Eighteen urgent questions on policing of anti-fracking protest

Balcombe Fracking

Netpol publishes detailed response to new police guidance on operations targeting anti-fracking protests

Following our initial analysis last month of new guidance on the policing of anti-fracking protests, Netpol has published a more detailed briefing on ‘Policing linked to Onshore Oil and Gas Operations‘, which was issued by the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) in July.

Briefing coverOur briefing covers five areas of concern arising from the new police guidance, including the scale of policing operations directed at small, overwhelmingly peaceful protests and why it is seen as necessary to undertake such significant intelligence-gathering against anti-fracking campaigners. We have also explored the ambiguous role of Police Liaison Officers and the risks that by rigidly dividing up protesters into different groups, senior officers can too readily justify a more ‘robust’ police operation against those finding themselves labelled ‘extremist’. Finally, we are seeking clarification of the scale of increased openness and transparency that the new Guidance has promised police will deliver.

In total, we have eighteen questions for the NPCC that we feel anti-fracking groups have every right to an answer to. You can find the full list below.

You can download our briefing here (pdf_icon, 2 Mb)

The NPCC guidance, ‘Policing linked to Onshore Oil and Gas Operations’, is available here [pdf_icon, 438 kB],

Eighteen questions for the National Police Chief’s Council

  1. What is the justification for such extensive and expensive policing and intelligence gathering operations, given that the history of anti-fracking protests to date is of predominantly small-scale, peaceful assemblies?
  2. In particular, what is the justification for the involvement of Counter Terrorism officers and the National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (NDEDIU)?
  3. Will NPCC conduct a privacy impact assessment of the deployment of body worn video (BWV) cameras at anti-fracking protests?
  4. Will the NPCC advise against deploying this technology at such protests in the interests of developing more positive relationships between protesters and police?
  5. Will the NPCC publish its policy on extracting information on social media in relation to anti-fracking protesters? In particular, will NPCC provide publicly the answers to the two questions on page 19 of the report [4.7.4] (‘What is actually required from social media research?’ and ‘what format will this product take to make it usable?’)?
  6. In spite of the welcome commitment within the Guidance to honouring responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act, the document lacks any indication whether the NPCC (and particularly the NDEDIU) have a similar commitment to disclose personal data in a timely manner under the subject access provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998. Will the NPCC include this in its Guidance?
  7. Bearing in mind that the vast majority of protest and actions taken by protesters are entirely peaceful, will the NPCC give an undertaking that police forces have not and will not deploy undercover police officers in the context of anti-fracking protests?
  8. Will the NPCC provide advice and clarification on the mechanisms by which Police Liaison Teams are expected to intervene to encourage ‘self-policing’ and the self-policed’ behaviours they are expected to influence?
  9. In the interests of transparency, can the NPCC clarify the intelligence gathering role of Police Liaison Teams at anti-fracking protests?
  10. Will the NPCC clarify the extent to which they view protesters’ engagement with ‘liaison policing’ as a voluntary, rather than a mandatory activity?
  11. If ‘liaison policing’ is seen as a voluntary option, how does the NPCC intend to advise police forces on how they accommodate the preferences of those who do not wish to engage with Police Liaison Teams, both prior to and during anti-fracking protest?
  12. Can the NPCC give a positive assurance that any ‘Statement of Intent’ used by police forces will not attempt to coerce protesters into engagement with ‘liaison policing’?
  13. If protesters decide not to engage with Police Liaison Officers, how does the NPCC intend to ensure that the decision is not considered a trigger to apply differentiated or more ‘robust’ policing?
  14. Will the NPCC provide further detail relating in its Guidance on the distinctions between protest/activism/extremism and explain how and by whom these decisions will be made? Are, for example, these distinctions made locally, or by the NDEDIU?
  15. Can the NPCC clarify what is meant by ‘tailoring police responses towards these different groups’ and explain how policing will be differentiated on the basis of the categorisation of protesters?
  16. Will the NPCC confirm that communications with all protest groups will remain consistent, open and transparent and provide further advice about the mechanisms by which this will be achieved?
  17. Can the NPCC provide more detail about the scope of recommended publication and an indicative list of documents likely to be published or disclosed freely under Freedom of Information legislation?
  18. Can the NPCC provide further information on the extent to which the oil and gas industry will a) contribute to or be briefed about police operational decision making, b) contribute to multi-agency / police media communications and c) be involved in the collection, dissemination or sharing of police intelligence data?