"There's only one motive for a police officer disguising his identity and that's because he thinks he's going to be doing something reprehensible." – Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said his party was given a guarantee by senior officers after clashes with climate change protesters at Kingsnorth power station in Kent - where there were also complaints of police disguising their identity - that there would be no repeat of such tactics at the G20 protests.
The buck stops with us. The solution is in our hands. It is called FITwatching. So how do you FITwatch? I will list a few of my own ideas and hope that others will add ideas of their own. We need a plan and this seems like as good a way as any to thrash one out.
Preparing to FITwatch
It’s a good idea to work in pairs. Lets call it a Buddy system. That way you will have support if you run into trouble. You should attempt to keep in each others sight if there is any risk of interacting with the police. You will need a digital camera or cameraphone. It needn’t be expensive. I have seen plenty of suitable new equipment on sale for under £30. Ideally it should have a removable memory card. It should be capable of capturing video and sound. You should consider carrying a spare memory card and batteries. If you use a cameraphone it may be worth uploading some of the photos as you take them. This prevents them being taken from you should someone fancy attempting to pervert the course of justice! You should think about how you will preserve your evidence as if the police plan to behave reprehensibly this may include an attempt to destroy your evidence. Finally, test your equipment. Do a dry run. Make sure you understand how to change batteries, switch from pictures to video, upload and copy photos etc. It is not a good idea to be in the middle of a confrontation wishing you had read the instructions!
It’s worth taking a note book with you along with 2 working pens. Use it to make a note of times, locations, events, identities, witnesses, contact details ect. Make sure that watches, internal camera clocks, are set to the correct time and make a note of when you do this in your notebook before you set off.
What to watch out for.
First of all you are looking for police who cannot easily be identified. This process should start as the police arrive. If you photograph who arrives with who this will aid identification later by the Press/IPCC, should it be necessary. These ‘group’ shots can be taken from 20 metres, or more, from the group. You should attempt to get a couple of ‘face’ shots on any individual police who do not display identification. It might be worth asking politely who they are. One of you could do this whilst your buddy discreetly films the question and answer.
If there is trouble then you should aim to capture video. It’s a good idea to keep the camera running and pointing at the police. If enough cameras are running any misbehaviour will be caught. You don’t need to be, and ideally you should not be, in the front line. Ideally try and find a vantage point and film from there. Always keep in sight of your Buddy.
What to do after the event.
As soon as possible after the event copy your memory card and put the copy somewhere safe. You could mail it to someone you trust. You could email it to yourself. It may be worth setting up a webmail account for this purpose. Ideally email a copy to Fitwatch: email@example.com
Have a look at their website http://www.fitwatch.blogspot.com/
Include a note telling them what they are looking at and include times, locations and any other details you feel may help. You will find your written notes useful when doing this. It’s a good idea to get advice before putting pictures/video into the public domain. You could post any questions on indymedia if you can’t find the answer elsewhere. Bear in mind that Fitwatch are an autonomous group of unpaid volunteers who are insanely busy. Do not trouble them with questions that could be answered elsewhere.
I have a feeling that if we all do this we will experience a rapid improvement in police behaviour. After all, no one wants a criminal record!
All constructive comments welcome.