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FIT for what purpose?

IMCer | 28.07.2007 07:54 | Policing | Repression | London

"Teams of 12 specially trained officers will form a Forward Intelligence Team (FIT) who, operating in uniform, will seek to build a "rapport" with "street activists" so that people "likely to provoke disorder can be identified early in an event"

The FIT first surfaced in the early 1990s, as part of the Public Order Intelligence Unit (CO11), a section of the Public Order Branch of the Metropolitan Police. They were initially targeted at football fans but were soon extended to cover a wide variety of political events, and their tactics have more recently been used in town centres as part of the "community policing" strategy. Sometimes they are deployed outside of the Metropolitan area, as at the G8 in Scotland for example, and most UK police forces now have officers trained in their methods.

IMC Links: FIT hunting NoBorders activists at rampART | Protest at Heckler & Koch weapons manufacturers HQ in Nottingham. | Policing FIT for "serious and sustained" terror? | FIT watch at Disarm DSEi meeting. | Counter-FIT: some thoughts. | Resisting the FIT teams: a proposal for action. | FIT at Convergence Centre. | Fit Team vs the Grey Bloc. | Backwards Intelligence Team. | Fatuous Intimidation Team strike again! | FIT intimidation at rampART. | The FIT team at work. | Police Harassment Bayswater Rd. | Indymedia and British Intelligence Services. | Where are the London cops? | Mayday march and protest at Canary Wharf. | Mayday in London 2007. | Unprecedented police harassment operation against Wombles. | G8 Employment Ministers Protest In London. |

Other links: Defective Inspectors. | WANTED! | Europol. | The Empire Strikes Back. | Fairford Coaches judgement. | Anarchist Mayday Cricket. | Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination. | Defend the Intifada. | What really happened in London. | The police paparazzi. | Public order training and tactics reviewed. | We are heartbroken and furious! | G8 Employment Ministers Protest In London. | Bank Robbed! | All about my 'BIG BROTHER' ...! | NETCU Watch. | FIT Watch. |

No More Personal Space Invasion
No More Personal Space Invasion

Why do the FIT target some events and not others? Their presence at large demos of dissent might not be surprising but why pensioners and Critical Mass cyclists? You never know when or where they will turn up. The FIT sometimes try to engage you in friendly conversation to extract intelligence and are claimed to use covert methods to obtain unpublished information.

A typical FIT will consist of a photographer/videographer with two yellow-jacketed minders, a note taker and one or more 'controllers'. The controllers will point out certain individuals in a crowd to be photographed. At other times the photographer will snap off shots on his own initiative of people at random, which is thought to be an intimidation tactic aimed at discouraging political dissent. A police photographer will sometimes shove his long lens right in people's faces and at other times will shoot in semi-concealment from a distant balcony.

OK, you now want to get your own back and photograph them instead. Why is the note taker trying to conceal his face and the police photographer hiding behind another cop? It is odd that some of the FIT really do not like being photographed and you wonder why.

Under the Data Protection Act you are entitled to get hold of any pictures the police may have taken of you but this is not as straightforward as it might seem. No surprise there then!

"Some activists were assigned their own 'personal' escort who followed them at all times and one cameraman continuously took photographs of the same group of people (estimate that he must have taken over one hundred pictures of the same twenty-five people!)."



A serious issue.

29.07.2007 12:01

It's a serious issue. They take on two clear roles, harassment and intelligence gathering.

It can be very intimidating having your picture taken at events, meetings or protests.

Of course the surveillance state is expanding with more forces beginning to use the cop cams - small camera units attached to police officers helmets, but FIT are clearly there to intimidate people as well often demonstrating disgraceful behaviour.

Often they will approach people and call them by their christian or surnames, make references to where they live, ask about personal details, make insulting insinuations and derrogatory remarks. I've seen them kicking photograpers in the shins at demonstrations, lieing about what details people need to provide during stop and searches, telling members of the public that there are dangerous extremists inside X building and that people shouldn't go near them, singling specific better known campaigners out for verbal and physical abuse, following people who are talking on the phone putting their ears right next to their heads and then threatening to arrest people if they push them away etc etc etc

The list goes on and on.

