On a whim, I thought I’d look up Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison, the man who disclosed to the world’s press in March the fruits of his officers’ monitoring of social media: “There doesn’t appear to be anyone who wants to protest against the Games…”.
Allison’s biography is posted at various places online, including on wikipedia, and on various police and security websites.
He originally joined the Metropolitan police in 1984, as a constable in Walthamstow. It is not too outrageous to speculate that along with other constables in the Met he was sent in 1984-5 outside London to police the communities of striking miners. Those too young to remember that event should read the online blogs in which officers of that generation boast about beating up those they suspected of being sympathetic to the strike. One particular nice touch was the printing of a sticker “I’ve met the Met”, which was intended to be stuck on the backs of prone miners, after they had taken a kicking.
Allison found his way back to London, where became an officer of the Territorial Support Group, the force previously known as the Special Patrol Group, but disbanded following its officers’ killing of Blair Peach. (For the avoidance of doubt, Peach was killed in 1979, 5 years before Allison became a police officer; he could not possibly have had anything to do with that incident. If he can be criticised for anything, it was rather the decision to serve with a unit of the force that was still associated – 5 years later – with the events of Peach’s death).
By 2001, Allison was a middle-ranking officer – a chief superintendent. In this capacity, he took charge of the police operation to restrain that year’s May Day protesters, which involved holding the demonstrators without access to water or the freedom to leave, for eight hours, tightly ringed behind police lines.
After the killing of Ian Tomlinson, Allison had the job of boosting the TSG’s public image, which he did by organising a “goodwill tour” to spread the news that the TSG’s policing of demonstrations was a good and necessary task. The family complained that the first dates of this tour were chosen to coincide with events commemorating Tomlinson.
From then, he has been promoted rapidly, and is now an Assistant Commissioner and co-ordinator of the Olympics security operation.
On re-checking what Allison went on to say abut the Olympics, it is clear that his message was intended to be warning: “…But there may be those who want to use the Games as a way of getting their cause into the public domain. We are trying to get as much intelligence as we can about the broad range of threats.”
But most protesters viewed the remarks as more silly than sinister.
The sharpest riposte to Allison’s original quote came from Albert Beale of Peace News, in a letter to the Guardian: ” Is [Allison’s] middle name Clouseau? Plenty of the politically aware people I know want to protest against the games, many making no secret of it; and some of us will actually do so.”