A police force was forced to apologise today after one of its officers told a newsagent to hand over the names of four people in the name of community cohesion, after they bought a commemorative edition of the Charlie Hebdo magazine.
Wiltshire police confirmed that it had deleted the names of the buyers from its system, which were collected after officers toured shops warning newsagents to be vigilant during an “assessment of community tensions” in the sleepy market town following the attacks in the French capital in January.
The names and addresses of the buyers were added to an intelligence note and fed into a police crime and intelligence system, police confirmed.
The information has supposedly been deleted now, but the fact that they did it in the first place is deeply disturbing. A couple of days ago, when explaining why they were only going to police protests to suppress them, UK police claimed that their core duties were "preventing and detecting crime, maintenance of the Queen’s Peace and protecting life and property". It is difficult to see how this fits with those duties. Instead, they seem to be acting as the Thought Police, keeping track of people who are reading the wrong things and thinking the wrong thoughts. The problem for the UK's democracy of a police force which acts like this is obvious.