Thursday, November 10, 2011

Shock and Awe: Total Policing explained

In September the newly appointed Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, set out his plan for policing the capital.

"As Commissioner, I have three simple aims: I want us to cut crime, cut costs, and continue to develop the culture of the organisation, and to do all that based on simple but important values of humility, transparency and integrity. We will do that through what I call 'total policing'."

His statement was largely meaningless, but yesterday’s tuition fees protest in the City of London – the first student demonstration since the summer riots – gave some indication of how he intends to go about his business.

It was by far the most heavily policed demonstration I can remember, with about as many police officers (4000) as protesters, and preceded by threats of plastic bullets. From the point at which I joined it, close to the Law Courts, all side streets were sealed off with double barriers and up to three lines of police. The marchers were corralled into a very slowly moving kettle by mounted police, solid lines of officers on foot, and a large number in full riot gear. In New Fetter Lane the march was brought to a standstill for a considerable time, for no apparent reason, and the horses, surrounded by marchers unable to move away, became visibly restless. It looked dangerous, and felt very much as though the democratic right to protest was being honoured, if at all, in letter only.

Another casualty of the new Commissioner’s cunning plan may be the working relationship between police and photojournalists, recently much improved following discussions between the Met, the NUJ, the BPPA and others. For the first time in a while, I was refused passage out of a march despite showing my press card. If this is what humility, transparency and integrity looks like. I’m quite happy with whatever it was we had before. More pictures here.

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