Friday, June 18, 2010

Britain's racist surveillance state

Two scary stories from the UK today which illustrate the dark path they're on. The UK is already a surveillance state, with more CCTV cameras per capita than anywhere else in the world. Ostensibly, these are supposed to stop crime (though in fact they have little effect). But in Birmingham, the city council and police have installed a system which monitors predominantly Muslim neighbourhoods explicitly as a "counterterrorism measure". The actions of a few apparently mean that entire communities must be placed under suspicion, treated as criminals, spied on for every minute of every day, and tracked where-ever they go. The good news is that public pressure has resulted in the plan being put on hold - the cameras have been installed, but they've stuck bags over the cameras for the moment pending a decision on whether to proceed. OTOH, the system apparently includes 40 covert cameras hidden in trees and walls, and these are likely to still be active (they can hardly bag them without giving away their location). So the racist surveillance will continue regardless.

Meanwhile, there's also more statistics out on the racist use of stop and search powers, showing that the number of black and Asian people stopped and searched has increased by 70% in five years - double the rise for whites. It goes on:

The annual statistics on race and the criminal justice system reveal that black people are now seven times more likely to be stopped by the police than white people. This is a higher stop and search ratio than that recorded before the publication in 1999 of the inquiry report into the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence. The report concluded that the overuse of stop and search had created significant mistrust in minority ethnic communities.
While the police minister has said that it is unacceptable for police to target people because of their race, that is exactly what is happening. And it is long past time it stopped.