The final HMIC report on the G20 should be another nail in the coffin of the current oppressive model of protest policing. It's all the more significant coming from a body largely staffed by ex police officers which sets the forces operational guidance.
With climate protestors converging on London next week ahead of the crucial Copenhagen summit this couldn’t be timelier. The HMIC interim report released in June had already raised many questions about the methods and practice used by police, including the use of force, containment, communication with protestors and press and display of ID.
The full report finalises these, recommending that police must:
1. Demonstrate explicit consideration of the facilitation of peaceful protest throughout the planning process and the execution of the operation
2. Seek to improve dialogue with protest groups in advance
3. Undertake a review of current public order training including an examination of tactics (such as the use of shields and batons)
4. Ensure officers wear numerals or other clear identification at all times during public order operations and deal with individual officer non-compliance swiftly and robustly.
Denis O’Connor’s additional criticism of ‘aggressive’ policing of protests is also welcome. Whilst the report doesn’t go far enough on issues such as containment (or kettling) which for the reasons already outlined on this blog deserves to be banned, it clearly stated the need for widespread reform.
What's also clear is that much of the discredited approach is coming from certain senior officers in the Met, including the Gold Star Commander of the G20 operation, Bob Broadhurst:
“The Met has gained a reputation for clamping down and "containing" protests it deems unlawful, an approach forged in its response to the May Day protests in 2001. The force also developed the technique of using FIT surveillance officers to monitor crowds, a technique first used against football hooligans in the late 1990s that has since been adopted by forces across the country.” Police could lose public consent, the Guardian 25th November.
Yesterday I wrote a letter to the IPCC making a complaint against Bob Broadhurst, the senior commander in control of the operation. This was in light of a clear example of Cmdr Broadhurst misleading public bodies tasked with investigating the G20.
Bob Broadhurst made other "errors" in a joint report to the MPA. It's clear Broadhurst is one of the officers at the Met pushing an aggressive form of policing. He’s also an advocate of categorising all protests as either 'unlawful' and 'lawful' - a pretext to suppress those which are not compliant with what he sees as acceptable protest.
Commander Bob Broadhurst should step down from his public order role to allow a fresh start in protest policing.
So far we have seen no senior officers held to account for their actions in this operation. This is despite the fact a man died and hundreds of complaints were made to the IPCC by protestors hurt or illegitimately contained.
Bob Broadhurst isn't the type of policeman we want managing public order policing in the future if we are to see the HMIC report enacted.
With this report, there will be a less room for rogue officers to hide and a lot more opportunity for protestors to express themselves freely in future. But the proof is in the pudding, now we need to see the MPA and other Police Authorities outside of London start putting this into practice.
The MPA could start with calling for the thoroughly discredited Bob Broadhurst to step down
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