HC 1456 Home Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the Institute of Civil Protection and Emergency Management

This evidence is submitted by members of the Institute who are mainly recently retired senior police officers with experience of policing disorders and other major incidents.

The role of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO)/National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) public order guidance

1. In the case of the G20 Protests, there were at least five reports, not including those originating from IPCC, all of which made recommendations about the way the police should deal with protest. These included one from the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee,(1) one from House of Lords/House of Commons Joint Committee on Human Rights,(2) one from the Metropolitan Police Authority(3) and two from Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary (HMCIC).(4 & 5) In addition, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has produced a follow-up report which reports on a review of progress against the recommendations arising from the first two reports(6) and the National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) have updated the Manual of Guidance on Keeping the Peace, on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS).(7)

2. Any debate on the ability of the police to deal with large-scale disorder should make reference to police doctrine and the principles of policing that were originally laid down by Sir Robert Peel and have subsequently evolved through Lord Scarman’s 1985 report on Brixton. Unfortunately, recent material originating both from HMIC and, more particularly the NPIA on behalf of ACPO shows a lack of understanding about both doctrine and principles. The last occasion that the Fundamental Principles of Policing were discussed in any detail was in the 1980s.(8) The general consensus at that time was that there were four fundamental principles:

The Principle of Prevention.

The Principle of Consent and Balance.(9)

The Principle of Independence and Accountability.

The Principle of Minimum Force.

Pike mentioned a fifth, the Principle of Discretion(10) but it is suggested that discretion is one of the ways of ensuring Consent and Balance.

3. There has been no real debate on the Principles of Policing since then and it is suggested that police doctrine remains an ill-defined, poorly understood and, to many, a confusing subject in spite of its considerable importance. It has been suggested that “the police service of the twenty-first century needs to recognise and declare its doctrine, in the sense of a recognised body of knowledge and an authoritative set of principles, in order to achieve its appropriate standing as a profession and fulfil its proper role in society.”(11) The Committee may wish to seek further evidence on this point.

Examples of confusion over doctrine, principles, and between strategy and tactics

4. Confusion exists over police doctrine and principles, and between strategy and tactics, particularly as they apply to the policing of large-scale disorder.

5. The HMCIC G20 Review Report, “Adapting to Protest”, refers to principles on a number of occasions and indeed appears to introduce a new one, The Principle of Proportionality.(12) Preliminary research fails to reveal this latest one in any list of generally accepted Principles of Policing but it is accepted that, in certain circumstances, principles must change if they are to stay current.

6. In addition, there are references to The Principle of Human Rights both in the G20 Review Report, Adapting to Protest,(13) and in the ACPO Manual of Guidance on Keeping the Peace.(14) But what are these principles relating to Human Rights? The Human Rights Act 1998 makes no reference to principles; rather it refers to articles, rights and freedoms.

7. The latest edition of the Manual of Guidance on Keeping the Peace lists five, what it terms as Core Principles in relation to public order policing:

Policing Style and Tone.


Use of the Conflict Management Model.


Proportionate Responses.(15)

8. The argument here is that, at the most, only three of these could be termed Core Principles. Policing Style and Tone and Use of the Conflict Management Model are methods by which the strategy and objectives are achieved. HMCIC refers to The Principle of Proportionality but, whichever term is used, it is merely one way of achieving consent and balance. Also the ACPO manual has changed the wording used by HMCIC from the Principle of Proportionality to the Principle of Proportionate Responses.

9. The HMCIC Report, “Adapting to Protest—Nurturing the British Model of Policing”, states that “the British model of policing places a high value on tolerance and winning the consent of the public”.(16) It is suggested that this comes within the generally accepted principle of Consent and Balance. Later, it refers to the fact that there is “no consistent core doctrine on police use of force”(17) and goes on to identify what it claims are “an overarching set of fundamental principles on the use of force”(18) but, although the principle of minimum force has existed since the formation of the modern police service in 1829, no mention is made of it in the ACPO manual as a principle.

10. However, the Code of Practice on Police Use of Firearms and Less Lethal Weapons, in its objectives, firstly suggests that it “sets out the basic principles and method of implementation for the selection and acquisition of firearms and less lethal weapons by the police” but goes on to suggest that the code will “ensure the observance of overarching principles”.(19)

11. The question for the Committee is, do the police act on principles, core principles, basic principles, fundamental principles or overarching principles, and, if all five are appropriate, what is the difference between each? The impression given is that there is no standard terminology within the Police Service with regard to the principles of policing, particularly as they apply to public order policing.

12. For public disorder is strategy is generally defined as the overall plan to combine and direct resources towards policing a potential disorderly situation, and to deal effectively should disorder occur. Tactics are generally defined as the method of actual deployment and redeployment of resources on the ground to achieve the desired objective.

