Because You’re Special

In these days of financial crisis and near-bankrupt governments, some may have been suprised by last month’s Guardian revelations of police officers offering environmental activists money for information; suprised, that is, that they can make so bold a promise as “UK plc can afford more than 20 quid” [Tiberius: “Perhaps – but only cos they are printing so many“].

Some readers may also have been worried that the deep pockets of the law did not extend to our own region, or that West Yorkshire’s finest were not making similar contributions to stimulate the local economy.

“Well fret no more, Weary Surfer!” exclaims Tiberius.

A local activist has recently got in contact, confirming that just such an incentive scheme is being proffered to people in Leeds. He shares his story here in full:

One morning earlier this year at about 8:15am I was woken by my housemate’s boyfriend calling for me. As I start to get up from bed, he shouts through again: “The police are here to talk to you: they said not to worry – you’re not in trouble or anything”.

I got out of bed –  obviously confused, put on my clothes and went downstairs; sure enough I opened the door to two men standing on my doorstep. They greeted me by name, quickly flashed their badges, and introduced themselves.

“Kev” was short and stocky with a thick Yorkshire accent, while the other guy, “Stu”, was taller,  probably younger despite greying hair, and didn’t sound like he was local (a more well-educated, Scotland Yard boy I guessed). I remember thinking the pair made a very odd couple.

They began by asking me if I wanted to “come and have a chat” with them.

My initial reaction was fear: the only reason I could think of for the police to be at my door at such an hour and asking for me by name was that something terrible had happened to somebody close to me. As I began to realise that they were not visiting me for anything so urgent my apprehension gave way to anger, but I tried not to let it show.

“Well, what is this about?” I asked.

I was told not to worry, and that “you’re not in trouble or anything we just want to talk”. They then asked again if they could take me somewhere for a coffee (“dont worry, it’s on us” I remember Kev adding with a smile).

I declined, saying that I didn’t feel comfortable going anywhere without legal representation, to which they responded: “No, no no: you don’t need any legal representation because you’re not in trouble – we need your help”.

“Either way”, I replied, “I’m not comfotable with having this conversation, let alone going somewhere else with you, and besides, what are you on about ‘help’?”

Kev carried on, telling me that “we want your help on something really important” and that “you might not know it but you are really special”, with the special really emphasised for my obvious benefit. He continued: “the reason we are here is that you’ve been handpicked because of your important to us and because of the information you can get access to…we can’t go into much now because obviously you’ve got people in the house…”

Kev then proceeded to demonstrate how much they knew about me personally: “we know that you’re hard up at the moment and, trust me, you wouldn’t have to worry about that anymore (he said with knowing look)….we’re talking” (leans in) “substantial amounts for your help…”

At this point I was pretty bewildered, and I remember uttering: “eh? say again?”

Kev, driving the point home to me, told me that they knew I was currently in education (and what I was studying), and the trouble I had been having getting work experience in industry; he then finished with a rhetorical “you don’t have a car at the moment do you? you don’t drive?”

Baffled, I shook my head.

Kev again: “Let’s put it this way, you won’t have to worry about that…we can help you out with all that…”

Dumbstruck, all I could seem to do was raise my eyebrows and turn to Stu, and say “You seem to think you know a lot about me, what’s all this about..?”

Stu – playing ‘authoritative teacher’ to Kev’s ‘affable chum’ – addressed me with a far more serious tone: “Look,” he began (adding my name again), “We know you’re not a criminal mate, we know you’re not one of the bad ones. You’ve not been in trouble at all, and we know that you’re a very intelligent person…”

I was thinking: If Kev is the briber, then that must make Stu the psych profiler.

Stu continued, telling me that he was “not like everyday police” and saying (bizarrely, I thought) that if he were driving down the road and saw somebody clip someone’s wing mirror off  he wouldn’t care –  “it’s got nothing to do with me: leave that to the black-rats” (a term I Googled later, to discover it’s a prejorative name for the MET traffic police).

“This is, in part, involving your trip down to Kent last summer…”

Queue them studying me closely and waiting for my reaction.

Which was: “Yeah, and?”

Stu again: “Mate, we’re here because a lot of us agree with you: we know global warming is happpening”, he said in an almost celebratory tone like he was trying to emphasise our unity and that we’re on the same team.

