London Calling – A Scottish Cop’s Experience of Policing with the Met

I have recently returned from London as part of the national mutual aid deployment to support the Metropolitan Police during the Olympic Games. I was part of of public order contingency in the event of disorder.

Traditionally, public order reserves have been strategically deployed to a car park somewhere, out of sight, out of mind until needed. However, recently this has changed and there is a recognition that public order resources can be more gainfully employed but still available to task if required. I was, therefore, very lucky to get the chance to police London Boroughs, undertaking various tasks from providing urgent assistance to carrying out rapid intervention and drug searches.

I feel it is important to highlight that policing the Greater London area is an enormous task and I only had a small snapshot of it, this is not an academic study by any means.

My working day in London began at an MBDC (Met Briefing and Deployment Centre) where we were fed, provided with a snack, given our deployment and briefed. There were several, but the picture below will provide a clue to where ours was. These were massive temporary sites, capable of feeding and briefing thousands every day.


We didn’t always police the boroughs and I was fortunate to police the road cycling, Marylebone Cricket Club (Lords), Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace.


However, the normal deployment was to a borough, where we reported to the ‘Grip and Pace Centre’ for specific duties. The GPC was a new concept to me and I have mixed views. It was explained that the name meant ‘get a grip and inject some speed (pace)’. These acted as localised command and control stations (the Met use a centralised communications centre) and had a senior member of staff from the borough command team to take charge of incidents. There was also a Harm, Opportunity and Threat Sergeant, responsible for identifying incidents that present opportunities or threats to the force. While I identified some positives from this, I can’t help but feel that it adds an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.

Our duties were, typically, a combination of patrolling identified hotspot areas and targeting individuals for arrest and we were usually provided with local officers to assist with navigation, local knowledge and to complete the paperwork. Of particular note was that the local officers tolerated a degree of abuse from some of the locals that would not be accepted by officers in Scotland. We were briefed in numerous occasions, particularly when deployed in Haringey and Lambeth (the boroughs covering Tottenham and Brixton respectively) about the sensitivities amongst the locals and warned regarding the tipping point. This constant discourse generates a culture of fear amongst officers.

It was heartening to be so well received when we patrolled some of the estates that come with reputations of being anti-police and my officers played football with local youths, rapped with them (I’m sure the footage is on YouTube, but I dread to look) and were invited to BBQs and street parties.) I’m sure this reaction was largely down to us being a curiosity and the locals readily identified us as strangers, our accents and black shirts making us stand out, but the fact we took the time to speak to them also helped. This is not a criticism of the Met, we had no time pressure and when you have 8 hours to walk round a small estate you speak to everyone, this coupled with the gregarious cops in my van meant you had to hide if you didn’t want to speak.

There was two aspects of policing in London which I thought were counterproductive.

Given the volume of incidents attended, there is a production line process to policing, whereby a response officer attends a call, notes details and a brief crime report, this is then passed to an enquiry officer, if someone is arrested, then a custody process team handles the follow up enquiry, the result of this is that there is little ownership, demarcation is the cry, that’s not my job, why should I do it? My officers assisted at a report of a burglary (housebreaking in Scots speak) and offered to do some door to door enquiry and were told by the local cop not to bother as ‘it isn’t our job.’ A local Sergeant, senior in service but my no means a dinosaur, bemoaned the lack of personal responsibility and ownership demonstrated by the local officers.

The other aspect I found troubling is the separation between response officers and community (safer neighbourhood teams). These tended to work as distinct entities, response cops work from anonymous patrol bases, located in industrial units with little or no identification on the outside while Safer Neighbourhood Teams work from small shop units located in the neighbourhoods they serve. While this has advantages, especially in locating the community cops in the community, policing the community should be the responsibility of all officers and making response officers remote from the community destroys that link.

The most heartening aspect of my tour was the number of complete strangers who stopped to thank us for the great job we were doing, a little praise goes a long way to improving and restoring moral. A happy cop is a productive cop.


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We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

This blog by Mental Health Cop provides an excellent operational example of the decision making before and the debriefing after a use of force incident and is very relevant to the two blogs I have written on the subject. It is a particularly useful example of the difficulties caused by unknown unknowns.

Mental Health Cop

This whole blog and various specific tales within it are testimony to my interest in, my commitment to and my passion to widen awareness about mental health issues within the police; and about policing challenges in our society when officers deal with mental health issues in various forms.

