Untrained police officers and unacceptable tactics at G20 say MPs

July 1, 2009 at 12:01 am Leave a comment

Aspects of the policing of the G20 protests in central London in April had the potential to seriously damage the public’s faith in the police, a committee of MPs has reported.

The Home Affairs Committee also warned police to improve their relationships with both protesters and the media.

There was a public outcry when several alleged incidents of police brutality were caputed on camera and shown on television.

One man, Ian Tomlinson, died minutes after he was hit by a police officer. The incident was caught on camera and brought to public attention by The Guardian newspaper.

“The police must be aware that, as a matter of course, their actions will be filmed whether or not journalists are present,” the committee said.

“They must amend their attitude and tactics accordingly.

“The police should be aware that in the modern world actions which may be justifiable under the rules may nonetheless be completely unacceptable.”

The committe said that overall the policing of the G20 protests on April 1st was “a remarkably successful operation; more than 35,000 protesters demonstrated in the centre of London with a police presence of several thousand, yet there was a minimum of disruption to the City. Aside from a few high-profile incidents, the policing of the G20 Protests passed without drama.”

However, they said they were “deeply concerned that untrained and inexperienced officers were placed in such a highly combustible atmosphere.”

Tactics were also criticised.

“The use of containment (detaining people in a confined area for a sustained period of time), and distraction tactics (the controlled use of force against those who appear hostile) while legitimate according to the police rule-book, shocked the public,” the report said.

“Whether they should continue to be used must form the basis of a wide-ranging discussion on the future policing of public protests.”

There was public anger that some officers were not displaying their ID numbers when confronting protesters.

“There no circumstances in which it is acceptable for officers not to wear identification numbers and urgent action must be taken to ensure that officers have the resources to display identification at all times; those officers found to be consciously removing their identification numbers must face the strongest possible disciplinary measures,” the MPs said.

“Above all, the police must constantly remember that those who protest on Britain’s streets are not criminals but citizens motivated by moral principles, exercising their democratic rights.

“The police’s doctrine must remain focused on allowing this protest to happen peacefully.

“Any action which may be viewed by the general public as the police criminalising protest on the streets must be avoided at all costs.”

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Entry filed under: Committees, Commons. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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