Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Dawn Drugs Raids

This morning I got up at the ungodly hour of 3.30am to join Durham Constabulary on a dawn swoop on addresses across Darlington, as part of Operation Nimrod. Cycling across a deserted town centre, I arrived at Darlington Police Station at 4.15, discovering no bike racks there.

Then into the station to join up with half a dozen local community activists and three other councillors (Fred Lawton, Gerald Lee and Bill Dixon). Apart from Bill, who is the relevant portfolio holder, the only other thing the three of us could find in common was that we had all been critical of some aspect of police activity, or lack of it, either by letter or in the press, over the previous few weeks.

We all trooped out to a waiting minibus to be whisked off to a secret location where something over 100 police officers were gathered. After a bacon sarnie and a scalding cup of coffee the briefings began. Two senior police officers spoke in general terms about the role and professionalism of the police and the need to correct the bad impression left by their colleagues in London at the G20 summit. I wondered whether this was purely for the benefit of the observers. Then a third briefing on operational matters from "Gold", the leader of the operation.

Then each team of officers were individually briefed on the locations to which they were going and the individuals who were their targets. While this was going on, the observers had a further briefing on what was expected of us, and had the opportunity to ask questions of the Inspector who was looking after us.

Operation Nimrod is an on-going operation aimed at public drug dealing. The targets are the street level dealers who sell drugs to strangers in pubs, clubs and on the street. The long-term aim is to remove the whole of this level of dealers. A beneficial side-effect of this would be to increase public confidence in the police and their drug-fighting activities.

The plan was to visit ten addresses in two waves, at 6am and 7am. We attended two of these visits. We set off in our minibus to the Denes area, arriving just as the heavily protected policeman entered the first house: without needing the heavy battering equipment - the front door was unlocked!

However, this is where the only hiccup of the day occured. The police were not expecting the house to be divided into flats and originally broke down the wrong door inside, much to the surprise of the young lady living there! They did get the right door on the second attempt and were successful in arresting their target, though the confusion inside the house meant we had to leave to go to the next house before they brought the target out.

We then set off for our second house, this time in the Neasham Road area. This was more like it! We waited in our minibus at the top of Brighton Street while one policeman went round to cover the rear of the house. Then four other officers, one carrying battering equipment, ran swiftly down the road as we sped along behind them in the bus. They reached the house at the same time as us and we were able to watch as they battered the door down and charged inside screaming "Police...police". Once again they found the target at home and within five minutes he was brought out in handcuffs.

Finally, we went Gladstone Street to sit in on the briefing given to PCSOs who were tasked with visiting houses in the area of those targetted, to explain and re-assure local residents about what went on near their homes that morning.

The police operation was professional, meticulously organised and highly successful. This was the police at their best: taking highly visible action against the drugs menace and carrying out their plan in a controlled and effective manner. The planning and execution was very impressive. It is a shame that the excellent crime-fighting activities of the police can sometimes be overshadowed by their less savoury activities as agents of a controlling state organisation intent on stifling legitimate peaceful protests.

It is legitimate to wonder, however, whether dawn raids of this nature were strictly necessary for low level street-based drug dealers. They were already all known to the police, with evidence against them for dealing. Operation Nimrod, with its community observers, might be thought to be more about improving the public's view of the police, and re-assuring the public about the police's activities, than with bringing these individuals to justice.

1 comment:

Chris Close said...

You might mention the perfectly law abiding couple whose perfectly law abiding Grandson with no convictions - no evidence against him - who was also hauled into custody, humiliated and distressed.

Their door kicked in, this couple have been traumatised by this rubbish, masquerading as legitimate policing.

You should be ashamed to have gone along with this.