Archive for the ‘Cases – Individuals’ Category

Pop culture has long since glorified the deviant practice of the law enforcement officer who does whatever it takes to get the job done. This is predominant in many of our favorite movies and T.V. shows such as Bad Boys, The Fast and Furious, and even more so Walking Tall. All these of these movies are great examples of officers who put the rules aside for the “greater good”. Deviance is defined as the fact or state of departing from usual or accepted standards. To better understand the extent to which the media is able to normalize these practices, I will further explain using the film “Walking Tall”.

Walking Tall is the story of ex U.S. Army Special Forces sergeant named Chris Vaughn. After returning from duty to his small town in Washington, he finds that the local mill, once the town’s main source of economic sustainability, has been shut down. Looking for a chance to relax, his old friends take him to the casino which is run by former mill owner Jay Hamilton. After checking out the building Chris Vaughn plays craps and notices the dice are “loaded”. Making it publically known he causes an outcry in the casino with staff. This instigated a fight and after beating down several guards with a piece of lumber he is subdued by a tazer. Vaughn is then taken outside, beat down, and cut up on his stomach with a blade. He attempts to press charges with the local sheriff’s department, but they advise him it is not in his best interests because the casino is now sustaining the economy. A trial ensues and at the end of it Vaughn makes a statement about the town’s former self, and if he is cleared of his charges he will clean up the town and run for sheriff. Later in the movie we find out that Jay Hamilton has shutdown the mill to fund his drug dealing operation. He is moving large quantities of methamphetamine and cooking it in the mill. This is unknown to now sheriff Vaughn who knows the drugs are coming from somewhere and suspects Hamilton to be the number one suspect. While in charge as sheriff, he pesters Hamilton by pulling him over and has him watch as Vaughn strips every piece of metal off his truck. Although Vaughn had no right to search or stop him he did it anyway. After getting intel from a ex stripper at the casino Vaughn finds out that Hamilton is the source of drugs. Again Vaughn makes a road side stop and pulls over Hamilton in his new Porsche. Vaughn makes numerous threats about giving up the drugs and the manufacturing whereabouts, but Hamilton does not budge. On the way back to Vaughn’s vehicle he states that Hamilton should get his tail light fixed, then proceeds to club the tail light with the same lumber from the casino incident. Once the whereabouts of the manufacturing of the drugs is found Vaughn is set into action. In a sequence of events there is a barrage of bullets flying around where multiple of Hamilton’s henchmen die and ultimately Hamilton is arrested and jailed. In a later scene the mill is up and running again and the mill is shut down.

This film is an excellent representation of what (Punch, 2009) would call the “Dirty Harrys” of policing. These are the law enforcement officers who are committed to the cause of policing, but will implement any practices necessary, even if it means breaking the law. In Walking Tall Vaughn attempts to rid the town of drug use and drug trade. He does this my implementing practices that would question and break the laws of due process. Although he is aware of this practice his attitude is still that of “getting the job done”. A good representation of this is when Vaughn pulls over Hamilton in his Porsche, and proceeds to smash in his tail light, and then states that’s why he got pulled over. There is another scene in the movie where Vaughn, after finding out the sheriffs will not allow him to press charges , decides to take matters into his own hands. He charges into the casino and man handles many of Hamilton’s henchmen with his signature piece of lumber. This act certainly refers to what (Punch, 2009) would call a “Cowboy”. Cowboys are “highly aggressive officers committed to a macho police identity; undisciplined and action oriented” (Punch, 2009). Often times in the film Vaughn thinks with his muscles and not his head. This is the cause of many of his confrontations and fights that breakout. These definitions help us to understand further why some officers engage in what we know as deviant acts. Although in the end the officer may get the outcome desired, the route taken is not the correct in the eyes of the law and due process.