A few months ago, I was posted to a duty involving my second police passion: public order policing.  I was posted as police commander for a large cultural event in Birmingham.  Within that event, there was to be much singing, dancing, music as well as food stalls, bars and other entertainment.  It was more than a local event, it attracted well-known musical entertainers who have topped the charts and have a large following.  We were expecting potentially tens of thousands of attendees.  The whole event was a great – a family atmosphere, a community policing style where officers were enforcing little, ensuring…

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Heroes Live Forever

I hope that my blog followers will forgive me a little indulgence to promote events I am undertaking to raise funds for a charity that is very close to my heart. Normal service will be resumed in the next blog.

‘The first rule of law enforcement: make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson.’

The Untouchables

Care of Police Survivors (COPS) is a charity that supports the families of police officers who have been lost in the line of duty, providing a support network to help rebuild the shattered lives. As a serving officer, we sometimes forget the risks we take on a daily basis until something brings it into focus, the following video, shared by a close friend, explains it way better than words

I was inspired to raise funds for COPS by my friend, Kate Parker, who has been supported by COPS and, in turn, supports others. She was kind enough to explain the help she has had from them

– In September 2005 my husband PC Andy Parker of North Wales Police was killed returning home from duty. I was a widow at 31 and our sons were aged 3 and 4, our lives devastated. No one ever expects to receive that awful knock at the door.

Shortly afterwards in the fog of grief and shock, I received a card from Christine Fulton, the then President of COPS, telling me about the charity and the support they could offer us. I initially dismissed it, telling my Family Liaison Officer that I didn’t need group hugs and more crying thank you. However, after striking up a correspondence with Christine, I decided to attend their annual Families weekend but purely for the sake of the children.

It was life-changing. I met some incredible people, who for once said “I know how you feel” and meant it. I formed friendships that will last forever and this really brings meaning to that oft-used phrase “Police Family”. However the greatest gift the charity have given to me is to see my 2 sons in an environment where – for a change – they are not the odd one out.

Only a couple of years after I was widowed, I found myself giving comfort and advice to newly bereaved families. My boys are older now, and I was moved this year to see them taking care of and comforting other children who have been through a similar experience. To see the children all together, from toddlers to teenagers, embracing, laughing, talking about and celebrating their parent is wonderful.

The Families Weekend is a highlight of our year. It’s like a big family reunion. Yes the are some tears but thanks to COPS and the support they have given us, I am in a position to enjoy my life and enjoy that weekend. Serving officers from many forces attend each year, they have also become like family and are outstanding role models for the youngsters missing their parent.

COPS’s mission statement is “Rebuilding Shattered Lives”. For me that says it all.

In order to help raise funds for COPS, I am doing 2 slightly mad challenges. Firstly, on the 4th September @BridgendPC, @Kawgparker and I, along with other COPS supporters will do a Firewalk over hot coals at the Scottish Police College.

Barely a month later (after the blisters have healed, hopefully!) I am going to run the UK’s toughest marathon, one of the toughest in the world, from Glencoe, over the Devils Staircase down to Kinlochleven, then up, over the Nevis range to Fort William, climbing over 1600 meters during the course of the 26.2 mile run.

Please support this excellent cause and sponsor me through my Just Giving page or by texting COPS80 £5 to 70070.

In order to encourage donations, if I raise £100 before the firewalk, I will wear my kilt during the walk. If I raise £300, I will wear my kilt for the marathon.

To support Fiona and Kate in their Firewalk, do so through Fiona’s Just Giving page or by texting COPS90 £5 to 70070 or Kate’s page or text TTWC88 £1 to 70070.

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Use of Force – Decision Making

I recently read the excellent blog by Sir Robert Peel on Police Use of Taser which considers decision making and conflict management through the National Decision Making Model (NDM). This links nicely to my own recent blog Use of Force, which examined the Force Continuum. In this blog, I will try and draw together the force continuum and NDM, examining how they compliment each other and assist in decision making in circumstances where force may be used.

The National Decision Making Model

This model has been introduced recently to replace the conflict management model (CMM), although there is not much difference between them. ACPO felt that the CMM was an excellent decision making model, but that the name discouraged it use for wider decision making. An ACPO guidance paper explaining the model is available on their website.

The NDM has five stages each of which is a step in the decision making process, it is cyclic allowing decisions to be reassessed and debriefed in light of new information. The only major differences between the NDM and the CMM are that the NDM has a pentagon in the centre that links to each step and the direction of the cycle was changed, the CMM cycled anti-clockwise while the NDM is clockwise.

