Several years ago the press revealed that the Metropolitan Police had sent officers undercover into various organisations, to infiltrate the organisations and get evidence of criminal activity. During their undercover time, several of the officers began relationships with women, who were understandably distraught when the truth of their identities were revealed.
I don’t know enough about police work to comment on whether infiltrating groups is common or acceptable police behaviour. I don’t know whether any of those police officers genuinely fell for the women they had relationships with, or whether it was all manipulation and abuse of power. Only the officers involved know that and regardless of any real feelings they might have had, those relationships were strictly forbidden. Certainly the women involved feel that they were manipulated, abused and deceived.
When this information first became public, Mark Constantine had a right bee in his bonnet about it. He posted about it on the Lush forum a lot, along with posts about news reports of MI5 and MI6 using torture or information gained by torturing suspects. He didn’t often post on the forum about anything but he had a lot to say about these issues, in his usual pretentious, trying to be cryptic, pseudo-intellectual way.
Now, Lush believe that the public inquiry into the claims of wrongdoing by the undercover officers is protecting officers, and they have chosen to draw attention to this by what might be their most over the top and not in a good way campaign yet.
On their website, Lush say
“This is not an anti-state/anti-police campaign. We are aware that the police forces of the UK are doing an increasingly difficult and dangerous job whilst having their funding slashed. We fully support them in having proper police numbers, correctly funded to fight crime, violence and to be there to serve the public at our times of need.
This campaign is not about the real police work done by those front line officers who support the public every day – it is about a controversial branch of political undercover policing that ran for many years before being exposed. Our campaign is to highlight this small and secretive subset of undercover policing that undermines and threatens the very idea of democracy.”
But unsurprisingly, the public are seeing it as an attack on all police. Thousands of people on social media are threatening to boycott Lush, their facebook reviews had approx 16,000 one star reviews added overnight, and at least one shop has removed the campaign from its window (note to staff: make sure you’ve joined a union for when the shit comes down on you).
The thing that bugs me most about this is – Lush knew that this window display would trigger strong reactions from the public, and they clearly didn’t give a fuck about how that would affect the frontline shop staff. I’m sure that 99.99% of police officers are professional enough not to let this ill-conceived campaign affect their attitude to their work, but if I worked in a shop with that display up, I’d be at best embarrassed and at worst reluctant to call the police to an emergency situation. Some Lush staff used to be police. Some police used to be Lush staff. Lots of Lush staff have family who are police. Lush can’t have given a second’s thought to what this display would feel like to those staff. And what of the women abused by these few police officers? How do they feel, going into town for a bit of shopping and finding their trauma all over a shop window, selling increasingly laughable products at increasingly inflated prices?
Of course the prices are inflated; Mark keeps giving his money away.
Edited to add: how do the abused women feel about the campaign?