Hollywood loves to portray law enforcement officers as action packed hero’s who always save the day. Their daily events involve running around the city, shooting their guns, beating up bad guys, and making arrests. Films involving these scenes create an illusion for the public that this is very similar to that of real policing. Although these events do happen, the average officer rarely uses their firearm. (Crawford, 1999) Says, “Police in all cities kill rarely, but at widely varying rates. The average Jacksonville police officer would have to work 139 years before killing anyone. In New York City, the wait would be 694 years. It would be 1,299 years in Milwaukee and 7,692 years in Honolulu, all based on the 1980-84 rates of killing”. So therefore Hollywood isn’t 100% wrong in depicting these scenes, they are just wrong with how frequently they occur with individual officers. Another misleading fact popular culture provides to the public is that it is the often the regular beat officer who engages in many investigations and makes all the arrests. While this is true in some cases, most crime is solved by investigation teams, about 95% actually (Crawford, 1999). Misconceptions from popular culture have the ability to skew the minds of the consumer. Because of this many individuals have an unrealistic reality of actual police work. I myself have even been victim to this. Before starting to investigate on many of these topics covered I always assumed that police had the power to do almost whatever they wanted. After recently attending a few ride alongs with local RCMP I found out just how much procedure is involved with stopping, arresting, and detaining a person. I also realized how different a regular beat officers day to day is. It often involves driving around, checking license plates, and responding to calls with no real suspect. This shows just how far popular culture will go to create an audience.

Popular Culture depicting law enforcement has long since been on top of the film world. With the “Dirty Harry’s” leading the way, I can’t see this changing anytime soon. People love a hero who can get the job done no matter what it takes. So where we can go from here is to accept the fact media is one way and real life is another, and in time with any luck, the public will be able to separate fact from fiction.





Crawford, C. (1999). Law Enforcement and Popular Movies: Hollywood as a Teaching Tool in the Classroom. Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture , 46-57.
Punch, M. (2009). What is Corruption? In Police Corruption: Deviance, Accountability and Reform in Policing. 18-52.

Destroy police brutality!

Posted: April 5, 2013 by kiratmatharu92 in Robert Dziekanski

“By law the police have the right to use legitimate force if necessary to make an arrest, maintain order, or keep the peace. Just how much force is appropriate under various circumstances can be debatable. When an officer uses excessive force he or she violates the law (Jerome Skolnick and James Fyfe) define police brutality as a conscious and deliberate action that a police officer undertakes towards suspects who are usually members of a powerless social group (For example racial minorities or homosexuals)” (Cliff Notes 2013). I propose a research or a study upon police brutality in B.C. by seeking the public’s response about how police brutality should be decreased in many situations and doubt with civil manners, it should be done in a legal way not forced upon any civilian. Also my study will show how to prevent police brutality and how it has briefly increased or decreased within the years. For an example ever since the Robert Dziekanskis case where four RCMP officers used a lethal weapon upon Robert Dziekanski which was an incorrect use of a taser machine and excessive force upon the civilian. Before this incident there was a lot of misuse of legal weapons that the authority has power to but this caused damage to many civilians that experienced police brutality in B.C. After the incident of Robert Dziekanski the percentage of legal weapons and excessive force and decreased with the amount of 87% as the legal recommendations say. “Mr. Dziekanskis death appears to have galvanized public antipathy for the force and its members.” “That is regrettable because the most important weapon in the arsenal of the police is public support.” (Braidwood commissions of inquiry)(Goldsmith, 2010). My study shows the specific ways and reasons towards what happens within the police organizations and how brutality is cruel and incorrect to force upon the society or the police organizations itself. To get at this brutal phenomenon there will be serious circumstances taken towards this action, such as running a campaign for who is against and for police brutality and spread the word out to the public or having to limit police powers for the public to be safe and be protected By running this campaign the public  and myself will go out and try to find ways to change the police policy or conduct ways that the “Bad cops” or who cause excessive force will need extra training , or even approach the police academy’s to conduct a new way for their police trainings and have the instructors show better ways to train the new recruited officers so that they do not have to be involved in police brutality in the future. “To curb brutality, police administrators must be proactive. Departments in some cities, for example, have adopted special training programs to reduce incidents of police brutality. Other departments have formulated rules that limit the use of force by the police. Preventive control also requires supervising officers (for example, conducting surveillance of officers’ work) and disciplining those who violate departmental standards. A growing number of cities, for instance, are developing early warning systems to identify officers with high rates of citizen complaints. These incidents should be investigated, and if verified, the officers involved should be charged, disciplined, restrained, and/or counseled.” (Cliff Notes 2013) For another Example the Braidwood commission’s inquiry under the public inquiry act within January 2009 and which were concluded in June 2010 show two phases. Phase one shows the focus “ On the use of conducted energy weapons (CEWs) by provincially regulated law enforcement agencies in B.C.. commissioner Braid wood identified a lack of consistency in provincial police policies, standards, and training regarding the use of CEWs and an inappropriately high degree of dependence on the training materials provided by Taser International. The Commissioner also found B.C. police increasingly called upon to deal with emotionally disturbed persons and that the best practice in such situations is a strategy of de-escalation, as opposed to aggressive confrontation (Including taser use.)(Braidwood Commissions of Inquiry)(Goldsmith, 2010).” And phase two focuses more upon the death of Robert Dziekanski and the misinterpretations between RCMP police officers and the civilian himself because of a language barrier. “The phase two report also leveled strong criticism at the RCMP’s internal investigation into the incident, citing it as a problematic example of police investigating the police. Commissioner Braidwood recommended that an independent investigations office be created and empowered to investigate police related incidents and make recommendations regarding criminal charges.” (Braid wood Commissions of inquiry) (Goldsmith, 2010).  The nature around police brutality shows how it is or seen as of force only from many police officers. Additionally this is a common nature that happens quite often within the police organization. When videos go viral on media websites it shows how brutality is and how the audience perceives this visual force that has been taken upon many innocent individuals that do not deserve this type of action from the police force. When the audience perceives this information automatically they can make judgements about many of the police officers, or there organizations which are always intentionally negative judgements or feedback most of the time. There for to reduce this type of action in my research I thought to propose something that could possibly decrease police brutality it would be by taking away certain lethal weapons away from the police officers, change in police policy. For an example within the Robert Dzeankzi case the biggest impact between 2007 and now it took 5 years to rearrange the police policy and create an independent investigations office this department only deal with police related situations that happens within police themselves. The public raises a huge saying upon changes towards many police officers, or police organization, or even the police policy or even having the police officers have more strict training that they do not cause any sort of brutality. In conclusion my campaign should receive a funding because my proposal to the public was to decrease police brutality and have the public protected from the excessive force that the police lay upon the many of the civilians. The funding will go towards the change in the organization, public satisfaction, and it should cover the cost of as a campaign the particular things we want to have an impact on would need a little bit of cost devoted to it. I am positive that my proposal and my team will make a huge change within the police organization and police officers them self and the society.


