The death of Ian Tomlinson has thrown a spotlight on the role of the police’s Territorial Support Group (TSG).
The TSG was formed in 1987. It operates in London and the Home Counties.
It replaced the Special Patrol Group, which was disbanded after it became a byword for police violence – in particular the killing of Blair Peach in 1979.
The TSG is used particularly for “public order” situations. This mostly means demonstrations, protests and riots.
In the 1990s the TSG was used against anti-poll tax protesters and anti-fascist protesters who marched on the BNP’s headquarters in Welling, south east London.
It was also used to police demonstrations in support of Gaza in January this year, as well as the recent G20 demonstrations in the City of London. TSG members are also used in terror raids.
The commissioner of the Metropolitan Police admitted last month that six TSG officers had inflicted a “serious, gratuitous and prolonged” attack during the arrest of Babar Ahmed in south London in December 2003.
The TSG has armed capabilities above and beyond that of standard Metropolitan Police officers.
As well as firearms, the group has tasers and baton guns—used to fire tear gas and rubber bullets—at its disposal.
The TSG is used in exactly the same way as the SPG. It must be abolished immediately.
This time, however, we must make sure it is not simply replaced by the same body with a different name.