Britain being transformed into an unaccountable, privatised mess

One (via Open Democracy):

My post yesterday about G4S… recruiting ex-police officers to run cut-price murder investigations… [9]… ran with a rather shocking image: epaulettes emblazoned with the red, white and black G4S company logo above the words (in much smaller type): “LINCOLNSHIRE POLICE”. G4S dominant and on top, as it were.

I guessed that the image (first spotted… here… [10]) might be a spoof, mocked up in protest at the… massive privatisation contract… [11]… —… worth …£200 million — by which 540 civilian Lincolnshire police workers turn into employees of G4S, the self-styled “world’s leading provider of security solutions”.

It had to be a spoof, for what self-respecting police authority would submit to its name being attached to a corporate logo at all, let alone a corporate logo in the striking red, white and black colour scheme favoured by the Third Reich?

I contacted both Lincolnshire Police and G4S by separate emails, asking, were the epaulettes genuine? And, if so, who was entitled to wear them? And where else do the G4S and Lincolnshire police insignia appear together? And waited.

Meanwhile, we ran the image with my G4S contract-cops piece: spoof or no spoof, it seemed to express —… with visceral impact —… something about the corporate takeover of this most important public service.

Yesterday at noon, confirmation came that the image was . . . genuine! The explanation, from G4S head of UK public relations Nicola Savage, is worth quoting in full:

“This epaulette is worn only by G4S civilian uniformed employees working in the Lincolnshire Police strategic partnership,” said Ms Savage, who, by the way, used to be a government information officer.

“It was jointly designed and agreed by both Lincolnshire Police and G4S. It is worn by employees working in departments such as the Force Control Room, Custody as well as by Town Enquiry Officers. There are no plans to introduce the dual logo elsewhere.”

Almost four hours later the very same words arrived, pasted into an email from the Lincolnshire police department, G4S having the whip hand again.

So, uniformed civilians sporting G4S-Lincolnshire Police epaulettes, will be Town Enquiry Officers looking and acting like police officers.

And uniformed civilians with G4S/Lincolnshire police epaulettes will be running police custody units (although, according to the… Lincolnshire police authority… [12], a real police officer will play custody sergeant).

They’ll be running police identification units and the force control room (with a real police officer playing inspector).

Two (via the Guardian):

The private company hired by the government to deport foreign nationals has decided to place its own guards under surveillance after concluding that some lack respect for ethnic minorities and women and display “loutish” and “aggressive” behaviour.

The damning assessment of the attitudes and conduct of staff working for Reliance is made in an internal company memo, drawn up by senior managers after the company won the Home Office contract to deport foreign prisoners and refused asylum seekers.

The document, one of a number of internal company records leaked to the Guardian, identifies problems “at all levels of the business” and cites poor communication, peer pressure and use of “inappropriate language” by guards empowered to use force to return foreign nationals.

In response, executives at Reliance have decided to recruit a team of covert monitors who will pose as passengers on commercial flights and report back on the performance of guards. They hope the move will quell the growing impression that the deportation system remains in crisis – 18 months after an Angolan man,… Jimmy Mubenga, died after being forcibly restrained on a flight from Heathrow.

The Guardian has obtained details of seven further cases of alleged mistreatment of detainees said to have occurred since last May, when Reliance took over the lucrative government removals contract from rival private security firm G4S.

The Home Office said the five allegations it had investigated were found to be “entirely without merit”; in at least one case a detainee is believed to have seriously injured guards during altercations.

Campaigners argue that the complaints process rarely finds in favour of deportees and say the latest complaints indicate a culture of using excessive force remains.

Three G4S guards arrested over Mubenga’s death in October 2010 remain on bail. The Crown Prosecution Service is expected to announce whether they will face manslaughter charges at the end of the month.

A parliamentary report last week suggested the removals process was in chaos, as a fifth of foreign prisoners who recently finished their jail terms had… still not been deported… by last November. The home affairs select committee was highly critical of the UK Border Agency, the Home Office department that works with Reliance, saying it was failing to fulfil its basic tasks and risked damaging public trust.

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