We need more instructors and tactical advisors who can both support the command team and develop new tactics to counter the ever-evolving changes in public order.
The continued development of crowd management supported by scientific research
Public Order Policing: The training and welfare of all is incredibly important
Public Order Policing is incredibly unpredictable and those involved with the management of such events are always learning and having to develop new tactics and that the training and welfare of all is incredibly important.
The legitimacy of the actions of all involved is clearly an issue. If we look at the Extinction Rebellion protests in London. Most people in the UK see climate change as an issue and with a Government focused elsewhere the idea of protest soon gained momentum.
When the protests started clear communication from the Police via both social media and by the use of dedicated Police Liaison Officers to explain what was expected of them as a protest group allowed the Police to get some people to move. Those who did not adhere to the Police requests were arrested.
But because of a policy of “no promises and no surprises” this did not come as a shock to the protesters, lessons learned from previous similar protests, such as the Occupy Movement, meant the officers went about the job with a lighter touch so you didn’t end up with individual protesters being the rope in an unsightly Police v Protesters tug-of-war and many protesters apologizing to the officers for keeping them away from their families.
But when the public of London, many of whom would support the need to change, had their journey to work disrupted for the 5th time in 5 days, and they were having both their work and private life disrupted, docked pay for late arrival at work and unable to collect children from school, the legitimacy of the protest faded resulting in protesters being dragged from the top of a tube train and being assaulted.
In a time when mental well-being is being highlighted more and more, not least by veterans returning from the middle east, we also need to consider the welfare of officer’s exposure to long-running public order events.
At an excellent conference recently hosted by the RCMP in Ottawa, I was shocked to hear the 30+ French Police officers had taken their own lives directly related to the still on-going disorder in Paris. Law enforcement agencies continue to develop and improve their response to mental health but when we have many hundreds or sometimes many thousands of officers deployed this becomes more difficult.
For those who command and manage public order events
There is no magic wand to solve the challenges of public order policing… but sometimes something as simple as a cup of tea a biscuit and a chat, please feel free to insert your own regional version, away from the front line can be enough to decompress officers and allow them to return to the front line refreshed.
This obviously doesn’t take away from the long-term effects of being exposed to serious disorder or any other sort of traumatic event which we have all dealt with many times over and both supervisors and colleagues need to continue to support each other and other members of the extended emergency services family.
How do we deal with this?
The need for those who command and manage public order events to be suitably trained has been proved many times over with Court cases dragging on for many years and in some cases many decades.
Suitably trained and accredited Instructors and Tactical Advisors who can both support the command team and develop new tactics to counter the ever-evolving changes in public order are an oft overlooked but much valued resource.
The continued development of crowd management supported by scientific research and the use of police liaison/ dialogue officers to communicate effectively with those who wish to exercise their right to protest.
Lastly we must never forget the wider crowd management family be they be medics or fire and rescue emergency responders or the organizers of concerts, festivals or sporting events who all have valuable skills they can add.
You may have noticed that I have made no mention of shields, batons, CS spray or water cannon… They are all valuable tools in our public order tool box, and we need to have officers trained in all the relevant tactics to counter serious and sustained disorder.
But if we can build a consensus where the legitimate aims of the protesters is mirrored by the legitimate requirement for a proportionate police response to protest the guys and girls with shields and helmets should be able to spend their days sitting around drinking tea.
Read a new article written by Neil Pollock in GTI Magazine May 2020!
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