13. The dividing line between strategy and tactics is never easy to understand as was highlighted in the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee report on the Policing of the G20 Protests. For instance, the report suggests that “containment” is both: a strategy(20) and a tactic,(21) going as far as to suggest at one point that “From a tactical perspective, a containment strategy has much to recommend ...”(22). Police officers who gave evidence to the Committee were, however, quite clear that containment is a tactic.(23)

The techniques used by the police to quell rioting

14. Preserving or restoring public tranquillity, or “the Queen’s Peace” is, one of the most important and difficult functions required of the modern police service, since its inception in 1829. It seems strange, therefore, that the study of serious disorder—its causes, its effects and above all, the policing of it—is still regarded by many within the Police Service as a rather perverse and not-to-be encouraged pursuit. This view is supported by HMCIC who found that between 16% and 22% of police forces across England, Wales and Northern Ireland could not provide a minimal accredited public order command structure.(24) With all the examples of disorders there is no excuse for police forces failing to respond positively to the challenges disorder brings. The Committee may wish take further evidence on the HMCIC figures quoted.

15. The policing of modern public disorder is both an art and a science. Science can be described as the application of knowledge acquired by observation and experiment, critically tested, systemised and brought under general principles. Many of the incidents that occur during an outbreak of serious public disorder can be predicted. For instance, the use of petrol bombs and other missiles; rioters using the balconies and walkways of a large block of flats from which to attack the police; the building of barricades; the damage and looting of property. It should be possible to observe these events, and to experiment and critically test police responses to them to discover which are the most effective, before incorporating them into a response system and forming general guidelines for their use.

16. An art can be described as the application of practical skills guided by principles. The Police Service needs to identify the principles under which serious public disorder will be policed and these should be based on the general principles of policing. The operational commander requires practical skills, in attempting to prevent serious public disorder, in the execution of plans and the deployment of resources should disorder occur and in the efforts to return an area to some kind of normality once order has been restored. It follows that the policing of serious public disorder can also be described as an art, because effectiveness in this area of policing is only likely to be achieved by the practical application of those skills. So the policing of serious public disorder can be described as both a science, as it requires the acquisition of knowledge and an art as it requires the skill to apply the knowledge in practice. Success will go ultimately to those commanders who are best prepared to deal with the uncertainty and spontaneity of serious public disorder.

17. Experience is important. Direct experience, as its name applies, is actually being involved in the policing of serious public disorder. There are two problems in relying on this. Firstly, despite the impression one gets, the actual opportunities for individual police commanders are extremely rare. Few of the police commanders who were involved in policing the 2011 outbreaks of disorder may face such situations again.

18. Indirect experience, on the other hand, is gained through training and exercising. In a public order context, this includes examining how the police responded to past disorders. Practical training in public order policing within the Police Service is likely to be of a generally high standard if the recommendations contained in the two HMCIC reports are widely followed. The weakness is in the study of history of past disorders. Why for instance, was the response of the Greater Manchester Police to rioting in Moss Side in 1981 so much more successful than the response of the Metropolitan Police and Merseyside Police to the rioting in Brixton and Toxteth respectively? Also to what extent do the police pro-actively practice “red-teaming” in public order training?

19. In evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee when it was looking into the Policing of the G20 Protests, the President of ACPO, suggested that outbreaks of disorder—of the kind seen in a number of cities in 2011—were complex, fast-moving, highly complicated situations, sometimes spread over a wide area, thus making it extremely difficult to handle. He went on to suggest that each outbreak of disorder was “unique” and “each event does depend, in the final analysis, on the ability of ground commanders to respond quickly to circumstances that change very quickly indeed.” He emphasised the importance of leadership when he said that “one of the issues is around how well (the police) are led”.(25)

20. One of the main problems in policing public disorder is not that the Police Support Units lack enthusiasm or fitness or even equipment but rather that there is an absence of strategic and tactical vision on the part of some police commanders. As the violence becomes more intense, stereotyped methods become quite useless. Police commanders must have a clear picture of what is happening during the events, and be master of them.

21. Unfortunately, the police still appear to use the stereotype method of confronting the rioters from one location. The rioters therefore only have to be concerned about the police coming from one direction. Little thought appears to be given to the police coming in from different directions at the same time, using either a flanking formation or a pincer movement. Notwithstanding that police public order training does include such tactics and Police Support Officers are well acquainted with such tactics.

