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'It made my blood boil': No one wants responsibility for presentation branded 'racist'

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Presentation allegedly implied unborn child would become a criminal.

DS Gary Ogden (right) speaks at a Women and Equalities Committee meeting with Jim Davies (left)

DS Gary Ogden (right) speaks at a Women and Equalities Committee meeting with Jim Davies (left)

Date - 31st October 2018
By - JJ Hutber- Police Oracle
1 Comment1 Comment}


The National Police Chiefs’ Council, the College of Policing and several police forces have all denied connections with a presentation shown to senior police officers which horrified MPs and the gypsy and traveller community.

In May 2016 Detective Sergeant Gary Ogden of Operation Liberal gave a PowerPoint presentation about the “global money-making web of Ireland’s millionaire travellers” which showed a photo of two men brawling as an example of what travellers do “when they get bored of committing crime”.


Operation Liberal was set up in 2005 as a national intelligence unit to tackle distraction burglary and the “associated travelling community”. 


Cheshire police sergeant and director of the Gypsy, Roma, Traveller Police Association (GRTPA) Martin Campbell said he was invited to attend a demand reduction conference at Durham Police headquarters as the portfolio holder for his force.

“The Durham chief constable opened the conference, although I’m not sure he was in the room at the time [of the Operation Liberal presentation],” he said.

“It was certainly a room packed full of senior police officers. And the audience did laugh along."

He said he felt most offended by an image of elaborate gypsy graves to illustrate “signs of wealth” officers should be on the look out for.


“The reason we spend so much money on burying our people is because of our nomadic way of life. The only place where you’re remembered is where you’re buried. That’s an important part of our tradition.

“It made my blood boil. It really did. I went thinking it was going to be a great, positive experience. I hear these things so much I’m used to it but you don’t expect to see it at an official policing event. I was quite shocked by it.

“The picture of the two men fighting - the thing is I know them and they are nothing to do with doorstep crime. They were fighting about a family death and a long-standing family feud about it. But it was made to look trivial.”


He said DS Ogden also showed a slide of an unborn child.

“When I asked why have you used images of children in this presentation, the explanation I was given was that there was intelligence this child would become involved in active criminality.”

Sgt Campbell said he stood up to identify himself and challenge the material but he was not offered an apology at the time.

Police Oracle has spoken to another attendee at the May 2016 conference who confirmed CC Barton spoke at the event and that it was hosted at Durham Constabulary headquarters.

When contacted by Police Oracle last week a spokesman for Durham Constabulary said the force would not be making a comment as “while this conference was held in County Durham, it was not hosted by Durham Constabulary and was not attended by Durham officers, or the chief”.

Police Oracle contacted Durham Constabulary again with more details about the event but it did not respond.

The College of Policing also emphatically rejected any notion it was involved in the seminar when first contacted by our reporter.

A spokesman later confirmed the presentation was given as part of a College organised event in Durham in May 2016 after our reporter pointed out details of a series of demand reduction seminars closely matching Sgt Campbell’s account are publically accessible on the College’s website.

The spokesman said: “There were a series of demand reduction workshops held across England and Wales but this was the only one where that presentation was delivered.

“Chief Constable Mike Barton attended the event.”

DS Ogden told the parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee at a public session on October 17 he gave the talk at a presentation facilitated by the College of Policing to a group of law enforcement individuals.

Chairman of the committee Maria Miller said it was “difficult not to see the slides as really quite inflammatory” and asked DS Ogden whether he thought the presentation was a “good idea or not”.

“If these people were from a different ethnic minority background would you have the title of England’s millionaire black people?” she asked.

DS Ogden admitted that “with hindsight possibly not”.

But he defended entitling a slide the “global money-making web of Ireland’s millionaire travellers”.

“That’s a reality,” he said. 

“We have a responsibility within law enforcement to highlight criminal behaviours. We are talking about one of the most serious organised criminal gangs in southern Ireland.”

He said he believed Operation Liberal’s database is made up of about 90 per cent gypsy and traveller individuals.

DS Ogden said former GRTPA director and ESJU manager at the Traveller Movement Jim Davies complained to Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman who is the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for serious and organised crime.

As a result of that complaint there was a review which brought Operation Liberal under the “auspices” of DCC Blakeman, he said.

After the meeting he told Police Oracle: “I was caught by surprise by the reference to the presentation as it was last used by Liberal in May 2016.

“The slide was subject to a challenge from representatives within the Gypsy Roma Traveller Community both within the meeting itself and afterwards.

“The slide was removed from all future presentations at the request of the representatives as, although it could be supported by evidential material, it was not the intention to offend.

“The challenge at the time was dealt with via the appropriate channels and the unit has developed significantly since.”

Mr Davies told Police Oracle the GRTPA initially contacted Operation Liberal in 2014 when the association first formed as it was concerned about a circulation to all forces which was “quite specific” in labelling gypsies and travellers as criminal.

The GRTPA delivered a training session with staff and Operation Liberal started consulting with the group - but did not put the May 2016 presentation to them, Mr Davies said.

“The first we knew about it was when it was presented at an event Martin was present at. As you can imagine he was horrified.”

The GRTPA obtained the slides after a Freedom of Information request to Leicestershire Police, where Operation Liberal was based.

