Page last updated at 10:44 GMT, Monday, 20 April 2009 11:44 UK

G20 Protests: Police officers' views

Police at "Put People First" demo

The policing of the G20 protests in the UK was 'proportionate' and recent criticisms had lacked objectivity, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Sir Ken Jones, has said.

Three cases stemming from the G20 protests, including the death of Ian Tomlinson, are being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission .

Could these events change the way public events are policed in the future?

Two serving police officers give us their personal reaction to the policing of the G20 protests. As their views are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent those of the Metropolitan Police Force they have asked to remain anonymous.


Policeman silhouette

I am a police officer in the Met and I personally find it very frustrating the way the court of public opinion reacts under these circumstances. We really are damned if we do and damned if we don't.

People's memories are very short, and I am in no doubt that if we had a repeat of the chaos of the May Day riots of a few years ago, then the police would have been slammed by the media for not doing anything to stop it. The fact is that if we leave it until the trouble starts, it's already too late to do anything about it.

There was a large amount of credible intelligence that many people involved in the protest were planning a repeat of previous violence, and were only unable to do so as a result of the police tactics used.

Tamil activists have been protesting outside Parliament for several days, and as far as I am aware there has been no force used against them. If the police aim to brutally suppress any form of demonstration, as is suggested by many at the moment, then why has it not happened here?

Normal rules go out of the window when there is a potential riot about to develop.

Sitting back in your armchair in the days and weeks after an event like this, it is extremely easy to make all sorts of judgements. But the simple fact is that the only way to control violence is to match and surpass it with violence of your own, even if you are pre-empting that violence. Normal rules go out of the window when there is a potential riot about to develop.

There simply is no other way to go about dealing with it. The real world works very differently away from the cloud cuckoo land that exists in the offices at Liberty and other such groups. Sometimes people intent on violence won't always do what you ask them to do, no matter how polite you are.

I would find it very interesting to see the reaction to the next large scale event where disorder is predicted if the police simply did not attend, or stood by and used no force whatsoever in trying to control the crowd. I think the public would be crying out for our help and it would be very much a case of, "we told you so".


I'm a serving officer with the Met and have many years of public order training and deployment. I believe that there could be serious implications if any prosecution against this officer takes place.

When you are trained for policing riot situations you are confronted with very challenging, volatile situations and you are expected to be forceful. You might be expected to push people back to clear a road or even use a pre-emptive strike if you need to defend yourself or a member of the public. You just can not take a softly, softly approach.

If you think back to the poll tax riots, we saw images of officers being kicked on the floor. In such situations it is very difficult to tell officers you can't fight back. In fact in the UK we take a far softer approach to these events than in other countries, where the police deploy water canons and rubber bullets.

I am surprised that there has been no statement of support from the Police Federation. There is a feeling among some of my colleagues that the outcome of these events could have quite an effect on morale.

If I were currently on the list of trained officers or on the TSG I would remove myself immediately

I feel some sympathy for the officers involved in these events. We are told in training that we must act forcefully yet if we are not supported when we do this I would be reluctant to carry out these actions in real life situations. I'd think twice and probably wouldn't do it. If I were currently on the list of trained officers or on the Territorial Support Group I would remove myself immediately because this officer has received no support at all so far and it appears that he's being hung out to dry.

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