Wednesday, April 04, 2007

200 Private Cops For Liverpool?

It looks like Liverpool will have 200 privately funded police in 2008 – Capital of Culture year.

The Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe, says he wants to put a cop on every corner during the festivities. In practice, this apparently means he needs £9.3m extra to recruit another 200 officers. The Government is currently refusing to pay up, so Hogan-Howe is looking for other ways to enlarge his gang.

Hogan-Howe set out his case in yesterday's Daily Post, announcing that the expected 20 million visitors to the city in 2008 will mean extra police are needed. This is no surprise. Many of the tourists will be a lot richer than the vast majority of Liverpudlians, so they will be an obvious target for people looking to supplement their incomes.

The Chief Constable claimed 'there will be no privileges or concessions made to those making an offer'. However, this is very hard to believe. At the end of the day, businesses care about one thing – making a profit. Any business which donates all or part of £9 million would be putting themselves at a serious disadvantage compared to their competitors, so they will be wanting precisely the 'privileges' and 'concessions' which Hogan-Howe mentions.

At the moment, the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce – which represents the interests of Liverpool business as a whole – is against the idea. Their chief executive, Jack Stopforth, told the Daily Post that 'general policing must remain a public service', and 'Liverpool/Merseyside should be able to draw down funds from central government'. In other words, make UK Plc pay, not Liverpool business. But while Stopforth doesn't want to pay up, others may be considering it, if they reckon they can stitch-up a good deal.

Much of Liverpool city centre now belongs to one man - the Duke of Westminster. His 'Liverpool One' development is due to get its grand opening next year, and the stage is being set for the Duke's 250 year Reich. £9m is a drop in the ocean for the UK's third richest man, and he could consider it a worthwhile investment.

Privately funded police aren't a new thing in Britain. In the 1700s, the owners of the West India company paid for the 'Thames River Police' to protect their port from impoverished looters. The 'Bow Street Runners' in London's east end started off as fifteen men with pistols, who guaranteed their capitalist clients a fifteen minute response time to their calls for help, in return for 'blood money'. When Robert Peel got back to England after defending Ireland from the Irish, he became Home Secretary. In 1829, he established a state police system in London, joining up the dots of the various private forces. These 'cops' (from the French 'caper', to seize or abduct) were drawn from the ranks of the poor, and soon became despised by most of the working class they began persecuting. Not long afterwards, Peel brought his favourite kind of pigs over from Ireland, and started breeding them in Tamworth. The rest is history.

Then as now, the police are used against working class people, whether they are trying to take back what has been stolen from them by the capitalist system, or protesting against injustices the system throws up (war, poor health care, abuse of animals). In theory though not in practice, the police are subject to control by the whole population. If the rich are allowed to buy their own bodyguards, even this supposed freedom will disappear.

The twisted logic of capitalism is being laid bare before our eyes. Marches and letter-writing campaigns are not enough. The struggle has to be taken into workplaces and into the streets. The working class has to unite, so we can rid ourselves of these parasites!
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