Step 1 – Information/Intelligence

In this stage, the officer will identify what they know and how they know it. I think of this as assessing

1. Known knowns – information and intelligence that is known (intelligence is information that has been assessed and given a rating based on how it is known and the source.)
2. Known unknowns – information that the officers doesn’t know, but which they know they don’t know. The officer then needs to assess whether they can find the information and whether they need to act before they can obtain the information.
3. Unknown unknowns – the low bowlers that catch people out, it’s easy to say there shouldn’t be any, but it is worth being prepared for the unexpected.

Step 2 – Threat and Risk

The officer then assess the threat and risk to the victim, to the subject, to police officers and to the wider community; this threat is then assigned a probability (risk) either low, medium, high or unknown. Any unknown risk should be treated as high. The officer should also consider whether immediate action is required to mitigate the risks.

During this step, the officer considers the known unknowns because these can impact upon the risk assessment and judges whether these gaps can be filled.

Following these assessments a working strategy will be developed, basically stating what is to be achieved; this would normally be along the lines of maximising safety of officers, reducing risk to victim and public and apprehending the offender.

Step 3 – Powers and Policy

Now the officer considers what police powers are needed, what his duty as a police officer requires (e.g. s17(1)(a) Police (Scotland) Act 1967), what legal powers will be needed or may be used (for instance power of arrest, power of entry) and what local or national guidance is available.

Step 4 – Tactical Options

This is where the force continuum comes into play,


The officer identifies tactical options from the continuum, remembering to account for the special factors that can impact upon the desired tactic. It must be remembered that the option to disengage and tactically withdraw is important, many officers find this a difficult step to take; however, it is not retreating, but removing yourself from danger and maintaining vigilance until appropriate resources can attend.

The options should be assessed in terms of the Human Rights of the victim, the subject, the police officer and the wider community and finally tested against the question, is this option reasonable considering all the circumstances?

It is also important to consider contingencies for when the unknown unknowns rear their head.

Step 5 – Action

It is now the time to take the action; put the decision into practice.

Since the model is cyclic, it doesn’t stop at Step 5, but returns to Step 1, either to identify further options in light of a changed situation or to debrief the action and identify future learning opportunities. This is known in policing as ‘spinning the model.’


Mission and values are not a step in the wheel, but rather the axle on which it spins


Many officers find this confusing but, put simply, when using the NDM every step in the process should be assessed against the very simple questions

1. Is what I am doing consistent with my duty as a police officer to act with integrity, be willing to take risks and protect the human rights of all?
2. What would the police expect of me in this situation?
3. What would the victim, the affected community and the wider public expect of me in this situation?


The NDM appears complicated when explained in a step by step way like this, however that is a result of mapping processes. Think about the steps involved in brewing coffee, there are about 10 steps and it would take a lengthy blog to detail them, however, I can make a cup of coffee very quickly despite the lengthy process; it is the same with the NDM, police officers trained to use it make almost instant decisions following its principles and it provides the ability to rationalise decisions.

The following example will hopefully illustrate this.

A police officer gets called to a report of shouting from an address. Whilst attending they spin the model, they have no real information or intelligence, they cannot make an accurate assessment of the threat and risk so the working strategy is to get more information, the officer has a duty to prevent disorder and keep the peace, but cannot make a full assessment of powers required until more information is available, the options are to get more information by tasking the control room to develop this and by making their way to the address to assess and gather information. This is reasonable and human rights compliant, so the officer undertakes these actions. This process takes about 100 words to explain, but an officer would make this assessment in the blink of an eye.

On attending at the address, they see a man in the street with his shirt off swinging a large block of wood, while on route to the address, research has revealed that the subject is known to police for violence and alcohol abuse. The model is spun again with this new information, the threat/risk to the subject, police and wider public is assessed as high. There is unknown factors (is there anyone in the house?) The working strategy is now based around maximising the safety of the community, minimising the risk to police, identifying potential victims and apprehending the subject. The subject has committed a crime and can be arrested, the assessment of options, looking at the force continuum includes use of incapacitant spray or taser, particularly given the special circumstances of the subject (known to abuse alcohol and be violent) however, if there is no immediate danger, then speaking to the subject would be considered along with tactical withdrawal. The officer would then act according to the options considered.

The model would be spun numerous times during a situation like this every time a new piece of information or intelligence became available until the situation was resolved and debriefed. As a supervisor attending an incident like this, I would expect to be briefed by the attending officers using this model.

