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Published on December 7th, 2011 | by Lorna Gledhill
Image © [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="330" caption="(c) Tony Austin"][/caption] As the Metropolitan police continue to scrawl through 200,000 hours of CCTV footage of August’s disorder, the Guardian and LSE have been conducting a report into the causes and catalysts of this summer’s riots.  Whilst government and police authorities continue to legislate, detain and impose draconian sentences in order to prove that they’re ‘tough on crime’, Reading the Riots has managed to force a debate about the roots of the unrest. Interviewing 270 youths and adults involved in the riots, this report has managed to gain some of the most honest information about the motives and mentalities of those who took to the streets in August. Citing the drive for consumer goods, lack of respect from police and poverty as pressures that encouraged the disorder, it is clear that there was more to the riots than petty crime. Unfortunately, it seems to be the culmination of a failure of the police to engage with, and support, some of the most deprived communities across England.

“I think gangs had something to do with it, but I also think the police are probably the biggest gang in the world.”

The police, to those who more often feel the iron fist rather than the compassionate hand, are nothing more than another gang. They are little more than the enemy of personal freedom; another threat to pride and integrity. The actual ‘truth’ of this sentiment is irrelevant. What is most pertinent is the fact that the police are seen as the defendants of the state, rather than the people. Possibly the most controversial part of neighbourhood policing is Stop and Search legislation. Cited as crucial part of the ‘fight against knife crime’, stop and search powers have been used as both a deterrent and a force of detection. Stop and Search laws have three main components: Section 1, Section 60 and Section 44. Section 1 of the Crime and Security Act 2010 allows an individual to be stopped and searched if under reasonable suspicion, or if they are suspected of carrying items intended for or used in acts of criminal damage. Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 allows an individual to be stopped and searched if there is reasonable belief that incidents involving serious violence may take place or that people are carrying dangerous instruments or offensive weapons. Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 authorises stop and search powers for the prevention of terrorism. (The figures used in this article have been taken from a government report that is accessible at http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/publications/statistics-and-data/mojstats/stats-race-cjs-2010.pdf) The fact is that black communities often feel the brunt of the Police’s stop and search powers. Whilst only 2.7% of the population aged 10 or over in 2009 were classed as ‘black’, the percentage of searches conducted on black peoples was 14.6%. Essentially, black people were seven times more likely to be stopped and searched in 2009/10 than white people. The number of black people stopped under Section 60 has shockingly increased by 303%. According to Reading the Riots, many interviewees stated that “police treated them in a humiliating and degrading way when they were stopped – particularly in strip-searching and handcuffing them.” Rioters, both black and white, explained how black people were singled out for stop and searches by the police. The psychological effects of being feeling unfairly targeted by an institution that is supposed to defend and protect cannot be understated. A young man in Birmingham even returned to participate in the riots after being repeatedly stopped and searched whilst trying to head away from the disorder. According to government figures, just over 9% of stop and searches resulted in arrests across England and Wales as a whole. Of those stopped and searched in areas covered by the Metropolitan Police, the figures of arrest in 2009/10 can be broken down according to different legislation. 8% of those stopped under Section 1 were arrested; 2% of those searched under Section 60 resulted in arrested; and only 0.5% of those withheld due to suspicion of terrorism (Section 44) were finally detained. Since March 2011, the police are no longer required to record instances of Stop and Account. Stop and account allows the police to stop anyone in a public place and ask you to account for yourself. Whilst you do not need to provide your personal details, you may be asked to give your ethnicity. So whilst black and ethnic minorities are disproportionally affected by stop and search legislation, we are unable to find out whether instances of stop and account follow a similar path. It would not be surprising if they did. According to the Ministry of Justice, “Stop and Search is an important detection tool for the police – it allows officers to search individuals without the need for an arrest to take place. The proportions of arrests resulting from Searches under s1, s60 and s44 should not therefore be regarded as a misuse of the power.” However, faced with a police force that seems to be dangerously heavy handed in their approach to stop and search powers, these poor arrest levels will only heighten level of distrust from those who are unfairly the victims of their ‘total policing.’ In the words of one black 19 year old, “They automatically think I’ve got a knife. How do you think that makes me feel?”