Goldsmiths A. (2010) “Policing’s new visibility”, British Journal of Criminology 50: 914-934

Anatomy of an inquiry: The Braidwood Commissions of Inquiry (Article),articleId-9975.html

Charges Dropped Against Woman Framed by Cops

Alexandra Torrensvila, 23 is a victim to police corruption. She was arrested by four cops for a DUI  due to an accident that the officers had caused themselves. As of now, the charges against her have been dropped by the Broward State Attorney’s Office.  Thankfully for Alexandra, the attention moved from her to the four cops. Prosecutors are now looking into the Hollywood police who made up the entire story to cover up a February traffic accident involving a cop car. The interesting thing about this case is that it was all caught on tape by one of the officer’s dashboard cameras. This video shows Alexandra handcuffed in the back of a squad car as the officers try to decide on a story to explain what had happened.

Watch Video Here

Officer Joel Francisco, 36 is an 11 year veteran. He was the officer who crashed into the back of Torrensvila’s vehicle on February 17 at midnight. Francisco then radioed the other cops who arrived at the scene to try to find a way to bail him out. Officer Dewey Pressley arrived on scene after and questioned Torrensvila. She told him that she had been drinking and Pressley takes this information to his advantage and arrests her for DUI. If you listen closely to the video, you can hear the officers brainstorm ideas for excuses of the accident. In the video one of the cops acknowledges that what they are doing is illegal but decides there is nothing wrong with bending the law for a few cops.

When taking a closer look into police corruption we can classify these officers into three typologies. Typology one is from the Knapp Commission. These officers would be described as Meat-Eaters; this is when officers abuse authority for self gain. In this situation, these officers used Torrensvila to take blame for their own accident. Although these officers did say, “I never lie and make things up ever because it’s wrong”, they did however not mind “bending” the law for a fellow police officer. These officers took advantage of their authority and believed they were above the law. Instead of protecting civilians like police are suppose to, these officer framed Torrensvila for an accident she didn’t cause.

In typology two from Categories of practice by Barker and Roebuck, Francisco and Pressley would fall under direct criminal activities and flaking and padding. These officers committed a crime in clear violation of criminal norms. In the video, the cops acknowledged several times that what they are doing is illegal. I would also consider that these officers committed flaking and padding. They constructed a false story against Torrensvila to ensure a conviction against her. In the video, a cop debates with Pressley on who is going to write the false police report and they go over different stories they can use to put the blame on Torrensvila.

