Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Why I Hate The Police

Merrick, 1st April 2004ce

In June 2000 I went on my first tour of the standing stones of Aberdeenshire. The design of the stone circles there and the sheer density of their numbers is unlike anywhere else on earth, and yet it’s all sparsely documented.

So we had a week of poring over Ordnance Survey maps, traipsing through fields and woods, poking around in bushes, taking in the rolling fertile landscape and tuning into the neolithic monuments.

Many of the stones are on farmland, and we were always careful to ask permission and shut gates. Whilst we had been invariably greeted warmly by landowners, the landowner of the New Craig stones at Daviot wasn’t as warm as the others, opening the door with a curt ‘and who are you?’, but she readily gave permission and directions to the stones on her land. Then, unbeknownst to us, she called the police.

We followed her directions for a track north out of the farm that curves round on to the Daviot road. We parked up at the entrance to the fields that run to the stones. One was planted with barley, one fallow, so we walked the fallow field to the mighty recumbent stone and its and flankers, now set into a field wall.

The picture we’d seen in Julian Cope’s book Modern Antiquarian of the broken recumbent stone set in the wall really doesn’t do the place justice, indeed no photograph could. When you’re there it is the most magical place, I’ve never buzzed so strongly at a standing stones site! It faces south-west, as Aberdeenshire’s peculiar Recumbent Stone Circles do, but from here that’s straight to the Mither Tap, ‘the mother’s tit’, the mountain that’s a clear focus for so many of these sites.

And then it also looks south to the mighty Loanhead circle, and then looking out west we saw our first sight of the hill of Dunnideer, instantly recognisable from its Glastonbury Tor-style ruined tower on the summit. These things alone would’ve amazed us, but from here Dunnideer and its two sister hills, Hill of Christ’s Kirk and Hill of Flinder, formed a triple-pyramid design. Turning back to Mither Tap, the Bennachie Hills behind it formed a startlingly similar triple pyramid! Most circles elsewhere feel like they’re at the centre of the landscape, but this place feels like it’s at the centre of everything!

The circle has gone, the recumbent stone is cracked and built into a wall, but all the same, among this mad faerie copse this place feels like the control panel of the whole landscape.

As we started to leave, a policeman came up the field. He said there was ‘concern’ at our being there and the farmer had complained. Apparently there’s a GM crop test site in the area and everyone’s a bit twitchy. We told him we were only there for the stones and had asked permission, and anyway we were just leaving, and he walked off.

When we got back to our car him and his colleague were waiting for us. They took our details and asked if we’d ever ‘been in trouble’ with the police. We said actually yeah, we’d both got convictions for crop trashing at a farm growing GM crops. The colleague immediately came on with that repellent brand of arrogance universal among (yet exclusive to) police who think you’re in the wrong. She told us we were ‘telling lies’.

Not ‘well, you see how it looks to us that you’ve got GM crop convictions’, but ‘you are lying’. I said we’d just come for the stones, they could check in the car for the books about stones. ‘Well you’re obviously going to have a story,’ she said. She went on ‘I know you think we’re all stupid up here but we’re not’. Oh great; not only am I lying (and badly at that), but I’m racist too. And we’re meant to just accept this. She was surprised when I objected to her assumptions and berated me for it.

The police always have this way of talking to you with smug you-don’t-fool-me superiority. If you point it out to them they pretend you don’t know what you’re talking about and that they’re being perfectly civil. Yet if you talk to them that way they get very shirty.

Not that we did anything like that. We were absolutely courteous and civil to them, nothing to hide, and yet they treated us like devious liars. If I wanted to lie I’d have lied properly. If our ‘having a story ready’ included parking a tatty car with environmentalist stickers at the edge of the GM field, giving our real names and readily volunteering the fact of having crop-trashing convictions, how stupid is she saying she thinks we are?

