Rakshita (Raks) Patel (rakspatel) wrote in mycroft_brolly,
Rakshita (Raks) Patel

Theresa May calls for tougher police powers

Photo credit: http://www.computerweekly.com/galleries/247631-1/London-Riot-Cleanup-Top-10-world-events-that-became-Twitter-milestones.htm

I have written a short piece on the Home Secretary Theresa May's recent speech to police officers, where she talked about the police response to the recent riots in England.

Following the aftermath of the recent riots in England, the attention has turned to a number of topics including the causes and the solutions to prevent such widespread trouble happening again.

But there is also a focus on the police and the action, or lack of, they undertook during the week of unrest on the streets.

Home Secretary Theresa May has been having her say on the issue and addressed officers in London last week.

May made it clear that she believed the police response to the initial trouble was not enough, which resulted in greater numbers being deployed to restore order. The greater police numbers also had to be supplemented with a tougher arrests policy and earlier intervention to disperse crowds.

In response to this, May has asked Sir Denis O’Connor, Chief Inspector of the Constabulary, to provide clearer information to forces about the size of deployments, the need for mutual aid, pre-emptive action, public order tactics, the number of officers trained in public order policing and an appropriate arrests policy.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) have been reviewing public order policing since 2009 and their last report, published earlier this year, stated that we were in a new era of public order policing – faster moving and more unpredictable. Police tactics need to adapt to keep pace.

The police will be given new powers, including new gang injunctions for young people and the right for police to remove face coverings. New curfew powers are also under consideration. Under existing laws, there is no power to impose a general curfew in a particular area. Whilst curfew conditions can be placed on some offenders as part of their ASBO, criminal sentence or bail conditions, there are only limited powers to impose them on somebody under the age of sixteen.

While there is a feeling by some that the police were slow in their response, others believe that they did not over-react. The option to using baton rounds and water cannons was not taken and by working with the local communities, the police were able to restore order. Using such harsh methods against young people could have further alienated the police from the communities they serve."

As with 9/11 and 7/7 and their resulting aftermath, we need to ensure that these riots are not used to introduce anti civil liberties measures through the backdoor. When the Home Secretary chaired Cobra last week, she asked that the CPS reinforce that prosecutors can and should request, in the public interest, that the courts lift the anonymity of young offenders once they had been found guilty. This could mean first time young offenders being demonised for life and effectively kill off any employment chances and opportunities that may have been open to them.

There are certain measures which have been taken in the name of improved police efficiency to cut bureaucracy which may have an adverse impact on the BME communities and may impact negatively on civil liberties. One example is the scrapping of the stop form and the scaling back of the stop and search form. This has saved up to 800,000 police hours per year but the real impact of this on civil liberties has yet to be evaluated. Another example is that police discretion has been restored over charging decisions, saving up to 50,000 hours per year, but what impact has this had on the way that BME communities are treated – is the discretion being applied fairly?

The overall aim and ambition is to help the police deal more effectively with outbreaks of disorder in the future and to deliver a more efficient and effective police service. But it is important to ensure that our hard won civil liberties are protected. The implications of these new measures on civil liberties, and how these new measures are applied to the Black community, needs to be kept under close review and their impact evaluated.

copyright © Rakshita Patel 2011
Tags: politics, race
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