OK, so let’s get this straight – a chimp escapes from the zoo and the police fire warning shots at it. A few days later, the police come under automatic gunfire and bomb attack and they contain the situation by firing sponge-tipped plastic bullets and giving the rioters a free shower. Go figure. Jonathan McCambridge explains the new thin green line the PSNI find themselves walking along.
Jonathan McCambridge writes:
Throughout the summer senior police officers have been left exasperated by the lack of community involvement working to prevent public order situations from taking place.
All of this creates a nasty conundrum for police. Just how are officers supposed to react when they are being attacked repeatedly and viciously by children? The PSNI has faced repeated calls to be more robust in their approach but does society really want to see plastic bullets fired at kids?
When officers remain in their Land Rovers during riots, as they did this week, they face accusations of surrendering the streets to the thugs.
The reality is that police will often allow a riot to rumble on as long as it does not threaten to cross a peace line or attack innocent civilians. Speaking after Woodvale this week Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland said: “We contained it until we were ready to move in.” Police tactics became more direct when it looked as if the rioters may turn their attentions to Tennent Street police station.
Faced with the images which we have seen on our streets this summer officers from other police forces around the world have told the PSNI that in similar situations with officers under direct attack, they would have opened fire. However with the PSNI now probably the most scrutinised police force in the world and fiercely committed to their human rights ethos, such tactics are not an option.
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There were no buses travelling from Belfast up the Shankill when I was in town earlier, and some of the trouble seemed to have been quite close to the city centre. There was a roadblock at the junction of Ormeau Avenue and Ormeau Road sealing off the Markets area, which seemed to stretch to the Albertbridge Road and possibly up to the Short Strand, if that’s of any use to anyone. There’re quite a few PSNI Land Rovers around Shaftesbury Square, after an attack on nationalists on the Grosvenor road by Sandy Row loyalists.
Be careful out there tonight. It’s far from over.
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