Who Polices the Police?

The answer of course is that the police do, and when 20,000 or so off-duty police marched through the centre of London last week, there were a few of their uniformed mates there to make sure things went smoothly. However the guy that usually divides the estimates of numbers on marches by 2 or 3 did seem to be taking a day off!

Apart from the numbers, it was a pretty miserable show, and the police clearly needed to take some lessons from the Space Hijackers, who had thoughtfully set up a professional demonstrators stand at Hyde Park Corner to give them advice.

At the start, both ‘Class War‘ and ‘FITWatch‘ had turned up to show them how a mere handful of demonstrators can create rather more interest. With the uniforms being watched by a large media crowd, they were mainly careful to act rather more carefully than is sometimes the case when dealing with – and arresting a couple – of the protesters. The start of  the march was delayed for around half an hour by the protests.

But unfortunately one single man outdid even these, the presence marching with the police of the BNP mayoral candidate for London – largely keeping out of the way of the press – was the evening paper’s headline story.

I’d photographed him at the start of the march, but hadn’t thought anything of it. It’s no secret than there are many BNP sympathisers in the police, and it was no surprise to see him there, It was only when other photographers started to get a little excited about it, later in the march, that I thought I should perhaps get a better picture – but by then he had disappeared. In fact the picture the newspaper used wasn’t any better than mine.

At least one policeman in 20,000 has a sense of humour, and there were even a few who were clearly amused by the ‘professional protesters’, though rather more who shouted abuse (often using language that could have got them arrested!)

I also came in for a certain amount of abuse and pushing for being a photographer at one point in the march. The police do really have some problems they need to sort out, and their relationship to the media is one – though perhaps less pressing than others.

I’m not anti-police. They have a tough job to do, and need more and better training to do it. It is a dangerous job, and this was brought home when wreaths were laid at the National Police Memorial to commemorate those who have died doing it.

More pictures and text on the march on My London Diary.

All pictures are (C) 2008, Peter Marshall. All rights reserved.

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