New HMIC report: 'Adapting to Protest'
mobbsey at gn.apc.org
Wed Feb 9 09:17:39 GMT 2011
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To summarise to a sentence, "oh no, the oiks are better at using IT systems
for command and control than we are!". Certainly has implications for how
climate camps and other eco-protest will be policed, especially now that the
government say they're going to make camping on private land a criminal
The new HMIC report is on-line at --
Rather a dull looking tome, but basically the police are getting rather
worried that all this austerity is really going to annoy people, and at the
moment the police are no match for determined protestors using social
networking to co-ordinate their actions (then again, perhaps they're looking
at tunisia/Egypt and bricking it).
Press release attached below.
POLICE ARE ADAPTING THEIR TACTICS TO THE CHANGING NATURE OF PROTESTS, BUT PACE
Police forces cannot plan for a quiet world and must swiftly adapt in real-
time to protests that pose risks to public safety, a report by H.M.
Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found today.
HMIC’s 2009 reports, Adapting to Protest and Adapting to Protest - Nurturing
the British Model of Policing, balanced human rights with keeping the peace
during the digital age, when social media and mobile phones enable
demonstrators to organise and change their plans quickly.
Today’s review considers the implications of the British model, built on “toe-
to- toe” policing – the principle that officers should police amongst the people
without barriers or obstructions.
This approach has to-date prevailed, even during recent events, where protests
escalated to include violence against officers on the ground and attacks on
However, HMIC is calling for the police to remain adaptable to the changing
nature of protest, and is urging the police to consider how tactics used to
safeguard peaceful protest can be developed to deter those with criminal
H.M. Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Denis O’Connor, said, “The pattern
of protest is evolving in terms of numbers, spread, disruption and, in some
“Police tactics must be as adaptable as possible to the circumstances, and the
challenge of striking the right balance between competing rights is a difficult
judgment call. Commendably, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) is
taking up most of HMIC’s recommendations in their new training procedures.
However, these changes are taking time to embed with officers; months, if not
years. The new ACPO manual, finalised in October 2010, will be used as the
basis for training from Spring 2011. Taking into account the time required to
train officers, changes on the ground may take up to two years or more.
“Those in command of policing events must consider how to accelerate learning
in order to respond to the sort of changes in protests that we have seen.”
HMIC identified in 2009 that a lack of a common view in the use of force was
problematic, and recommended that ACPO, the Home Office and the National
Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) agree an overarching set of principles on
the use of force that cover all circumstances of policing. This recommendation
has yet to be addressed.
In an HMIC review of 45 forces in September 2009, less than 60% of forces had
tested their plan to mobilise their public order resource. In December 2010,
this figure remained unchanged; more than 40% of forces had not tested their
plans. ACPO has identified that some forces may not have sufficient numbers of
trained officers to meet a mobilisation request. By contrast, large numbers of
protesters can be organised in hours, and protests can change focus in minutes
through the use of social media and mobile phones. This is a considerable
issue if more public order events take place in the year ahead.
HMIC’s report found that adaptability comes at a cost. Some metropolitan
forces showed budget increases of between £245,000 and £636,000 between
2009/10 and 2010/11 due to the extra resources needed to police protests. One
metropolitan force reported that their opportunity costs for policing student
protests in November and December 2010 amounted to at least £100,000.
Sir Denis concluded, “Continuing to respond to the whole spectrum of protests
is a particular challenge in austere times, when savings must be made to every
police budget. The key to the police successfully adapting to the need for
peaceful protest is to prevent the disorder from occurring in the first
instance, where possible. Learning lessons faster and communicating better
with officers on the ground, as well as with the public, will help the police
minimise risk and maintain order on the streets.”
Notes to Editors
1. HMIC’s 2009 reports, Adapting to Protest and Adapting to Protest -
Nurturing the British Model of Policing, can be found on HMIC’s website
2. To bid for an interview with an HMIC spokesman, please contact the HMIC
press office on 020 3513 0600. Outside of office hours, please call 0782 583 3222
if your query is urgent, or email hmicpressoffice at hmic.gsi.gov.uk
3. HMIC is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public
interest and rigorously examines the effectiveness of police forces and police
authorities to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise
4. Further information about HMIC can be found on the website www.hmic.gov.uk
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