ACAB forever: how the police cover up to make us forget

Two stories of police bastardry have come to light in the last few days. First, a police officer who wilfully failed to investigate rape cases properly (who I previously wrote about here) is in court for misconduct for this behaviour. His behaviour went on for three years, and only came to light long after the fact. Secondly–and this is a huge one–the Hillsborough report has revealed the true extent of how badly the police fucked up.

41 of the 96 people who died in the disaster could have lived were it not for the behaviour of the police and emergency services. The police then went on to cover this up, defaming the dead and smearing Liverpool fans as violent drunks who were to blame for the tragedy. It wasn’t true. It was never true, but the police colluded with the media and the coroner and the original inquest to make a concerted effort for people to believe it. It took 23 years for the truth to finally come out.

This pattern–the act, the cover-up, the truth only emerging long after the damage has been done–is seen repeatedly in police behaviour. Jean Charles de Menezes. Ian Tomlinson. Stephen Lawrence. They fuck up. Sometimes they kill. Sometimes they are negligent. Either way, they work as hard as possible to ensure that the truth never sees the light of day. Sometimes it can take decades to find out what really happened.

In a lot of cases, we’ll probably never know. These are the collusions and cover-ups we know about.

It serves a powerful function. It stops us from seeing the true, vicious face of the police, makes us forget that we cannot trust them. Even if the truth eventually emerges, it is long after the fact, and many handwave this away by saying “they’re not like that any more”.

They are still like that, but it will take years to see this, and then people will assume that surely, by now, they must have moved on. But they probably will not. There is too much trust in the police, which is repeatedly betrayed then hidden by spin and lies.

Don’t trust the police. While some of them may be decent human beings, many are not. And even the good ones are complicit in this culture of secrecy.

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9 responses to “ACAB forever: how the police cover up to make us forget

  • Hilary

    while i share your sentiments, i believe it is wrong and inaccurate to say that 41 lives could have been saved if the police had acted properly. in fact all 96 would have lived if the police had acted properly. this entire tragedy could have been prevented, all of the grief and all of the trauma was caused by the actions of the police on that day. to keep repeating this figure of 41 denies this reality.

    • Hilary

      sorry i just re-read my comment and see that i am guilty of inaccuracy too – some of the grief and trauma was of course caused by the media lies, and by government failures to pursue justice, etc. what i mean of course is that the deaths and the trauma of the actual event was caused by police behaviour.

    • stavvers

      This is a very good point, and thank you so much for making it.

  • Andreas (@crimsoneer)

    Sorry, but as a police officer, the “culture of secrecy” is utter crap. There is a definite mixture of negligence, dereliction of duty, and sheer incompetence by some people in evidence, but was there a big police group hug where they swore a solemn vow never to admit to what happened? No, not really. 116 police statements were doctored – police officers wrote those statements, honestly, and they were then altered.

    It’s very easy to dehumanise the police with terms like acab, and treat them as some amorphous blob of pigs, thugs and vandals. Sadly, the world isn’t quite that black and white – 164 police statements were written on Hillsorough, by police officers, and 116 had to be doctored later on. When 70% of officer’s statements have to be altered to disguise the truth, that’s definitely not a culture of secrecy.

    • stavvers

      In 23 years, not one of these police officers blew the whistle. If that’s not a culture of secrecy, I don’t know what is.

      • Hilary

        seconded. they didn’t need a “big police hug” they knew nobody would speak out, and nobody did.

        • Andreas (@crimsoneer)

          Speak up to what? How the hell do you think policing works exactly, everybody gets up in a big group huddle and discusses tactics at the start of every operation?

          People wrote up statements – some of them obviously describing rather unpleasant stuff – and handed them in. The powers at be went through them, and decided that overall, blame lay more at the feet of angry, drunken fans than police behaviour. No one statement could change that decision, nor could hundreds. What “whistle” would they have blown exactly? In my section of the stadium, stuff was a little messy? That’s what the official inquiry discovered in 1990.

          Nobody spoke out because there was nothing to say. One police nurse who conducted the blood tests on the deceased probably thought it was a little strange, but nothing more than that. Some chief constable covered his tracks. There was serious incompetence – but what would you expect from a police service in 1989?

          I know it’s rather easy to believe that all these terrible atrocities are happening left, right and center, and being covered up by some omnipresent “blue curtain”, some secret “fight club” oath we all swear at some point, but sorry, it’s really not that nefarious. Somebody up high cocked up, and covered it up. A few other people probably helped. Most people assumed there was no conspiracy, and moved on.

          Believe it or not, most police officers tend to be good people, who will blow a whistle if it needs blowing. Most police officers, believe it or not, do not see terrible travesties of justice on a daily basis.

          • Hilary

            apparently some of these police officers did raise it within the force. any one of them could have raised it outside the force. when i say “it” i mean a) the altering of their statements and/or b) the truth of what they witnessed that day. when i say raise it i mean either made a public statement to a sympathetic journalist (for example one of the several investigative journalists such as the guy at the guardian who has repeatedly reported on the story over the 23 years), or provided a statement to one of the three family/survivors campaign groups. they could have contacted Taylor when he was investigating (he of “The Taylor Report” fame). They could have contacted their union. How dare you say nobody spoke out because there was nothing to say”. There was plenty to say, and we all now know it. Shame on every cop in attendance that day who witnessed what happened, or even part of it, whose statement was altered and who did not speak out. I won’t even start on those who obeyed orders while human beings died in front of them, instead of breaking those orders to save a life.

          • Hilary

            have you actually read the report?

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