Policing of the G20 Protests - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Examination of Witness (Questions 360-379)


19 MAY 2009

  Q360  David Davies: Is it true, though, that officers suffered verbal abuse, that missiles were being thrown at them over a period of eight hours and that, in some cases, I have heard that human excrement and urine was thrown at officers as well? Are all of these roughly accurate?

  Commander Broadhurst: Certainly the first ones. As to the excrement and urine I understand there are allegations that some urine was thrown, but we have no evidence of that, and probably unlikely. Excrement I have not heard of, no. Certainly, yes, a number of officers—again not all—on those cordons would have come under some form of physical attack, certainly some verbal abuse but, as we have seen from Mr Brake's report, many of them would have had a fairly peaceful time, depending on where they were in that vicinity. Certainly those on the cordons, at some stage, would have come under some form of abuse, if not attack.

  Q361  David Davies: Obviously, we are all agreed, that anybody who deliberately hid their numbers should suffer disciplinary procedures. Is it at all possible that in the rush to get on protective clothing, which I think was given out at some point during the protests when protesters turned violent, numbers may have slipped off or that equipment had to be put on in such a hurry that things may have accidentally been obscured?

  Sir Paul Stephenson: If I can give a brief answer and then I will pass on to Commander Broadhurst, without undermining at all my statement that it is wholly unacceptable for any uniformed officer to fail to show their identification—certainly to deliberately do it—there are issues around the equipment that we use, and we have now realised that. That is one of the learning lessons. The flashes that we show on command tabs are made to go over the epaulette and they can look like tape covering the numerals. That is something we have learnt. We made a decision some time ago not to actually embroider the numerals into the various equipment—we did that on cost grounds. That may not have been a wise thing in terms of making sure that these things can constantly be displayed. Thirdly, I would say that early on in the dispute on Parliament Square with Tamils, I was out there talking to a police sergeant and, as I was talking to him, his epaulette was undone and it slid down his shoulder. I pointed out to him that was not what he wanted to happen when he was talking to the Commissioner, but these things can happen. So I make no excuses for anybody if there is any evidence that anybody deliberately did it, but there are other reasons.

  Commander Broadhurst: Certainly, in the public order work, we are aware of the implications of officers not being identified, because it gives the impression that they are trying to cover up their actions, which is clearly wrong. I had met with a couple of representatives from Climate Camp the day before, who had again pointed this out to me. Most protest groups will always point this out to us. Hence, in my briefings, and I gave personal briefings to all of the supervisors the day before, I made it clear that I wanted them to make a personal check of everybody on their unit to ensure they had their insignia correct. I have spoken to the Commissioner about this; I am satisfied that I do not think any officer deliberately tries to cover up—in this day and age they would be extremely naive to think they could get away with something like that—but (and you make the correct point) any officer in a public order situation, during the course of any given day, could be expected to have, potentially, five different outer garments from a shirt to a Met vest, to a yellow jacket, to protective overalls, and so on. We only issue them with one pair of epaulettes with metal numbers on, and I am sure that sometimes in that process they do miss bits. Again, when this issue was raised with me we challenged at least one television company to go through their footage and identify how many officers they could see without their numerals on; they could not find any. Again, from Mr Brake's report, someone did ask you that there were officers without numerals and you could not find them. There will be some in a crowd and I suspect in the majority of those it is because they have changed, something has dropped off or they have fallen. It is an organisational issue but because our officers move around probably, on average, two or three years from one unit, perhaps, to another, from one borough, and so on, to go to the cost of embroidering their divisional number, which will then have to change, is a cost. I have pointed that out to the Commissioner and he has asked me to look into that in one of my other roles as Chair of Clothing Board, for uniforms. Other forces do it in different ways, but they do not have the same type of identification in terms of numbers. I think it is not an officer issue it is an organisational issue that I need to look into.

  Q362  David Davies: Finally, there is a perception in the minds of some members of the public that officers are only attacked by large, heavily built gentlemen of a certain age. Can you confirm officers are actually regularly attacked by people of all sorts of different ages, sexes and sizes, and if an officer says: "Get back; get back" and somebody keeps coming towards them, they are perfectly within their rights to push them back?