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The Best Kept Secret in Scottish Policing

Recently an officer thanked me for an input I had provided a few years ago on a public order course, when I shared the best kept secret in Scottish policing;

Section 17(1)(a)(ii) Police (Scotland) Act 1967

it shall be the duty of the constables of the police force to guard, patrol and watch so as …. to preserve order

The officer has used this regularly carrying out their duties. I became aware of the utility of this piece of legislation a few years ago during a public order commanders course at Tulliallan Castle, the Scottish Police College. The senior legal advisor from Strathclyde Police gave a presentation that stirred my interest in Human Rights law and practice and reminded us about this piece of legislation and it’s relevance in human rights law.

Preserving order is one of the duties of the police and has been since the first modern police force was established (City of Glasgow Police in 1800, sorry Sir Robert Peel). It is perhaps wrong to describe it as a secret as every officer going through basic training at the Scottish Police College is provided with an input on it. However, since I and many colleagues undertook basic training prior to Human Rights legislation, the practical application of it has not been acknowledged by us.

The following scenarios provide examples using this piece of legislation.

Scenario 1

A police officer intervenes in an altercation outside a nightclub, giving some friendly advice to the persons involved and sending them away in different directions. This is practical, common sense policing and occurs on a daily basis. Since we police by consent and the police are held in respect by the community, most people will comply with this instruction.

However, this interferes with the human rights of the persons involved, especially their right to privacy and to freedom of expression. I have blogged previously about human rights law and explained that police can restrict rights if the restriction is Proportionate, Lawful, Accountable and Necessary (PLAN). In this situation Section 17 provides the basis in law, it is our legal duty to preserve order.

In addition to the human rights aspect, since the officer is carrying out their lawful duty to preserve order a failure to comply would be obstructing a constable in the execution of his duty, in contravention of Section 41(1)(a) Police (Scotland) Act 1967.

Scenario 2

During a contentious football match, sections of both supporters continually goad each other and intelligence is received that there will be disorder outside the ground following the fixture. Based on the crowd dynamics and the intelligence, the match commander decides to keep one section of the crowd in the stadium after the match until the other section has been dispersed, before escorting them to their buses or trains. The detention of fans within the stadium is a restriction of their human rights, the legal basis of which is Section 17.

I could provide a number of similar scenarios which use this legislation to provide the legal basis for police action.

I would be interested in feedback from English/Welsh officers on similar powers/duties that they have and the use or implementation of them.

UPDATE 02/04/2013

Following the creation of the single Scottish Police Force, the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 has been replaced by the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012. I’m pleased that this legislation still defines the duty of a Constable to maintain order, Sec 20(1)(a)

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Use of Force

My friend, @MentalHealthCop, recently shared a newspaper controversy regarding the hand-cuffing of an elderly dementia patient and blogged on this ‘Sectioning the Elderly‘. A couple of years ago, colleagues of mine suffered serious injuries when a 98 year old man attacked them with a knife after they went to his assistance. How do police officers make decisions regarding the Use of Force? The police use a model called the Force Continuum, which is a linear progression that charts the action of the assailant with the force options available.

The officer needs to make decisions based on the circumstances, including the comparative age, size, sex, skill level and number of offenders/officers. So someone like me, a reasonable well built, 6 foot tall confident officer would place themselves on a different place on the continuum to a smaller less confident individual. The officers confidence is the most important factor, I know 5’ tall officers who would face lions and 6’7 officers scared of their shadow.

There are also special circumstances which must be taken into account, for instance, the proximity of a weapon, the subjects mental health, the subjects apparent abuse of drugs/alcohol, special knowledge of the subject and injury/exhaustion of either the officer or subject.

The model starts at dialogue and progresses through escort, handcuffs, open hand techniques, incapacitant sprays, batons, less-lethal options and finally lethal force. Dialogue should encompass all aspects of the model because each use of force should be accompanied by tactical communication if possible. Other options can also fit at various points on the model, handcuffs, for example, can be used as an escort tool or as a means of ensuring pain compliance to gain control.

It is perhaps unfortunate that we use a linear progression, because it is necessary to be able to de-escalate as well as escalate the levels of force used. Antipodean colleagues use a circular model, the Tactical Options Model, which places safety at the centre of the model, surrounds it with communications and then places options round this, encouraging the officer to work through the options.

