Sunday, April 19, 2009

IPCC urges demo policing debate

The head of the police complaints watchdog has called for a debate over the way demonstrations are policed after the row over the G20 protests.

Nick Hardwick, head of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, also asks why some G20 officers apparently removed identity numbers from uniforms.

His comments in the Observer came hours after footage released by Climate Camp protesters showed police hitting a man.

Scotland Yard has already referred three G20-related cases to the IPCC.

Mr Hardwick said police should remember they were "the servants not the masters" of the people.

In relation to his concerns over some officers suspected of removing their identification numbers, he added: "I think that raises serious concerns about the frontline supervision.

"Why was that happening, why did the supervisor not stop them?

"What does that say about what your state of mind is? You were expecting trouble?"

He also said that the number of people who had filmed the protests on their mobile phones was proving a key factor in helping the IPCC determine whether complaints made against the police had any legitimacy.

He told the Observer: "What's been important with all these pictures is we have got such a wide picture of what happened.

"I think that is challenging the police. They have to respond to the fact that they are going to be watched, there is going to be this evidence of what they have done."

Mr Hardwick also said that typical complainants of police behaviour were from middle-class backgrounds, who did not previously have a jaundiced view of the police.

"If you are Mr and Mrs Suburban who have a good view of the police and think they do a good job, and they stop you and swear at you, then you are shocked and you complain."

Further footage

The new video released by demonstrators at the London G20 protest shows a police officer forcibly striking a man identified as 24-year-old IT worker Alex Cinnane.

Mr Cinnane is barged with a shield on the side of his head in the footage, shown on the Sunday Times website.

The footage, which was edited before it was released, does not show Mr Cinnane making any threatening behaviour towards the police officer.

Newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson died after being pushed over by police on 1 April and film footage also showed an officer hitting Nicola Fisher, 35, from Brighton, across the face with his hand and on her leg with a baton on 2 April.

BBC Home Affairs correspondent, Rory MacLean, said it was very unusual for the IPCC to speak in public about matters so central to its own investigations before their findings were published, or any criminal cases arising from the case had been dealt with by the courts.