In what might be referred as ‘the good old days’ (and by that I mean only a few years ago), it was fairly easy to identify which of the services a vehicle belonged to simply by looking at the colour of the beacons attached to it. Police, fire, and ambulances generally had blue lights; doctors had green, the police seemed to get alternating red at some point. There could also be yellow, on working vehicles that could be a hazard, such as slow-moving refuse lorries, tow-trucks, and various road maintenance vehicles.
While many still sport the common incandescent light fittings, with coloured lenses which convert the white light from the conventional bulb behind, newer fitting are manufactured using LEDs, which do no usually have tinted lenses or covers.
Unlike the white light produced by a filament bulb, which requires a coloured lens, filter, or coating to produce the desired output colour, the light from an LED is created within the device, so no filter is needed, and the devices generally come with clear lenses, which maximises their output. (For the pedantic, I’m calling white a colour, although it is made up of many, and also not going to refer to the various light conversions that take place within the structure of various visible light LEDs.)
The end result is that it’s no longer easy to tell what service an unmarked vehicle belongs to just by looking at the auxiliary lights. All you see when they are not energised is a clear fitting, and the colour only becomes apparent when they are activated.
Case in point was the Audi I tripped over recently. Roof mounted light bar, but… transparent housing.
I couldn’t see any markings or other equipment(eg radio) fitted to it, or lying on the seats, nor anything screwed to the bodywork. There were no cameras mounted anywhere, nor a second rear-view mirror.
The same anonymity was true of the driver, inside the adjacent ‘greasy spoon’ and collecting a large bag of goodies to help him survive the rest of the day. Dressed in black, he did have any kit, or badges apparent.
There were no lights in the rear window (not even pop-up types), but I spotted a dash-mounted temporary unit, probably blue/red, and a look at the front suggests a small pair of non-Audi ‘white’ squares in the lower grille, which I suspect are LEDs.
FYI – Unmarked police cars around here look more like this when at work:
It’s been a week since events saw a total of nine fatalities and more than thirty injured result from the crash of a helicopter on the roof of a Glasgow pub – the dead included all three on board the helicopter.
While there has been praise for those involved, it’s sad to note that one individual has been fined for comments made online after the event (and others may be pending), and one media commentator apologised after making a joke which referred to the crash.
I didn’t know about this visit until later that day, as I had decided to take a trip in to see the site for myself. While I’ve not been there for a while, the area used be one I visited frequently. As an aside, ever since the advent of practical radio-controlled model helicopters (I don’t mean the toys we’ve seen arrive in past few years, or quadrotor drones), I’ve never lost interest in them, as the models follow the full-size so closely in design and operation.
The area was notably quiet, almost silent, which was eerie, since it usually very busy with traffic and people hurrying about their business. Temporarily, all streets are cordoned off to traffic, and few people were walking along them, although only the street running past the Clutha was closed to pedestrians.
I collected a few pics to mark the event, but in reality, with the police cordon around the Clutha, and the fact that this was an event that took place on a roof, there wasn’t really that much for someone without access to see. The only notable feature was a temporary structure place over the hole in the roof.
Notably, the area that had once been the car park for the RNVR Carrick had been set aside for those who wished to leave a floral tribute.
It’s been a little odd for past couple of days/night, as the sky over the east end of Glasgow has become rather quiet and empty.
Today, Sunday, the full effects of the past day’s events are coming to light as the victims are named:
You’ll find much more coverage online, as this became a major incident, with prime coverage around the world. I actually first learned of it while watching Russia Today, when it flashed up on the screen shortly after the event, and this morning, the story was injected in a stream of ‘Old Time Radio’ which I often listen to online, and that’s not even current content, being radio plays from as far back as the 1920s.
The site of this incident is a place I have stood at on many occasions, but never at that time of night.
Just as I started writing, I heard the sound of a helicopter approaching, and went for a look. Not one I recall seeing before, it appeared to be completely white, but moving away meant its details could not be seen. However, its passing and served to highlight the absence of the police helicopter.