  Commander Broadhurst: Absolutely. I am sure, as a Special, you have encountered that. Certainly some of the worst scratches and facial injuries I have had was from a teenage girl who was assaulting me whilst I was trying to sort something else out. It does happen; it will happen all the time. Officers are trained to deal with the threat, not the size or age or sex of the individual in front of them; they deal with the threat in front of them, and the techniques that they are taught deal with that. I will perhaps speak about those later.

  Q363  Gwyn Prosser: Regardless of the merits of the tactics used—the "kettling" and the use of the Territorial Support Group—would you accept that, even with hindsight, the actions taken and the actions we have seen on our television screens, etc, have hugely alienated a great group of ordinary people who, ordinarily, would have been naturally supportive of the police in any of these sort of actions. Have not errors been made?

  Sir Paul Stephenson: Firstly, I will not go beyond the debate I had earlier about my comments regarding my concern over the imagery of the actions of a small number of officers, but it is that, and I wait to let the inquiry judge the actions. However, I think it is fair to say that the presentation of that, and the way in which that video evidence looks, does stand the potential of damaging public confidence. I think that is a fair comment.

  Q364  Gwyn Prosser: Finally—from me anyway—in this day and age where just about everyone carries a mobile `phone and just about every mobile `phone has a video or camera, should not part of the training of police officers coming into those circumstances be: "Don't do anything; don't take any action that you are not prepared to see later on the video screen"?

  Sir Paul Stephenson: I think that has been part and parcel of the training—not on mobile `phones, I hasten to add—since I joined the job. I think the training is: "Don't act unlawfully; don't act unprofessionally". I think it is just an extension of that, and as technology changes there are different ways and many more opportunities for people to be caught behaving badly if they choose to behave badly. It is just an extension of professionalism.

  Q365  Chairman: Commander Broadhurst, can I turn to you now, but, Commissioner, please chip in whenever you wish to. We are going to look at the actual events of the day. You have had a long and distinguished career as the Gold Commander of many events, including the marriage of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, so policing the G20 must have been something—I was going to say something quite similar but, of course, it is something quite different. How would you rate the performance of the police? The Commissioner was very reluctant to give the police marks out of ten. If you were self-assessing yourself, how would you rate the performance of your team?

  Commander Broadhurst: I think G20 was marginally easier to police than the wedding which, if you remember, had its own distractions at the time, for a number of reasons. Again, I would be reluctant to mark myself; the Commissioner and Chris Allison will do that for me. I would actually say that the performance of the police officers—I would not give them a scale out of ten because you will only hold me to ransom over it—I thought they were superb throughout the week, restrained, certainly in the face of provocation on 1 April, and again, on occasions, on 2 April. Clearly, there are areas of concern, as the Commissioner has said, which are rightly being investigated—and quite rightly so—but, as we have heard, in any areas of provocation when we have people abusing us, attacking us and throwing things at us, we look for restraint. I had asked for restraint in policing, again in those briefings, because of my concerns with how some of this was building up in the media, and for the most part I saw that. Whilst, clearly, every individual officer must be held to account for his or her actions, for the most part what I have seen on television were only the types of tactics, in terms of techniques, that I train them down at Gravesend. So we have heard of open-strike techniques. Now, there is one that is being investigated I cannot go into, but I have seen open-hand strike techniques, I have seen strikes to the backs of legs, I have seen push-aways with shields—I have not seen anything that has particularly concerned me in the overall of what I train officers to do in difficult and challenging situations. Having said that, each one of them, as individuals, has to account for themselves, which is why, at the end of each of those shifts, despite the fact that many of them have been on duty for in excess of 20 hours, when they get back to whichever base they have come from, they then write copious notes as to what force they have used. Sometimes those notes, in the confusion, do not always bear exact relevance to what they have done, but we do ask them to sit down, and say: "If you have used any degree of force at all today—be it the use of a baton, a shield, open-hand technique, or anything else—if you were trying to protect yourself or colleagues, you must write it down." It is for each and every individual officer to account for their actions. I must say, that what I have seen, and I can only speak for myself as the officer in command of public order, our officers did what I had asked them to do under very challenging conditions.

