Police Protest Tactics Need Review, U.K. Watchdog Says

By Stephanie Berrong

A new report by a U.K. government watchdog recommended that London's Metropolitan Police overhaul its protest policing tactics in light of mistakes made during the G20 protests, according to the Guardian.

The review, conducted by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary at the request of the Metropolitan Police commissioner, said the police placed more emphasis on dealing "robustly" with unlawful behavior, rather than on facilitating peaceful protests. One person was killed as a result of police force at the demonstration.

The Guardian quoted Denis O'Connor, the chief inspector of constabulary, who called the national tactic for protest policing "inadequate," saying it belonged to a "different era." The police's indiscriminate use of containment policies, called "kettling," to cordon thousands of protestors for several hours should be "moderated," the report said.

"Training in both tactics and use of force needs to be adjusted to meet the challenges of 21st Century protest," the report said. It also said the Metropolitan Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers should develop and implement consistent guidance, standards, and application of protest tactics by the police ahead of London's hosting of the 2012 Olympic Games. The report added that training should incorporate relevant human rights standards and principles.

According to the Wall Street Journal

The watchdog did note challenging circumstances the police faced, including the task of ensuring the security of world leaders such as the U.S. president and the scale of the operation with some 10 separate protests across the city. It also said the police did succeed in securing a safe environment for the G20 summit and ensuring minimal damage to businesses and residents in the face of thousands of protestors.

In a statement cited by the Wall Street Journal, the Metropolitan Police said, "Whilst containment is the most effective tactic that we currently have to deal with violence and disorder in these types of situation[sic], the [Metropolitan Police Service] MPS has always acknowledged that there are challenges associated with it."

Read the report's other recommendations here (pdf).

♦ Photo of police presence at G20 protests in London by zongo69/Flickr


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