A report that examines how effectively the police deal with protests is encouraging forces to look at the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s Advisory Panel for Policing Protests and adopt a similar approach.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) is publishing its report tomorrow – Getting the balance right? An inspection of how effectively the police deal with protests.
The recommendations from the report include several changes to ensure that there is better balance between the rights of protesters and the rights of local residents, businesses, and those who hold opposing views.
Dr Alan Billings, Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire established the Advisory Panel for Policing Protests following a review into a protest in Rotherham town centre on 5 September 2015.
The aim is to assist communities to understand the role of the police, offer a formal channel for consultation and advice to South Yorkshire Police and provide independent support and challenge to the force in the planning and learning stages of protests and marches.
The Panel is made up of independent members from existing panels – such as the Independent Ethics Panel – and represents a cross section of communities from across South Yorkshire. It is convened when it is advised that a march or protest is likely to require a policing presence.
Members offer independent advice at the planning stage, as well as taking part in site visits during the event. Members then make recommendations about how the policing of protests could be improved.
The HMICFRS report encourages other forces to adopt a similar approach.
Dr Billings said: “Rotherham was the subject of a number of protests by far right groups following the Jay Review into child sexual exploitation in the town in 2014 and 2015. When I came into office it became apparent that this was a very difficult and sensitive area of policing where the police must allow for peaceful protest on the one hand and enable people to go about their lawful business on the other. They must keep the peace and uphold law and order.
“The protests exposed difficulties for business owners who suffered severe disruption and there was considerable fallout between the police and protestors. This led me to establish the panel that could view protests and their organisation from an independent perspective and offer advice and challenge on behalf of communities. The police were very receptive to what the panel members said and I am pleased to say that we have not had these disruptive protests for some time.
“When I set it up it was the first of its kind in the country and I welcome the HIMCFRS’s view that other forces are encouraged to follow our lead and establish a similar approach.”