  Q366  Chairman: We are looking, as a Committee, at other jurisdictions and comparing it to policing in the United Kingdom, particularly in London. We have got the Olympics coming up, obviously, for which you are also the Gold Commander. If you were looking at a comparison—and I know it may be difficult because you deal with these people on an international basis—the way in which we police great events like the G20 and other countries (for example, the French or Swiss police—events that happen there), which country would you suggest we look at to see a different approach to the approach that you adopt here?

  Commander Broadhurst: Practically every country in the world is different to us. I think we are probably one of the few jurisdictions where, in our response to all policing, but certainly when it gets to disorder, I do not have at my disposal anything to give me distance control. You will see other forces, including PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland), who use water cannon, they may use tear gas and they will regularly make use of what used to be called "baton guns" and have now been given a new name. (I will call them "baton guns" because I think we understand that.) Although we have access to baton guns (now called AEPs) we have never used them on the mainland in a disorder situation because of the implications, which means we, as a service, come toe-to-toe far quicker, probably, than any other police jurisdiction in the world. That was one of the learning points from Parliament Square in 2004. We were charged, as one of the IPCC recommendations, to look at greater distance control, and although we have talked about and looked at the use of water cannon, I see no appetite in this country for having water cannons in Parliament Square to keep crowds back, which does then mean that we put our officers and our specials and others in that very invidious situation of being toe-to-toe with sometimes a violent and antagonistic crowd, and then having to work out who are the decent people and who are those that are trying to attack me. That is why I say I am incredibly proud of the way the Metropolitan Police, the City Police and BTP—and Sussex Police, because they were there helping us as well—managed that very difficult situation on 1 April. To put 1 April in context, whilst, clearly, it has caused us concern and is why I am here now and speaking to HMI and others—and quite rightly, to learn the lessons—if you put the disorder and violence that was seen that day into the context of other demonstrations such as Poll Tax, May Day in 2001, it is nowhere near on that scale. I think, again, if this Committee were to look back at the media coverage on the day, you would see most leader commentators saying: "This is pretty low-key; it is not building into what we thought it would; the police have been quite restrained and, in fact, have come under attack themselves", and you will see lots of footage of police officers wearing flat caps and ordinary beat helmets. My view of life is this all changed, clearly, after the death of Mr Tomlinson, which is clearly very sad and needs to be investigated, but what we have seen since is the media and others only honing in on the officers in full kit, responding in the way that I have trained them, and the actual day itself, which passed off relatively unscathed, is not commented on. The other thing I think I need to put into context—you spoke about other events that I have done—is I would say that this week of the G20 (if that is what we are going to call it) was probably the most complex policing event the Metropolitan Police and our partners have undertaken, certainly in my length of service. What many people forget is that the issues that we are talking about, quite rightly (and we need to learn the lessons) were only a small part of a very challenging week, as the Commissioner has said. If you think of the other events, we had the State visit of the President of Mexico, the first visit outside the United States of the new President of America, the Heads of 20 other nations; we had, on the day of the events that we are talking about, 19 demonstrations, in 17 of which the organisers came and spoke to us and we had no problems with; two did not and we had problems with (that is a very important point that I will come back to); we had 14 demonstrations the following day and, of course, the G20 summit. The backdrop to everything that we are talking about here on disorder, for me as the Gold Commander, I had 20 of the world's top leaders, we had 48 protected people in all and we had run out of protection officers and escort officers, and we had to go to mutual aid outside London.

  Chairman: It sounds like an extraordinarily difficult operation. Can I ask colleagues to ask questions briefly and, also, the witnesses, if you could be brief in your answers? Would you prefer these events not to happen in London? Would it be better to take them to some remote place and get the leaders to fly in on their helicopters, or whatever, or swim there, if necessary, if we are being environmentally sound? Far away from the metropolis to enable it to be policed in a different way. Would that be a better suggestion?

  Q367  Mr Winnick: I would suggest Leicester myself!

