madaxeman

January 27, 2011

Hyper-Kettling

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 1:00 pm

Hyper-Kettling

The Guardian carried an article this morning in which it discussed Sir Hugh Orde’s view that the police might need to adopt more extreme tactics when dealing with public protest. Particular attention was given to “Hyper-Kettling”, which is an extension of a policing tactic known as kettling.

Kettling is, in simple terms, the process of surrounding a protest with police officers, effectively forcing the containment of protesters in a fixed space, and then gradually slowly releasing people. This is often a lengthy process, and it is not unknown for perfectly peaceful protesters (for this tactic is employed against the peaceful as well as the “troublemakers”) to be detailed in kettles for over six hours. Some people, and I number among them, would argue that restricting the freedom of law abiding people to move around as they will amounts to unlawful detention. It seems Sir Hugh wouldn’t argue with me, as even he concedes that this could “interfere with the rights if citizens”…

What we have here then is the unaccountable leader of a private company, free from the scrutiny of the public, outside of the legislative process, deciding that it’s ok for the police to trample over the RIGHTS of citizens. He claims kettling is “for the greater good, and that’s the really complex part of policing” – but I don’t remember either Sir Hugh or ACPO being appointed to a position where they get to decide which RIGHTS can be sacrificed for the greater good, nor to I recall anyone including such lofty considerations as a part of policing. Policing should be about enforcing the law by applying the law – whereas actually setting out the law is a job best left to Parliament.

For my money, this episode demonstrates that ACPO are completely out of control, and the sooner they are disbanded and the police brought back to democratic accountablity, the better…

Going into the Hyper-space…

As someone who follows public order policing, the first thing I noticed about this morning’s article was the use of the term “Hyper”. I hadn’t come across that before, so I decided to look into what the difference was when compared to “normal” kettling. It turns out that whereas kettling refers merely to the detention of protesters, hyper-kettling involves deliberately reducing the size of the cordon so as to crush the protesters together into a smaller space. This isn’t actually a new tactic at all, as there is plenty of anecdotal evidence on Twitter to suggest that this is already standard operating practice, but it’s nice that they now openly admit to it.

Your choice, Officer…

Let’s look at this sensibly for a moment. When the police implement one of these hyper-kettles, one of the following must be the case:

  1. They believe all those they are about to kettle are intent on causing violent disorder.
  2. They believe all those they are about to kettle are actually peaceful protesters.
  3. They believe all those they are about to kettle are composed of a mixture of (1) and (2).

Case 1 is out from the start. Police officers are not stupid, and know that you cannot assume a unanimous group intent from a large group of people. Different people have different intentions.

Case 2 would mean that the police are deliberately interfering with the right to peaceful protest.

The truth of most large scale protests, I would suggest, resides in case 3. The problem here of course is that this means you are deliberately pressing peaceful protesters, whom you actually have a duty of care toward, into a mass of violence. In “concentrating” violent disorder in this manner, you actually make it more likely that the peaceful protesters you have forced into the middle of it will take injuries – inflicted by BOTH sides.

Aside from the violence aspect, deliberately compressing a protest into a smaller and smaller space is not without risk in and of itself – the Hillsborough Disaster ought to be clear evidence of that.

So which is it Officer – 1, 2 or 3?

Rather than endangering the public, what the police (and to a certain extent the protest groups themselves) ought to be doing is going after the troublemakers, and dealing with them. At the end of the day, no amount of shop-windows is worth someone’s life, which is what I now believe this will come to…

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