Tagged Police Liaison Officer

Report highlights ‘chilling effect’ on freedom to protest against fracking

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Netpol has published a new report, ‘Protecting the Protectors: Monitoring the Policing of Anti-Fracking Protests since 2014’, which summarises our activities, findings and analysis of the policing of protests against fracking since 2014.

Drawing extensively on discussions with anti-fracking campaigners, as well as our own observations at prospective fracking sites, the report covers our

  • •Engagement with – and development of resources for – anti-fracking campaigners
  • Concerns with the policing of anti-fracking demonstrations and camps
  • The intrusive surveillance of anti-fracking campaigners; and
  • The opaque relationship between the police and the fracking industry .

We have argued that the way policing operations are planned for anti-fracking protests, the scale of intrusive surveillance against campaigners and ‘zero tolerance’ attitudes towards civil disobedience has a cumulative ‘chilling effect’ on freedoms of assembly and expression:

When coupled with an unfounded association with serious criminality and ‘extremism’ and an unwillingness by police to accommodate protests without routinely making arrests, this can start to quickly chip away at campaign groups’ support and participation and have a disruptive impact on their effectiveness and activities.

With the imminence of new test drilling and exploration sites around the country, the report also outlines the next phase of our campaigning work between now and September 2018.

Your can download a copy of the report here [pdf_icon, 1.2 Mb]

Is dialogue with Police Liaison Officers really ‘voluntary’?

Police Liaison Officers at the March against Austerity in June 2014. PHOTO: Netpol

A cluster of Police Liaison Officers at the March against Austerity in June 2014. PHOTO: Netpol

Nearly a year after we first raised concerns about new guidelines on the policing of anti-fracking protests, we have finally had some answers to questions we raised with the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC).

In the third of four posts, we look at police attitudes to the use of ‘dialogue’ and ‘liaison’ and whether senior officers have a different understanding from protesters about what these words really mean. Earlier posts cover intelligence-gathering operations and body-worn cameras at anti-fracking protests. Read more

The right to freedom of assembly – what has changed over the last three years?

PHOTO: Pete Maclaine -| Shutterstock.com

Anti-Fascist protesters kettled outside Walthamstow Town Hall. PHOTO: Pete Maclaine | Shutterstock.com

The UN’s Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai is visiting the UK next week. We assess what has changed in relation to the freedom to take part in protests – and what issues remain a concern – since his last official visit three years ago.

Netpol was one of a number of groups who met Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, when he last visited the UK in January 2013. His report on that visit was published in June 2013 [pdf_icon, 588 kB].

Next week we are meeting him again. Here are some issues we think he should consider – and a reminder of how in a number of important respects, little has changed since his last report. Read more

Police chiefs issue guide to policing anti-fracking protests

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Reclaim the Power camp at Didcot in May 2015. PHOTO: Jo Syx on Flickr [with permission]

Why do small, peaceful anti-fracking protests attract such huge policing operations and so much surveillance? New guidance on the policing of anti-fracking protests raises far more questions than it answers.

The guide, ‘Policing linked to Onshore Oil and Gas Operations‘ [pdf_icon, 438 kB], has been issued by the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC), which replaced the former Association of Chief Police Officers in April this year. Although ostensibly authored by the NPCC’s national lead on ‘Fracking Protests and Public Order’, Staffordshire Assistant Chief Constable Bernie O’Reilly, its main point of contact is Chief Inspector David Bird, an officer who has, according to Corporatewatch, connections to national ‘domestic extremist’ units and a background in surveillance targeting animal rights and environmental protests.

