The commander of the Metropolitan Police said today he was not satisfied that officers had enough training to deal with the G20 protests, and said there were lessons to learn about working with the media.
Bob Broadhurst, the man responsible for drawing up policing plans for the event, said officers had found policing the 1 April demonstration in London confusing because there were times when photographers outnumbered protestors.
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The National Union of Journalists has submitted a body of evidence to the Independent Police Complaints Commission about police treatment of journalists at the protests in London last month.
Some journalists claim they were contained for several hours – a controversial tactic referred to by some as “kettling”.
Broadhurst told the House of Commons home affairs committee this morning: “We do not set out to cause difficulties for journalists and photographers.
“If you look at any of the images, our officers were faced sometimes by more photographers and journalists than protestors which they find very confusing.”
Broadhurst admitted: “We need to get better at identifying those in the crowd who cause us problems and those who are wholly innocent.
“We need a better way of communicating to the officers at the front of the cordons. At one stage I was told that members of the press couldn’t get out. That actually came through to us in the control room.
“The message I gave back was please let them out if they’re bona fide press. That message takes a long long time to get down to the frontline.”
He added: “When they’re told you’ve got to let journalists out, a lot of people come up with a camera and say I’m a journalist. They haven’t got a press pass.
“We support journalists in doing their job. However when there is a disorderly situation they have no more rights than the ordinary citizen to come through one of those cordons.”
Thousands of officers from the Met, City of London Police and British Transport Police faced violent attacks outside the Bank of England and a prolonged “sit-in” at nearby Bishopsgate where a climate camp was set up by activists.
Broadhurst told the committee that officers received only two days’ training a year in policing major protests.
He defended the performance of his officers during the clashes in the City of London but said the workforce of “relatively young people that we draw from” was not experienced in crowd control.
Broadhurst said he was proud of the “restraint” he witnessed from officers “who were probably quite scared”. And he said any inappropriate behaviour would have been because of fear.
He said there were lessons to be learned from the way the protest was handled. Asked if he was satisfied officers received sufficient training, he said: “No I’m not.”
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear told parliament earlier this month that police had shown a “huge misunderstanding of the media and its rights” and there had been a lack of consistency and a misuse of power by a minority of frontline officers.