Monday, December 13, 2010

Altered priorities ahead

I've always been a supporter of the police - they do a tough job dealing with some of the most difficult elements of society - which is why last Thursday's performance in handling a major public order event disappointed me massively. That isn't to excuse the unacceptable, violent behaviour from a small number of the protestors, but the police are the professional keepers of public order and they crossed a line last week.

We had one wheelchair-using protestor dragged twice from the chair and hit, 49 demonstrators injured and one young man fighting for his life after being rushed to hospital - a hospital where the police attempted to deny him treatment, claiming that it had been reserved for police casualties only, until the medical staff overruled them. That isn't acceptable behaviour.

The demonstrators have damaged their own case - the press has focussed on the attack on the royal party, diverting interest away from the policy reversal.

Now, rather than looking at the vital issues of the tactics of public order policing or even the reasons behind the protest, the Home Secretary is responding by offering police the use of water cannon - something never before seen on the British mainland. Indeed, she has said that their use is an "operational issue," rather than the political one it certainly should be - these weapons can cause serious injury. She has also supported police tactics by insisting that future demonstrations, of which we can certainly expect more, should be policed 'robustly.'

In the UK, we have a fine tradition of policing by consent and public order tactics that are seen to indiscriminately target legitimate protestors and thugs alike will erode that. I don't believe that the use of water cannon is justified on British streets, given the threat currently posed - it would be a sticking plaster to cover failures in tactics rather than a response to a specific threat.

At the start of this year, did anyone seriously believe that we would end it with a government that has already burnt up any popularity that it might once have had and which would be contemplating deploying these weapons on our streets? I also note the lack of comment from allegedly pro-civil liberty coalition partners on this disturbing development, which looks an awful lot like an attempt to suppress dissent.

1 comment:

Richard Allen said...

Sadly it seems that we are moving more and more in the direction of a police force that represents the state and not the people. The noble principles on which Sir Robert Peel founded the Police have been eroded. We have been drifting this way for 30 years under both Tory and Labour governments.