People shouldn't just photograph these officers, they should be videod constantly and if appropriate legal action taken against them.


The FIT outside the Climate Camp meeting in London.

29.07.2007 15:56

Short Quicktime video. - video/mp4 2.5M

Short Windows video. - video/x-ms-wmv 2.0M

Note the spread legs and arms akimbo.
Note the spread legs and arms akimbo.

I wonder what they are discussing?
I wonder what they are discussing?

They hung around photographing people as they arrived and left, sometimes trying to engage them in conversation. They must get pretty bored, missing out on all the serious crime that is rife in London. Anyway, come lunchtime they had had enough and left.


A serious matter which we need to tackle

30.07.2007 07:55

Making comments about the FIT team looking like overblown traffic wardens or throwing things out of windows at them is pure bravado. There is nothing wrong with taking the piss out of them, but do it to their faces. Doing it here undermines the serious efforts people are now making to oppose the FIT.

The FIT teams have had a serious effect on our movement, an effect we desperately need to tackle.
It is also offensive to those who have suffered harassment, intimidation, assaults and wrongful arrests at their hands. Not to mention the number of activists who have suffered psychological trauma as a result of their actions.

Whilst I have no problems with throwing things at cops, doing so from a social centre, would jepodise the future of the building, and as someone has mentioned, give them an ideal excuse to raid the place. Furthermore, do it yourself. Don't post comments and say "oh someone should have done that" when you're not prepared to take the risks and consequences which come with such an action. I

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Hide the following 16 comments

Backward Unintelligence Servants

28.07.2007 18:15

This is a very insightful article into a group of the most ironically named gits in the force. They really are all ugly idiots.

But anyway it seems very apparent to me that the (hilariously named) intelligence team's job is little to do with collecting information. It is a more effective technique to intimidate activists and make them think there are intelligent police in the force.

The Greeks stated that fear was the emotion that the human brain acts most irrationally under the influence of. We’re at war with fear at the moment, er I mean terrorism don’t forget.

What I am saying is PARANOIA is far more of a threat than the police force can ever be.
The police know this and can never hope to equal its strength of statement though they try with CCTV and other information gathering and attempted intimidating techniques. Where police can occasionally raid meeting spaces of resistance or impede movements of dissent, paranoia and fear is a weapon of mass destruction. It will stop people gathering, get between friends, stop good people meeting or collaborating. It can potentially break up activist groups, far more than our dignified Cuntstables could ever hope of achieving.

When the 800 German police raided 40 buildings in the run up to the G8, it achieved nothing and the G8 succeeded in blockading numerous roads as well as the East Gate for two days. Even the 11 police raids following the G8 resulted in a spontaneous demo of several hundred people and ended in a lovely little street party.

While its disempowering to think we cant win and they have all our names and photos clogging up some microsoft machine, remember that most of the FIT team don’t know the shutter button from the delete and though rather forward with us, they don’t strike me a very intelligent and are a number of workshops short of a cohesive team.

Yours in solidarity ;-)



fit as fuck

28.07.2007 20:07

If a FIT team is made up of three or four following up to twenty five why don't you just turn around, surround them and remove their cameras? If it happened frequently they would stop doing it because they work to a budget and it would become uneconomical for them.


missed opportunity

29.07.2007 20:26

why didn't someone chuck summat on them?


Why do you take them seriously

29.07.2007 22:42

Hmm what should I have for lunch?
Hmm what should I have for lunch?

I mean for fucks sake just look at them. Two car park attendents out of their depth. They would run a mile if you faced up to them.


Missed oportunity?

30.07.2007 06:20

Much as I would have loved to, assaulting police officers would have given them a golden opportunity to raid the premises. They may look stupid and even friendly at times but get on the wrong side of them and you are for it.


London and the UK, the epicentre of lifestyle anarchism?

30.07.2007 11:59

The police are confronted in other countries in the ways people have described above and there are people here willing to do this, if only they had some support and not the gutless finger wagging from middle class lifestylists that dominate the 'scene' in London.

As if people in the rest of Europe would tolerate filth intimidating people outside their social centres.