It’s often only when something you have become used to disappears that you tend to notice it, and the sight and sound of the police helicopter was pretty much constant over the east end. I was used to it, sometimes quite close, but never close enough for a good pic. It was always moving away by the time I collected a suitable camera and lens.
At night, my wanderings to the shops also meant seeing its lights in the air, as the round trip means a walk of up 2 hours, during which it was often a regular sight.
Seen a few weeks ago, passing over the east end:
I really wish I had the time and inclination to use the Blog to mount some sort of anti-Commonwealth Games (I prefer Commonwealth Shames) campaign. The lies and waste of time and money surrounding this insane event, which only serves to pay for a few folk who stand to gain some career publicity to run around for a few days is incomprehensible.
There is also some insanity referred to as ‘Lasting Legacy’, supposedly set to bring pots of cash into Glasgow after the event, but I invite readers to read reports written 10-20 years after similar events and claims – IT DOESN’T HAPPEN!
History tells us this in the shape of abandoned and derelict stadium sites around the world, and financial windfalls that never… fell.
The ‘Lasting Legacy’ is nothing more than a dream of the promoters, a fantasy, and is a carrot on a stick, held out to convince investors to part with their cash to finance the games money-pit.
We’ve already seen the Commonwealth Games chief breaking the rules and leaving his post in disgrace:
Only thing that comes to my mind about this single resignation is the warning that “Where there’s one mouse, there’s usually more“.
Now we have allegations of millions being paid out by Glasgow City Council for land which was purchased not all that long before it was known that it would need to be purchased for games’ use, or could have been acquired for significantly less if compulsory purchase powers has been exercised:
Multi-million pound land deals linked to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow are to be looked at by police.
The move follows a complaint by SNP MSP James Dornan, who represents the city’s Cathcart constituency.
He wants to establish whether public money was misused in some deals.
In one case a property developer was paid £17m for land which cost him £8m. Another saw former Rangers owner David Murray’s company paid £5.1m for land it bought for £375,000 a few years before.
I wonder what else will come to light before we get to 2014?
When I wrote this post only for interest as an unusual occurrence: Python used as weapon in street attack, I never imagined I would be repeating the exercise. But, almost a year and a half later, a similar event has taken place in Scotland. In that case, gang members used a snake as a weapon when they used a 4 foot (1.2 m) python to attack a 14-year-old boy, who was pinned to the floor as one gang member forced the green python to attack, and bite the teenager’s arm.
In this case, police were threatened with a baby python while questioning an Edinburgh man in his home, regarding noise.
He wrapped the snake around his neck, and waved the snake in the officer’s faces, after which he was arrested and jailed while continuing to shout and swear.
He has since appeared in court, where sentence was deferred pending background reports – the man’s defence agent stated his client had previously served with the Armed Forces, and had mental difficulties, for which he was currently receiving help.
You have to believe that the snake’s owner does indeed have some sort of mental problem, having chosen to wrap a python, even a ‘baby’ around his neck. They may not be venomous, but that does not mean they are not dangerous, especially to children.
Pythons are constrictors, and kill their prey by a process known as constriction. After they grasped their victim to restrain it, they will quickly form a number of coils around it. By applying and maintaining sufficient pressure to prevent it from inhaling, the allow it only to exhale or relax its muscles. This means it can never draw breath, and eventually succumbs due to asphyxiation.
Last week, A Taser was used to subdue a 20-year-old male during a disturbance in East Lothian. After the event, he was taken to hospital for assessment, then released to be charged, and is due to appear in court.
The Taser delivers a 50,000 volt electrical charge which is intended to incapacitate the subject, rather than cause serious injury. The wires are tipped with small barbs, which attach themselves to the subject when they strike, and allow the application of the electrical charge to continue after the initial deployment.
I’ve been following the recent controversy stirred up by Amnesty International over the past few weeks, which relates to the deployment of Tasers in Scotland. At present, the weapons will be carried by up to thirty officers, each of which has received three day’s of training in their use, as part of a six month pilot trial due to end in October.
