FRONTLINE officers who may not be part of PSU units are most at risk of not having suitable kit to deal with protests and marches when they turn violent, Hampshire Police Federation has said.
Officers have experienced the sharp edge of dealing with protests in recent months, from the Bristol and Manchester ‘Kill The Bill’ protests to anti-lockdown marches and environmental demonstrations across the country.
Officers have been bloodied and bruised often because they’ve not had the kit they need to deal with the volume of protestors – the minority of whom chose to assault and attack them.
Hampshire Police Federation Chair Zoe Wakefield said: “PSU officers who are on duty at the time will have their kit with them.
“The problem really arises when the level of violence escalates, or more people join the protest, and other officers are called up to help from their other duties.
“They might have been doing some community work before all of a sudden being drafted in to help with a protest where it’s all kicking off.
“A lot of them won’t have the extra kit because they won’t be at that level of training, and they won’t have access to it because they might be needed right at that very moment.”
Despite the best intelligence, it’s not always easy to predict how protests will pan out or the numbers of people who might turn up, Zoe added.
She explained: “It’s extremely difficult because there often is spare kit available, but forces have to decide what’s more important– getting officers to the scene quickly so they can help protect the public and their colleagues or taking an hour or so to get them all kitted up.
“It might mean diverting them to the training headquarters to get the kit – they’ll get criticised for whatever decision they make; there’s no easy answer.”
Zoe said Hampshire had so far escaped the worst of the violence seen at other protests across the country, with the recent Animal Rebellion McDonald’s restaurant blockade in Basingstoke passing off peacefully.
“We’ve not had too much of it to deal right from when Black Lives Matter started; we don’t have that culture or element of protest here, unlike Bristol and other areas,” she said.
“We hope it won’t be a real problem here this summer.”