I realise that my first sightings of ‘coppers’ or the Police in the United Kingdom made me gasp in awe. What kind of Police force gallivants and make street runs without artillery or guns? Then it was explained to me that the police force in the UK didn’t carry guns. I was perplexed, not so long after, stories (real life ones) of gangs clashing with the police and having vantage over them because gangs had weapons started to emerge. In 2001 debates loomed far and wide about whether the police should carry guns (BBC, 2001). The saga continued after several terrorist threats, the Police ‘beefed up’ their armoury when the ‘shoot to kill’ policy came in shortly with consequences after the wrongful shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005. After a series of embarrassing moments for the Police…a short passage of amendments coupled with damage control reigned within the cities of the UK as the Police tried to get their act together.
Come in the Community Police, these overly friendly concerned types were at every corner one turned and they were always on hand to lend a helpful shoulder. Then the saga of the 10-year-old Jordon Lyon who died by drowning in 2007, because the Community Police officers who were available felt that they were not qualified to do the job shed light on more fallacies of the Police. The Police force faced fresh attacks in light of this event. The Daily Express (September 24, 2007) quoted Shipley MP, Phillip Davies; “Police defended two support officers who stood by as a lad drowned because they lacked training. Now they are making loony policies like pulling 300 bike patrol officers off the streets in case they fall off and get hurt. God knows what health and safety will make of their armed response teams – probably tell them not to carry weapons in case they hurt someone. We all ride bicycles. ”
As more and more discontent prevailed with intermittent periods of peace, the year 2009 dawned. Just like any other ordinary new year with new changes, Britain was officially in recession; there was a series of unfortunate events for the Labour party, more light shone on British Governance. Then the G20 summit was announced, it was a summit which was meant "to strengthen the international financial architecture and to foster sustainable economic growth and development (www.G20.org)," a fabulous way for the good UK public to exercise their right to be heard and for bankers to dress down to escape the wrath of the 'not happy unemployed and discontented' public. Placards took precedence from insults to Sir Fred the dreaded one, RBS, bankers’ bonuses (recently Goldman Sachs announced their bonuses after G20, how convenient!) and the opulence of the G20 leaders. Roads were closed down and there were blockades and difficulty manoeuvring central London; the Square Mile and the City. A few people collapsed here and there, arrests of protestors were made and then the death of an innocent newspaper vendor, Ian Tomlinson who at first had his death ruled as a ‘heart attack’ slowly spread into the public arena. Videos emanated of Mr Tomlinson being pushed to the ground and being beaten by a Police Officer, he shortly died a few minutes later. Another inquiry into his death led to new findings of his death being the result of internal bleeding, the Police Officer in question is facing man slaughter charges under caution (what is that?). So as a shocked public digested the news, Nicola Fisher, 35, accused a police officer of hitting her and there is video footage to back her story during a vigil for Mr Tomlinson. As at Sunday 19 April, a 23 year old man alleged an assault by police on April 1. The Independent Police Commission had received at least ninety complaints by Sunday 19th April 2009.
In light of this, the Police force is now treading on eggshells, dont get me wrong, the Police force has credibility, there are loads of fantastic things that the Police are doing. Its just that people have short memories and the bad tends to extinguish the good. Should the police protect and offer guidance with caution or should they deal with the unruly public as they see fit? Rioters-should they demonstrate peacefully or is a little chanting and rowdiness okay? There is no easy solution to this but the Police need the general populace on their side to see them as well wishers and not foes…perhaps the police force needs a long awaited revamp; Anger Management exercises, Punchfree Dealing with Riots courses, Visual Basics-Introduction to spotting Innocents, Handling Chaos Training...to mention but a few.