COP26: Thousands of officers drafted in to help Police Scotland told to respect 'bond of trust' with Scottish public
Thousands of police officers who have been drafted in to support Police Scotland during COP26 have been given strict instructions to follow the “tone and approach” of their Scottish colleagues when dealing with climate change protesters in Glasgow.
Chief constable Iain Livingstone said the 7,000 officers brought to Scotland from every other police force in the UK had been sent a recorded message from him and his deputy, Bernie Higgins, “demanding” they respect the “close bond of trust” with the Scottish community and uphold Police Scotland values.
However, he said “physical engagement” would be used by “protest removal teams” of six officers if they caused disruption to the summit itself, which would see world leaders address delegates next week.
Mr Livingstone said all 10,000 officers who will be working during the summit should “follow the tone and approach” that Police Scotland will apply during the operation.
He said: “I've been really clear from the outset that we will need the assistance of every agency, every police service in the UK and specialist capabilities as well.
"When they come to Scotland, they work to a Police Scotland model. So Bernie [Higgins] and I recorded messages for every office, every member of staff who attends to make very clear about the close relationship we have with the communities of Scotland, with the people of Glasgow and the community across the whole of Scotland.
"All the police officers from the rest of the UK who come to Scotland know that very, very close bond of trust that exists.”
He added: "So, they've been asked, and actually more than asked – I’ve demanded – that they watch our values of fairness, integrity. We have human rights, a recognition of human rights, and commitment to upholding human rights, as part of our mission statement.
"We will be working to Police Scotland values. We will be very clear on that and that will be reinforced at various staging posts.
"We will be working as a single entity, with mutual aid that's come in from across UK, but this is going to be a Police Scotland operation led by Police Scotland officers.”
Mr Livingstone’s comments come months after the Metropolitan Police in London clashed with people attending a vigil in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard, who was killed by a serving police officer as she walked home.
Some women were arrested at the demonstration in March, with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick describing the vigil as “an unlawful gathering” that posed “a considerable risk to people’s health”.
Mr Livingstone said: “We will protect the rights of people who wish to peacefully protest at COP26, balanced against the rights of the wider community. But to those intent on violent disorder and damage, to those who seek to disrupt the climate conference actually taking place, I have a clear message. We will respond swiftly and we will respond robustly.
"At times, and I have been clear to the First Minister on this over the last weeks and months to make this very clear and to UK ministers, it may well look quite messy when you look at the visual images that are going to be created.”
He added: "It's so important that the rule of law that protest is legitimate and reasonable, but it doesn't interfere with the working of the conference. Robust measures will mean physical engagement to protesters to make sure that the conference can go ahead."
Mr Livingstone said Police Scotland had engaged with many of the major organisations likely to be involved in protests.
He said only demonstrators who tried to disrupt the COP26 summit, or who were causing major disruption to the infrastructure of Glasgow, would be removed by police.
People who are “not threatening any anybody else, not damaging property and they are not interfering with the running of the conference” will be allowed to remain, in the spirit of “the right to protest”, Mr Livingstone said.
Speaking at the same press conference, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “I want to thank the organisers of these demonstrations, as well as a number of other activist groups, for the engagement they have had with the city and with the police, to ensure that their demonstrations take place safely and securely.”
She added that "progress will not be made if discussions are disrupted".
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