I do feel sorry for press officers. Sometimes.
Not always. But on the whole, I have a pretty grudging respect for those over at the Met: and the ACPO press office has always struck me as a model of how to manage awkward media inquiries. (Yes: many a long and probably totally irrelevant debate with ACPO over the nature of that body and whetherit should or shouldn’t be backed up by statute).
This evening, I was on to the Met. A lovely press officer fielded my question even though – I have to admit – I did give him a bit of a hard time.
I was following up the story (in Lesbilicious) about police clamping down on the zombie FlashMob protest today. Apparently, in advance of possible trouble, they descended on various likely troublemakers and either had words or carted them off before they had a chance to do anything.
Pre-emptive policing, I believe its called – and possibly highly dodgy, legally. No doubt we’ll see what the courts have to say about that.
However, what caught my eye was the extraordinary claim made in Lesbilicious, that a police officer, in order to check the bona fides, so to speak, of a trans woman “cupped” her.
Yes. You heard right. Aforementioned PCW, its is alleged, stuck her hand between the woman’s legs and checked out her genitals.
I will take legal advice before posting what I would like to post on this. However, it does seem to me that such an action, if it did indeed occur, is an indecent assault. It would be perfectly reasonable for a member of the public, so cupped, to resist: and it would certainly be more than proper for said member of the public to bring charges after the event for assault.
Anyway. That’s all theoretical and, as I say, I’ll get some legal advice first. In the UK, even though the law does allow for circumstances in which it is reasonable to use reasonable force when defending oneself from a PC, you’d really, really need to feel sure of yourself when you did so: cause if the courts didn’t back you, the chances are you’d then be looking at serious jail time.
Over at the press office, I put two questions. That is: any comment on the claim (I expect a no comment there, as in, if there is an allegation it happened, then the police will no comment pending an inquiry); and what is Met police policy on handling the genitals of members of the public?
And here’s where the niceness comes in. As press, you really are meant to stay detached. Those are two detached questions, which the press office is meant to log, then trot off, make inquiries, and come back to you with the line.
So, if he’s reading this, apologies to the guy who took my call for the slight edge I added. I didn’t lose my cool. Certainly didn’t have a go. But I’m sure he could tell I was cross.
Why? Maybe it was that I’d just got off the phone from trying to arrange safe accommodation for a trans woman assaulted and currently unable to return safely to her home. Or maybe 24 hours of fending off transphobe idiots on the Guardian CIF pages after I did them a piece on the Baltimore assault.
Whatever. I didn’t lose it. I made the second question just a bit sharper than it needed to be. I doubt I’ll get a very coherent answer, so…though I’ll report back if I do.
So it looks like I’m going to have to don my activist hat and go meet the met directly.