Police criticised over G20

The police - and the tactics they employ - have been heavily criticised as part of the investigation into their handling of the G20 protests in London earlier this year which led to the death of an innocent passer-by after he was attacked by officers who, it has emerged, were authorised to utilise "reasonable force" just before the incident.

"Kettling" (seen here during the G8 protests in Edinburgh), a tactic used by police to herd protestors into and contain them within a confined area, is one of the controversial public order methods used during the G20 protests.
Image by Sam Fentress, taken from Wikipedia, used in accordance with GNU Free Documentation and Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 licenses.

Chief Inspector of Constabulary Denis O'Connor also said that the police public order training manual is "inadequate for the world police are operating in" and that police operations had concentrated on containing the protestors and preventing disorder rather than protecting and facilitating what he referred to as the "very precious freedom" of peaceful public protest.

He went on to say that those officers filmed by the public and seen to have removed their identifying badges from uniforms had "no excuse." The badges, which list the officer's number, are meant to be worn by all uniformed officers at all times so that they can be easily identified if a complaint is made by a member of the public. There is a widespread feeling that any officer who removes them does not wish to be identified and as such is almost certainly planning to act unlawfully.

Mr. O'Connor also highlighted the fact that there is no information available on the risks of injury resulting from the police practice of using riot shields as a mobile barricade with which to herd protestors. Shields are used when police use controversial "kettling" techniques which enable them to force large crowds into confined spaces so as to contain and control them. During the protests, he said, officers were unclear over whether or not they were permitted to use their own discretion when deciding to allow individuals - who may have been distressed or in need of medical attention - to leave these areas.

Liberty, the human rights and civil liberties organisation, have welcomed the report but state that further investigation into the tactics used by the specialist police Territorial Support Group, which they describe as "militaristic," is needed.

Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Chris Allison denies that senior officers are unaware of the human rights aspects of operations such as those at G20 and similar incidents. "As a police service," he says, "we have clear duties under the law: to facilitate protest, minimise the impact it has on others and maintain peace on our streets."

However, the heavy-handed approach adopted serves only to further erode public confidence in the police, with many otherwise law-abiding people now openly suspicious and even hostile towards them. During Thatcher's time as Prime Minister, the UK verged on becoming a monetarist society in which finance mattered most. This culminated in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill of 1993 under John Major's Government, Part V of which substantially changed the law and police powers related to public protest, legislation that resulted in a widespread fear that the public's right to protest against moves, practices and entities they thought unjust. Since then, there has been a marked change in popular opinion leading to a return to more human values which has in turn led to a belief that human and individual rights and freedoms are more important than those enjoyed by corporations - this includes a conviction that the right to protest must be protected and that, as Mr. O'Connor realises, that right is precious.

Acid Rabbi himself (in those days, a painfully right-on anarcho-communist student with the badges and Crass albums to match) attended the protests against the Act, and was shocked by the aggressive tactics employed by the police as they moved to break up a peaceful crowd that had gathered at the end of the march and was enjoying a party atmosphere in the summer sunshine. If you have ever been crammed with a few thousand other people (some of them dreadlocked crusties...on a hot day...) into a tiny, dead-end street where there's not even room to park a couple of cars, you will know what "kettling" is like when you find yourself on the receiving end. The public - whom the police are supposed to protect and serve - no longer believe that all protests must be prevented; the Internet and citizen journalism has brought too many miscarriages of justice, undemocratic companies who would ride rough-shod over public rights while polluting our environment with poisons and the human rights abuses made possible by the changes in the law since the WTC attacks for that to have remained the case. Public feeling has changed in favour of peaceful protest - the police are our servants and must recognise this so that they can update their tactics and serve their masters as their masters wish.

No comments:

Post a Comment