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Police chief fights the cuts…by threatening protesters


8:47 am - September 15th 2010

by Paul Sagar    


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As Osborne’s Axe begins to fall, pleas for exemption are coming thick and fast. Yesterday police Chief Superintendent Derek Barnett supplied his own eye-catching declaration:

In an environment of cuts across the wider public sector, we face a period where disaffection, social and industrial tensions may well rise… We will require a strong, confident, properly trained and equipped police service, one in which morale is high and one that believes it is valued by the government and public.

Or as the Guardian headlined it: “Police: We can’t take care of cuts protests if you cut us”.

The warning is clear. In order to secure a basic minimum of stability, the coercive power of the state is needed to repress those elements so desperate and disadvantaged they’ll risk life and limb by rioting in the street. So make sure the police guarantee that basic minimum, by giving them loadsa muneh.

But I’m not a police officer. I’m a self-appointed representative for academic arts and humanities funding. Let’s consider just one practical benefit of this study, by applying two basic analytic tools.

The first is familiar to historians: a basic knowledge of, and ability to critically employ, the facts of history. The second is familiar to trained philosophers: the argumentative dilemma (i.e. impaling your opponent on one of two argumentative horns by logically forcing them to pick between two unacceptable options).

Bringing these tools to bear, let’s examine another of Superintendent Barnett’s utterances:

From the massacre in 1819, that took place not so many miles away from here, to the current day alcohol-related disorder, history teaches us that there will always be widespread threats to the public peace

1819 massacre, you say? Near Cheshire? Why, Mr Barnet can only be talking about…er, the Peterloo Massacre. Here’s what Wikipedia (hardly a byzantine source available only to crusty scholars) says of that event:

The Peterloo Massacre (or Battle of Peterloo) occurred at St Peter’s Field, Manchester, England, on 16 August 1819, when cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000–80,000 gathered at a meeting to demand the reform of parliamentary representation. […]15 people were killed and 400–700 were injured. The massacre was given the name Peterloo in ironic comparison to the Battle of Waterloo, which had taken place four years earlier.

So, the example a top police officer gives of “professional” policing of public protest is a massacre in which mounted officers killed innocent citizens. Lovely.

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About the author
Paul Sagar is a post-graduate student at the University of London and blogs at Bad Conscience.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Civil liberties ,Fight the cuts

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Reader comments


Oh I’m sure it won’t just be the police indulging in hyperbole and /or making threats WRT the cuts, will it?

The threat is utterly crass but it demonstrates how widely unpopular the Coalition will become. The haste with which they are bringing changes suggests they understand this. If they run out of friends but manage to bring in fixed five-year parliaments we will be stuck with a Heath-like rump for years. The prospect for such a malaise is as bad as the cuts we face today!

Or, the example a top police officer gives of the need for professional policing of public protest is referencing what happens when you leave the job to people unsuited for the task.

So, the example a top police officer gives of “professional” policing of public protest is a massacre in which mounted officers killed innocent citizens.

Military officers, not police officers. I’m not sure he offers it as an example of professional policing.

wot CS Clark said.

@4

The metropolitcan police act wasn’t passed until 1829 so there were no police at this stage (outside Ireland).

LO, thanks – I know

Threatening chaos if they get hit by the cuts – bit like the unions really!

I’m not sure I understand the point of this piece. Is it that Barnett is some kind of barbarian? His words don’t bear that out. That he used the word ‘massacre’ in relation to 1819 does not exactly indicate approval of the methods used to clear the protestors.

His speech also goes on to say:

“When, as history shows us it is inevitable, not because of this particular government, but at some stage, there is widespread disorder on our streets, it will not be police community support officers, or special constables or non-warranted police staff, journalists or politicians [who will be needed] to restore order on our streets. It will be our police officers and we must be sufficiently resilient to enable us to respond properly, professionally and safely with the minimum of force”.

10. the a&e charge nurse

Police advice on civil disorder is a long tradition, surely?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjjKu5NxFIQ

Soho Politico:

The silliness of my longer original piece at my place perhaps makes things more clear (this was originally intended as a bit of a joke).

But nonetheless, whar Barnett says is that the police need loads of money to control protest. He then uses the Peterloo Massacre as an example that “history teaches us that there will always be widespread threats to the public peace”.

Except the threat to the public peace at Peterloo was not protestors, but the bloody cavalry (who were the effective predecesors to the police in that period) who charged in and killed innocent people!

This truncated article doesn’t really get the point across all that well, but over at my place I try and emphasise that Barnett is a bit of an idiot. I’m sorry, but citing the Peterloo Massacre as an example of why the police need loads of money to control protests is at best bizarre, and at worst pretty dim. Or just thuggish.

Soho Politico, cont:

You quote Barnett as saying: “It will be our police officers and we must be sufficiently resilient to enable us to respond properly, professionally and safely with the minimum of force.”