In this case, the camera on the dashboard of the cop car caught the incident on film. But there are numerous incidents in which cops abuse their power that unfortunately go undetected. If we refer to history, we can see many cases like this in which cops have failed to follow standard legal procedures. For example, in the cause of Robert Dziekanski, the cops failed to communicate with Mr. Dziekanski properly which lead to his death. It is quite unfortunate that incident like these occur because officers overuse their authority. One of the main responsibilities of cops is to ensure that citizens are following the law accordingly. However, cops need to understand that the term citizens involves everyone, including other cops. Cops should not and are not immune to the consequences of breaking the law.


Former Hollywood Cop Gets 90 Days In Jail. (January 13, 2012). CBS Local News. Retrieved by

Charges Dropped Against Woman Framed By Cops. (July 29, 2009). NBC News. Retreived by

Former Hollywood Cop On Trial For Alleged Cover Up. (November 28, 2011). CBS Local News. Retrieved from

Understanding Police Deviance and Accountability

Posted: January 17, 2013 by pmaharaj91 in Robert Dziekanski

As I was registering for my classes one night for the spring semester, I stumbled upon Police Deviance and Accountability, not to mention that I had no idea Kwantlen offered this class. Nonetheless, as an aspiring police officer, I knew that this class would be extremely beneficial to me because it would give me a better insight into how police deviance and accountability behaviours work that is inconsistent with the norms and values, or ethics from a societal standpoint. Moreover, the “ethical” and “ideal” police force would be one with integrity and there would be nothing puzzling about it. However, today, the police are evenly despised, or respected by the general public. I believe that not every single encounter with the police is a positive experience; some individuals usually come into contact with them when they are in trouble, or if they have been a victim of a crime. I hope to expand my knowledge on the topics of corruption and excessive force by the end of this semester and as well as the rights and freedoms that individuals possess as citizens of Canada.

The Robert Dziekanski Taser incident has received a lot of media attention over the years and on the topic of “use of force”. He was a Polish immigrant who died after he was hit with a “stun gun” by the police at Vancouver International Airport. He did not speak English, the RCMP found him acting strange and on the aggressive side, mainly because he was lost in the airport’s international arrivals area. I think due to the fact that most individuals carry smartphones with cameras in it, a lot of more footage of wrongdoing by the police is caught on camera. Furthermore, according to, a two-part inquiry into Dziekanski’s death set out recommendations for the use of Tasers and cautioned against multiple stuns. A report indicated that Taser use in B.C. declined by 87 percent since his death. The province has also introduced the Independent Investigations Office, a civilian-led oversight agency that reviews police incidents involving fatalities, or serious injury. I think holding the police accountable for things they do wrong is important, using their discretion wisely and respecting the rights and freedoms of individuals is extremely substantial. No human being deserves to be attacked and killed for an illegitimate reason. Nevertheless, there also is the media who over analyzes specific events and “twists” stories around and the general public seem to believe it and this is where confidence in policing goes down.

With many pros and cons facing policing, it definitely is a fascinating area of study!


5th anniversary of Robert Dziekanski’s Taser-related death. In CBC News. Retrieved January 16th, 2013 from



Growing up I always wanted to be a police officer. At a very young age I was drawn to the career, due to an event that took place at my elementary school. I was about nine, and we had a day where some parents of the kids came in to talk about their jobs. My friend’s dad came in with his uniform on and he explained to the class what life is for a police officer and the roles involved. He explained to us that the police are about integrity and values, from that moment on I was instantly attracted to the job like a young girl attracted to Justin Bieber nowadays.

As the years passed I began to understand what the duties of a police officer are and maintained a profile to best fit the job. However, I also came to realize that many things were occurring within this field of work that the average man would say are “not right.” Keeping updated with current events has made me realize that police officers do not carry the golden name that we would think they do. They are often called names such as “pigs.” Nevertheless, learning about police deviance and accountability will help me to better understand the nature of work that the police are involved in.

A definition we can get of police deviance is that it occurs “when law enforcement officers behave in a manner that is inconsistent with the officer’s legal authority, organized authority, and standards of ethical conduct” (Ross, 2012). Police deviance from what I understand includes discrimination, misconduct, intimidation, excessive force, and sexual harassment to name a few. We are taught to be obedient towards authority, however if our authority is doing unlawful things and is going unpunished than why is the average person being punished for committing the same acts. Why are the police allowed to get away with actions that are cruel and unjust? However, if I were to do the same thing I would have a criminal record and receive some sort of punishment. Examples of this can be as simple as not wearing their hats when on patrol or more serious incidents such as verbal abuse, perjury of police reports, and committing perjury when testifying in court. It is sickening that such behaviour is so common in many agencies that it has become the way of doing business and is no longer considered serious enough to warrant a formal organizational response” (Ross, 2012).