He continued: “We’ve all got families and we’re all concerned. What we’re trying to do is make sure we can all peacefully demonstrate and protest about it – there’s nothing wrong with that…but there are ways of doing things and it’s the criminal aspect that we’re bothered about – and it’s who you might’ve come across last summer that we want to talk to you about”.

After much time-wasting,  finally hearing them get to the the crux of the matter – that they wanted me to become an informant – I began to get angry:

“Right, for a start, I’ve just woken up – I haven’t even had a cup of tea, it’s bloody freezing, and this is about the most surreal conversation you could ever have on your own doorstep at 8am. If you do know anything about me, you’ll know that all I’m about is getting my head down and sorting my work out;  I’m really not comfortable with this. I’m really not sure why it is that you think I either can or would “help you out” – whatever that means – this all sounds well dodgy…”

Stu suddenly looked less chummy, and I remember his next question very clearly: “Is that morally?” (meaning, “is it on moral ground that you won’t help us out?”)

I answered: “Right, wrong, morality, whatever: it just sounds dodgy. I don’t know any criminals, or know of any criminals. I’m not talking about morals, I’m talking about pride for one: I don’t want owt from anyone, I don’t care how broke I am…”

At this point Kev broke in again to buddy up:  “Well, we could just make one really big donation to your favourite charity…”

But Stu seemed to want to keep the conversation on a more serious tone and continued with another quickfire list of rhetorical questions:  “and you spent some time in a cell last summer didn’t you…? what was it for again? and what was the outcome of that…?”

For the first time I felt threatened and I answered with a simple “N.F.A.” [No Further Action]

By this time Stu had got on his soapbox: “Cos if we’re talking morally: see Drax for example, if people had managed to get in there and shut it down then how many schools, hospitals, children’s homes, would be without power…?’

At this point I felt things were really getting out of hand and it was going on far too long. I was being profiled and led into an environmental/moral debate with two plain-clothes police officers when I was still in my slippers and half-asleep. I butted in: “Whatever man, I’m not having this conversation with you on my doorstep, at this time in the morning…”

Kev again was all smiles and agreement: “Well you need to have your cup of tea, or a strong coffee; it’s the last thing people want to be talking to the police on their doorstep after they’ve just got out of bed..”

To which I replied:  “Well, yeah” (and not adding: “And I guess that’s exactly why you do it”.)

Stu then asked that we meet the next day for a coffee, adding that “half an hour is all it would be initially, and we will discuss it further…”. I made my excuses and turned them down.

Kev began cajoling me to accept the invite (Kev: “You might even get to like us after you’ve worked with us for a while!” Me: “Who said i didn’t like you!?”)

Realising they weren’t going to get anywhere with me, Stu said that they “at least want you to think about it over the next few days” and added that: “To be honest, we would have been shocked if you’d have agreed straight away – it would have made us a bit suspicious…”

“Look,” I finally agreed, “If you give me your number I’ll think it over and give you a call.”

“No, no, we don’t work that way, we’ll have to call you..”

I refused. Cue some cat-and-mouse, and more time-wasting .  I eventually decided to give them my mobile phone number for no other reason than to get them off my step (I also figured that since they knew so much else about me they probably had it anyway) . They told me they would ring me the following week.

Stu: “Obviously we don’t want to really talk on the phone….so we’ll ring you and we’ll say that it’s a taxi company, and do you still want the taxi…and you can either say yes or no, and we’ll leave it at that…and you have my word that if you decline, we won’t bother you again….

We then said our pleasant goodbyes.

The next week, at the agreed time, I got the phonecall: “Hello mate, it’s Kev: you still want that taxi..?”

“No thanks mate, I’d rather walk…it’s better for the environment.”


The source told Tiberius that the whole experience had left him pretty paranoid, and with a feeling of being monitored for no reason. He confessed to being more than a little shook up by the whole thing. He says that he did not go to the press at that time because he wanted to wait and see if this was an isolated incident or part of a more coordinated operation and, in the latter case, wanted to give people in the activist community a heads-up.

But, as the story of Matilda Gifford and others broke last month, he felt like this was a good time to tell others his own tale of how Her Majesty’s finest made him feel special.

Tiberius thanks him for doing so.

See also: Provoking The Crisis; Policing The Crisis

Published in: on May 21, 2009 at 8:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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