Although I don’t have any specific issues as regards Amnesty International in particular, more generally, I do always worry when such organisations come out with claims that their interpretation of law is correct, rather than those who are actually responsible, answerable, and (should be) subject to oversight. In this case, Amnesty International wrote to the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, and asked that the Strathclyde Police pilot scheme to be halted immediately, claiming that it was ‘unlawful’ on the grounds that the trial required, but did not receive, his written approval.
A Scottish Government spokesman stated that the issue was an operational matter for Strathclyde Police.
Strathclyde Police have had Tasers available since 2005, and I recall a Taser was used locally back in 2006, when it was deployed against a man during a disturbance in the Tollcross area.
As far as I know, Amnesty International has been campaigning against their deployment in this country since 2005, on the basis that they can cause fatalities – these claims appear to be based in incidents in the US, although the news has reported that a County Durham man died after being subdued using a Taser. This incident took place in 2006, and the man actually died three days later, however he was also struck with a baton round as police attempted to subdue him as he wielded a samurai sword. (Although the incident can be found in the news, there does not appear to be any follow up regarding the cause of his death).
According to the authorities, there are no directly accountable deaths from the use of Tasers, and that there have been many thousands of both actual deployments and test firings, and that there are no documented fatalities arising. They also point out that many of the incidents could have resulted in the deployment and use of lethal firearms, which could have resulted in woundings or fatalities, and the use of Tasers avoided these possibilities.
I can’t pass comment on either the authorities’ position, or the validity of Amnesty International’s claim – I have neither the relevant documentation nor legislation to hand, and I’m not going to spend hours dredging it all up and reviewing it. After all, some folk are already being well paid to do that.
What I will say is that I hope police in this country apply the same restraint to Taser use as is applied to the issue and use of lethal firearms.
I make this observation in the light of the numerous videos we are now treated to on popular television programmes looking at police actions, where we often see American police officers use both Tasers and pepper sprays to subdue uncooperative suspects, rather than as a defence when they are threatened, and this is wrong.
A police spokesman has said:
“The use of Tasers is only undertaken in circumstances where a suspect presents a clear risk to the public, the officers in attendance or even themselves. Before a Taser is discharged a suspect will be given clear warning to cease their actions and surrender. As is standard practice, we will review the use of Tasers during this incident to ensure all necessary protocols were followed.”
While I have no issue with an officer who is being actively and seriously threatened in some way deploying a Taser, pepper spray, or other weapon against an aggressor, there is no case for any officer using these devices merely to coerce an individual into cooperating with them in some way, and the American videos often show officers using Tasers and pepper sprays as threats against individuals in order to have them comply with their instructions such as, “Get down on the ground”, “Get in the car”, “Get your hands behind your back (so I can ‘cuff you)”.
Clearly these are not situations where the officer is in imminent danger, and the only thing being threatened is his or her authority (or ego), not their life.
There are many other, more important, issues that organisations such as Amnesty International could be focussing on. For example, while I see many quotes of 50,000 volts being issued from Tasers, I don’t see anything that effectively limits this charge dependent on the size of the individual concerned (does the charge delivered have the same effect on an 8-stone woman as it does on a 16-stone man?), and although the Taser does appear to have a timer to limit the duration which the charge is applied for, it seems there is nothing to stop the officer repeatedly applying the charge time after time.
For what it’s worth, the current density through a smaller individual will necessarily be greater than that through a physically larger individual, and if the Taser is set to stun the larger of two, then the smaller person (or perhaps a child) could potentially conduct a hazardous current through some part of their body if the Taser is set to deliver a large enough current disable the largest of subjects, and is not reduced. Again, I have no operational details or knowledge other than the news reports, and it’s possible the levels are well below those that could knowingly cause harm. There is also the matter of the discharge path, and a chest strike would result in currents flowing near the heart, while a strike on the back, arm, or legs, would clearly minimise potential heart current.
