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Policewatch Films

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Where's all the coppers then? A first impression of DSEi policing.

Well, it wasn’t like demos of old, that is for sure. As around 200 protesters gathered for a protest in the City against the DSEi arms fair, many clad in hoodies and face masks, the lack of police was quite remarkable. There was no more than, say, 20 police in uniform, all FIT, with no police at all deployed to escort or steward the crowd. I have never seen a demonstration so lightly policed.

And there were no cameras. Chief Inspector Matt Twist stated that cameras would not be deployed ‘unless they were needed’. He was ‘quite relaxed and happy about the whole thing’, he said. In the event they were never deployed. Despite damage to windows and the invasion of offices, Twist retained his relaxed approach, and police made no attempt to intervene whatsoever. “Sorry, after the G20, we’re not allowed to do anything”, was the blatant mistruth he fed to office workers. But the protesters weren’t complaining, and the many journalists that had turned up for a ‘police mistreat demonstrators’ story went away empty handed, which appeared to be the key objective of the Met's strategy.

The absence of FIT cameras was undoubtedly down to the fact that deploying camera teams was likely to make them a focus for hostility, and any confrontation with the crowd was something they desperately wanted to avoid. It is true that the protest was taking place in one of the most heavily CCTV’d places in the world, something that made the lack of FIT cameras more bearable for the police. But even in the City, they had always used FIT cameras in the past. CCTV has limitations that hand held, portable, position-able cameras do not. If this isn’t a victory for street-based direct action, I don’t know what is.

Of course, FIT were still present and active. They relied instead on other forms of data gathering, making constant audio recordings and written notes. Twist bragged that he, personally, knew the identity of everyone on the march. And they will have spent long hours trawling around the companies later for their CCTV.

But the crucial fact in all of this was that – for the first time in many years - the police were forced to allow a protest such as this to take place. They were not able to shut it down beforehand, or to prevent people gathering. They could not harass and hassle individuals, they could not intimidate and frighten. They had to stand off and let it happen.

Long may it continue.


Anonymous said...

Pics of FIT and City of London on flickr

Anonymous said...

Let;s not get too carried away here and lulled into a false sense of security.
The Police may well have been on a somewhat of a back foot position after G20 and other examples of fien policing, but i rather think they only playing a game of appeasement until we know the full and final outcome of all the investigations/ enquiries and possible legal action currently in the pipeline.

Anonymous said...

Cops harrassing kids now >

Anarcho said...

7 were arrested last night at the DSEI dinner so perhaps it's best not to be so optimistic.

Really Fit said...


I absolutely agree that we should not get lulled into a false sense of security. I am actually genuinely concerned about these new 'rules of engagement', even if they do prove to be temporary.

I am sure that the likely response of the crowd towards FIT cameras was a factor in the decision not to deploy. On this particular occastion they did not want to spark a public order scene. On other occasions this may well not be so.

I suspect that there was also a fair bit of 'leading on' in the policing of this demo. Deliberately standing back so that damage and disruption were caused. This helps the Met a great deal in then being able to argue:

a) that 'proportionate' policing produces results that the politicians really don't want
b) that if they were allowed to police as before no damage would have occured
c) influential people such as Barclays and Axa are not going to tolerate 'liberal' attitudes to policing when its thier windows that are being broken.

All in all, it strengthens the police's hands in arguing that the use of force and preventative policing is a damn good thing.

But...can the police be that manipulative? Are they really prepared to play political games with criminal damage and disorder?

jonsparta said...

Really Fit - Only a few points, would you sit back and have your windows put through? Or would you want the police to do something? Just think, its a lovely sunday afternoon and a demo goes past your home. Some idiot throws a brick through your window and narrowly misses your face...Are you going to sit back and say hey, they have the right to demo, so what if my head nearly got caved in.

Second point, i think you might be crediting the bosses with brains. As i was taught, never confuse rank with ability.

'But...can the police be that manipulative? Are they really prepared to play political games with criminal damage and disorder?'

No, is the short answer. But then again....

Also the word in the station is that the FIT teams, amongst others are going after the English Defence League...Correct use of FIT. Just asking your thoughts on this. Personally it is, most come from the football hooligans groups and a load from C18/BNP. But should we also target the anti-western, violently aggressive asian youths groups that are forming too.

jon sparta.

Anonymous said...

"Really Fit - Only a few points, would you sit back and have your windows put through? Or would you want the police to do something?"

if i had had my windows put through, don't you think it would be a bit odd for me then to call the cops to investigate something i'd instigated myself? of course, it would be a bit odd for anyone to organise the bricking of their own windows, but i that notion comes naturally to the sort of person who could conceive suggesting ian tomlinson was killed by protesters in disguise.

jonsparta said...

Hmmm. Not getting the point..10:13.

so you admit to criminal damage? The point i was making, just pull yourself back and think what would it be like if a demo, your are NOT on bricked your windows? Would you shake their hands and say hey i understand i was bricking windows only last week....ok, im getting off the point. All that damage will end up with the bloody banks putting up their charges to pay for the windows!

but i that notion comes naturally to the sort of person who could conceive suggesting ian tomlinson was killed by protesters in disguise.

Errr. Ok, not sure were you want to go with that one. I will leave it with you.

Anonymous said...

i would be astonished if any demonstration bricked my windows as it would take a strong arm to chuck a stone (or brick) nine floors up.


jonsparta said...


lol. Point taken, still just wait till you are outside then throw the brick at you...

Really Fit said...

Jonsparta, you may be right, perhaps I am crediting the bosses with too much brain power.