To which I reply: “what, by giving an example of mounted armed cavalry charging a protest and killing 15 innocent people?!”

Paul,

Except the threat to the public peace at Peterloo was not protestors, but the bloody cavalry (who were the effective predecesors to the police in that period) who charged in and killed innocent people!

The cavalry weren’t predecessors to the police; the predecessors to the professional police were the special constables.

The Wikipedia article you link to says that magistrates feared civil disorder, they said the special constables they had were insufficient to keep order, and they therefore asked for the military to be sent in. As a result there were many casualties – a “massacre”, in Barnett’s words.

Barnett appears to saying that if there is inadequate, professional police presence at occasions of civil disorder there will be casualties and that Peterloo is an example of this.

You quote Barnett as saying: “It will be our police officers and we must be sufficiently resilient to enable us to respond properly, professionally and safely with the minimum of force.”

To which I reply: “what, by giving an example of mounted armed cavalry charging a protest and killing 15 innocent people?!”

Yes, if you think about it, it’s a good example of what happens when people who are trained to kill other people are sent into (Queen’s) peace-keeping situations.

“Threatening chaos if they get hit by the cuts – bit like the unions really!”

Nothing funnier than when Tories fall out with themselves. What the little tory trolls don’t seem to have grasped is that not everyone who works for the public sector (scrounging off the state according to trolls) is a card carrying member of the Labour party. The police and the military are full of tory tits. And they are all getting their knickers in a twist because they did not vote tory for this.

My own view is that the cuts are not going to be anyway near the bullshit 40% figure Pip Squeak has said they are going to be. The tories just want the information for how they might do that at a later date. This has been a giant scare then shitless exercise, and then when the cuts are noting like 40% the media will say ‘not too bad after all.’ I may be wrong, but I doubt it.

Paul Sagar – look at what he is quoted as saying before that sentence you pick out – ‘it will not be police community support officers, or special constables or non-warranted police staff, journalists or politicians [who will be needed] to restore order on our streets.’ The cavalry who charged at Peterloo were not professional police offices under a different name, they were professional soldiers and part-time militia, and I’m pretty sure that he thinks of their being there as the threat to public peace – certainly more sure than I am of your interpretation.

I’m aware there’s a strain of thought that you would have no trouble at protests if there were no police at all, but assuming you do think that some police presence when a million march against cuts is necessary, do you want it done cheap or right? If there had been a ‘a strong, confident, properly trained and equipped police service’ at Peterloo do you think it would have turned out a) better b) worse c) no change?

Of course, if he is blaming the protesters at Peterloo to hell with him. And even if he is not it’s certainly a bit crass bringing up the possibility (certainty?) of trouble as an extreme example, although let us note that he’s just following many politicians in that regard, some of whom are Deputy Prime Minister.

sally,

Nothing funnier than when Tories fall out with themselves. What the little tory trolls don’t seem to have grasped is that not everyone who works for the public sector (scrounging off the state according to trolls) is a card carrying member of the Labour party. The police and the military are full of tory tits. And they are all getting their knickers in a twist because they did not vote tory for this.

Have you got any analysis of voting patterns in the police and military then? But please remember that many of us (non-Tory) right wingers really dislike the authoriarian line pushed by many senior police officers in recent years, basically freedom must be limited for safety (safety from what is not normally specified…). So if you mean right-winger by Tory (something of an assumption – there is a lot of the left wing which does not like Labour for example)

My own view is that the cuts are not going to be anyway near the bullshit 40% figure Pip Squeak has said they are going to be. The tories just want the information for how they might do that at a later date. This has been a giant scare then shitless exercise, and then when the cuts are noting like 40% the media will say ‘not too bad after all.’ I may be wrong, but I doubt it.

Not a bad guess, but I am not sure you understand the radicalism that seems to underlie Messrs Cameron and Osborne’s programme, and to have attracted some of the Liberal Democrats. I would agree that the full 40% won’t happen, but we won’t be far off.

I’ve got a better idea, lets all agree to stop breaking the law on the condition that the cuts dont affect us.

@16 – A right winger? Isn’t that the same as a troll

Dave,

Basic mythological creature guides. Trolls are bumbling but nasty creatures which live in caves, eat human flesh and put horrible comments on message boards.

Right-wingers are clever evil creatures who live in huge ancestral piles, drink human blood (preferably welfare claimants’, but any member of the plebian classes’ blood will do) and claim to be different from trolls because they are much more charming and can write cohesive sentences without swearing or using catchy phrases like ‘Tony Bliar’. They are rumoured to have hypnotic abilities and to have armies of minions who will disperse protests with violence.

Hope that helps 😉

Have you got any analysis of voting patterns in the police and military then?

Oh please. All you have to do is read the letters page of the Torygraph for the last 10 years to read all the moaning and crying from members of the tory military.

And as for the police federation, it is the most right wing union in the UK.

@19 lol thanks


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