It could only happen here, hopefully that will change some day..


London and the UK?

30.07.2007 15:51

While I fully take your point and don't think we should take this lying down, we already have unlawful killings in police custody, for which the police are never held accountable. Is this the same in your country?


They are clearly very effective

31.07.2007 11:32

They are clearly very effective to engender this ammount of coverage. Naturally it goes without saying that all the time you are focusing your anger on the FIT you are distracted from your right to protest.
Here's a plan - stay legal and see what the FIT do!

Max Gastone

not me

31.07.2007 16:10

Just for the record, the previous commenter has signed themselves 'Max Gastone'; odd that they thought they should impersonate myself in order to post this comment. I am pretty sure there are not two of us. Care to explain?

Just to add to the debate, the FIT teams are often from Hampshire as well, and on one occasion when challenged openly admitted that their purpose was to intimidate. As well as photographing those going to protest meetings or demonstrations, they are also keen to photo who is talking to who and building up networks and profiles.

the actual Max Gastone



31.07.2007 17:26

I thought the whole point of FitWatch is people don't get sidetracked. Isn't the idea you have your meeting/event and those who don't want to go the meeting (eg people in different campaigns) confront FIT. Sounds like giving each other solidarity? People going to the meeting can get on with it. Nobody gets arrested. And maybe we all stop being so single issue (just as an added bonus).
Sure in other countries nobody would stand for it. Sadly this isn't other countries. Better to start from where we are than wish we were somewhere else!! Sounds good to me!

Bill (unfortunately)

This debate is in itself a sidetrak

01.08.2007 13:31

Come on - the FIT are only the ones we can see.... There is all sorts of other survellience some state and some comercial.

Dr B O'Driscol

This issue is not a sidetrack

02.08.2007 10:20

One of the main points of FIT Watch is that it's not about surveillence. We are not opposing FIT because of surveillence, we are opposing them because of the intimidation, harassment, and psychological damage they have inflicted on many of us.

Of course they have loads of covert means of surveillence and people should take that into account with everything they do. However the FIT team have an effect both on our actions and our mental health and it is vital to our strength to oppose them.

As said in previous posts, the idea is for people to act in solidarity with each other - standing outside meetings they wouldn't normally go to. There are several people planning to go to climate camp who wouldn't otherwise go, to do Fit Watch stuff.

There's also going to be a FIT Watch workshop on 14th August at 4:30 at the Climate Camp.

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Good luck with this

02.08.2007 19:22

If it's damaging people psychologically then it needs to be tackled. A suggestion that you might be able to incorporate in some way. Years ago when the DHSS used to send teams of snoopers in to areas to photograph, follow, harrass and generally try to intimidate claimants people developed networks whereby the snoopers were photographed, along with car registration details and their real names and addresses found out. These details were listed and passed around the areas where the snooper teams were operating. It must have been a shock for them clandestinely following someone only for someone to cycle past and call them by their real name and ask them how life in their street was or when they were going to get that fence fixed, mow their lawn, paint the window sills a different colour, get a different car.



02.08.2007 22:47

Why are none of the FIT team "FIT"?
There are at least one or two good looking coppers on the Bill, why can't they get these coppers to follow us around? I'd quite like to get frisked and videoed in intimate situations by some of sunhills finest.

welsh andy

fit up paedos,nazi bnp& robber barons not true community activists

05.08.2007 14:58

fit up paedos,nazi bnp& robber barons not true community activists


fitwatch not a sidetrack, an action in itself

09.08.2007 00:08

I've confronted them on several occasions and accused them of intimidation - naturally they deny it. But looking at it rationally there's sufficient technology available now that if they wanted to simply gather intelligence they could do so quite unobtrusively. So it follows that the "in yer face" approach they use is clearly a psychological ploy with no purpose other than to intimidate.

Given that...

a) their presence can actively deter joe public from engaging with issues that they may otherwise support


b) the emotional/mental impact their tactics can have upon some folk

then not only are we facilitating the legitimate freedom to protest by actively challenging them (a la the fitwatch initiative etc), its also an obligation for us to do so as a gesture of support for those victims of this particularly nasty form of State repression.

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