  Commander Broadhurst: Not necessarily. I think we, in the metropolis—the Met Police, the City and BTP—are used to handling these big events. I do have a concern, that is documented, that we were not consulted on the venue itself nor on the date, which did cause us some concerns. At the end of the day, we can police it. My own view is this may have been better placed in a more secure central London building—Lancaster House, for instance, or others—but wherever you put this, any other force would face the same kind of issues that we have.

  Q368  Chairman: And the cost, in the end? What was the cost of policing the G20?

  Commander Broadhurst: The latest cost—and bear in mind that there is a drag factor as we pick up some of the real costs of overtime and other bits as they filter in—was in the region of £7.2 million.

  Q369  Chairman: To come from where? The Government or out of your budget?

  Sir Paul Stephenson: We have not yet established precisely from where, Chairman.

  Q370  Bob Russell: That is cheaper than the Tamils!

  Sir Paul Stephenson: Can I just support what Commander Broadhurst has said there? It was a very challenging security environment at the ExCel centre, but London is an iconic city that does run extraordinary events, and against all extraordinary events this was the most extraordinary, and I think Commander Broadhurst has fairly accurately outlined the scale of the challenge and what was achieved without undermining what we have previously said about proper investigation.

  Q371  Mr Streeter: I would like to say well done, Commander Broadhurst. You did not have long to plan it. If you had longer would you have done anything differently, and were there any surprises? Did it go according to the plans you had been able to put in place, or did things take you by surprise?

  Commander Broadhurst: I think had we had longer to plan it we would not have done anything differently, we would have just had more time to actually get the plans in place better and more accomplished. There is a difference between having too much time to plan and too little. Three months was probably a bit tight, in terms of some of the detail of planning. So I think, no, we would have stuck to the same plan and, for the most part, the week panned out as predicted. The summit itself was a success; the world leaders came and went. I even got a personal `phone call from the Prime Minister thanking us, which I think shows the level of concern that there was in government about the potential for disruption to the summit, and all that goes with it. We would have done much the same but to have had two or three more months would probably have been preferable.

  Q372  Mr Streeter: Commander Broadhurst, you mentioned earlier that one of the hard things is working out who are the decent people and who are those who are going to attack you. I think this is an issue for all police forces, on any occasion. We had evidence the last time we met from a young man whose name I have forgotten, who was sitting down on the floor and was then punched in the face. Mr Abbott. I believed him. To me, he came across as a perfectly sensible, decent person who was not a trouble-maker. If I could just encourage you to read the transcript of the evidence that he gave, I thought it was very powerful, very believable, and that is the kind of thing for which the odd officer has to be held to account, if I may say so.

  Commander Broadhurst: I will read it, sir, and I have read many of the other incidents which, as the Commissioner has said, cause us concern, which is why we need to learn and see how we can better improve that particular tactic.

  Q373  David Davies: Are there any alternatives, do you think, to "kettling" if the police want to work with protesters? I saw on Police Review recently, there was a report about some country in Europe where they actually put uniformed officers into crowds of that nature and used them to try and calm things down a little bit. Have you looked into any of these alternatives, or do you think "kettling" is the best way to deal with potentially difficult situations?

