Smart or Stupid Policing?

Andersonstown RUC Station before it was remodelled by PIRA.

Andersonstown RUC Station before it was remodelled by PIRA.

During one tour in Northern Ireland I recall being sent to Andersonstown in West Belfast. We were sent there to reinforce the local roulement battalion which was a little stretched at the time. We were based in the Andytown RUC Station which was being rebuilt after the Provisional’s had the temerity to detonate a 1,000lb car bomb outside a few months previously which gave the place what interior designers would call a ‘distressed,’ look.

On one foot patrol my multiple encountered some teenagers acting suspiciously just inside the Milltown Cemetery.  One could say all teenagers act suspiciously all of the time but we anyway stopped for a natter to try and find out what their game was. Try as I could I couldn’t get any sense out of them and I was getting more and more irritated by their morose ramblings and refusal to answer questions. I persisted until one of the boys walked up and whispered, ‘I’d just let ‘em go Boss; they’re all high as kites on glue.’ We moved on. It gave the boys a bit of a laugh though.

As a rule we always tried to engage with the kids, no sense in making enemies for no reason. Some of them were hard little scrotes who a few hours later might be trying to bounce rocks off your head. Some were ‘dickers,’ (spotters), for the Boyo’s. Some would push their luck and try and goad the boys into doing something daft. Mostly though the banter was sharp and very occasionally we might pick up a tit bit of info that might prove useful at some point.

Lippy teenagers v Avon & Somerset Police

It was then, with some mystification that I watched this clip of some officers from the Avon & Somerset Police taking on some unruly teenagers. While the events prior to the video are unsubstantiated, (the man under arrest is supposedly unconnected with the kids),as an example of ‘how not to do it,’ this clip is a hands-down favourite to be a regular at the Police Training Centre.

The officers were apparently called to the scene of an assault against a woman on Friday evening in Taunton. While it is always a mistake to take on the police the lippy teenagers who were remonstrating with the police officers got a little more than they obviously expected or perhaps deserved. RoboCop with the red mist and designer stubble who comes steaming in at 20s deserves a special mention. Making no effort to assess, contain or mediate he immediately escalates a pretty ordinary stand off to a policing PR disaster with 7.1m views on Facebook. This is what happens when officers spend too much time in their cars and not enough on the street. It does have to be said though that most of the thousands of comments on social media are virulently supportive of the officers rather than the teenagers.

As the Chief Constable discusses the incident with the local Crime Commissioner they may wish to consider that those teenagers looked pretty ordinary and not tooled up inner City thugs high on PCP who might have warranted the strong approach. I mean, reaching for Mace, seriously? Notwithstanding the fact that those half dozen youths will now have entrenched negative views about the local police for a long time, which is not the aim of local policing, the officers involved probably need to spend some time on confrontation management. Humour would be a good start. The UK Cop Humour site has a reasonable view of things, again noting that it is never a good idea to front up to the police. They go on to say, 'If you think you could solve that situation with hugs and a poem you're simply wrong,' which in my view is a bit rich. The problem with escalation is that it limits your optionality and it is always easier to ramp the temperature up than it is to bring it down. Who knows, the girl who referred to the 'crackheads round the corner,' might have had something useful to say about the assault. If they like, I’ll see if I can round up the boys from my 1983 multiple, they were quite handy at defusing tension. 

Avon and Somerset Police –

We’re appealing for witnesses after a man sustained a fractured jaw in an assault in Taunton yesterday afternoon (26/5).

The victim, a 20-year-old man, was walking through Victoria Park with two 18-year-old women at approximately 5pm.

They were approached by a large group of young people some of which then racially abused the two women before repeatedly punching the man in the face.
DS Mark Probert said: “This was a violent and disturbing attack in which the victim and his friends were threatened and intimidated by a large group of people.

“The victim was standing up for the two young women who had been racially abused and as a result he suffered a significant facial injury.

“There can never be any excuse for hate crime or violence in any shape or form and this criminality will not be tolerated.

“As part of our investigation we’re keen to talk to anyone who was in the park and witnessed the incident or may have mobile phone footage of the incident.”

Officers responding to the incident arrested two 16-year-old boys in connection with it and they have both since been released under investigation.

Four other people were also arrested in the park shortly after for disorder and we are currently investigating any links between the two incidents.

Anyone with information is asked to call 101 and provide the call handler with the reference 5217118496.