While police in the U.K. are permitted to use force when the situation calls for it, it’s not as easy as it looks on paper. In most situations where law enforcement is made to use force, some will be quick to call out “police brutality.” This was the case with the December, 2013 riot in London by University of London students. The Guardian reports:
On Thursday about 200 students held a “Cops off campus” rally outside the University of London Union building, which led to further violent confrontations with scores of officers that spread to surrounding streets. A Metropolitan police spokesman said there had been 36 arrests.
Michael Chessum, president of the University of London Union, said: “The level of police force that we have seen in the last couple of days is totally unprecedented on university campuses. It appears pre-planned. It is as if they are reacting to a riot situation – taking the level of force – and using it against students protesting on a university campus.”
To understand this, there must be a clear line separating lawful subjugation and police brutality. In other words: when is the use of force lawful or discriminatory?
The Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act of 1984 defines the use of force as lawful, given that two conditions are met. First, the individual─ usually a police officer─ is authorised by PACE. Second, in some situations, any individual authorised by PACE agrees to the other party’s use of reasonable force.
This is just one of the subjects covered in a CKP course. Training services such as those offered by Outsource and Knowledge of Policing include this in their conflict management programme.
Most conflicts in history will tell you that he who fires the first shot in battle loses the war. In today’s world, the first to resort to punches, kicks, and batons loses. However, law enforcement experts say the use of force doesn’t have to be tit-for-tat.
Police response should rise with the escalation of a certain conflict. When the police sees the person going for his knife, all the more with a loaded gun, the use of force is justified.
One safe course of action for constables, fortunately, is to resist using force for as long as possible, especially if non-violent options haven’t been exhausted yet. In the end, it’s up to the police officer’s good judgment. Training to be a police officer includes learning restraint and retaliation.
(Article information from “Police accused of using excessive force at student protests,” The Guardian, December 5, 2013)