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Met chief praises 'astonishing' G20 police work

Sir Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, yesterday praised his force's much-criticised tactics at the G20 protests, saying they were an example of an "astonishing" policing operation.

But he conceded that there were supervision problems with rank and file officers, whom he said should be dealt with more robustly by their superiors. He added that he was looking into the possibility of changing police uniforms so every officer carried a name badge and that those that did not comply could expect to face tough consequences.

"If someone is trying to deliberately avoid being identified and their reason is so they can behave improperly, criminally, then of course they could face the sack," he said.

An estimated 5,000 protesters took to the streets during the demonstrations on 1 and 2 April. The policing of the event was roundly pilloried, with officers accused of being heavy handed, covering their shoulder identification epaulettes, and using controversial tactics to pen in the crowds for hours at a time. One man, Ian Tomlinson, died minutes after being struck and pushed to the ground by a police officer.

Yesterday Channel 4 News broadcast previously unaired footage of what it claimed was the same officer in a series of "chaotic incidents" with other protesters earlier in the day.

A third post-mortem examination was carried out yesterday and the results are expected this week. But Sir Paul said that while Mr Tomlinson's death was regrettable, the behaviour of the majority of police officers was "first class". He added: "The context is that this was one of the most challenging policing operations in police history. The overwhelming majority of officers carried out their duties in a professional manner.

"Part of the headline[s] should have been about the astonishing police operation pulled off by the Met who did a first-class job." On the subject of Mr Tomlinson, Sir Paul said: "I cannot reiterate enough how much I sincerely regret the death of that man."

A spokesman for the Campaign Against Climate Change said: "We would certainly disagree with Sir Paul. The G20 policing was fuelled by systemic aggression which resulted in many injuries and one death. If that was a good policing operation it makes you wonder what a bad one would be like."

One of the major criticisms of the police was the issue of identification numbers. In footage posted on the internet after a video of the alleged assault on Mr Tomlinson emerged, a Territorial Support Group sergeant who struck the protester Nicky Fisher appeared to be without his collar number. He has since been suspended along with the officer involved in the incident shortly before Mr Tomlinson's death.

Later a photograph emerged showing that an officer policing the Tamil Tigers demonstration outside Parliament also had no shoulder identification number on display. That officer was disciplined after explaining to his superior that he forgot to put his number on his uniform before leaving a police van.