I might add that suggesting the individual concerned is merely getting what they deserve is unacceptable, as regardless of the circumstances, they are “innocent until proven guilty”, so do not deserve to be treated without due care. After all, it could you be YOU, if you were unfortunate enough to suffer some sort of mental failure one day, and lose control such that you endanger yourself or others. That should no sooner earn you a bullet to subdue you, than any other form of life-threatening measure merely because the police officers who attend have no idea of your mental state, or intentions.
There are clearly many disturbed people who can get hold of dangerous weapons while the balance of their minds is upset, and given the choice of a bullet or a Taser, the latter is surely preferable in a life-threatening scenario, so the Taser must be viable alternative in the real world, but is also something to be used with discretion, and in a way that does not create more problems than it solves.
While Tasers are classed as firearms, private individuals may not legally posses them in the UK, but in America, you can now get a dainty little pink version, complete with a holder for you MP3 player. These don’t fire the barbed wires, but act as stun gun that has to be held against the individual to be incapacitated.
On the enforcement side, the Less Lethal Shotgun (LLS) fires a Taser round in a shotgun shell, which extends the operational range by up to three times that of the model shown above (items such as the LLS and Taser round can be seen in the gallery attached to the image), and the Taser round will continue to shock the target until it times out, or is removed. The Taser round can also be fired from a conventional shotgun, but a conventional shotgun shell can not be fired from the special Taser shotgun, due to its design, which prevents this from happening by accident.
The original Stone of Destiny, on which Scottish monarchs were crowned, was removed by Edward I in 1296 and fitted into a wooden chair at Westminster Abbey.
Some (considerable) time later, actually on Christmas Day 1950, it was stolen from the abbey by a group of Scottish students in 1950, later turning up on the altar of Arbroath Abbey more than four months later on April 11, 1951. During its holiday, it was found to be broken (not as a result of this theft), and professionally repaired by a Glasgow stonemason prior to being left at Arbroath.
It seem the suffragettes also had an interest in the stone, having hung an explosive-laden handbag on the back of King Edward’s chair on June 11, 1914. The stone lay under the King’s chair in Westminster Abbey, and appears to have been undamaged in the attack, although part of the carving was blown off the chair.
Shortly after the stone’s location at Arbroath was revealed, it was returned to Westminster Abbey – and a new myth was born, with stories that the a copy was sent to Westminster, and the original had been spirited away to keep it in Scotland. Some even said the stone that had been stolen was a replica.
Regardless of the stories of earlier copies, growing unrest led to the British Conservative Government deciding that the stone should be kept in Scotland when not in use at coronations, and on November 15, 1996, a handover ceremony took at the border between Scotland and England, involving representatives of the Home Office, and the Scottish Office, after which it was transported to Edinburgh Castle, finally arriving there on November 30, 1996. Again, it seems that the transfer spawned yet more tales of copies.
Regardless of the various tales of replicas and copies, the stone at Scone Palace is a replica, complete with a plaque which reads: “A replica of the stone upon which the Kings of Scots were crowned on Moot Hill until 1296 when Edward I took the stone to Westminster Abbey.”
With an original and one definite replica, it would seem that 2010 has seen the arrival of a second replica in peculiar circumstances.
Tayside police have reported that the Scone replica was stolen… and replaced by another replica some time between Wednesday, April 28, and Thursday April 29.
However, the perpetrators of this exchange left the Scone replica n the grounds of Scone Palace, although they did steal the brass plaque that had been fixed to it.
A local police spokeswoman for Tayside Police said: “It is a very unusual incident and officers are currently making enquiries into the possible motivation for someone swapping the stones. Both of the stones are of considerable weight and would require at least three to four people to carry them. Transport would also have been required.”
If you can work out what the idea behind this decidedly odd behaviour is, do leave a comment.
Update May 12, 2010
Tayside police issued a fresh appeal for witness, and although they could not identify any obvious motive for the substitution of an ‘imposter’ stone for the ‘replica’ on display at Scone, were not discounting the timing of the act, coming just before a General Election, saying:
“The investigation has established that the impostor stone, discovered where the replica stone had been moved from, is not from the palace grounds. It is a mottled and weathered dense granite stone, not thought to be common to the Perth area, and it’s believed it would have been transported into the grounds by those responsible. Equally, given the size and weight of the replica stone and the impostor stone, a vehicle would have been required to bring the ‘fake’ stone in and it would have taken at least three to four adults to move both stones. As yet no motive has been established for this offence but given that the incident happened just days prior to the national election, we have not discounted the possibility that it was in some way politically motivated.”
