Violence and the police force. Will it ever end?

Twenty years ago last Wednesday ninety-six people lost their lives at the Hillsborough disaster and it’s interesting that this anniversary should occur slap bang in the middle of huge amounts of press and angst about the conduct of certain police officers at the London G20 protests.

Two of things that lead to the Hillsborough disaster have been said to be poor police control and tragically, the steel fence barriers that caused the fatalities. Whilst the recent death of one man in London is not quite on the scale of the infamous football catastrophe, it is ironic that this time round it seems to be aggressive policing alone that has lead to the outrage.

There are definitely physical parallels that can be drawn between the two events, large crowds hyped up, shouting and chanting ushered into an over capacity area up against a solid barrier, whether it be the steel crush fences or the riot shields of an advancing police line. The inquest at Hillsborough blamed the poor management of the police, who opened a small exit gate and failed to close the entrance gates. The judge presiding over the case condemned the south Yorkshire police who blamed the ‘late and drunk’ football supporters, something that can be compared to the way the police blamed the protesters at the G20 marches for being disorderly and uncooperative.

In footage that found its way to the ever-present YouTube last week, one sees a female protester being backhanded by a policeman in full riot uniform. After this she shouts something at the officer who hits her hard underneath the arm with his truncheon in response. The pathetic reason given for this outburst of anger at the woman was that what she had shouted at the officer was the word ‘scum.’

Now, I’m not sure what the rest of Warwick students think about this but I would like to believe that the organisation in which we put our trust, to whom we report our crimes, to whom we give our support and who are paid by the taxpayer employs people so proud and with so much wound up anger that they must react in such a violent way to civilians who wish to voice their opinion in a public arena.

Admittedly the Commissioner has suspended the police officer in question, but how many other incidents like this were not caught on camera? How many of the officers there reacted violently to the protesters? I’m sure that ninety percent of them followed protocol and simply attempted to keep the crowds under control as best they could without too much disruption, but the fact remains that it is another example of the old aged case of the few spoiling it for the many.

If the police force wants to say its actions were justified against all protesters because three idiots threw bricks through the window of a bank, they cannot expect the public to be unconcerned about the rest of the police force, even if it was the just the odd officer that thought he had the right to batter civilians with a nightstick.


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