Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Roll up, Roll up: Get your videos of police being nasty, 50p each or 3 for a pound.

Twas ever thus.

Kevin Gately was killed in a demo that turned ugly after a co-ordinated attack on police lines (you could hear the whistles blowing to set this in motion). A blow to the head was deemed the cause, but exactly how was never established; a kerb from a fall? a police truncheon? a scaffold pole used by demonstrators to charge at the police? Either which way, there were fights, truncheons used, mounted branch called into action. I was amazed that only one person died.

Public order in the face of violence and cleverly orchestrated mayhem isn’t achieved by the police waving lavender scented hankies about and saying `calm down`in a soothing voice. A totally passive crowd would not result in police batons being drawn. Conversely, as a crowd ramps up the `use of force meter` so the police response rises to meet it. A large crowd is a great place for the skilled agitators to lurk and whip up a frenzy. Inappropriate use of force brings with it trouble for the officer who transgresses, as it always did except for the fact that such things were rarely captured on cctv or mini videos - but if they ever show this footage of the anti-Vietnam war Grosvenor Square riot in 1968 you may see some stick happy police officer who, ultimately, got the sack.

The deaths of Kevin Gately and, later, Blair Peach were the terrible results of crowd trouble. Even if their deaths were as a result of the use of excessive force by police, it would have likely been a single police officer in each case. That no one responsible was ever traced is a fact that probably remains as a painful, still open chapter in the lives of the loved ones of the deceased. But emerging incidents from the G20 demo's that allege inappropriate use of force by police officers should not result in every other officer in the land being pilloried in the process.

Insufficient policing can lead to a breakdown in public order. Heavy handed totalitarian policing brings with it untold damage to our way of life (whatever that is now). In between these extremes are thousands of police doing their best along side a miniscule number who, in moments of high drama, do their worst or give in, John Prescott-style, to a sudden, pre-emptive action that they will later regret once the adrenaline has dissipated. Apart from that its pretty straightforward. To forgive is human, to err makes you police? Piss off, please.

Come to think of it, that thing with the lavender scented hankies has never been tried. Now there’s a thought?


Blue Eyes said...

As a mere "MOP" I find it difficult to know where the line should be drawn. The video on the TV last night **appeared** to show an officer hitting a woman with his baton purely because she was saying fairly unpleasant things. I do not know what the situation was but on its own I reckon it looks like a reaction further up the scale than strictly necessary.

But as you say, we all make mistakes under pressure. Rarely are us ordinary citizens under as much pressure as riot cops and rarely are we scrutinised as closely. It's a virtually impossible situation.

powdergirl said...

Or maybe a crop-duster flying overhead, playing lilting melodies and gently laying down a fog of lavender scented fumes?
God help the pilot though, should someone has an allergic reaction.

Anonymous said...

I was in Grosvenor Square in 1968, as a police officer.

There is a lot I want to say about that; most is that there was no management, no proper control, no suitable tactics; and I was quite worried as to my personal safety.

Now in a different environment, where we manage crowds and facilitate protest, while reacting firmly and effectively to any potential outbreaks of disorder, I can see that in Britain no suitable lessons have been learnt over the past 40 odd years.

If disorder is about to happen (and don't tell me you can't tell, I can), withdraw and keep a distance; use tools - smoke, and if necessary batonround, and give appropriate warning of use of force, every application of which should have a legitimate and declared objective...

But I see that is not the case in Britain, nowadays.

Just why do British police prefer the close quarter option with all the potential for false allegations and real injustice and officer injury? Is it some macho thing...or just the canteen tea?

Jeffrey P

Hogday said...

BE> I encountered a few unnecessary uses of force, two were on prisoners of mine - Later ;)

Jeffrey P. Spot on. I often queried why we were expected to mix it so much - and I spent a few months on exchange in the US where they had a different approach, too. QED when you looked at Brixton, Toxteth and the copycat rioting where literally hundreds of police were seriously hurt and then compare that with a Belfast or Londonderry riot where the arms length policy resulted in much fewer of the typical riot type injuries. And yes, the close quarter stuff was very nasty, with all the perils you touched on. Another post on that, perhaps.

Vetnurse said...

At the end of the day you know that at these major protests there is going to be people doing their damnedest to cause trouble, and do... so do not go to them. If you go then do not whine when it gets nasty.

I have only been involved in one small demo outside the Zimbabwe embassy a few years back and that was peaceful a couple of coppers and a few hundred people. I would never head for these insane protests that people do go to.

Yes l know that Ian T one he was apparently caught up in things but if it was me l would have gone off and had a coffee or something until l was sure that the problem had gone away. It was pretty obvious that the whole of the area he was heading for was a seething mass of people and it was known that there was going to be trouble. The media had broadcast that for weeks.

No l am not saying he got what he deserved because all l have seen is a bit of video. What l am saying is that if l see a crocodile in the water l think that l won't go for a swim that day or l will wait it out.

Hogday said...

Vetnurse: That was always my rule of thumb.

Anonymous said...

I've never experienced first hand a demonstration of any kind...

But I know that Lavender makes my grand baby turn from an angry toddler to a happy baby...

So let's try that!

And thanks for joining my're a honey!

Area Trace No Search said...

Why not come back and rejoin the fun, Hogday?

Joking apart, can you send me an email again? I've lost yours.