Steve Watson
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

PCSOs have the same powers of arrest as any other ordinary citizen in the UK, and can arrest anyone without warrant if they know or believe they have committed an indictable offence. They can hold someone for up to thirty minutes while waiting for a police officer to reach the scene.  

This past Sunday night I was subjected to another stark reminder of how far the UK has descended into a total police state when I was stopped on the street by "Police Community Support Officers" for putting my hand in my pocket.

After returning to London in high spirits from an excursion to see the great Neil Young play a barnstorming gig at the Hop Farm festival in Kent, I was standing at the bus stop in Trafalgar Square with my girlfriend only to suddenly have the following order barked at me by a goon in a bright yellow jacket:


"Excuse me? Are you addressing me?" I replied.

"STAND OVER THERE." the man repeated while pointing about 1 metre to his left as his female colleague stood silently staring.

"No thanks, I think I’ll stay here." I replied.

"WE CAN DO THIS THE EASY WAY OR THE HARD WAY." He continued, attempting to assert some form of power over me in his own mind by forcing me to pointlessly move one step away from my current position, while speaking to me in a manner you or I would a dog.

After five long minutes of refusing to move until he told me why it was necessary, the PCSO told me he was stopping me because he saw me adjust my shirt and put my hand in my pocket.

That’s right, the new terror threat is people with their hands in their pockets.

For those who are unaware, a PCSO is not a real police officer, but merely a "visible and reassuring presence on the streets" employed to tackle "the menace of anti-social behaviour".

PCSOs have the same powers of arrest as any other ordinary citizen in the UK, and can arrest anyone without warrant if they know or believe they have committed an indictable offence. They can hold someone for up to thirty minutes while waiting for a police officer to reach the scene.

Essentially they are stasi-like spies and tattle tales in bright yellow jackets.

Until November of last year, when the law was changed, several forces were recruiting PCSOs under the age of 18. At this time the government also introduced a set of standard powers and duties (PDF) for all PCSOs.

Long time readers may remember that when Alex Jones bullhorned the Houses of Parliament back in 2005, the day before protest without a permit was banned in Parliament Square, he was stopped, recorded and reported by PCSOs.


Stop and search powers have proved controversial since their introduction in section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The government has consistently backed the powers as an important tool in the fight against terrorism.

Since then, the powers, while not leading directly to the prevention of any terrorism, have been most notably used against: Kevin Gillan and Pennie Quinto for protesting outside Europe’s biggest arms fair in London; the 82-year-old Walter Wolfgang for heckling Jack Straw at the Labour Conference; Sally Cameron for walking on a cycle-path in Dundee; the 80-year-old John Catt for being caught on CCTV passing a demonstration in Brighton; the 11-year-old Isabelle Ellis-Cockcroft for accompanying her parents to an anti-nuclear protest; and a cricketer on his way to a match over his possession of a bat.

More recently, Scotland Yard admitted that its officers have been photographing children who are stopped and searched, even after they have been found to be innocent, and keeping the pictures on a database for "intelligence-gathering purposes".

In the past we have reported on instances where police have admitted stop and search records are permanently retained.

The Home Office guide to stop and search states that "if they don’t find anything, your details will be recorded for monitoring purposes, and you’ll be allowed to go."

New Ministry of Justice figures published today revealed that police used their powers to stop nearly two million members of the public in the street and demand they account for their behaviour or actions from 2006-2007, a rise of one third.

Each one foot long stop and search form takes an estimated seven minutes to fill in, meaning that police spent the equivalent of 25 years filling in the "stop" forms last year.

The government has continued to push for greater stop and search powers for police.

Section 44 of the Terrorism Act bestows exceptional powers on the police to stop and search at random, once a particular geographical area has been designated by a chief officer as one that might be targeted by terrorists and authorised as such by the Home Secretary. The government has since extended this power to stop and search WITHOUT GIVING A REASON to include "troubled areas".

How long will it be before the entire country is designated a "troubled area"?

And so, to return to the exchange I had with the stasi this past Sunday….

After a round-the-houses exchange with the PSCO along the lines of

"Do you have anything in your pocket you shouldn’t?"
"Like what?"
"You tell me."
"No, you tell me."

he demanded identification and put in a call to his higher authorities to check I wasn’t a wanted criminal.

All the while his colleague stood watch saying "it’s just procedure, let him get on with it, if you’ve done nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about."

That is the crux of the problem, it is now everyday procedure in this country for fluorescent jacketed tattle tales and busy bodies to grab anyone they want on the street and order them around before putting in a hotline call to the police in the off chance they may have bagged themselves a bad guy.

All the while we are force fed the notion that we have nothing to fear from such invasions of privacy, when in actual fact our entire culture, society and freedom are under direct threat.

After emptying out my own pockets (by choice, so as to avoid having to deal with the real police) the PSCO exerted his divine privilege to let me go, but not before asking if I wanted to hang around another ten to fifteen minutes for a copy of the foot long form he was about to complete.

"No, just put me on the database with all the other innocent, law abiding people." I told him, and duly walked off, seething.

So add my name to the long list on police records along with Alex Jones’ and all the other evil people who have ever exerted any of their public rights in the UK, all those who have ever walked around minding their own business, all those who have merely put their hands in their pockets or adjusted their clothing in what was deemed by a "community minded person" to be a suspicious manner.

We are all suspects and we are all being "recorded for monitoring purposes".

Alex Jones’ new documentary TRUTH RISING is now available on DVD at the Infowars store.

Related Articles