Saturday, June 10, 2006
Unable to organise a pissup in a brewery - why you should stay home to watch the World Cup
It's a nice idea, showing crucial matches on a big screen in a busy city centre, but since people love to combine drink, football and violence, any attempt to stage something along those lines will ALWAYS end in tears.
Tempting as it may be to watch it outside in the sunshine with a big group of mates, it's not worth it!
You'd have thought the police and council, on a nice sunny Saturday, with England's first World Cup game due to be played in the afternoon, and the game being shown on a big screen, would have a decent operation in place to keep crowds under control; ensure everyone enjoyed themselves; uphold the law and stop people from being killed. Aside from a lack of deaths, which was quite frankly surprising, everyone involved failed to achieve any of these goals.
There is a law against consumption of alcohol in the city centre, with powers for police to confiscate alcohol which we assume will be drunk, by the way.
Here's what happened:
By 11am, there were already 1000 people in the area drinking. There were not enough cops on to do anything about this - most came on at half 12. Why didn't anyone launch the operation earlier?
The Council came up with the bright idea of erecting construction mesh fencing around an area of the big screen. That fencing didn't go up until near enough 12pm, resulting in it being built around people as they were streaming in.
Stewards were on to search bags for alcohol and control entry. Within half an hour we'd seized a lock blade, which had been thrown at one of the stewards by someone who ran in and disappeared into the crowd. There were so many people coming in so quickly that it became impossible to control flow and search everyone. Many point blank ignored the stewards or refused to surrender alcohol when requested.
By 2pm the fencing had to be removed entirely, as there were far too many people in the area, and the fencing would have been torn down, resulting in injuries.
The BBC ignored a request not to publicise that the match would be broadcast on the big screen.
We were expecting 8000. Partly due to the BBC, at least 12-13,000 turned up, and the relatively small number of officers on was very quickly overwhelmed. Enforcing the alcohol law or maintaining any sort of crowd control became both futile and dangerous for us officers. Most if not all of the division was sent down, and reinforcements called in from no less than three other divisions and two specialist units.
By kick-off (for the game, at least), we had clearly lost what little control we had of the situation in the screening area and withdrew, resorting to keeping any more people from coming in. We pretty much locked down the entire area - noone came in, and if you went out you weren't allowed back. People weren't happy.
Shopping centres and shops had to close to prevent people circumventing the cordons to get to the screening area, and to prevent widespread theft and/or crushing. They lost a lot of money today.
Idiots were turning up and completely ignoring the police tape or officers standing by it, ducking under and trying to get in. They looked genuinely offended that we dared to challenge them for crossing the line.
I gave up trying to explain that we couldn't let people past because there were too many in the area; people were getting crushed and injured and it was too dangerous for them. Towards the end of the match I was strongly tempted to let people through with the words "Fine, get seriously injured. I'm really not arsed". The police don't protect the public from criminals, we protect the public from themselves, and it is often an exasperating and futile exercise for which many are singularly ungrateful.
At half-time there were at least 30 people fighting in the crowd, 1 person stabbed and several people glassed. Ambulances could not get in and bottles were being thrown everywhere. We were witnessing mob rule, with the general throng of the crowd determining the actions and strategy of the police, instead of the other way around - an unfortunate phenomenon that is becoming increasingly common in this country.
People complained we weren't doing anything about it. They were right. There weren't enough of us to do anything. It was plainly apparent to even the most casual observer that we were reacting to what was happening as opposed to having anticipated it with plans in action, did not have it under control and were overwhelmed. I cared far more for my personal safety than for the safety of the general public, so did not risk myself.
The force helicopter was unavailable throughout.
We had to request voluntary closure of several stores that people were buying booze from and then drinking in nearby public arenas, in contravention of the law and creating serious risks of further violence. Luckily the stores complied.
I was kept on from 11am-6pm without a single rest break, after which we were told to get 'a quick bite to eat'.
The prisoners we locked up were treated better than us - at least they got food and water on demand. There were no lunch packs, the shops we were stood outside ended up getting us water, when it should have been supplied by the force, and a request by one officer for water bottles was met with The officer distributing them is on point and can't leave it". Bear in mind this is one of the hottest days of the year so far.
I got sunburnt on my arms, mild heatstroke and felt very ill.
We then had spots of fights at several different venues across the city after the game. A few were arrested. Many more could have been but it would most likely have exasperated things and resulted in officers getting hurt.
Today could have been far, far worse than it was, and it is only be sheer luck, as opposed to careful planning, that a major riot did not start. Next time, either public screenings should be banned entirely, or an early operation, involving a large number of officers at strategic points maintaing road closures, crowd control and rigid search policies should be implemented. When the area gets full, it gets closed off and this is communicated to the general crowd further away from the screening area. There should be a rotation of officers in place and enough food and water supplies to ensure officers do not become physically ill through lack of refreshments. The course of events and management of the day by the authorities involved was a disgrace. I know for a fact that things have been communicated to very senior level.
It wasn't a carnival atmosphere so much as a dangerous atmosphere. And this is when England WON!
For officers reading this - if you are offered overtime for World Cup related duties, trust me - do NOT take it!
(c) Bow Street Runner. None of the material contained in this post, or this blog as a whole, may be reproduced without the express and written permission of Bow Street Runner. All rights reserved.
We are more relying on people to behave themselves, rather than to be ready for the worst.
One wounding or serious incident and thats the whole shift off.
I think members of the public always believe there are 200% more deployable at anyone time. Being on the inside we know the truth.
Thank god no one had to don the Public Order Kit, I can't imagine anything more enjoyable than running around in full uniform, flameproof overalls, shin guards, helmet and sheilds in the sun!!!
As soon as we lose a game im expecting something similar to the following conversation to happen;
"Silver calling Bronze 1, whats your location please"
"Some bastards have flipped the van over and were all in it, can I have some bloody help here"
"I've got a single manned panda and 2 PCSO's on foot"
Your not leaving the job completely r u? Life of crime looking more lucrative.. ;)
I am starting to compare our gaffers with world war one generals I must say....
It looks like we are all in the same boat ! - why don't the guvenors realise that these things are Sh**t magnets and put
a. enough people on to deal
b. enough ops to answer the drunks complaining about being thrown out and the sober ones complaining about the drunks
Thank God the Specials Guvenor put on lots of specials or we would have been truely swamped
last 999 call at 0655 Sunday and apparantly it carried on after shift change at 0700
Yay TDC scheme and not appearing available on crappy events lists
I have been double shafted though as its the middle of my stag weekend (organised way before the world cup) and like a fool didn't think to protect rest days. Dammit.
In the meantime unless you object I'll put a link to here from mine
PS good luck now you're out of the job!!!
Links to this post: