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Who polices the police?

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

Regular visitors to the FSF site will know we’ve been involved in a long running dispute with Northumbria Police over an incident which occurred on Saturday 8th August. A group of approximately 40 Sunderland fans arrived at Newcastle’s Central Station following their team’s pre-season friendly with Heart of Midlothian.

They were met by police and four fans were hospitalised with serious injuries caused by police dogs and batons. The police labelled fans as thugs and hooligans – despite the fact no police officers or dogs were injured – and the evidence we’ve seen and heard from fans suggests Northumbria Police over-reacted.

For more details and timelines, which expose many holes in the police’s version of events, read Sunderland fans want the truth.

Fans were outraged at their treatment and complained to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) assuming, as the name suggests, that it would investigate in a thorough, fair, and independent manner. They assumed wrong.

Gary Garland, IPCC Commissioner for the North East, rejected supporters’ complaints without ever interviewing or speaking to a single fan. The FSF had also compiled a dossier of evidence which was disregarded.

We were so shocked by Garland’s actions that we demanded his resignation. In publicly commending officers before internal investigations had been completed we believe he compromised the integrity of any objective review.

Supporters involved are, entirely understandably, focused on the criminal proceedings in this case. After all, six months down the line 42 fans are still in the abyss of the criminal justice system. No one’s been charged with anything and they’ve not yet had the chance to defend themselves in a court of law.

In our own experience the IPCC does not act independently, and as this BBC investigation shows, only 88 out of 31,000 complaints were actually investigated fully by the IPCC!

The vast majority are handed back to the very police force accused in the first place, as happened with the Central Station incident. Hardly inspires confidence in a transparent and independent system, does it?

Listen to BBC Radio 4’s File on Four investigation Who polices the police? here or download as a podcast from this link. This will be taken down in a few days so get a move on if you want the podcast!

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