“What the economy wants more than anything is poor people to desire goods they can’t afford.”

The other key component that Reading the Riots focused on was the problem of inequality. This took two main forms: poverty and the inaccessibility of modern day consumerism. Re-colouring a map of Britain according to deprivation ratings (indices of multiple deprivation) and mapping the rough addresses of rioters and offences, they have been able to visualise the true inequality that dominates England and Wales. 35% of adults convicted for riot-related offences were claiming out of work benefits, in comparison to 16% nationwide. Even 42% of the young people brought before the courts were in receipt of free school meals, a concession only available in England to the 16% of secondary school pupils from the poorest backgrounds. Most revealing was the fact that 58% of those appearing in court identified their residential location as being within the 20% most deprived areas of England. In the words of Alex Singleton, a lecturer in Urban Planning from the University of Liverpool, “a ‘broken society’ happened somewhere, and geography matters.” Comparing data of deprivation from 2007 and 2010, the majority of deprived areas have worsened over the last 4 years. In a society where material goods have become the biggest indicators of success whilst poverty and deprivation have been left unchecked, it is unsurprising that the mirage of consumerism has shattered for many. Being pushed towards consumer culture with one hand whilst being held back with the other, it seems that many have begun to see the stick that’s forever been dangling the carrot. In the words of one rioter: “I know what the government wants. They want to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.” When the police act like the ‘arm of the state’, representing the ideology of government rather than protecting the people, many individuals have automatically been treated as suspects, not victims; criminals not citizens. If you tell somebody that they’re worthless for long enough, they’ll start to believe you.  If you repeatedly treat someone like a criminal, they’ll often start to act the part. Our government and our institutions had already written the script to August’s discontent.

1

Reading the Riots: “People that have got nothing wanted to show that they had nothing.”

(c) Tony Austin

As the Metropolitan police continue to scrawl through 200,000 hours of CCTV footage of August’s disorder, the Guardian and LSE have been conducting a report into the causes and catalysts of this summer’s riots.  Whilst government and police authorities continue to legislate, detain and impose draconian sentences in order to prove that they’re ‘tough on crime’, Reading the Riots has managed to force a debate about the roots of the unrest.

Interviewing 270 youths and adults involved in the riots, this report has managed to gain some of the most honest information about the motives and mentalities of those who took to the streets in August. Citing the drive for consumer goods, lack of respect from police and poverty as pressures that encouraged the disorder, it is clear that there was more to the riots than petty crime. Unfortunately, it seems to be the culmination of a failure of the police to engage with, and support, some of the most deprived communities across England.

“I think gangs had something to do with it, but I also think the police are probably the biggest gang in the world.”

The police, to those who more often feel the iron fist rather than the compassionate hand, are nothing more than another gang. They are little more than the enemy of personal freedom; another threat to pride and integrity. The actual ‘truth’ of this sentiment is irrelevant. What is most pertinent is the fact that the police are seen as the defendants of the state, rather than the people.

Possibly the most controversial part of neighbourhood policing is Stop and Search legislation. Cited as crucial part of the ‘fight against knife crime’, stop and search powers have been used as both a deterrent and a force of detection. Stop and Search laws have three main components: Section 1, Section 60 and Section 44.