This blog is concerned with FIT policing, which was definitely curtailed, and I am unreservedly happy about that.

But on general policing, I have seen a greater level of police intervention on a Sunday school outing. From whatever side you are on, it is genuinely baffling for the police to take no action whatsoever in response to acts of criminal damage. Barclays, Axa et al must be screaming in the ear of the Commissioner by now, or at least Boris Johnson. If this was a local decision made by man-on-the-ground Chief Inspector Matt Twist, he's in for one hell of a bollocking.

Perhaps we are in a new age of policing, where the police take a genuinely neutral stance between protest and corporate target. Who knows?

Or is it just that the police came as close as they could ever come to inciting criminal damage in persuit of a political aim - to shift the goalposts of what constitutes 'proportionate policing'?

Or is there some other explanation I havent thought of?

Anonymous said...

Clearly some shenanigans going here by standing back whilst criminal damage take place.
I too wonder if the decision was a pre thought out affair in order to achieve some aim or other.
Frankly it stinks of some silly playground mentality, we have had our arses slapped so we will do nothing.

No sensible decent person is going to question police action in dealing with wanton criminality , indeed I would strongly suggest it is expected.
Spitting out of dummies and walking off with your ball because of scrutiny of behaviour of some officers really is going to resolve nothing.

Anonymous said...

I've known Matt Twist since he was a Sgt, there is no way he would have made a decision like that on his own, he'll back his guys up to the hilt but he wont put his head on the block for a bunch of dicks smashing some windows.

G20 is going to cause a paradigm shift in public order policing once the prosecutions and the IPCC/HMIC criticisms are taken into consideration. It makes sense to give some examples of what happens if we do nothing (if that is what is happening) the public are going to have to make a decision on how they want potentially violent public order events policed, personally I think there should be a referendum on it as the consequences of getting it wrong are severe and far reaching.

No matter how well mannered a group of people are, you can't make them do something that they don't want to do without using force, and you can't wait until large scale disorder breaks out before you act on it as it will get worse before you can control it and that will likely lead to large scale destruction and injuries. Policing can be unpleasant and extremely dangerous so either people should suggest realistic methods of dealing with situations (such as large scale disorder or violent/armed suspects) or accept that somethings you witness aren't going to look very nice and people probably will get injured or worse.

Anonymous said...

With regard to "waiting until large scale disorder breaks out", there's also the need for the police to avoid causing large scale disorder to break out.

Pushing groups in two directions at once, and striking for the head in response to verbal abuse are likely to make groups of otherwise peaceful people very aggressive.

And, while there's a debate about how we want the police to stop violent disorder, we certainly don't want to pay them to cause it.

Anonymous said...

A referendum, please it's a laugh right?

What the public expect and deserve is very simple, proportionate and fair policing nothing more nothing less.

Now if the Met, City and BTP cannot effectively police large scale demonstartions then that really is a worry.

The manner in which some demonstartions have been policed in recentl times has resulted in many questions beign asked by the public.
If antagonising a potentially volatile crowd is seen as effective then someone needs to go back to training school and be re educated.
We have sadly become accustomed to seeing wanton violence in the guise of followign orders being met out on crowds who have for the most part been non violent.

The police continue to bleat on about how they need the power that allows them to kettle etc.

Its almost a contradiction that you herd people into a given area, keep them there for hours on end, refuse to let them leave and batter them out of the area where you had penned them in.
If you abuse powers that the public have allowed you to have then you can fuilly expect a backlash and perhaps those powers to be withddrawn or at least watered down.

It aint rocket science.

Anonymous said...

I don't think we need a referendum, we need to wake up. The public and political mood towards policing changes with peaks and troughs. I remember the general feeling of the public after the May day where kettling was introduced being of how great the police had done to prevent the damage seen in previous years. It was only to be expected, that having preveneted such widespread damage for the better part of a decade, the public, with its short collective memory would change its mind and rather not have the police kettling. I give it five years until things are getting properly smashed up again, another two after that before the public are screaming 'what are the police doing about it' and then we'll all meet again on oposing sides of the same cordon.

Anonymous said...

"..while there's a debate about how we want the police to stop violent disorder, we certainly don't want to pay them to cause it."

With this comment an anonymous poster has struck the nail slap bang in the middle of its head.

Anonymous said...

anon 1415, i agree, but there is also disagreement, IN SOME ASPECTS, of what it means for the police to cause it. For instance, hitting peaceful people on the bonce as described would be difficult to agrue, but protestors not being allowed close to a building because they are likely to damage it?

Anonymous said...

Well i guess we do need to "wake up"
Wake up to the very obvious, the Police have been given a raft of powers that they have chosen on a significant number of occassions to abuse, misuse and generally taken liberties with.
Add to the mix a fine sprinkling of heavy handedness.
The when joe public kick up about it they bleat on about hwo bad it is for them and how they are not respected blah blah blah.

Well remember, you earn respect it is not a given or produced by a healthy dishing of violence.
The people who need to wake up here are the police and thier masters in whitehall.

ACAB said...

anonymous 16 September 2009 02:28:

"but protestors not being allowed close to a building because they are likely to damage it?"

You mean that their guilt can be determined in advance without a fair hearing, and then they can be treated like criminals before they have done anything, and even if they have no intention of doing anything?

By all means take reasonable steps to protect a building if you have real reason to believe that it might suffer damage, but do so without attacking innocent people.

How difficult is that?

There was less damage on the DSEi city demo than at the G20 police farce.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

john harris talks a load of rubbish. UK plc was created during the second world war in order to help with trade and to bribe other countries to stay out of the war...

Anonymous said...

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