With the study of Police deviance and accountability I want to further explore this definition to get to the real meaning. This is a very important area of study because then we can deprive reasoning to cases such as the Robert Dziekański case. In this situation he was a Polish immigrant and did not know English. He was then taken into police custody and Robert Dziekański  “died after being hit with a stun gun at Vancouver International Airport” (CBC News, 2012).

As you see above four RCMP officers jumped on Dziekański, and tasered him to death. Police deviance and accountability is important to study to help explain such events. It is important to analyze such things so we can put an end to these types of events.

It is said that, “Police corruption is the lack of police integrity. It also constitutes one of the most significant obstacles to positive police-public relations in today’s society” (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2010). How can we live in a system where we need the police serving and protecting our communities, but we fail to have positive relationships with them. Police deviancy is an everyday problem for most police departments. There is a lack of police departments taking accountability for their officers’ actions and are shy of taking steps to investigate these matters. An example of this is the RCMP, for the last four years CBC has requested them to provide reports for all the misconduct that occurred. “The RCMP failed to track internal misconduct” (CBC News, 2013). This tells us that if the biggest police department is shy of its moral duties, then we must step up. Hence why this area of study is important.


CBC News. (2012, October 14). 5th anniversary of Robert Dziekanski’s Taser-related death. Retrieved January 12, 2013, from CBC News:

CBC News. (2013, January 13). RCMP failed to track internal misconduct for years. Retrieved January 13, 2013, from MSN News:

Ross, J. (2012). Deviance and Corruption. In J. Ross, Policing Issues: Challenges & Controversies (pp. 131-148). United States of America: Jones & Bartlett Learning, LLC.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police. (2010, August 8). Corruption in Policing: Causes and Consequences. Retrieved January 12, 2013, from Royal Canadian Mounted Police:

Ian Tomlinson’ s death became a controversy because it was believed that the family was misled about his death by the police. On April 1,2009, Ian Tomlinson was walking to go home when he collapsed and died on a London street, at the periphery of a G20 protest. Moments earlier he had been struck from behind by a police officer’s baton on a leg and pushed down on the ground.

Simon Harwood was the Metropolitan Police that struck and shoved Tomlinson to the ground. The decision not to charge Simon Harwood for the death of Ian Tomlinson was overturned primarily because it turned into a scandal when a video footage of the attack was released and it was only then, it was investigated as a criminal inquiry. The death of Ian Tomlinson was very controversial because many facts were not released to the public or to Mr. Tomlinson’s family in a timely fashion. Simon Harwood, charged with manslaughter for the death of Ian Tomlinson, has pleaded not guilty.

According to the first investigation report of Tomlinson’s death -which was released by the police – Mr. Tomlinson died of a sudden heart attack. The findings of a different pathologist for the second post-mortem stated that Tomlinson died as a result of bleeding caused by a blunt force trauma in the abdomen. There were discrepancies in post mortem reports and multiple autopsies needed to be conducted.

Tomlinson case is a well-known example of police deviance and attempt to evade accountability. Their initial failure to respond promptly rises a serious question of accountability. The governing and investigative body that ensures police are using reasonable force during protests have failed. Their failure to respond earnestly, in addition to some misleading information given by the police suggests that the organization is to blame for such corruption. Corrupt practices seemed to surround the organization, as seen in Tomlinson case through misleading reports and delayed information release. Police present that time of incident refused to cooperate and etc. In short, if formal accountability has failed to be delivered in this particular case, then cultural and organizational changes must be made

Punch (2009) states : “Yet a wealth of material- in academic publications, historical accounts, public inquiries, documentaries and media exposures, court cases, biographies of officers and films- reveals that police officers frequently if not routinely bend and break the disciplinary rules and the law. This is a recurring and persistent theme since the commencement of ‘modern’ public policing early in the nineteenth century. The combined historical and contemporary evidence indicates that the police can be venal and violent and can behave irresponsibly while evading accountability. For accountability is not something an agency can claim to possess simply because it meets the certain criteria or has procedures in place; rather it is something an agency convincingly delivers to the satisfaction of the stakeholders- both routinely but especially at critical moments.”

