Below, we publish two letters. The first is a response from Vera Baird QC, police and crime commissioner for Northumbria police, to the standard letter published on this blog on 7 June. The second is a letter template, responding to Baird, which can be sent if you too receive this response.
In her election campaign for police and crime commisioner, Baird committed to seeing an end to political policing. Hold her accountable to this claim and support the Newcastle 14.
Letter One – Baird’s Response:
Dear Vera Baird QC,
I would like to thank you for replying to some of the letters myself and fellow supporters of the defence campaign have sent you with regards to the 14 arrested, shortly before the EDL protest started on the 25th May. First of all, I would like to reassure you that all of those arrested and the groups they may be affiliated with had no intentions to cause violence and were acting peacefully promoting the Newcastle Unites counter demonstration at the time of the arrests.
I understand that, as you have informed me in your previous letter, legally any complaints must be made to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) or Northumbria police professional Standards Department. However, I do feel that much of this case is relevant to you as our police crime commissioner; a role which you yourself described as, being to ‘represent the people of Northumbria and relay their needs to police officers’. Concern about the arrests has been expressed a significant number of the citizens of the North East, as can be seen from over 1000 signatures in support of the defence campaign. These signatures demand ‘a transparent, democratic and accountable enquiry into the exact nature and extent of collusion between specific members of ‘Newcastle Unites’ and Northumbria Police, leading to the arrest of 14 anti-fascists’, which I hope you will support in your duty as a police crime commissioner to ensure ‘accountability of the police force to the electorate’.
As you have explained in your response to my previous letter, the 14 arrests are classified as an operational matter and therefore outside of your control. A major concern of mine is that these arrests are indicative of a wider problem within the police force. This seems to be an increasingly common police tactic of them making political decisions particularly after previous, seemingly purely politically motivated, arrests, such as that of Michael MacDonald. In this aspect it very much concerns the governance of the force. Within your role as police crime commissioner, I trust that you will use your position to ensure Northumbria police are not used as a political tool and that the circumstances leading up to the 14 arrests is investigated at the first possible opportunity.
As someone who desires to ‘improve community safety’, I am sure you understand the devastating force of racism in dividing communities. I fear that after the events of 25th May people may be more hesitant about vocally opposing racism. When people, purely with the intention of opposing racism and attempting to make our city a more tolerant and encompassing place for us all to live are prevented from doing so with arrests, this sends out a damning message to people trying to oppose racism in their own communities. I sincerely hope that you will follow your ‘proven track record in standing up for ordinary people, fighting injustice and championing equality’, in your role as police commissioner by supporting the Newcastle 14 Defence Campaign and ensuring that policing and politics in Newcastle do not become intertwined.
Whilst you were campaigning for election to the Post of Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria Police you attended a North East Feminist meeting, during this you promised to hold the Police to account. The EDL marching in Newcastle caused distress for many sections of society including women, and included in the arrests were 3 women who were trying to exercise there right to protect women from such fears. I hope especially given the bottles and other missiles thrown at women by the EDL during the EDL march that you consider the importance of the women arrested at the Haymarket in their opposition to such actions on behalf of all sections of society including women.
I strongly believe that in order to oppose racism in Newcastle we must be united against it. To be able to do this the motives behind these arrests must be investigated and the people responsible exposed.
I hope you will investigate and act on the concerns I have raised in this letter and I look forward to your response.