerned were to complain to the courts, which they would have to do, it would seem, via the police.

This looks like instant police justice to me; it might also be construed as a return to the discredited sus laws, which were discarded as being open to abuse and fuel to police corruption.

The bulwarks between law enforcement and punishment exist for a reason and their erosion will do nothing to “re-balance” the criminal justice system; on the contrary, loss of separation will almost certainly create an opposite and detrimental effect.

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