The recent HMIC Report ‘Rules of Engagement‘ suggests that there are three core questions which police officers should ask to justify there use of force,

1. Would the use of force have a lawful objective (e.g. the prevention of injury to others or damage to property, or the effecting of a lawful arrest) and, if so, how immediate and grave is the threat posed?

2. Are there any means, short of the use of force, capable of attaining the lawful objective identified?

3. Having regard to the nature and gravity of the threat, and the potential for adverse consequences to arise from the use of force (including the risk of escalation and the exposure of others to harm), what is the minimum level of force required to attain the objective identified, and would the use of that level of force be proportionate or excessive?

As always, human rights are paramount in use of force. Officers use of force must be

Accountable and

Decision making surrounding the use of force is difficult, with officers having to make snap decisions under extreme pressure, often without the full knowledge of circumstances. I will blog about police decision making in my next blog.

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Crowd Psychology – BBC Radio 3 Sunday Feature

This look at crowd behaviour by Steve Jones provides an excellent insight into Le Bon’s The Crowd and developments in the science of crowds since, including insights into crowd management within stadia and a look at the August Disorder.

BBC iPlayer

My thanks to Dr Clifford Stott (@CliffordStott) for sharing

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Social Media – I don’t get it

During a recent demonstration by the EDL in Birmingham, West Midlands Police put out a couple of tweets aimed at countering misapprehension and rumour that was spreading, preventing a tipping point potentially leading to violent disorder.

This contrasted sharply with two recent multi-force deployments I have been on recently.

On the first deployment, the commander was asked what the Social Media policy was and he simply stated ‘We don’t have one, police officers should not be using social media at work.’ This was followed by the threat in the operational order that any police officer using social media during the event would be disciplined. On the second deployment, the Gold strategy (directed by a senior officer) encouraged the use of social media to engage, but the Bronze (operational commander) clearly dictated that officers were not to use social media and faced discipline if they did. (An explanation of Command levels can be found here)

I have previously highlighted how social media can be used to engage with protestors (Negotiation and Protest); similarly, HMIC has identified the use of social media as good practice in engaging and communicating during protest events. It is worrying that some middle managers don’t follow the strategic direction and fail to recognise evidence and good practice.

This raises the question, why? I can only speculate, but would suggest that middle managers in the police can be very risk averse, PAJ Waddington described the fear of ‘in the job trouble’ where the fall out from something going wrong during a contentious event is damaging to the manager at a personal level, either to their reputation and standing within the organisation or to their promotion prospects. This manifests itself in an unwillingness to trust and empower officers because they may do something out with the control of the manager. Allied to this is innovation inertia, whereby innovation is not adopted because it isn’t understood and cannot be controlled. Social media falls into the twin perils of not being understood and not doing what it is told, nothing can be more dangerous and potentially damaging to middle managers.

I am not advocating a social media free for all, the use of social media during a protest has to follow a specific strategy aimed at engaging with all parties and ensuring the potentially damaging misinformation is corrected. This can be achieved by outlining a strategy, empowering and encouraging officers to achieve the strategy and strong briefing and debriefing, including the recognition of good practice and an honest appraisal of what worked and what didn’t.

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August 2011

My blogs have, up until now, been about policing contentious protest. However, the past week has seen news reports of convictions for those involved in disorder (BBC News 31/05; Police Oracle 31/05) and reports of further arrests linked to it. Colleagues of mine were deployed in the aftermath of these incidents when the slumbering leviathan that is PNICC woke up and dispatched resources from across the UK to help. This blog is not an academic examination, that has been done most excellently in Mad Mobs and English Men and Reading the Riots, but a personal reflection on the disorder.

My good friend, Michael Brown, @MentalHealthCop, has stated that he will never forget the night of the 9th of August, when he worked during the disorder in Birmingham and shots were fired at Police Officers and petrol bombs thrown.

My involvement is much more mundane, on the 8th August, having watched disorder in Tottenham spread across London, I packed my children up for a family holiday in a remote part of the borders. Settled down, we headed to the nearby town for some shopping where I met a public order colleague who had just been told to pack as she was heading South in the morning. Later, as we sat watching the news, Facebook came alive with ‘I’ve had the call’, ‘I’ve not, why?’ as public order colleagues across the country began to answer the call to arms. Those on early deployments recount stories of belligerent police commanders taking the fight onto the streets, refusing to ‘die in a ditch,’ intent on winning the war.

The following day, whilst heading into England my phone rang ‘Can you come back, we have to send more officers.’ Much soul searching later, the decision. I respect and support my colleagues, I will stand up in the face of a lion or a rioting mob, but my heart wouldn’t allow me to tell three small children their holiday was cancelled.