Mr Davies, who is a retired Thames Valley Police officer, said: “The situation today, which includes Gypsies, Roma and Irish Travellers being refused services in pubs, cinemas and shops, purely on the basis of their ethnicity, is reminiscent of the treatment of black people in 1950’s Jim Crow America.

“As an ex-police officer of 24 years and advocate for justice for Gypsies, Roma and Irish Travellers, I strongly believe that police reinforcement of the criminal stereotype is much to blame for the discrimination faced by GRT people today.

“Although progress has been made in recent years with some individual forces, the police in general are finding gypsy or traveller as criminal a difficult concept to let go of completely.

“As they leak this notion out into the public domain, it strengthens and legitimises discrimination and hate towards Gypsies and Travellers. It is vital that police authorities acknowledge the problem and get to grips with it quickly.”

Leicestershire Police referred Police Oracle to the NPCC which also declined to comment.

Derbyshire Police, where DS Ogden is based and West Mercia Police, which now manages Operation Liberal, did not respond to requests for a comment.

The Traveller Movement has since sent a follow-up FOI request asking Leicestershire Police to disclose how many children under the age of criminal responsibility Operation Liberal has recorded on its databases.

It has “reason to believe the slide that was excluded contained personal details of children under the age of criminal responsibility and as such is evidence of racial profiling,” Mr Davies said.

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Truth isn’t always palatable.

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It may not be all travellers and that is an unfortunate thing indeed when they get tarred with the same brush as those who are misbehaving. Sadly whenever I fall back on anecdotes it's relatably negative experiences, but perhaps that's just because my dealings have only been limited to those who were causing trouble?

I remember when the local supermarket was descended upon by a group of travellers who made the car park their home for a few weeks all the cctv cameras stopped working, the fire doors were angle grinder and prized off their hinges and stock went missing. Whether it's coincidence that a criminal gang decided to hit the supermarket at the exact same time 2 dozen caravans and motor homes appeared and parked up less than 20 yards from the door is an interesting puzzle. Especially as none of them saw or heard a thing.

Then there have been the shoplifters who after being caught have more money in their wallets than I've seen in one place - surely the lack of payment for the trolley full of razors and booze is a misunderstanding?

Then there are the areas left strewn with rubbish, nappies and remnants of bonfires which just happen to be where they are camping and coincides with a massive increase in confidence trickery and people being charged thousands for having driveways and roofs done (or half done and abandoned).

It's sad these isolated cases create such a stigma for the others in the travelling community who behave responsibly.

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Zulu 22

I do not believe that it is isolated cases of travellers causing a problem. On Watchdog  Live last night there was a feature on Rogue Traders of Travellers fly tipping. They would move onto a site, then remove industrial or household rubbish at over £200 a time. They would then return to the camp site and dump the rubbish.  After a week they left setting up a new camp but leaving tons of rubbish where they had just left.  The first site was going to cost £50,000 to clear, the second site £100,000. Name of the offender they tracked was J. McDonagh I regular name in traveller circles when I was serving. I have never seen a Traveller site which did not cost thousands OIF £'s to clear up after they left. 

As someone said the Truth Hurst but it now appears that if you speak the truth you are being offensive. Who took offence and complained, a P.C. who attended the conference who was on the National Travellers Committee, huge question mark there.

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Reasonable Man
It may not be all travellers and that is an unfortunate thing indeed when they get tarred with the same brush as those who are misbehaving. Sadly whenever I fall back on anecdotes it's relatably negative experiences, but perhaps that's just because my dealings have only been limited to those who were causing trouble?

I agree that there is something in what you say. It’s similar to the rest of society that as an officer one deals with. I was surprised that an officer who had previously policed my home town considered it a rough one and the area where I grew up as a problem area. When you go to a new place and the majority of your time is spent dealing with crime and disorder then it is easy to think that place only has Crime and disorder.
I had several similar examples of the lawless travellers sites through a policing perspective as described by others. But I also had another experience outside of that arena. At the rugby club I was a member of a group of travellers turned up and encamped on a piece of rough land owned by the club. A committee man approached them and explained that it was the club’s land and was used for extra parking and was needed for the following Sunday and so would they mind going by then. They were reasonable, stayed for five or six days, didn’t break into the clubhouse or nick the cable to the floodlights and didn’t leave any rubbish behind.
If that was my only experience of travellers I’d say they were a good bunch of people.

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Zulu 22

At one of my ruby clubs, similar but they would not move. They were told that if they did not leave they would be evicted. The club had the means,and the manpower do it. When they saw the club members and tractors they moved. Perhaps I gVe been unlucky and have never come across any camp which did not bring, havoc,  crime, and a complete unhealthy mess. Perhaps I should look for a Unicorn instead.

Strange that the old Romania,  and true Gypsies were never much of a problem but, the Itinerant Irish Travellers were completely the opposite, nothing but lawlessness and mayhem


Edited by Zulu 22

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I don’t think there’s ever going to be a good relationship between the public or the police with the travelling community.

I live in the sticks and behind my home is a fallow field. It’s a bit more than that to be fair, plenty of grouse, pheasants, geese and no doubt other wildlife. 

Being honest I couldn’t think of much worse than caravans rolling onto it and the problems I envisage this would cause me. 

I know ROI have some interesting laws to deal with/prevent nuisance traveller sites and maybe this is something the UK should look at.

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