As pictures showing the heir to the throne being sworn at, attacked and ridiculed were beamed across the world, Scotland Yard's crowd control tactics gained a global audience, writes David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent in London’s Daily Telegraph,” Analysis: Why police tactics failed us at student protests” (12/12)
He writes that one can only imagine the amazement of the United States Secret Service and security personnel in other countries as they viewed those pictures, and other images of protesters running amok with little or no attempt by police to stop them.
…the “we’ll get them later” policy…
He says that because of the death of a newspaper vendor struck and pushed by a police officer during the April 2009 G20 protests, Scotland Yard is fearful of further similar incidents.
Accordingly senior officers have adopted the policy of sitting back and allowing damage to property during demonstrations, preferring to apprehend criminals at a later date rather than inflaming the situation with immediate arrests.
New South Welshmen will be aware of a similar policy.
There was one notable exception in NSW. This was the riot in 2005 by youths at Cronulla, a Sydney beachside suburb, mainly fisticuffs against youths of Middle Eastern appearance.
Lifesavers claimed was made that despite complaints, the police refrained for several years from taking action about highly offensive behaviour and assaults.
When a convoy of cars assembled that evening in retaliation to the riot, the participants armed with bars, baseball bats, knives, machetes and guns, the police were ordered “not to approach convoys of men of Middle Eastern appearance”.
It was alleged police used similar restraint concerning riots around the same time at Macquarie Fields and Redfern.
…turning London spaces into playgrounds to defile….
To return to the London disturbances, David Barrett says some of the “very commentators who vilified the Yard” for the newspaper vendors are now asking why the officers had hesitated to “crack skulls’ over what has been happening in London.
“In this unsatisfactory state of affairs, this country's great public spaces – Parliament Square, Trafalgar Square – are turned into temporary playgrounds for yobs to defile, burn and smash.”
“But senior officers are not entirely to blame. There is no firm guidance from above, no public pronouncement on what tactics could and should be deployed. Instead, the Home Office and Downing Street resolutely insist that tactics are the police's call.
“It is safer for politicians to withdraw from the debate. They abdicate the decision because if they remain silent they cannot be accused by those who believe the police have either been too tough or too soft.
A similar abdication of responsibility by the NSW State government has been seen on several occasions in Sydney.
In our system it is the duty the police and politicians to see that The Queen’s peace is maintained and on all occasions .
The scenes surrounding the Prince of Wale’s car were disgraceful, and not just because the heir to the throne were involved.
On every occasion where violence is used against persons and property, immediate action is necessary. It is a breach of duty to allow the violence to continue with a view to watching CCTV images a with a view to apprehending the culprits later.
This is a duty of the police and the relevant government. It is Parliament to call them to account. But such is the rigour of the Party system in Australia, but not in the UK that this check and balance is too often neutralised.
In the case of the Australian Labor Party but not to its credit the British Labour Party, this is exacerbated by the Caucus Pledge which requires members vote according to the Party line.
Wher MP's fail in their duty, does the solution lie in the courts ordering compliance or even in the Crown acting ? No, not normally.
The ultimate control is with a well informed public using its powers of persuasion and ultimately the power of the ballot box.
This of course also requires that the media be diligent and ethical in informing the public.
In presenting the news, an ethical media must of course be sceptical of authority and unswayed by the politics of its practitioners.