The Police are one of the most important institutions in our democracy. They uphold the democratically made laws which make up our complicated constitution under very difficult circumstances trying to adhere to human rights issues and public concerns. They have to deal with financial constraints and political interference. Yet most people support the police up and down the country when it comes to protecting communities and individuals.
This good will people have is suddenly thrown away however when it comes to the Police handling of demonstrations. Over the past few years, time and again the Police make themselves look, well, thuggish and dishonest.
At climate camp, attended by families, children and lots of well meaning people the Police employed disgusting tactics to police the event. Using unlawful means of stop and search and misusing anti-terrorism legislation. Using loud noise to disrupt the camps lawful activities and brutal behaviour to police crowd control.
The Police even engaged in disgraceful politicking by preparing press conferences attributing finding chains and knives in the surrounding area and without any evidence whatsoever attributing them to the climate camp. They didn’t mention the childrens toys confiscated at the gate of the climate camp so obviously a threat to security!
At the G20 demonstrations we had again the use of brutal behaviour used against people doing nothing more than sitting down and singing! Hitting people in the face and trampling over people. The assault of a man leading to his death and what appears to have been a cover up with an inept (or corrupt?) autopsy hastily convened.
Kettling the favoured tactic by Police to constrain crowd behaviour does exactly what it says on the tin. It creates the conditions where pressure is exerted which leads to the frustration and the release of that pressure sometimes leading to violence.
The government does it’s best to politicise the Police which dates back to the miners strike of the 1980’s and beyond. Amazingly members of the Police manage to have removed their identification numbers when policing these demonstrations which we are supposed to believe is not deliberate.
For democracy to work effectively, we have to facilitate demonstrations and Police tactics need to evolve to deal much better than they have done in recent years. The scenes we have seen over the past few years puts ordinary people off from demonstrating and this is a crying shame for our society.
It now transpires that there WERE UNDERCOVER POLICE at the G20 demonstrations when previously this was denied. Members of the press and of the crowd demonstrating were adamant that there were and the Police flatly denied this. Now they have been proved to have lied over this. This again undermines the public’s confidence. (Londonnet)
I am not some lefty tree hugger who goes to each and every demonstration for a day out (not that I have a problem with lefty tree huggers!). But I believe it is every persons right to demonstrate peacefully and for the reputation of the Police to be upheld and to be seen in a good light by the general population and for democracy to function properly.
This split personality of the Police needs addressing. The next 2 years I fear will be the most socially turbulent we have seen since the early 1980’s. Demonstrations will become commonplace and anger will be running high. Effective and trustworthy policing allowing our democratic rights to be facilitated is essential.
Londonnet, (2009), Police now admit undercover cops were at G20 protest, [online], Loondonnet website, available at http://www.londonnet.co.uk/news/2011/jan/police-now-admit-undercover-cops-were-fatal-g20-demo.html