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Cockburn

Why are our police forces buying British-made riot gear?

Who wants to get mad about a plastics factory in rural England?

October 5, 2020

1:32 PM

5 October 2020

1:32 PM

Brace yourselves readers — this is the scoop of the week. And it’s only Monday!

In Britain, a joint investigation by strange bedfellows Sky News, the Guardian, Bellingcat and LightHouse Reports has uncovered a bombshell: an English plastics factory makes riot shields used by American police. Yes, that’s the full story.

The most devastating detail comes in the article’s fourth paragraph: ‘There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by DMS Plastics, which manufactures the shields, which are a form of personal protection equipment, and sold them legally to a US distributor.’

How will DMS Plastics ever recover from this? The Shropshire-based factory in fact manufactures all manner of things: their website suggests that buoyancy aids, plant pots and various types of trays are among the things they make. According to local press in Ludlow, DMS has also ramped up its production of full face shields for British healthcare workers. But clearly their amoral attitude towards making shields that stop police officers from being bludgeoned should be a source of national disgust for Brits.


A lawyer for DMS defended his client by pointing out that the factory makes PPE for various types of essential workers, including British police forces, and described the story’s assertions as ‘absurd’.

‘The suggestion in the emails that my clients are in some way responsible for the misuse of the PPE that they supply has as much merit as the suggestion that if a police officer kicks a protester then the manufacturer of the boot that he/she is wearing is in some way at fault; i.e. it is absurd,’ the lawyer wrote. What a typically British understatement!

Cockburn is struggling to work himself into a frenzy over Sky News’s findings. Given the current scrutiny of police budgets, is it so surprising that American police forces are shopping overseas for the best deal? What’s more, riot shields probably aren’t in the top 50 grossest things that Britain exports. Last year, Blighty sold over $1.5 billion worth of arms to countries classed as ‘not free’ by US government-funded pro-democracy institution Freedom House. How irate is your average kid in Yemen about the supposed misdeeds of DMS Plastics? He probably wouldn’t mind a Scorpion Solo Shield to duck under as the Saudis strafe his school in their British-made fighter jets.

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The Sky News investigators fished former shadow foreign secretary Emily ‘Image from #Rochester‘ Thornberry out of the trashcan of history to issue this stunning rebuke of DMS:

‘You’re not allowed to sell riot equipment if it is being used for internal repression. So then the question is: What is internal repression?

‘Well, internal repression is unlawfully hitting people, let’s say, a cancer victim with a stick, it is attacking members of the press, it is using unlawful violence, it is using it in order to suppress legitimate, lawful demonstrations.’

Cockburn thinks it’s far more controversial that six US police forces are importing riot gear from the Old Country: couldn’t they be Buying American? Or at least working this into the forthcoming US-UK trade deal…


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