  Commander Broadhurst: I think, like everything else, the tactics must fit the situation in front of you, which is why containment, as we would call it, was not a pre-determined tactic; it was something that best suited the circumstances. If you think here, the circumstances are an unlawful demonstration, four marches moving off without consulting the police, without authority, as it were, under the Public Order Act, where the protesters, on their own website, had the declared intent of "stopping the City". I say "stopping", not "damaging" or "trashing". At no stage in advance of this did I talk about violence, but a very clear intent of "stopping the City". By that, on their sites, they were quite openly saying they would occupy buildings, clog up entrances, get into offices, sit on photocopiers, block junctions—stop the City working—which, in itself, would have caused a great deal of economic damage, and is patently illegal. The concern of the City businesses was a return to 1999 and the J18 disturbances that left £13 million worth of damage. Given that that is the apparent mindset of the protesters, and given that this is not an organised protest so to find out about it you have probably read some of those websites, I think we are entitled to think that at least a section of that crowd—and the crowd turned out to be quite decidedly larger than we or the protesters had anticipated, for whatever reason. The Silver Commander and the Bronze Commander on the ground took the opportunity that when the four groups came together, and to be honest I thought they would do what is, essentially, a European tactic—by meeting in four places they would have gone off in four different directions and caused lots of little disturbances that would have stretched the policing; as it is, for whatever reason, they came together. My view is, and I support this whole-heartedly, that if their intention was to cause as much disruption to the City as possible, containing them is the most sensible option. The only alternative to containment is dispersal, which is the opposite. In other words, you push the crowd back and get them to disperse in small groups so they go their own ways. I have heard some evidence given by the PSNI that, essentially, that regularly occurs in Northern Ireland, but of course they do it within estates where people go back to where they live; what we would be doing would be pushing people through the City where they have already avowed their intention to be disruptive. We saw in J18, as we dispersed them (we can show you video footage) back in 1999, when we got our tactics wrong, they caused lots of damage as they went; going over Waterloo Bridge smashing the windows of every car they went past. So there are alternatives. I would be very reluctant to put police officers into a potentially violent crowd because I am then putting them at risk. So there are a number of tactics, but essentially you come down to either contain your crowd or disperse your crowd, and on this occasion to have dispersed it would have been manifestly irresponsible of me because it would have led to the very thing they wanted to do.

  Mr Streeter: Thank you for that very comprehensive answer.

  Q374  Mrs Dean: Commander, are you satisfied that all the officers on frontline duty on 1 April had received sufficient training and gained sufficient experience of policing events of this type?

  Commander Broadhurst: No, I am not. A number of reasons for saying that: first of all, I take great pride in the way they acted, and I would always stand by that. The vast majority—clearly one or two need to be investigated, I do not deny that. However, if you look back at the history of London we have, very fortunately, not had large-scale disorder now for a number of years. Parliament Square in 2004 was probably an outlier and if you go back to 2001, before that, those of you that remember, if you go through the 1990s or 1980s, we tended to have summer after summer, almost, of some form of large-scale disorder. That means I now have a workforce of relatively young people that we draw from bear in mind we do not have riot police, as some commentators would have; these are officers taken from the borough environment, one day policing Sutton High Street and the next day called into central London. Our level 2 officers, that is the public order trained ones, of which I have 2,500, only now get, because of time constraints on us for training, two days' training a year. So they get two days' training a year, and the vast majority of those, I would hazard a guess, have never faced a situation as violent as that. If you go back earlier in the year, again, we faced some even more violent situations in some of the Gaza and Palestinian protests. So I do have a concern that some of our officers have not faced that. I would like to train them more but, of course, we just have not got the time or the ability to train the numbers we need. That is why, again, I think, that the restraint I saw from officers, who were probably clearly quite scared, and had perhaps not faced that type of situation before—and it may also be why one or two of them, as you have seen on television, may have used inappropriate force at times. Again, I would say that was probably more fear and lack of control, whereas our experience in the past is the more we experience these things the less quick officers are to go to the use of force, because they understand more the dynamics. So I do have that concern, and that is for us to work on, obviously, as a service.

  Q375  Mr Winnick: Do you accept that one of the ways in which it is most important for the public to have confidence is that any statement issued by the police should be a reflection of the actual events?

  Commander Broadhurst: Absolutely, sir.

  Q376  Mr Winnick: Do you accept at all that the statement issued by the police on 1 April regarding Mr Tomlinson's death did not reflect that?

  Commander Broadhurst: The statement issued by the Metropolitan Police? There was only one statement issued by the Metropolitan Police.

  Q377  Mr Winnick: Do you stand by that statement?

  Commander Broadhurst: I wrote it.

  Q378  Mr Winnick: You wrote it, you take responsibility for it and you in no way consider that it was inappropriate in any way whatsoever?

  Commander Broadhurst: I stand by my statement, sir, which was this—if I can just go through—

  Q379  Chairman: Is it a long statement?

  Commander Broadhurst: No.

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