Sunday, 10 June 2012

Controversy over use of Police Liaison Officers

The use of Police Liaison Officers at demos in Brighton has generated an interesting debate. My last post detailed how this tactic was developed by Swedish Police (Holgersson & Knutsson, 2011) and was first used in Brighton when the English Defence League appeared over the Jubilee bank holiday weekend, and counter-demonstrators came out to oppose them. These teams were used again during an anti-war march on the bank holiday Monday called by Smash EDO (a campaign against a local factory that makes electronic equipment for military use-

They did not get a good reception from some protestors who objected to their attempts to mingle with the march and did not trust their claims to be attempting increase mutual trust by setting up a dialogue between protestors and Police. I'm not in a position to comment on how genuine the motivations of the Police are in this matter, but I think it shows how historical antagonism can prevent such trust emerging.

Smash EDO have for a long time not trusted the local Police, as there have been allegations of collusion between the Police and the company that owns the factory to obtain information about the protestors for a civil injunction. More recently a high court ruling said that Police were allowed to store information about any protestors on a 'domestic extremism' data-base regardless of their actions or degree of involvement. The case was brought by an 87 year peace activist involved in the Smash EDO campaign, whose details have been recorded on such a database (
Also, one of the current members of the Police liason teams is known to activists as the local intelligence Officer who has collected information on protesors on previous demos. Such historic mistrust may mean that some protest campaigns will find it difficult to trust the intentions of these new Police Liasion Officers, and may be unwilling to engage with them until any such mutual trust emerges. Therefore, consideration of any relevant historical contexts is vital when looking at the use of such teams. 

The debate over the use of PLOs is evolving, and the links below are to FIT watch who criticise their use, followed by a reply from the academic who has helped implement them;
Also follow the debate between Police and protestors via the following Twitter call-signs;
@SusPolPLO, @policemonitor

Holgersson, S. and Knutsson, J. (2011), ‘Dialogue Policing: A Mean for Less Crowd Violence?’ in T. D. Madensen and J. Knutsson, (eds), Preventing Crowd Violence: Crime Prevention Studies. Boulder CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers

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