Spycops were originally called ‘The Hairies’

In Uncategorized on November 13, 2020 by kmflett

The police Special Demonstration Squad (SDS)was formed after the 1968 protests against the Vietnam War.

Over an extended period it monitored (and worse) legitimate democratic activities of left-wing and protest groups often by covertly infilitrating them.

It was disbanded in 2008 and in 2015 then Home Secretary Theresa May announced an investigation. 5 years later the inquiry has begun to hear witnesses this week.

One early witness, retired officer Ernest Tate was asked how the SDS got its name. He appeared unaware of the official name but said it was known in the police as the ‘Hairies’ as undercover officers grew their hair and beards to apparently fit in better with the appearance of protesters.

Certainly appearing clean shaven and wearing a suit and tie at a protest meeting might have aroused interest but conversely it also reflects the pogonophobic nature of the police 50 years ago.

Indeed a SpyCop questioned at the Inquiry on 13th November as to why he had quit The Hairies responded:

HN326: I was fed up of the long hair and long beard. It was a strain. Until you’ve done the job you don’t know.*

He might however have had his reasons. Undercover as a protester at the anti-Vietnam War protest in Grosvenor Square in 1968 he was truncheoned by the Met Police because he had long hair and a beard:

Asked why the police had gone for him, he said: “It’s just the fact you’ve got long hair and a beard that they wallop you, you know. It’s 50 years ago, this is what they were doing. It’s a different attitude to things. Goodness”

Another SpyCop he has noted that he grew a beard, on this occasion to infiltrate the Hammersmith and Fulham branch of the International Socialist between 1971 and 1973

SpyCop HN343 ‘John Clinton’ statement read 19th November

55. I would describe my appearance before I joined the SDS as neat and tidy. During my time in the back office before I was deployed I grew my hair and a bushy beard. Instead of wearing a suit, when I was deployed I donned ‘comradely attire’— flares, an army surplus jacket, and an old pair of boots.

In 2020 there are plenty of police officers with beards who are most definitely not involved in covert operations.

  • thanks to Laurence Cox for the reference

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