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?