On the other hand, if the police were to assert its authority when dealing with public order situations, it is often met with fierce resistance. This can be seen at the “Battle of Orgreave” during the Miner’s strike 1984-5 in England. The strike centered on the closure of 31 unproductive coal mines around England.The police in this case used very heavy handed tactics in order to break the picket lines, contrary to the more compromising model for peaceful protest “… the police demonstrated a consistently uncompromising attitude.
.. one crowd of pickets was prevented from getting within half a mile of the gates.
.. while a second group… was charged by police horses and dog handlers.
.. whenever serious pushing was exerted against police lines, snatch squads were instantly deployed. Sensing the futility of their actions, some miners threw stones.This was answered by the production of full length riot shields and, as the throwing intensified, mounted horses with baton wielding riders were sent in. ” (Waddington D. 1992) The Battle of Orgreave shows the full capability of the police in dealing with protests.
In this case, the police have totally undermined the rights of the pickets. However, the police were also left with little alternative than use force to break the pickets since the picketing have gone on for months on end and there was no immediate resolution in sight. The setting up of police Special Operations Groups (SOG) and other Police Tactical Groups (PTG) has also outraged some members of the community. The SOG was based in the British and Australian Army’s Special Air Service (SAS) (McCulloch 2001).The formation of the SOG which has intrinsic ties to the military has often been deemed as a ‘militarization’ of the police. The SOG are trained in various military weapons including Heckler and Koch 9mm submachine guns; M16 assault rifle; Austrian Styr . 223 rifle (AUG); 9mm semi-automatic pistols; Remington 870 pump action shot guns; chemical weapons; electric batons; stun grenades; electric shields and armored and tactical vehicles (McCulloch 2001). The type of weapons employed by the SOG would seem more appropriate in a battlefield rather than against unarmed civilian protesters or other criminals.
The Commonwealth’s National Anti-Terrorist Plan defines terrorism as: Acts or threats of violence of national concern, calculated to provoke extreme fear for the purpose of achieving a political objective in Australia or in a foreign country (McCulloch 2001). McCulloch (2001) also states that in police and security circles terrorism is seen as encompassing all types of political activism including protest, demonstrations and industrial actions, some of the police’s Civil Disorder/Dissent Manual is [sic] directly copied from the army’s manual.This view on protest and pickets seem to criminalize protesting and picketing, this makes the civilian population the ‘enemy’. However, the seemingly drastic measures adopted by the police in trying to control public order situations did not just arrive out of the blue. In the eyes of the police this ‘militarization’ of the police force is just a reactionary situation whereby the police are responding to cope with society.”..
. we saw the terrifying spectacle of policemen having to pick up dustbin lids to defend themselves against really quite a furious barrage of bottles and stones… the police thought, well we better have shields…
then we go to 1980 and again we have this in Bristol, the unedifying spectacle of constables leaving the centre of the place undefended… the introduction of reinforced ordinary police helmets, and a little more beefing up in training…
1981 was the trauma of petrol bombs. As a defensive reaction to that, the introduction of flame-proof overalls and the rest of it… the impression has been given to you that the police had a conscious policy of tooling up.Whereas in fact it has always been a reluctant, incremental reaction to a developing situation” (Interview in Reiner 1991 in Reiner 1998) The police in this sense now have sacrificed public order in favor of upholding the law; however, the cost of this appears to outweigh the gain. The police by adopting this zero tolerance policy has given up public sympathy, a more powerful tool than water cannon [sic], tear gas, or plastic bullets (Reiner 1998) to perform as what they see as effectively carrying out their duties.
The police face a myriad of problems when it comes to policing public order.The ambiguous status of the protesters can confuse the police, raising the question of are the police apprehending criminals or assisting innocent civilians in expressing their political view? The morals if individual the policemen are pitted against his sense of duty when asked to perform tasks that although technically legal but on a higher consciousness immoral. Should the officer forcefully remove a protester even though he sympathizes with the protester’s cause? The manner in which protests are handled are also of a concern as it is now evident that maintaining the peace and upholding the law usually cannot co-exist together.Where should the concession lie? These many questions still remained unanswered; however, the police in the face of such contentious debates still uphold the notions of courage, bravery and honor and patrol our streets keeping it us safe behind the thin blue line.ReferencesMcCulloch, J.
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