Socialist Worker

Met commissioner dodges difficult questions at LSE 'total policing' meeting

by Rachel Harger
Issue No. 2286

Last night, Monday, Bernard Hogan-Howe the Metropolitan Police Commissioner spoke on ‘Total Policing: The future of Policing in London’ at the London School of Economics (LSE).

Hogan-Howe spoke to an audience predominantly made up of activists, youth workers, students and campaigners.

Institutional racism was a frequent theme in contributions from the audience. But Hogan-Howe offered poor answers claiming that he did not know why black people were disproportionately stopped. This was met with noises of disbelief.

Sherelle Davis, LSE’s student union anti-racism officer, spoke from the audience. She said, “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, just in case you [Hogan-Howe] don’t know, black men are 30 percent more likely to be stopped and searched than white men. As the Met commissioner I think you have a duty to at least explain why this is the case.”

There was widespread applause.

Another contribution was made on the IPCC’s recent finding that there have been 333 deaths in police custody since 1998 ( Hogan-Howe tried to deny this, saying that it was 'not that many' and that he believed in the past year “only two or three people” had died in London. The audience shouted a variety of names of people who had died in police custody in response.

Hogan-Howe also dismissed the findings of The Guardian newspaper and LSE report of Reading the Riots, claiming it was too focused on one group of people—the rioters. This followed a contribution pointing out that that one rioter had said, “The biggest gang out there is the police”. Hogan-Howe simply said he’d “take that one on the chin”.

Hogan-Howe also spoke of increased protest in a recession. One contributor said, “We saw the first student protests under a total policing context on 9 November last year, where we saw the erection of metal barriers in the street, a demonstration entirely surrounded by police.

“We then saw that on 30 November metal barriers were used again in Trafalgar Square and the police confiscated placards. So is this what the right to protest and the right to assemble looks like under total policing?”

This was met with thunderous applause and cheers. Hogan-Howe tried to respond by saying that when student demonstrations had been allowed to get out of control, Millbank had been stormed. The mention of Millbank caused one activist to stand up and exclaim, “Yes!” in a celebratory tone which was also met with applause.

As the meeting finished, the audience were told to remain seated whilst the top cop left the stage—but as he did chants erupted of, “no justice, no peace, fuck the police”.

Get involved with the Defend the Right to Protest campaign email [email protected]

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.