Instead I spent days and nights on social media following the hash tags, the moving accounts of those involved and watching BBC News 24 24/7. Police officers on twitter and blogs moved us with tales of the fight back, early morning arrests, 20 hour shifts and the kindness and support of communities who fed, watered and cheered officers. Policing for the community by the community returned in the face of adversity as public support for the police reached an all time high. Communities opened rest centres where weary members of the emergency services could eat and drink, while others took to the streets with brushes and shovels to clear up the streets. Police manuals talk about the return to ‘normality’ or a ‘new normality,’ post riot this included increased police/community relations and stronger bonds within our communities. One of my colleagues, deployed to the West Midlands area, tells a story of a queue forming outside the police station as mothers brought sons down to hand themselves in and confess to their involvement.

A week later, as the dust began to settle, I was working when my phone rang again, ‘PNICC have asked for another PSU, can you go to London?’ I spent the day resourcing a PSU then departed south in a convoy of 20 public order carriers. My five day trip to London involved mainly public re-assurance patrols of Charing Cross and Westminster taking the Scottish style of policing into the heart of London. I have never been so photographed, but continued to be deeply moved by stories of the sacrifices made by cops who worked 20 hour shifts, slept in the locker room for 2 hours and returned to duty for another 20 hour shift, who didn’t see their families for 7 days.

The disorder proved to be a tipping point in police use of social media, several forces made great pro-active use of it to prevent or disrupt disorder and the subsequent report by the Metropolitan Police ‘4 Days in August’ acknowledges that they should have made more pro-active use of social media.

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‘Losing by Appearing to Win’

This blog has been written following comment on a previous blog, The Cycle of Conflict, by Dr Clifford Stott. It is not a definitive answer or academically based, but my thoughts and observations, intended to engender debate and discussion, I emphasise that these are my own thoughts and ideas. Dr Stott commented

“plans and briefings always emphasise the policing style to be used, which is usually a positive community focused approach”.

I think there is a powerful piece of work to be done on the disconnection between this approach at policy level (in the strategy, briefs, etc) and what can and is maintained on the ground. It seems to me that keeping a neighbourhood policing approach intact in ‘public order’ situations is a central challenge.

How do police commanders ensure that a community or neighbourhood policing style is used when deploying public order units? In my opinion, although the police are really good at dealing with non-contentious demonstrations where conventional police resources are used, problems arise when a demonstration is seen as potentially contentious. Public Order officers have to balance conflicting discourses; the strategic intent to use community/neighbourhood policing style with the ‘win at all costs’ discourse provided by training and deployment.

Win at all Costs

Commanders tend to start the policing of contentious protests using conventional policing, that is officers drawn from regular duties; public order officers are held in reserve and only deployed when tensions escalate. They are used when things go wrong, deployed to solve the problem.

But how do they solve the problem? Public order trained officers usually train twice a year and this training tends to focus on Common Minimum Standards, the tactics required for mutual aid deployments. This training tends to escalate from low level tactics such as cordons, through street tactics using shields and public order helmets, building entries and clearances to apprehending dangerous persons. These tactics are generally followed by an exercise to test the officers. The exercise will escalate through the tactics mirroring the previous training, using a ‘train hard, fight easy’ approach.

This approach to training was criticised in the HMIC report ‘Adapting to Protest’ which argued that training should encourage de-escalation and be more realistic. An approach to training which emphasises escalating conflict leads officers to anticipate escalating conflict when deployed and to believe that conflict is the solution.

Another issue with training to common minimum standards is that it is strongly focused on rigid command structures, with individual officers expected to simply obey commands. Police officers in their usual roles are expected to make dynamic decisions with grave consequences (i.e. depriving people of their liberty), however they are not empowered to make decisions in public order situations. In situations of mass disorder (i.e. London, August 2011) rigid commands structures arde necessary, but in protest situations, more empowerment may mean less violence and disorder, personal involvement gives officers an investment in achieving a good solution.

To ensure that strategic objectives in command situations are achieved at an operational level officers need to be empowered and trusted to make operational decisions, education needs to focus on solving problems by de-escalating conflict and officers should be deployed from the start rather than being held ‘until things go wrong.’ Public order officers are given conflicting discourses, the strategic discourse in the briefing and the operational discourse from deployment and training, thus they choose the discourse they are comfortable with. Strong leadership is required to ensure the strategic discourse is followed.

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