Strathclyde Police ‘should apologise to protester over kettling’
Strathclyde Police should re-examine a complaint about crowd control and apologise to a protester, the Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland says.
The force should probe whether “kettling” was justified and carried out in accordance with procedure, Professor John McNeill said.
Kettling is a crowd control tactic involving the formation of large cordons of police officers to contain a crowd within a limited area. The crowd may be left one choice of exit, determined by the police, or can be completely prevented from leaving.
The complainer, who remains anonymous, was involved in a protest march in January 2011 during which he says demonstrators were kettled by police, resulting in panic among the group who began pushing, causing him to fall.
The initial complaint was made last year and handled by Strathclyde Police but the commissioner said it was not dealt with reasonably. Professor McNeill believes the complaint should have been handled outside of the Strathclyde division.
He said: “I think that there was a case for this complaint being subject to a specialist investigation by the professional standards department, rather than the local division.
“This would have been in line with guidance I issued last year, which states that complaints about service failures which, if upheld, could cause serious reputational damage to the police or have a serious adverse affect on public confidence should be subject to investigation by the professional standards department.”
The complainer emailed Strathclyde Police in April last year, saying: “All of a sudden we were kettled by the police, I think there must have been a panic at the back, they pushed forward, I went forward against the police, at this point I thought I was going to get crushed to death.”
He added: “I don’t think I have ever been so scared in my life at the kettling incident, I think maybe there was around 60 protesters although I am not sure, there was no violence hardly any shouting although there was a megaphone there, this was a real over reaction by the police and is sure to put off people from peaceful protest in the future.”
The force responded to the complaint by saying that evidence from another protester showed they did issue a warning.
A letter to the complainer said: “It is of regret that other participants pushed you to the ground, causing you to feel afraid and run off; however, due to the number of persons involved in the demonstration, and the level of noise and shouting; this was beyond the control of officers present.”
In his report Professor McNeill said he does not consider that the complaint was dealt with “in a reasonable manner” and that Strathclyde Police should carry out further enquiries to establish the circumstances of the incident.
The commissioner added: “When writing to the applicant Strathclyde Police should also apologise to him for the inadequacy of its initial response to the complaint.”
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