Section 1 of the Crime and Security Act 2010 allows an individual to be stopped and searched if under reasonable suspicion, or if they are suspected of carrying items intended for or used in acts of criminal damage. Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 allows an individual to be stopped and searched if there is reasonable belief that incidents involving serious violence may take place or that people are carrying dangerous instruments or offensive weapons. Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 authorises stop and search powers for the prevention of terrorism. (The figures used in this article have been taken from a government report that is accessible at http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/publications/statistics-and-data/mojstats/stats-race-cjs-2010.pdf)

The fact is that black communities often feel the brunt of the Police’s stop and search powers. Whilst only 2.7% of the population aged 10 or over in 2009 were classed as ‘black’, the percentage of searches conducted on black peoples was 14.6%. Essentially, black people were seven times more likely to be stopped and searched in 2009/10 than white people. The number of black people stopped under Section 60 has shockingly increased by 303%.

According to Reading the Riots, many interviewees stated that “police treated them in a humiliating and degrading way when they were stopped – particularly in strip-searching and handcuffing them.” Rioters, both black and white, explained how black people were singled out for stop and searches by the police. The psychological effects of being feeling unfairly targeted by an institution that is supposed to defend and protect cannot be understated. A young man in Birmingham even returned to participate in the riots after being repeatedly stopped and searched whilst trying to head away from the disorder. According to government figures, just over 9% of stop and searches resulted in arrests across England and Wales as a whole.

Of those stopped and searched in areas covered by the Metropolitan Police, the figures of arrest in 2009/10 can be broken down according to different legislation. 8% of those stopped under Section 1 were arrested; 2% of those searched under Section 60 resulted in arrested; and only 0.5% of those withheld due to suspicion of terrorism (Section 44) were finally detained.

Since March 2011, the police are no longer required to record instances of Stop and Account. Stop and account allows the police to stop anyone in a public place and ask you to account for yourself. Whilst you do not need to provide your personal details, you may be asked to give your ethnicity. So whilst black and ethnic minorities are disproportionally affected by stop and search legislation, we are unable to find out whether instances of stop and account follow a similar path. It would not be surprising if they did.

According to the Ministry of Justice, “Stop and Search is an important detection tool for the police – it allows officers to search individuals without the need for an arrest to take place. The proportions of arrests resulting from Searches under s1, s60 and s44 should not therefore be regarded as a misuse of the power.” However, faced with a police force that seems to be dangerously heavy handed in their approach to stop and search powers, these poor arrest levels will only heighten level of distrust from those who are unfairly the victims of their ‘total policing.’ In the words of one black 19 year old, “They automatically think I’ve got a knife. How do you think that makes me feel?”

“What the economy wants more than anything is poor people to desire goods they can’t afford.”

The other key component that Reading the Riots focused on was the problem of inequality. This took two main forms: poverty and the inaccessibility of modern day consumerism. Re-colouring a map of Britain according to deprivation ratings (indices of multiple deprivation) and mapping the rough addresses of rioters and offences, they have been able to visualise the true inequality that dominates England and Wales.

35% of adults convicted for riot-related offences were claiming out of work benefits, in comparison to 16% nationwide. Even 42% of the young people brought before the courts were in receipt of free school meals, a concession only available in England to the 16% of secondary school pupils from the poorest backgrounds. Most revealing was the fact that 58% of those appearing in court identified their residential location as being within the 20% most deprived areas of England. In the words of Alex Singleton, a lecturer in Urban Planning from the University of Liverpool, “a ‘broken society’ happened somewhere, and geography matters.”

Comparing data of deprivation from 2007 and 2010, the majority of deprived areas have worsened over the last 4 years. In a society where material goods have become the biggest indicators of success whilst poverty and deprivation have been left unchecked, it is unsurprising that the mirage of consumerism has shattered for many. Being pushed towards consumer culture with one hand whilst being held back with the other, it seems that many have begun to see the stick that’s forever been dangling the carrot. In the words of one rioter: “I know what the government wants. They want to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.”

When the police act like the ‘arm of the state’, representing the ideology of government rather than protecting the people, many individuals have automatically been treated as suspects, not victims; criminals not citizens. If you tell somebody that they’re worthless for long enough, they’ll start to believe you.  If you repeatedly treat someone like a criminal, they’ll often start to act the part. Our government and our institutions had already written the script to August’s discontent.

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