Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Suspect communities

Over 100 people attended Sparkbrook Ward Committee last night and as expected spy cameras dominated the night. The Police were heavily criticised and for the first time they said that if the public did not want the cameras, they would be removed. But overall  there was still too much fudging, back tracking and justifications from the Police on the grounds of community safety for my liking. As one member of the public said the Police simply fail to convey any empathy about how their actions are making an entire community feel criminalised. And they fail to understand how these cameras are in danger of undermining community cohesion.

There is going to be an attempt to resell these cameras on the grounds of enhancing community safety and crime prevention. I understand people's concerns in this regard. And I am supportive of CCTV projects in certain circumstances. But Project Champion is different. This is funded on the grounds that its primary objective is anti-terrorist surveillance. The Police say these cameras should reassure us. The message from last nights meetings is that they have the opposite effect. Ringing an entire area with spy cameras is stigmatising an entire community.

These spy cameras are sinister, divisive and damaging of trust between the community and the Police. They must be taken down and Respect Councillors in Sparkbrook are committed to campaigning against them until they are take down. To that end we have acted to make the police and the Council accountable for their actions.  We moved the resolution at the Constituency Committee meeting to write to the Home Secretary Theresa May calling for the removal of the cameras. We raised the issue in the Full Council meeting to find out to what extent Cabinet Members sanctioned these cameras. (The Cabinet member for Equalities claimed he knew nothing about them). We have taken complaints against the Police to the Independent Police Complaints Committee and we have been in contact with solicitors specialising in civil liberties about a judicial review. We have highlighted the issue in the media. We will continue work with the community to oppose these cameras until they are completely removed.

Photo is of myself and anti-spy camera campaigner Steve Jolly, who has done great work in bringing this issue to the attention of the local and national media.