What made this story controversial is not only the use of force that led to Tomlinson’s death, but also the evasion of accountability . It is evident in this situation that the role of the police in protests is strategically coercive in nature, and it raises the question ” who are they protecting by exercising unnecessary force or violence?” Kettling is one of the tactics used in protests that raises questions of ethics and widely criticised as one of the inappropriate use of police force. Kettling is containment strategy and the police use their bodies (cordon) as a fence to stripped off any human rights. Police prevent people from getting in and getting out and sometimes police can deprive them of food and water for long periods of time. Often, after a group of protesters has been kettled in, the police tighten the cordon, and push the protesters into a smaller and smaller space until they are packed very closely together; if the protesters push back, the police retaliate by hitting them with their shields, their batons, or their hands. Sometimes police officers go inside the kettle and roughly pull out someone they suspect of having committed a crime — or someone who is shouting, or holding a sign, or taking photographs.

The Ian Tomlinson case showed issues surrounding police violence, direct action for accountability and mass media. The development of information taken by camera phones and digital cameras by bystanders, and shared or released to a networking sites is a new capability or power that captures the real image of policing. According to Goldsmith (2010), the concept of new visibility and Ian Tomlinson case are used to illustrate the unprecedented power of this new capability and the challenges that it poses for police image management. Following Tomlinson’s death, this ‘new visibility’ has put the police image under scrutiny and it also pushes the police organization to take some action of some kind. After the footage of the attack was released, some facts became more transparent to the public’s eye and supported the idea of the police misleading the public and the family of the victim: (1) The family was not told that they had a legal right to attend the autopsy, and (2) The first pathologist who examined Tomlinson, Freddy Patel, also conducted the autopsies for the Home Office and the police. Patel found that he had died of coronary artery disease. The second post-mortem was ordered by the family’s legal team and the IPCC after the footage was broadcast. (3) The second post-mortem was conducted by Dr. Nat Cary, who stated that Tomlinson died of internal bleeding. (4) The first pathologist did not mention if there were additional injuries and also omitted to mention blood volume found in the abdomen.(5) Before the officer was identified (Simon Harwood), an image was published showing his ID badge number was missing on his shoulder and his face covered with a balaclava.

The police are given their own judgement to decide to use force that is appropriate, necessary and reasonable according to the situation. If there is no set guidelines to the appropriateness, reasonableness and what is necessary use of force, how is there going to be a formal accountability in terms of dealing with police violence? Concealing these problems and as long as it is hidden from the public, it will not be dealt with. It only means that the organization itself is to blame. As Punch ( 2009) points out that there is no individual in an organization so therefore it makes no sense to deal with police corruption in a bad apple level. If police corruption is universal, present at some point in time and in every level of the organization, therefore, it should be dealt with as “rotten barrels” level and approaching it in a level of “ bad apples”, will simply NOT WORK. It only means that police corruption is formed within the institution.

Ian Tomlinson (Synthesis and Commentary)