The guidance is aimed primarily at police commanders, claiming to seek “a more consistent approach” by police forces around the country, so much of the document is therefore concerned with operational planning and deployment issues, but there are a number of references to the need for building “positive relationship with protesters”. However, it is also apparent that the National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (NDEDIU), which coordinates mass surveillance on protests movements, have heavily influenced the guidance and that ‘relationships’ are only ‘positive’ in this context when they lead to usable intelligence. Read more

More evidence of huge police pressure on organisers of protest marches

Photo: Squash

Photo: Squash

In February, we highlighted attempts by the police to impose ‘pay-to-protest’ conditions on organisers of marches in London and how a coalition of campaigning groups had come together to reject paying for traffic management and private security. Since then, we have received more evidence of efforts to impose prohibitively expensive conditions on marches, and of other attempts by police to tightly control any protest where organisers decide to liaise with them. Read more

Watching Them, Watching Us

IMG_0583Since 2012, Netpol’s “Don’t Feed The Feds – Don’t Be on a Database” campaign has called on activists and campaigners to take action to protect their personal details from police data-gathering during protests.

Once an individual comes to the attention of the police, often for no reason other than a history of involvement in demonstrations or protests, we have seen how they can become a target for FIT (Forward Intelligence) teams and police photographers – and so too are their friends and the people they speak to. We have also concerned about the pivotal role that the apparently friendly Police Liaison Officers play in gathering intelligence on the protesters that they speak to.

Netpol FlickrNow we are asking supporters to turn the tables – and share your pictures of police surveillance of protests. We have set up a Flickr Group Pool where you can post photos directly. We ask that:

  • You only only post photos relating to police surveillance of protests (Forward Intelligence Teams, police photographers, Police Liaison Officers) at UK protests
  • You do not post pictures of individuals you suspect are undercover officers – it is almost impossible to guarantee this accurately and these images will be removed.
  • By posting to Group Pool, you agree to allow Netpol to occasionally use images on its website and social media channels (duly credited) for campaigning purposes – of course, you keep all rights to your photos.

To sign up, visit flickr.com/groups/netpol/pool/

Review reveals Police Liaison Officers played ‘pivotal role’ in Balcombe protest intelligence gathering

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Police Liaison Officers at anti-EDL protest in Whitechapel, London, in 2013 [Photo: Netpol]

A review of Operation Mansell, the policing of last year’s anti-fracking protests in Balcombe in Sussex, has confirmed that blue-bibbed Police Liaison Officers, now routinely deployed at protests and demonstrations, are seen by senior police officers as playing a ‘pivotal role’ in gathering intelligence on protesters. Read more

Police Liaison Officer assaults press photographer

The video below shows a Police Liaison Officer hurl a member of the press across the pavement, ‘for her own safety’ during a protest by the English Defence League (EDL) in Slough on Saturday. Press members have claimed this was just one of a number of incidents in which Police Liaison Officers used excessive force against them on the day.

“For Your Own Safety!” – Police Liaison Assaults Press from Jason N. Parkinson/reportdigital on Vimeo.

Police in Slough also used horses and batons to drive back and disperse anti-fascist protesters who attempted to obstruct the route of the EDL march. Four arrests were made.

Police Liaison Officers were developed, according to the Metropolitan and Sussex police forces, as a way to enhance communication and dialogue between the police and protesters, and to facilitate the policing of peaceful protest. Instead they have largely lost the trust of protest groups, following reports that they have routinely engaged in the gathering of intelligence, harassed activists and enthusiastically enforced public order strategies such as protest pens, kettles and mass arrests.

Spies in Blue Bibs

Police Liaison Officers at Tower Hamlets anti-EDL protest, Sept 2013

Police Liaison Officers at Tower Hamlets anti-EDL protest, Sept 2013

Are Police Liaison Officers – suspiciously friendly in their pale blue bibs and now commonplace at marches and demonstrations – really deployed simply to ‘facilitate protest’ and ‘ensure there are no surprises’, or is their role rather more duplicitous? For some time, campaigners from groups involved in the Network for Police Monitoring (NetPol) have suspected there is more to these officers, created in response to severe criticism by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary’s ‘Adapting to Protest’ report of intelligence gathering at the 2009 G20 protests, than their public image suggests. Read more