Spotted the following, which is a handy opportunity for those of us who can’t afford to jaunt down to London to add our support to the ongoing threat of over-zealous policing to our right to take photographs in public places:
Regular contributors to Geograph.org.uk were among over two thousand photographers who took part in a ‘Mass Photo Gathering’ in Trafalgar Square, London, on Saturday 23 January 2010.
The amateur and professional photographers were protesting against increasing harassment and over-zealous policing which, they claim, is obstructing their lawful right to take photos in public places.
The protest was organised by the pressure group ‘Photographer Not a Terrorist.org’ and many attendees carried placards bearing the group slogan. Protesters and onlookers were handed ‘stop and search’ information cards outlining their rights when taking photographs in public places. The event was publicised through word-of-mouth, through Twitter and Facebook, and on photography websites.
The protesters gathered from 11.30am outside the National Gallery but later moved down into Trafalgar Square itself. By 12.30pm there were between 1,500 and 2,000 people present. The event was very good-natured and illuminated by the almost constant flicker of flashes. The Metropolitan Police wisely kept a low profile with very few officers in evidence.
As it was a gathering rather than a demonstration there were no formal speeches and very little chanting. The spoof ‘Vigilance Committee’ (one of whom was on stilts) handed out literature and made mock ‘arrests’ and the Socialist Worker newspaper erected a sales stall. Many newspapers were represented by staff and freelance photographers and several radio and television crews recorded the event.
The protest came after a year of rising tension between photographers and police. Both amateur and professional photographers have been routinely harassed and intimidated by heavy-handed police treatment. The most frequent flashpoint has been misuse of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. According to protesters, Section 44 is being used used widely and indiscriminately against anyone with a camera. It is claimed that victims are often left angry and frightened by police officers. This is despite a recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights which declared that Section 44 is illegal.
Our thanks to to Geograph.org.uk for providing the above under Creative Commons, and to Andy F for the words which described the event.
I really try not to highlight anything that might be construed as anti-police (after being given a trumped-up breath test – thanks goodness I can’t drink), but it’s hard not to.
From the victimisation of photographers for no good reason with: worrying decision by an Edinburgh Sheriff, to abuse of the Terrorism Act 2000 and Section 44 as Police continue to abuse people with cameras, there’s plenty to choose from, although the good news for Scots is that most of this is down to the English, and the Met, allegedly.
Were it not for the shock and outrage that sets in afterwards, these stories might be almost amusing, but speaking from personal experience, there is an aftermath if you are a normally law-abiding individual that generally ignores a police presence nearby. In my own case, it was only after some hours that I realised the pair that had made up a reason to stop me, and then suggest they had believed I had been drinking (not off my breath) and required me to provide a sample of breath, had roared off in their white BMW without giving me a chance to make any notes. Something that won’t happen if the scenario is ever repeated.
The lack of goodwill the sort of incidents referred to above must be obvious to anyone with half a brain, but it still seems that someone somewhere is sending police officers on courses at the “School of Stupid”.
The latest story to be featured by the media is that of an Ayrshire driver who was issued with a fix penalty fine of £60, after he was spotted by four police officers while blowing his nose. At the time, the driver has stated that his van was stationary, stopped in a queue of traffic, and that the handbrake had been applied.
The police officer who waved him down told him that he was being issued with the penalty because he was not in control of the vehicle.
The driver’s solicitor wrote to the Procurator Fiscal saying:
“It should have been obvious to the officers what was going on and it beggars belief a ticket was issued”.
“I also wrote – ‘We cannot see, given the circumstances of this case, that it is in the public interest”.
The Fiscal responded by stating that if the fine was not paid the case would go to court.
