Saturday, December 15, 2007

Stop And Search Commonplace On Scotland's Railway

I once stood on the main concourse at Glasgow Central with a group of other railway staff, watching as the British Transport Police trained their new sniffer dog. A plain-clothes policeman would go and sit on a seat amongst the unaware general public, with what I assumed at the time was some drugs in his pocket. (I've since been told it wasn't drugs - he's not that type of sniffer dog). The dog handler would then walk the dog up and down the rows of seats in the station, and the exercise would end when the dog sat down in front of the plain-clothes cop. To ensure it wasn't just the dog recognising the policeman, there was a whole load of them in plain-clothes swapping the package amongst them.

At one point, the policeman with the suspect package chose to sit down next to a typical Glasgow ned, dressed in the uniform of white shell-suit and Burberry baseball cap. He wasn't aware the police was sitting next to him - he only had eyes for the sniffer dog which was slowly making it's way towards him, a look of horror mixed with panic on his face. He couldn't run away as that would look suspicious, so he had to just sit there. Luckily for him, the dog stopped at the policeman next to him and the ned made good his escape while they were lavishing praise on the dog. We, of course, were in tears, to the consternation of the police who were wondering what was so funny.

Last week, I noticed an increase in police activity in Waverley station in Edinburgh. It seemed that every time I passed through, there were two or three people being stopped and searched by the British Transport Police. I first assumed that they had a target to meet before the end of the year, and that was why I was seeing more of them now. But then last Friday as my train was heading past Torness Nuclear Power Station, I noticed a Royal Navy ship anchored just offshore. Naturally, I put two and two together and decided that the best thing to do would be to jump in my car and get as far away from civilisation as possible!

I'd forgotten all about it by the time I got home, and the world doesn't seem to have ended, but today's Scotsman has an article about the increased searches, and I was right - they have increased in frequency lately. For the record, every single person I've seen being searched was a young, white male with a backpack.

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