It’s the casualness and absolute sureness in the attitude that really angered me. The world over, you’ll find police and politicians are the same. These two coppers would readily use water cannons, shoot street kids or any of the other ‘it couldn’t happen here’ things police do elsewhere. They just have to decide that you’re In The Wrong and nothing you say or do vindicates you or even matters.

They check us on the Police National Computer and sure enough our convictions come up. Along with a ‘drugs marker’ for my name.

Two and a half years ago I was arrested a Legalise Cannabis demonstration. I’d done nothing illegal, sued the police for Wrongful Arrest and won £4,000 off them.

However, while in custody they asked if I’d ever had any cannabis. I said yes, so they charged me with Possession! An unspecified amount in an unspecified place on an unspecified date some time in the past! The only evidence was my say-so!

I asked if I could admit to nicking Shergar and abducting Lord Lucan if my say-so was all they needed. In fact, those two were more likely given that they had concrete evidence the crimes had actually happened. The only evidence my Possession ever even happened was my word! Would they charge Bill Clinton next time he comes to the UK? Go and bust Mo Mowlam? Why not ask people if they had alcohol before they were 18 and charge them? Ask drivers if they’ve ever broken a speed limit? By this method everyone could be charged with something.

Unsurprisingly charges were never pressed, or to give it its official term, ‘discontinued’, because it would ‘not be in the public interest to proceed’. Yet despite the lack of a drugs conviction and the fact that I am innocent of all drugs charges, the Police National Computer has a ‘drugs marker’ against my name permanently. For the rest of my life.

Because of the drugs marker they decided to search me and the car for drugs. They pick us up for GM stuff so they’re going to search us for drugs. Get out your dictionary and look up ‘harassment’.

The pretext for this search is something that not only could the seriously biased legal system not convict me of, but I used that same skewed system to sue them for wrongfully arresting me and I won! They’re searching me on the grounds that they once wrongfully and maliciously wanted to sue me, so I must be guilty. Make no mistake, we live in a police state.

A police state is not a state where everyone is in fear of the police. Nor is it one where all dissent is crushed (only effective dissent). A police state is a state where the police have the power to harass anyone who’s ever thought or behaved in a way they don’t like. Not as a corrupt one-off, but as a sanctioned and legitimised act that’s it’s illegal to resist.

Not only do they have things like a ‘drugs marker’ against someone never convicted of any drugs charge, but what happens if you complain against the police? It gets investigated by…. another police officer! It’s like picking a football referee out of one of the teams!

On opening the car boot and seeing our array of camping gear, books about standing stones and my field notes, they suddenly believed what we’d said about being on a camping holiday for the stones. But did they apologise for repeatedly calling us liars and racists? Did they fuck.

The police act with near impunity and never apologise for anything. Despite my cannabis demo arrest for doing nothing illegal and being held for nine hours in custody without a meal and them having to pay me thousands of pounds for wrongful arrest I still got no apology.

The classic police attitude blend of arrogance, smug superiority and knowitall would be criticised as being damagingly out of place and over-authoritarian if it were how a parent treated their ten year old child. Yet when personally faced with police officers we all find ourselves playing along with it. Why? Cos we know they can make life awkward for us. They can, on a whim, put us in a cell for 24 hours, raid our house and take anything they want away, or search our car. And that’s just the stuff they do that they’re entitled to do, before they go beyond the laws.

We all know this, and they know we know this, so we obey them and don’t object to their bias, vindictiveness, insults and bullying. They are not here to serve the law-abiding public. They are here to control us through our fear.

In the car was a baccy tin we’d found at Glastonbury festival the previous week with a load of tobacco and hash in. We’d given nearly all of it away, but there was still maybe two spliffs worth left. The fact that this dope wasn’t really ours would’ve sounded too ludicrous coming from GM activists not there for the GM crop, and any denial would’ve meant a long-winded visit to the cells and coming all the way back up to Aberdeen for a court case some time, whereas if we said it was ours then they’d take it away and we’d be unlikely to hear any more about it.

