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The Blue Collar Bohemian
17 November 2005

On 25 October the prominent Sydney defence lawyer Adam Houda walked from the Supreme Court $145,000 happier after successfully suing the state for "wrongful arrest, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment" five years earlier. In 2000, in a classic case of swaggering cop arrogance, Constable Lance Stebbing provocatively abused, then assaulted and arrested Mr Houda, charging him with that time-honoured catch-all, "assault police". This took place at the Burwood Courthouse.

Acting Justice Harvey Cooper said in judgement, "Constable Stebbing well knew that that offence had not been committed and that he was motivated to do so solely out of spite or ill will towards the plaintiff because the plaintiff had stood up to his unjustified, menacing and rude conduct."

The judge also said the evidence of several police witnesses was "seriously diminished" because they had referred to Stebbing's statement in their own.

Outside the court Adam Houda said "The police abused their powers on the day and brought thuggery to the court and I stood up for my rights".

All well and good, and a victory for justice. But, for people who aren't lawyers or rich enough to pursue a lawsuit, the chances of a similar victory are as remote as the dark side of the moon. Countless numbers of bogus charges have been laid to fuck people over for having the temerity not to pay grovelling tribute to thugs like Stebbing, and there is usually a cabal of other cops to give ''independent witness'' to every affront to the dignity of the ''Office of Constable'', and no-one else to counter their statements except the charged man.

The "trifecta" is a firm favourite to verbal a stroppy dissident – usually "offensive behaviour, resist arrest, assault police". It provides a menu of "offences" only witnessed by police, and many local court beaks would meet any challenge to "sworn police evidence" with "Surely young man, you don't really think this officer would jeopardize his career by deliberately committing perjury to obtain a false conviction, do you?"

Well, yes, actually. Enquiry after enquiry, such as the Fitzgerald Enquiry in Queensland, has found the police culture of "verballing" and "fitting up"is widespread:

''As part of that culture many police are routinely involved in misconduct, in rejecting the applicability of the law to police, in improperly influencing the outcome of court proceedings, and in lying under oath as well as breaching their oath to enforce the law.”

''Such verballing involves a rejection of fundamental standards”, Fitzgerald said.

So with these egregious abuses of power being no mystery to police commissioners, judges, magistrates and politicians, at the street level some police still feel free to mete out summary retribution at whim. The few cases that actually get to relevant tribunals are probably the exception rather than the rule and in contrast to the marginalised recipients of police harassment, any complained about cop gets every opportunity to defend himself complete with a cheer squad of tabloid and talkback pond scum, hanging-and-flogging politicians and outraged ''decent people'', all howling about how all that is Right and Proper is under threat if police are required to obey the laws they supposedly enforce, and get punished if they don't.

After all, what does it matter if some ''smart-arsed coon or wog'' cops a hiding from ''highly motivated, proactive law enforcers'' protecting and serving ''decent people sick and tired of lenient treatment of criminals''?

Indeed, and with the new police state regime tooling up to disappear all sorts of malcontents into the Ruddock Archipelago the one thing that's a rock solid certainty is that the secrecy around the detention provisions will be abused and abused and abused.

They will be abused right up to the level of Attorney General if Ruddock's record in immigration is any guide – with lost individuals still being accounted for years after being subjected to the caprices of ol' Laughing Phil. And you can be sure cops everywhere are salivating with anticipation at the verballing potential in a secret system where you just go out and fuck over whoever you want, in total secrecy, with a five year lockdown for anyone who speaks out about what's going on.

"Shoot to kill!"works even better than ''finding'' that proverbial "bag of white powder'' in the ''possession'' of the ''suspect''. The recent action by the Federal Police in handing the Bali Nine drug suspects to the corrupt and politicised Indonesian police knowing they are liable to be executed shows the level of contempt in the cop mindset to any principle of natural justice or respect for human rights.

Yes, we are entering a dark age: The Age of Curtailment of the Rights of Man and Freedom for Power, Greed, Wealth, Fear and Hate. Adam Houda's victory over a state sponsored thug like Lance Stebbing will be short-lived. One day soon, like many of his clients, Adam Houda just won't be there anymore, and if anyone knows what happened they too will disappear if they say anything about it. It will be the Year of the Pig every year, and as O'Brien told Winston Smith in George Orwell’s 1984, "The future is a boot smashing into a human face foreve".

In a Chicago courtroom in 1920 the great defence attorney Clarence Darrow said this:

When a truth comes upon the earth, or a great idea necessary for mankind is born, where does it come from? Not from the police force, or the prosecutors, or the judges, or the lawyers, or the doctors. Not there. It comes from the despised and the outcasts, and it comes perhaps from gaols and prisons. It has come from men who have dared to be rebels and think their thoughts, and their faith has been the faith of rebels.

What do you suppose would have happened to the working men except for these rebels all the way down through history? Think of the complacent cowardly people who never raise their voices against the powers that be. If there had been only these, you gentlemen of the jury would be hewers of wood and drawers of water. You gentlemen would have been slaves. You gentlemen owe whatever you have and whatever you hope to these brave rebels who dared to think, and dared to speak, and dared to act.

