Editor’s comment: Just what is a ‘section 60 CJPOA 1994’?
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
Police in Islington and Camden issued a section 60 notice on Monday, giving them additional powers to stop and search people within the borough.
In the Met's own words, "leaflets, social media via Twitter, and matrix signs must be used to advise the public in the locality of a section 60 authority when the power is implemented". In other words, people have to know about it: so they understand they might be stopped and searched - and, ideally, don't carry offensive weapons in the first place; and so people living in areas where violent crime has taken place feel reassured something is being done to prevent further incidents.
You might have thought this principle would extend to telling the local press about it - especially considering the message cops did put out on Twitter made no reference to stop and search. "A Section 60 CJPOA 1994 has been authorised for the borough of Islington," it read, opaquely.
But actually, we couldn't get an answer from police about why the order had been brought in - though they did later tweet that there had been "a number of unconnected incidents have occurred across the BCU this afternoon involving minor skirmishes where weapons have been seen or intimated". "During one incident," they added, "one person has received minor injuries which are not life threatening or changing."
Budget cuts mean the Met is more stretched than ever, so it's little surprise no one has the time to answer questions from the press or put out statements about police powers being upped across two entire boroughs because of a "minor skirmish". But just like taking officers off the ground, cutting down on communication has an impact on police visibility and community relations. Not everyone follows Islington Police on Twitter, and not everyone knows what a "section 60 CJPOA 1994" is. The Met is partly to blame on a corporate level for implementing a culture of centralisation and spin where the officers actually on the ground are all but banned from speaking to journalists, forcing us all to go through an underresourced press office that covers the entirety of the capital. But squeeze enough funding out of any service and it will start to cut corners, often to its own disadvantage as well as the public's. Cops' radio silence is disappointing but hardly a shock.