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Title: Policing protest in an age of austerity : how the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) responded to anti-austerity movements after the financial crash
Author: O'Sullivan, Aidan
ISNI:       0000 0004 6496 3068
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2017
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The research examined the response of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to anti-austerity protests in London following the financial crisis of 2008 and the election of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2010. Research began in the wake of prevalent controversies at the time around how the police deployed force against demonstrators including the use of containment of large crowds for a substantial length of time and the death of a member of the public, Ian Tomlinson, after being struck with a baton during the G20 protests in 2009 (Rosie and Gorringe, 2009). There were also concerns around how the MPS gathered intelligence with Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT) accused of gathering and retaining data improperly (HAC, 2009), as well as emerging scandals of undercover officers amongst environmental and social justice campaigns (BBC, 2012a). These controversies led the police to innovate new methods of communication with protesters including liaison officers to mix in the crowd and explain police tactics for the day. This research investigated how the MPS deployed its different tactics which were grouped under the strategies of force, surveillance and negotiated management. Drawing primarily on writings on police culture it used a documentary analysis and a series of semi-structured interviews with MPS officers to examine how the police conceive of public order policing, anti-austerity protests and how their tactics were deployed and may change in the future. The conclusion ends with several interesting insights from the data. The most significant is how the police interviewees see little problem with how the MPS deploy surveillance. This is important as they recognise the controversy that can arise through the use of force. They tend to treat the recent moves towards liaison policing to replace the use of force at protests as the uppermost concern. They acknowledge the hostility that surveillance can engender in activists but see this as largely unavoidable and can be dismissive of civil liberty concerns. This is in contrast to the fact that the documentary analysis of policy recognises that the use of intelligence gathering needs to be proportionate (ACPO, 2010). It is also concerning in a time when there are several revelations around undercover officers embedded in environmental and social justice campaigns. This leads the research to recommend that any future research on public order policing must find a way to surmount the obstacle of gaining access to, and properly assessing, the role of undercover policing to complement research on overt forms of intelligence gathering on the day of the protest.
Supervisor: Godfrey, B. ; McGarry, S. R. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral