Did anybody catch Dispatches on Channel 4 the other night Ready For A Riot where yet again G20 and public order tactics were discussed. One thing that caught my attention was how senior officers offered little support to those on the front line. It really was a case of you're by yourselves folks. They are really more worried about the public relations disaster of their own making. Was it not the planners who stated there would be a robust approach to "unlawful" protest?
Now I'm not saying they should condone behaviour that is indefensible - we all know where the line is, but I do like to look at other management styles. Arsene Wenger the Arsenal manager will defend his people to the hilt having the ability to see nothing, and the old Met Commissioner Sir John Stevens came out and supported the troops after the Countryside Alliance disorder. His comment "no one got cracked over the head for no reason" showed real leadership and despite criticism from others was the correct response. I don't think any police officers were convicted because their actions were in fact shown to be justified. They also looked worse than any G20 footage.
I do therefore feel for Sgt Tony Smellie who has been summonsed to appear in court. My view was that this officer would not be prosecuted for his officer safety master class outside the Bank of England. It's not just my opinion, senior officers where I work tend to agree that he'd acted lawfully in covering the backs of his officers. This incident because of the media storm is in the public interest and we have to endure a court hearing before this officer is cleared. It sets a dangerous precedent.
This blog supports Tony Smellie who is an outstanding officer and hopes the full facts are reported if his case goes to trial. This post is about being seen supporting the front line and not about his case in particular. We can discuss the legal bits n bobs about lawful force once he's found Not Guilty.