Simon Harwood, charged with manslaughter for the death of Ian Tomlinson, has pleaded not guilty. Ian Tomlinson was a 47 years old newspaper vendor who collapsed and died on the streets of London during the G20 protest on April, 2009. He collapsed shortly after he was hit by a baton on the leg and pushed down to the ground by Simon Harwood.
As I mentioned before in my earlier blog post, the decision not to charge Simon Harwood for the death of Ian Tomlinson was overturned primarily because it turned into a scandal when video footage of the attack was released. According to the first investigation, Tomlinson had died of a heart attack . However later findings showed he had died of internal bleeding. Instead, what made this story controversial is not only the use of force that led to Tomlinson’s death, but also the the evasion of accountability . It is evident in this situation that the role of the police in protests is strategically coercive in nature, and it raises the question ” who are they protecting by exercising force or violence?”
As Tilly (2004) stated trust is a quantity that is often stored up and squandered depending on the recent record of public authorities’ use of valued resources. A specialized police liaison should also actively work to maintain their relationship of trust with labour and other groups through communication and education. While establishing trust, the police liaison should also maintain neutrality.
De Lint & Hall (2009), documented the enhanced technical, organizational professional paramilitary and intelligence capabilities of the police allowing to use overwhelmingly precise force against large or small demonstrations. In particular those groups which are unwilling to play by the rules of the liaison approach. The intelligence gathering and the development of containment strategies, such as the use of preventative detention and security fences, as well as the sit ins at political conferences in isolated areas, are all recognized as important element of public order enforcement toolkit. Consistent with the liaison approach in general, we argue that many of these strategies are aimed at avoiding confrontation and concealing coercion. The use of covert intelligence and pre-emptive, or targeted arrests, are particularly key features of this effort. Covert intelligence and preemptive or targeted arrests imply that there is an increasing convergence of ideas around the integration of consensual and coercive strategies.
Their initial failure to respond promptly rises a serious question of accountability. The governing and investigative body that ensures police are using reasonable force during protests have failed. Their failure to respond earnestly, in addition to some misleading information given by the police suggests that the organization is to blame for such corruption. Corrupt practices seemed to surround the organization, as seen in Tomlinson case through misleading reports and delayed information release. Police present that time of incident refusedto cooperate and etc. In short, if formal accountability has failed to be delivered in this particular case, then cultural and organizational changes must be made.
Punch (2009) stated , Yet a wealth of material- in academic publications, historical accounts, public inquiries, documentaries and media exposures, court cases, biographies of officers and films- reveals that police officers frequently if not routinely bend and break the disciplinary rules and the law. This is a recurring and persistent theme since the commencement of ‘modern’ public policing early in the nineteenth century. The combined historical and contemporary evidence indicates that the police can be venal and violent and can behave irresponsibly while evading accountability. For accountability is not something an agency can claim to possess simply because it meets the certain criteria or has procedures in place; rather it is something an agency convincingly delivers to the satisfaction of the stakeholders- both routinely but especially at critical moments.
It is clear that the police organization needs some special attention and should use this scandal as a positive experience to implement significant changes. to begin, they have to take responsibility for their actions ( not just Simon Harwood but the responsibility of the organization as a whole) by admitting the police were accountable for the death of Ian Tomlinson. Their defesiveness will only be receive by other police personnel as permissibility to deviate and perceived evasion of accountability as long as it can be concealed from the public’s eye.
Kettling: Are they creating order or concealing something? A med student was prevented from helping collapsed Ian Tomlison.