A spokeswoman for Strathclyde Police said, “A 39-year-old man is the subject of a report to the procurator fiscal in connection with an alleged traffic offence.”
Nobody can be benefiting from this silliness, certainly not Scotland’s image around the world, as various overseas media have picked up on a silly story to fill some space and publish for laugh at our expense:
No doubt a search would find many more cases of the story being repeated.
Hopefully this will not be forgotten by the local press, and we will see the final outcome, and hope that court has not been on the some course at the “School of Stupid”.
However, that still won’t make up for the cost and loss of real police time in all the paperwork that this will have generated.
Update – Case Dropped
On February 26, 2010, the BBC reported the ‘Nose blow’ driver case dropped
A spokesman for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said, “After further enquiry and careful consideration of all the facts and circumstances of this case, the procurator fiscal has decided that no further action is required.”
Mr Mancini, from Prestwick, told BBC Radio Scotland’s Newsdrive programme that he was “glad common sense had prevailed”. He added: “I think the authorities need to learn a little bit of common sense and worry about more important things.”
While there’s no relation to my apparent withdrawal from photography – having added a photography category to the Blog as I seemed to be coming across worthy subjects, but with nowhere to post them, I promptly seemed to lose those opportunities at the same time, and haven’t captured anything worthwhile since – it seems that the ongoing abuse of section 44 of the Terrorism Act, which allows police to stop and search anyone without need for suspicion in a designated area, continues, despite a recent warning to them not to use the measure unnecessarily against photographers.
I’ve been in correspondence with other photographers who have fallen foul of various pieces of legislation, and public paranoia, generally south of the border, and generally at the hands of the Met police around London. I suspect these “chats” have led to my own demotivation in respect of carrying a camera and taking photographs in public. In particular, on of my contacts was employed (down south) as a police photographer, and while he had no problems with the police, he used to volunteer his services to the local school, as his work meant he was a “trusted person”. For some years, he attended at things such as sports days, and provided pictures of the event. He’s given this up. Thanks to the various high profile campaigns run by the media, despite his status, and the fact that he was at these events at the school’s invitation, he ended up being attacked by mothers at one event, simply because he was taking photographs of their children. As he was doing this officially, on behalf of the school, he could hardly have been seen as carrying out this activity covertly, and he was also carrying a fair amount of kit which would have been hard to hide anyway, yet the media frenzy of the time meant they still felt they were justified in attacking him.
Needless to say, as of that day, he withdrew his services, and his never offered to return.
He was in touch with me a couple of weeks ago, and mentioned that at least the problems with the Met appeared to have been dealt with, and it would be nice to see this become a thing of the past.
Since then, I saw that a warning was indeed issued last week to all police forces not to use section 44 measures unnecessarily against photographers. In a circular to fellow chief constables, Andy Trotter, of British Transport police, said: “Officers and community support officers are reminded that we should not be stopping and searching people for taking photos. Unnecessarily restricting photography, whether from the casual tourist or professional, is unacceptable.”
Looks as if it was a waste of time and effort, as one of the country’s leading architectural photographers was apprehended by City of London police under terrorism laws while photographing the 300-year old spire of Sir Christopher Wren’s Christ Church for a personal project.
In the past 18 months there have been 94 complaints to the Independent Police Complaints Commission about the misuse of section 44 powers. There is a growing outcry among working photographers who are finding their daily routines interrupted by police searches when working in high-profile areas that may be considered terrorist targets.
City of London police said its response to Smith had been proportionate. “When questioned by officers, the man declined to give an explanation and he was therefore informed that in light of the concerns of security staff and in the absence of an explanation, he would be searched under the Terrorism Act,” said a spokesman. “After the man’s bag was searched, he explained he was a freelance photographer taking photos of buildings. Once this explanation was received there was no further action.”
Although it seems you are not obliged to give these enthusiastic police officers any of your details, if you don’t, then they will threaten to cart you off to the nearest police station, and search you – presumably implying that this will be a strip and intimate search to motive cooperation.
I think I’ll just leave my cameras gathering dust – looks as if it’s safer if I just want a quiet life.