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April 13, 2009

Sousveillance means we watch the watchers


Forty seconds of jumpy film have challenged Britain’s senior police in a way courts, inquiries, MPs and grieving families have generally failed to do. Citizen journalism is in the news and the Metropolitan police is in the dock because of phone video evidence showing the last moments of Ian Tomlinson -- the London news vendor who died during the G20 riots. The footage was recorded by an unlikely people’s hero -- an American fund manager on a business trip from New York – and unlikely bedfellows have been created as a result.

New and old media; citizens and journalists; amateurs and professionals; witnesses and analysts; Americans and Brits; protestors and onlookers – groups previously in some tension have pored over that film and forced accountability from authorities preparing to sweep the whole incident under the carpet.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission was wrong footed. It was slow to realise a City police investigation wouldn’t suffice and slow to start work. Two days after the video was published the IPCC had still failed to contact the officer featured.

The Metropolitan Police was caught napping. At first it claimed Mr Tomlinson had no contact with police, then suggested demonstrators delayed the arrival of medical help and only finally suspended the officer filmed when the video was made public. Will that officer be prosecuted?

Thirty years ago this month Blair Peach died after an Anti-Nazi League protest against a National Front meeting in London.

No police officer was ever convicted after evidence of a police assault on the 33 year-old New Zealand-born special needs teacher.

But no-one had such compelling video evidence in 1979. Read more - click here.


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