Posted: December 4, 2011 by jeffield in Ian Tomlinson

The death of Ian Tomlinson on April 1st 2009 has created a great deal of controversy and has severely dented the British public’s trust of the Metropolitan Police Service and shocked many who have seen the video of the death online or on television. The 47-year old newspaper vendor was on his way home from work, when PC Simon Harwood of the Metropolitan Police, an officer with previous allegations of excessive force on his record, struck Tomlinson from behind with a baton, then proceeded to shove the man to the ground, minutes after which he died of internal injuries.
Tomlinson’s death is a widely studied and well-known case of alleged police misconduct, in which the victim died moments after being in contact with police. The incident occurred in London during the G20 summit protests, and was captured from different angles on both video and still photographs, and was seen by multiple eyewitnesses. Not only were the violent actions of the police officer apparently unwarranted, but the events following both immediately and as a part of the resulting investigation have all seen allegations of police misconduct.
Ian Tomlinson was a middle-aged white male employed casually at a newsstand in London, having been separated from his second wife for several years as a result of alcoholism. His health was deteriorated as a result of alcohol abuse and extended periods of homelessness, and he was living at a shelter at the time. He was uninvolved in the protests happening at the G20 meetings, and was merely on his way home from work at the time of the incident.
Police Constable Simon Harwood, the police officer who was allegedly involved in the events just before Tomlinson’s death, reportedly has faced two previous misconduct hearings. The first, happening over a decade prior to the Tomlinson incident, involved allegations from a motorist claiming Harwood used excessive force.
It is because of the presence of a great many handheld video recorders at the scene and meticulous reporting by the Guardian news outlet that the case even came to light; had it not been for the media outcry, the police would have had the death ruled accidental and as the result of a heart attack. This is indeed what they did immediately following the death, a position from which they backed down following the intense media and public pressure regarding PC Harwood’s actions. The employment of a discredited coroner for the autopsy, as well as the conscious muddling of information regarding the death, have led to allegations of corruption and police deviance, adding one new case to the many which have discredited the Metropolitan Police over its lengthy history.
The case of corruption and the unlawful death of Ian Tomlinson is by no means the first major allegation of corruption within the Metropolitan Police, the enormous police service which serves Greater London with the exception of the very core, which is the jurisdiction of the City of London Police. Maurice Punch, leading author on police corruption both past and present, details this history of corruption in his 2009 book, Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. In chapter 5, entitled “The UK: London, miscarriages of justice and Northern Ireland”, Punch investigates the history of the Metropolitan Police and their constantly shifting image in the eye of the public.
The origins of the Metropolitan Police lie in the 1829 formation of the New Police of the Metropolis, intended from the outset to be a solution to the corruption problems within the previous patchwork system of police forces in London. Continental Europe, particularly France, has police systems which were riddled with corruption and public mistrust; the new Met was designed to prevent that. It had no detectives at the beginning, and its constables did not carry firearms on patrol. It was seen as vital in the eyes of the Home Secretary at the time that the public perception of the London police force was quite positive, which at the time it was indeed (Punch 126).
The Met successfully upheld its corruption-free reputation for almost 50 years, until it was rocked by the emergence of evidence that its internal Criminal Investigation Department was in fact quite corrupt indeed (Punch 127). While numerous reforms were passed following a number of high-profile cases of corruption and police deviance in the following century, the late-1960s and early 1970s saw a great deal of turmoil within the force, leading Commissioner Robert Mark to implement wide ranging reforms at the start of the decade. This saw the establishment of A10, the division which was to investigate all complaints regarding officers of the Met (Punch 133).
While it is true that the reforms may have reduced corruption in the force, Stephen Mastrofsky provides evidence in his 2004 report Controlling Street-Level Police Discretion that sudden changes and revolutions within a policing organization do not take hold immediately, and require a change in organizational structure and behavior to have effect. Acts of police deviance do not occur in isolation from the overall policing structure and environment; the attitude of the Commissioner and the very goals and informal policies of the organization can influence the behavior of officers on the street (Mastrofski 105).
Commissioner Mark’s formation of the A10 was the precursor, decades ago, to the modern Independent Police Complaints Commissioner, the IPCC, which now heads inquiries into cases of police misconduct. The inquiry into PC Harwood’s alleged wrongful actions in the death of Ian Tomlinson was conducted by the IPCC, which occurred in the spring of 2011 in front of a jury.
Willem De Lint and Alan Hall’s 2009 book Intelligent Control: Developments in public order policing in Canada also focuses on the role of discretion in police actions on the streets. In chapter 8, “Intelligent Control”, they present the Canadian angle to police control, particularly the importance of a dynamic and shifting strategy. They believe that in a democracy such as Canada, much like the United Kingdom, police must display “coercive capacity” only when absolutely required, in order to maintain positive public relations (De Lint and Hall 277). Modern news and social media facilitates the spreading of information as well as grievances at a pace never seen before, thus paving the way for the reaction to Ian Tomlinson’s death. The coercive actions of one police officer, which in a past century would not have become well publicized, are now available for millions to view online.