Contempt for human rights and civil liberties is endemic among the police and spy agencies. When was the last time you heard a cop or spy call for a reduction in police powers or strengthening of privacy rights, or the repeal of idiot laws used to harass various outsiders and minorities? Never? Exactly. Look at the activities of the Police Association. Not so much a union as a lobby for the attack on civil society by a self-interested clique of extremely right-wing political activists. Police are never apolitical – they usually line up with the most reactionary elements of the social mix: Neo-Nazis, criminals, bosses, scabs. They are there to keep the hands of the poor off the assets of the rich.

And let’s not forget, in a country like Britain, where politicians rabbit on endlessly about "rule of law, judicial independence, separation of powers", the history of police and spy agency collusion with Loyalist paramilitary murder squads in Northern Ireland is well known, and the blatant fitups and verballing of the "Guildford Fou"' and "Birmingham Six"' – so-called IRA bombers – were defended at the highest levels of police and political authority until it became untenable. The supposedly independent judiciary wasn't covered in glory either, particularly when the late English law lord, Lord Denning said after the Birmingham and Guildford convictions were dismissed that "It would have been better for the reputation of the courts and police if they [the verballed suspects, who had 'confessions' beaten and tortured out of them] had been hung straight after conviction". Denning was considered at the time a leader in legal and judicial thought, which says it all about the kleptocracy's real attitude to "rule of law".

Individuals aren't conscripted into the police, they join of their own free will, and a particular type of meathead is often both attracted to, and sought by, police forces. Former London police commissioner Sir Robert Mark said it all: ''We don't pick the smartest, we pick the most malleable, so we can make of them what we want''.

Cops are self-selected from the type of individual who doesn't think much about the reasons why things are as they are, just that they should stay the way they are because they are the way they are. This conservative outlook favours toadying to power and hierarchy, racism, hatred of ''deviants'', an inflated sense of self-importance and a mindset that sees the police role as the one thin blue line between order and chaos. All too often this is reinforced by an atmosphere of peer pressure that attacks dissent and supports groupthink, a siege mentality towards non-police, and suspicion of any display of non-conformism to ''normality''. With a worldview built on these foundations it's easy to see how so many cops are happy to commit flagrant commit perversions of justice – as Fitzgerald pointed out – or even to commit rascist murders – as with the Rio de Janeiro cops who were recruited by the local Chamber of Commerce to kill street kids.

To get some insight let’s have a look at an individual cop. Recently a mate of mine who collects discarded computers found a beauty. Lying in the street in Hurlstone Park was a computer tower that, when the hard drive was accessed, yielded the most hilarious contents imaginable.

The computer had been owned by a member of the NSW Police. Here was every detail of the officer's life, and what a hoot it was! All personal details, tax file number, bank account, family photos, CV, job application to the Customs Service, and lots more, all faithfully recorded on the hard drive. But the best was yet to come! There were other photos, obviously taken in the cells at a cop shop somewhere, that showed a different side of this clean-cut, protecting and serving, family man. Hundreds of images of obviously coerced sexual acts involving a number of cops, including our hero, and a variety of transvestites or transsexuals. Obviously the fringe benefits of the job extend beyond free clownburgers and drinks at the local pub.

I can't imagine that this behaviour represents an isolated incident. It is something to remember every time some shitbrained politician gets up on their hind legs, as Carl Scully and Peter Debnam did recently, to attack magistrate Pat O'Shane for dismissing charges against someone who said "fuck" to a cop. The idea that the precious feelings of some Mr Plod are so offended by this word that a criminal charge is required is so risible that only a politician of the calibre of a Scully or a Debnam could take it seriously.

To return to the events at the beginning of this column, the assault on Adam Houda by Stebbing is emblematic of the future under the Howard-Ruddock police state. Police abuses will be hidden behind a smokescreen of secrecy, lies, extra-judicial murder of "escaping terrorist suspects", and a climate of fearmongering and moral panic that makes it impossible to take seriously the idea that the ''rule of law'' is of any purpose other than the subjugation of democratic activity and resistance to government abuse of power. Along with the new industrial laws, every avenue of dissent will be criminalised as terrorism, sabotage, subversion and sedition.

The Gunn's lawsuit against environmental activism is an example of Big Business lining up for its cut of the action, determined to bankrupt all who stand up to them. Ruddock is determined to keep the right of corporations to sue for defamation – an absurdity in itself – as a stick to whack down all resistance to the greed of his government's masters. The tactic used in Singapore to suppress all political opposition by bankrupting activists in defamation trials is sure to be a part of the political landscape here if the government has its way.

Across the world the corporate and political elites know that under the pressure of environmental stress, energy shortages and Third World revolt there is sure to be an economic collapse of at least the scale of the 1890 and 1929 depressions, and to defend the hegemony of Wall Street and the City of London, their political creatures in the mainstream parties are preparing the apparatus of the police / military / corporate dictatorship for when the bogus democracy of no-choice electoral politics fails to contain social upheaval. The forces that will wear the ''boot smashing into a human face forever'' are being assembled, in the police, the gaols, the military, the private security companies.

Make no mistake, the fat is in the fire, the environment for martial law under a contrived state of emergency provoked by a “Reichstag Fire’ scenario is being manufactured. Any strike, demonstration, picket or response to an agent provocateur could be the event used to justify the crackdown. And fine officers like Constable Stebbing will be in the thick of it.