90 days from today is Mon, 28 December 2020
4 September 2020
The death of George Floyd in police custody in the United States triggered an outpouring of anger around the world including on the streets of Britain.
Despite the pandemic, thousands marched on London, in Bristol and elsewhere, to support the cause of anti-racism.
Police officers do not take sides and for good reason. But they found themselves caught in the middle of the protests, caught in an impossible position of trying to prevent violence from breaking out, while also maintaining the rule of law. And, at times, officers bore the brunt of the public anger.
Stephen Bell was one of the PSU Tac Advisors in Bristol during the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest on 7 June that resulted in a crowd pulling down of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston. Mr Bell is also a Police Federation representative in Avon and Somerset.
He said: “These protests don’t happen in a vacuum – there’s a number of factors that you have to consider, from the ever-present issue of the pandemic and local community tensions, to the austerity measures that have reduced our resources and capability to respond effectively to what we were faced with. An officer injured or infected in a protest is one less that can work their beat the next day.”
Andy Roebuck, Chair of Avon and Somerset Police Federation, added: “Policing public order events across the country has been really challenging for our officers and commanders. The dynamics of these protests has changed dramatically over the last few years, which has tested the policing of these events, whilst maintaining specific requirements around officer and public safety.
“The level of scrutiny is also intense, which adds pressure to all involved in the policing of the event.
“There is always a place for peaceful protest within our society, but the sheer level of violence and threats offered to officers during some of these events is wholly unacceptable and we must take a societal and judicial stance against that behaviour. The support of the officers who are trying to uphold the Queen’s peace is paramount.”
Steve Taylor, a member of the Police Federation National Board, joined colleagues in London to hand out snacks and drinks to officers on duty – a small gesture but much appreciated by all.
He said: “It was frustrating not being able to kit up and lend a hand, but I felt we helped in a practical way. I saw the mood turn very quickly from peaceful to violent. I saw one officer had his visor broken when the crowd started throwing missiles. He walked away with a cut to his face, but this could have been so much worse without the correct kit being available.”
Mr Taylor added: “Welfare will always be the responsibility of the force, but the Fed being on hand and in a position to help puts our members first and helps demonstrate to police forces what they can do for our members too.”
This article is taken from POLICE magazine. You can read the full edition here.