It is the power of public opinion which brought PC Harwood and the Metropolitan Police to account over the death of Ian Tomlinson; without it, his death may simply have been conveniently ruled as being of natural causes and the police force would have continued on. The 2011 inquiry headed by the IPCC found the death to be wrongful (Crown Prosecution Service). This month, the October of 2011, Simon Harwood pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter; his trial will commence in the summer of 2012 (Malik). The long-term implications of the case on the Metropolitan Police are yet to be seen, although the impact of modern communications upon police actions in the public eye is evident.
The events following the death of Tomlinson, particularly the actions of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, underscore the difficulties in police reform and the prevention of police deviance. The IPCC, formed as a result of the 2002 Police Reform Act, was intended to erase the public image of corruption in the organization which came before it, the Police Complaints Authority. It is run independently of the police and is under an entirely separate division of government. None of the investigators in the IPCC are police officers, and by law have never worked for the police in the past. This separation was designed to create a public perception of impartiality; however, the wrongful killing of Ian Tomlinson and the mishandling of the case which followed caused permanent damage to the reputation of the IPCC.
It is important to note, however, that the investigation was not placed under IPCC control until a week after the incident, and was under control of the City of London police force until that point. In fact, the city coroner excluded the IPCC from the first postmortem examination, and appointed the controversial Dr Mohmed Saeed Sulema Patel to perform the procedure. The doctor, educated at the University of Zambia and having spent many years conducting such procedures for the police, had been previously investigated for misconduct in the case of Sally White, in which a young woman’s body was found naked, bruised, and bleeding; Patel found her cause of death to be an unrelated heart attack. Nevertheless, the City of London police retained Patel, and he conducted the postmortem on Tomlinson, declaring him to also have died of a heart attack, unrelated to the trauma he suffered from being struck by a baton and shoved to the ground just minutes before his death. It was only following the publication of the video showing Tomlinson’s assault that the case was transferred from the London police to the IPCC, who ordered a second postmortem, which found the trauma from the fall to have caused internal bleeding and organ damage, killing Tomlinson. The third and fourth examinations only confirmed these results. Patel is now suspended and faces several charges of misconduct, raising questions about why he was assigned to the case to begin with.
Given that three postmortem examinations had found Tomlinson’s internal injuries to be the cause of death, and that the baton strike had caused severe bruising, it was surprising that for nearly two years following the incident, the Crown Prosecution Service refused to prosecute Simon Harwood for his role in the death. They cited the first examination by Patel as being contradictory to those which followed, and said this would cause issues in finding clear evidence. It was more than two years following the death of Ian Tomlinson that PC Simon Harwood was charged with manslaughter, to which he has pleaded not guilty and for which he will be tried in the summer of 2012. The decision to prosecute came only after years of pressure from the media, the public, as well as several prominent officials and even the second medical examiner. This raises questions about the impartiality of the Crown Prosecution Service in its decision, as well as the way in which the investigation was managed.
It was not only the investigation which raised serious questions about police conduct in the death of Ian Tomlinson. The very reasons for which he encountered the police have been investigated, raising doubts about both police culture and police policy when dealing with protests such as those at the G20. One reason for which police have been criticized is the tactics they employed in the protest situation, particularly containment, or kettling. In containment, lines of police officers herd the crowd into small spaces, trapping them within a certain area. This tactic is compared to a kettle, in that the containment of boiling water creates pressure within the kettle. Kettling often leads to undesirable situations for people entirely uninvolved in the protests which police are attempting to control. It was exactly in this situation which Ian Tomlinson found himself, as he was simply trying to walk home, but was caught in front of a police cordon trying to kettle in a crowd of protestors. Such a tactic is unfortunately often used in modern demonstrations by the police, as was the case in the G20 protests, after which the Toronto Police promised to never again use kettling.
It is important to question not only the tactics, but also the culture and society behind the actions of police in a given situation. While kettling is what the police were involved in at the time, the entire situation was the result of an adversarial attitude adopted by police forces in protest scenarios, an attitude which has been demonstrated more recently with the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations around the world. In even the most liberal nations, lawful protests are met by large police forces in full riot gear, driving the culture of paramilitary responses to otherwise peaceful demonstrations. Simon Harwood himself was a constable in the Metropolitan Police Service, specifically the Territorial Support Group, a special unit set up to manage difficult protests and riots. Perhaps without the anger created by the us-versus-them attitude of riot police in protest situations, Harwood would never have been in the position nor have had the urge to strike Tomlinson with his baton and then shove him upon the concrete.
Ian Tomlinson’s death was a significant factor in changes and reforms to the police systems in the United Kingdom, particularly with regards to police tactics used at protests. The Metropolitan Police decided to release a report within months of the incident, and found that internalized police attitudes affect modern protest situations. The report acknowledges that calling out police dressed in full riot gear enflames otherwise peaceful protests, and that police must take use of different tactics to prevent violence. The IPCC, while slow to act, is not under review for its actions. However, justice has begun to act on both Dr Patel, who has been charged with misconduct, and Simon Harwood, who has been charged with manslaughter. Perhaps, had it been for different attitudes and cultures regarding protests, along with different tactics in dealing with them, the entire situation would have turned out differently and no death would have occurred that day in London.