Scotland Yard has ordered a review of public order policing after mounting concerns of the tactics employed by police at this month’s G20 protests, which have already resulted in the suspension of two officers.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, has appointed Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Denis O’Connor, to lead the review and will face questions in public at a meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority on 30 April.
Yesterday he said: “G20 was a complex policing operation, managing the movement and protection of many heads of state across the capital while balancing the right to lawful protest and maintaining public order for many thousands of people.”
The call for an inquiry follows two allegations of assault by police officers which are under review by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the first on a newspaper vendor, Ian Tomlinson, shortly before he died of a heart attack on 1 April, and the second on a woman at a memorial protest for Mr Tomlinson the next day.
The incidents appeared to involve officers who had no visible shoulder identification. Sir Paul said yesterday: “Uniformed police officers should be identifiable at all times by their shoulder identification numbers. The public has a right to be able to identify any uniformed officer while performing their duty. We must ensure this is always the case.”
Also under review will be the practice of “kettling” – the confinement of people in one place. The Met has employed the tactic periodically over the past decade but it drew heavy criticism during the G20 protests and is thought to have intensified hostility between police and protesters.
Sir Paul said of the inquiry: “I want to be reassured that the use of this tactic remains proportionate and appropriate.” The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, welcomed the review and said there were “obvious areas of concern” around the protests. She said the death of Mr Tomlinson and this week’s emergence of a video appearing to show a sergeant striking a woman with a baton were “rightly” referred to the IPCC.
Sir Paul said the Met would also carry out its own review of hundreds of hours of footage recorded during the protests with a view to identifying “any other matters of individual police conduct that may warrant investigation”.
A video emerged earlier this week that appeared to show an officer with concealed shoulder numbers striking a woman across the face after she remonstrated with police at a protest in London on 2 April.
The sergeant is then seen drawing a baton from his pocket and striking her on her legs. He became the second officer from the Territorial Support Group to be suspended.