The Metropolitan police got a dressing down at the hands of Denis O’Connor, the chief inspector of constabulary, when his report on the policing of the G20 protests was released last week.
The O’Connor report lays out the police’s failings at the G20 summit in London in April, where the bystander Ian Tomlinson died after being pushed by police.
O’Connor criticised the police’s use of shields as weapons, the dressing up in full riot gear while protests were peaceful and the lack of communication with protesters. Various recommendations are made to improve on this.
But one of the most controversial elements of police tactics was the use of kettling—the surrounding of demonstrators and holding them for hours on end.
The report does not call for an end to its use, despite the fact that it violates protesters’ human rights and reports that people could not access toilet facilities or medical help.
Can we reform the police?
In reality, all the reports in the world couldn’t adequately reform the police.
The O’Connor report looks back through rose-tinted spectacles at the bygone days of policing based on consent.
This philosophy was developed by Sir Robert Peel in the 19th century as a way of making the police seem acceptable to ordinary people.
O’Connor wants to take policing back to a “golden age”. But when was this?
Was this in the 1980s during the Miners’ Strike, when police systematically harassed and beat miners and their families?
Was this in the battles against the Nazis in the late 1970s when the notorious Special Patrol Group killed anti-fascist protester Blair Peach and injured countless others.
Or is it shown through the hundreds of deaths in police custody over the last few decades?
The truth is that the police have always been used against ordinary people—attacking workers on picket lines, breaking up demonstrations and protecting the private property of the wealthy.
Because of this there are no reforms that can shake the fundamental role of police in capitalism. That’s why we need to keep up the pressure from below to fight for justice for all the victims of the system.