British Police Used A Secret Unit To Spy On Activists For 40 Years

Secret organization within Greater London’s police force spied on activists and families who campaigned against miscarriages of justice, often following deaths in police custody..

The U.K.’s Metropolitan Police Service is the subject of a report describing a secret organization within Greater London’s police force that spied on activists and families who campaigned against miscarriages of justice, often following deaths in police custody.

The report was written by Derbyshire Chief Constable Mick Creedon, who is tasked with investigating The Met.

The Special Demonstration Squad (later renamed Special Duties Squad) was formed in 1968 and disbanded in 2008. It had one main task, the report says: To secretly infiltrate political or “justice campaign” groups it suspected might pose a threat to public order, and spy on them. “Justice campaigns” included family and supporters of Jean Charles de Menezes, who was shot dead by Met officers at a London Underground station in 2005 after they mistakenly believed he was a suicide bomber. He was actually an electrician who was on his way to fix a broken fire alarm.

The existence of the SDS and its four-decade long role was apparently kept a secret even to senior commanders of the The Met, the report notes:

Over the forty years that the unit existed, senior MPS management of the day either knew nothing about the existence and activities of the unit, or when they did they appeared to have allowed the SDS to exist in secret isolation in a manner that was complacent and possibly negligent. The secrecy added to the culture and complacency of some SDS managers.

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