They cautioned us (‘anything you say may be blahblahblah’) and said they’d be handing the dope in (and we all trust them to do that, don’t we), and we’d be unlikely to hear any more about it.

They wrote a few notes and told us to stay away from ‘the area’. We asked what that meant – Daviot? Inverurie? Aberdeenshire? ‘That field,’ she replied, pointing to the field next to us, the one the other side of the wall we walked along! All the land round there is agricultural, and a tiny proportion has stones in. An even tinier proportion has GM test sites. What are the odds of the one adjoining the other? And, of all the stone sites, it was the Big Viber, the one we said we’d love to come back to on a clear day, that we were being warned off.

Julian Cope’s pointed out the irony in farming being the main destroyer of standing stones; ruination by the agriculture they were erected to celebrate. The siting of what, I’ve subsequently been told, is Scotland’s only field-scale GM trail next to such a crucial stone site seems entirely in keeping.

We’d just got back in the car and, in a final dribble of miserable piss on to the metaphorical cornflakes of our day, the driver’s seatbelt reel wouldn’t work. The police car was waiting for us to go, but we weren’t going to drive off unseatbelted and give them the opportunity to book us for something we actually had done. After five solid minutes (longer than it sounds) of trying we explained it to the police who vainly tried to pull it themselves and then, obviously itching to just go, told us to leave with it as it was. Five minutes down the road it worked fine. Bastard.

I hate the police, I really do. I know people say we shouldn't dehumanise them, but they dehumanise themselves by blindly enforcing rules that make no sense and by denying they have any feelings or opinions on the justice of it all.

I understand politicians more - at least they're exercising a plan of some kind. Coppers are just people who are given rules and they will use whatever coercion and violence is necessary to enforce them.

If the rules change - even to the exact opposite of the old rules - the very same coppers enforce the new rules just as vigorously and with just as much brutality. I hate them so much, because all coppers are like that - it's not the odd bad one or some uptight commander with a mad scheme once in a while. This is what they do, frequently and pointlessly, without any real comeback on them.

What kind of morally bankrupt idiot could do a job like that? Enforcing rules with violence but not caring what the rules are, whether they make sense, whether they harm or hurt?

Some people say that the police are the only barrier between us and violent chaos. But when violent chaos is ordered by the police’s masters then violent chaos is what they deliver.

Whether in a full-scale riot, or just out of arbitrary boredom, their capacity for violence-escalation is incredible. A friend of mine saw a guy pissing outside a pub, and a cop nicked him. The guy's girlfriend complained, so they nicked her roughly too. So people coming out of the pub said 'what's happening?' and they all got CS sprayed in the face, and it kicked off. Nothing to do with public order or protection of anyone or anything.

They are not interested in service to us or in having our respect, they are only interested in obedience. And when anyone questions anything they do, no matter how politely and calmly, they feel threatened and aggressively assert control. If we then point out that 'because I said so' isn't actually answering us when we asked why we have to leave and what law we're breaking, we get threatened further or beaten or arrested, or a combination of all three.

What a horrible nasty petty little mindset they inhabit. They are not a barrier between us and violent chaos, they are the snarling weapon of those who repress us, they are a barrier between us and the world we deserve.

Around the world and throughout their history, the police are the first troops of violent repression. They obey their masters and if their masters change their minds, or if new masters usurp the old, the police will enforce new, opposite laws with the same vigour as the old.

Invaded by Nazis, subjected to a military coup or simply a change of democratic regime, the police don’t care what happens as long as they get to show that they’ve got more power than civilians because they’re the guard dogs of the masters. Enforce the law, any law, as long as it is handed down from above.

Justice, fairness, social cohesion, public safety; none of these are relevant to them. All that matters is that those at the bottom of the power structure do not challenge their position, and the police – individually and collectively – ensure their one-rung-up position is maintained.