22. In the context of the serious outbreaks of disorder in 2011, in an address to the Association of Chief Police Officers in 1982, Sir Kenneth Newman, who was successively Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Commandant at the Police Staff College and Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said:

“It is important that if the initiative has been lost to the rioters in the early stages it should be recovered by the police as quickly as possible. Rioting spreads quickly. Any success gained by the rioters or any apparent reluctance of police to put down rioting will serve to encourage rioters and encourage others to join them.”(26)

Whether there should be any changes to the legislation regulating normal policing processes during times of major disorder

23. Writing in the Criminal Law Review in 1984, A T H Smith pointed out that “a common British response to large scale disturbances” during the 20th century was “to legislate” and he identified instances of disorder that had brought about the Public Meeting Act 1908, the Public Order Act, 1936, the Representation of the People Act, 1949, and the Race Relations Act, 1965.(27) Since then there has been additional legislation, most notably the Public Order Act 1986, either giving the police greater powers or curbing what people can do. Yet it seems that none have had an effect on the scale of disorder that now occurs. At the time his second report on the G20 Protests was produced, HMCIC stated that “the answer to modernising and strengthening public order policing in England, Wales and Northern Ireland” did not lie “in introducing more public order legislation” (p14). This comment is endorsed.


24. The key to successful public order policing does not rely on more equipment or more legislation but the careful selection and training of appropriate police commanders to deal effectively with outbreaks of public disorder. It is a fallacy to believe that every senior or middle-ranking police officer will make a good public order commander. In the same way as there are those who have a talent for computer or communication systems, administration, organisational planning (as opposed to operational planning) or criminal investigation, there are those who have a similar talent for handling serious public disorder. It is essential that such individuals are identified and given appropriate training.

25. Police commanders must have the knowledge, operational experience and confidence to recognise how and when, outbreaks of large-scale public disorder should be confronted and dispersed. This requires leadership skills combined with, trust in the professionalism and capabilities of the police officers who will confront the disorderly mob. A very high standard of operational discipline, at every level is essential. Police public order commanders must have the character and personality to lead and inspire the police officers attempting to restore order. The Committee may wish to take further evidence on the state of police public order training at all levels.

Notes and References

1. House of Commons Home Affairs Committee (2009). Policing of the G20 Protests. Eighth Report of Session 2008–09. London: The Stationary Office.

2. Joint Committee on Human Rights (2009). “Demonstrating Respect for Rights?” Follow-up. 22nd Report of Session 2008–09. London: The Stationary Office.

3. Metropolitan Police Authority—Civil Liberties Panel (2009). “Responding to G20”.

4. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary (2009). “Adapting to Protest: Nurturing the British Model of Policing.” London: HMIC.

5. Ibid.

6. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (2011). “Policing Public Order: An overview and review of progress against the recommendations of Adapting to Protest and Nurturing the British Model of Policing.” London: HMIC.

7. National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) (2010). “Manual of Guidance on Keeping The Peace” Wyboston, Bedfordshire: NPIA.

8. See particularly Scarman, The Rt Hon The Lord (1982). “The Brixton Disorders 10–12 April 1981”. Cmnd. 8427. London: Her Majesty’s Stationary Office; and Pike, Michael S (1985). “The Principles of Policing.” Basingstoke: MacMillan Press.

9. Pike, op. cit. 7, refers to this as the Principle of Sense and Sensitivity. See pages 92 to 109.

10. Ibid, pp. 155 et seq.

11. Adlam, R & Villiers, P (Editors) (2002). “Police Leadership in the Twenty-first Century: Philosophy, Doctrine and Developments.” Winchester: Waterside Press.

12. HMCIC, op. cit. 4, Annex C, p.73.

13. Ibid., pp. 11 & 41.

14. NPIA, op. cit. 7, p.11.

15. Ibid.

16. HMIC, op. cit. 6, p. 11.

17. Ibid, p. 13.

18. Ibid, p.117.

19. Ibid, p. 67.

20. House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, op. cit., p.16, para. 47.

21. Ibid, p.15, paras. 40 & 42.

22. Ibid, p.14, para. 39.

23. Ibid, Ev. p.24 Q.239; Ev. p.28, Q.270; and Ev. p.47, Q.373.

24. HMCIC, op. cit. 5, pp. 6 & 98.

25. House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, op. cit., Ev. p.32, Q.292.

26. Newman, Sir Kenneth. Civil Disorder—Planning and Strategy: A paper containing an abbreviated version of a talk given to the Association of Chief Police Officers at The Police Staff College, Bramshill, on 22 March 1982. Unpublished.

27. Smith, A H T (1984). “Public Order Law 1974–1983: Developments and Proposals.”, Criminal Law Review, p. 644.

28. HMCIC, op. cit. 5, p. 14.

9 September 2011

Prepared 22nd December 2011