Is ‘Mutual Aid’ an explicit criticism of PSNI political policing?

Chris has pretty much nailed most of the 2013 #Twelfth (so far) apart from one issue which has generally passed almost without comment. A couple of days before the Twelfth, the PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott announced that 630 extra police officers would be deployed for the 2013 marching season. These officers would be drafted in from England, Scotland and Wales. The BelTel on 10th July reported:

Speaking last night, Mr Baggott said the operational move was made as this year represented a “unique July 12” with more than 550 parades, and 43 regarded as “sensitive”.

However, the Parades Commission only received one more application this year (602) than in 2012 (601), with 584 in 2011. Of those, 42 parades were actually deemed sensitive by the Commission in 2013, compared to 40 in 2012 and 33 in 2011. This doesn’t seem to suggest any significant year-on-year increase between 2012 to 2012 to warrant a sudden demand in extra police. The discrepancy in the public statement suggests that some other reason lies behind this decision.

Yesterday it was reported that a further 400 ‘Mutual Aid Officers’ were being called in to support the PSNI.

What is not being commented upon here is why there was a sudden need for 1050 additional police officers in 2013. Clearly the PSNI didn’t have a particularly good lead up to the Twelfth, either in Carrickhill or with the HET. But a very visible outcome of the flags protests was the apparent inability of the PSNI to intervene when handfuls of people brought traffic to a standstill in parts of Belfast.

Wherever the genesis, either within Matt Baggott’s office, or perhaps in spite of it, this is a marked shift in security policy. Historically and up to now, unionist protestors could  largely rely on the facilitation of the RUC or PSNI to substantiate their actions. A clear example of this were the flag protest road blockages which were actually enforced by the PSNI rather than by weight of numbers of protestors. Whether that represented a final straw, or some other issue has brought this to a head, it gives the impression that someone in a position of authority has an official lack of confidence in the ability to police political protests either in the PSNI or Matt Baggott.

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  • cynic2

    You took six paragraphs to suggest that English and Scottish police were brought in just to beat the prods because the PSNI couldn’t be trusted to do it / hit them hard enough

    If your thesis is true who then ordered it? Baggot personally? It cant be SOS as she doesn’t have the authority (or interest). Does than mean it was wee Davy Ford?

    The truth must be told!

  • michael-mcivor

    The Mutual aid officers were needed this year because this was the year that the police was going to stop the orange order in Belfast and the PSNI leaders could not trust the PSNI to uphold the law themselves-they needed some backbone and the brit army is out of the question now during our peace-so other police were trained up in england under the guise of the G8 protectors-during the G8 was the last training that this force had-and the rest as they say is history-it worked a treat-

  • Sweetcheeks

    ‘the PSNI leaders could not trust the PSNI to uphold the law themselves’
    what utter bollocks. I cant believe a SF rep is allowed to chat such shite.

  • I think John O’ Neill asks an interesting question but it does not really have an answer.
    G8…what exactly was all that extra police all about? Was it not over the top? Or was it a familiarisation exercise…more about the Twelfth than G8.
    Surely it is always more likely that people here will get more worked up about Marching Season than Global Economics etc.
    I dont buy into PSNI officers not trusting PSNI rank and file. But I do note that whole National Crime Bureau thing.
    Whatever 1,000 extra police are doing here, its not about arrests..PSNI might well suggest there will be hundreds more but in the cold light of day most of the rioters who see themselves on You Tube will maybe think that PSNI are really sending out yet another signal…that arrests might not take place as long as peace is restored quickly.

    I was away at weekend and only saw footage this morning and frankly the footage from both Woodvale and Newtownards Road suggests the PSNI were far too restrained. Just how many of the rioters will actually be scooped…I wont hold my breath.

  • Morpheus

    It’s all well and good calling into question the policing tactics on the G8 after the event but without 20-20 hindsight they had to be prepared in case it kicked off. The same for the 12th, they brought in extra officers in case it kicked off – which it did.

    From what I have seen they were remarkable professional in how they handled the past few days (show me a police force anywhere else in the world who wouldn’t take action if someone came at the them with a sword – ceremonial or not) and hopefully they will follow it up with the hundreds of arrests promised today.

  • michael-mcivor


    ” follow it up with the hundreds of arrests promised today “-

    Was surprised myself when I heard that interview-don’t think there will be any messing around this year-the police have plenty of photos of the culprits and most of the media cant wait to make those photos public-the PSNI member also said that anyone who attacked a officer of the law should be charged with attepted murder-
    the loyalist prison wings will be stuffed this summer-

  • Big Island Exile

    It could be they were called in to get some extra training in how to deal with a repeat of the English riots. A bit of a play with the water cannon. Sure you never know when that might come in handy.

  • Morpheus

    If they attacked a PSNI Officer with a sword and the evidence is there to back it up then they should be charged with attempted murder and brought before the courts with the evidence.

    Mervyn said something else which I thought was interesting – if a OO member has a criminal record they are automatically expelled. I wonder if this has always been the case and if it always been enforced.

  • Sweetcheeks

    Like the Spanish f*ckwit who dropped a breeze block on the cop’s head in Ardoyne a few years ago, the sword-wielder should indeed be charged with attempted murder.
    There will be hundreds of arrests in the coming weeks and months.

    It also seems to be that not only have the loyalist working classes been horribly exploited by the Orange Order and Dodds/McCausland, but they also seem to have been abandoned by the UVF/UDA leadership – they haven’t been seen over the last few days. Was there a deal done?

    The protests seem largely unorganised while the violence – as disgusting as it is – doesn’t appear to be orchestrated, nor is it anywhere near the scale of Matthews’ invasion of Short Strand back in 2011, or the Whiterock riots of 2005.

  • DC

    @Big Island

    Was thinking that myself re the EDL ‘coming down the road’ in future.

    Also thinking surplus law enforcement might be a bit of a trap…like moths to the light…the rioters keep on confronting the PSNI – and the PSNI let them, the more ninjas on street the more the rioters get excited but also the more the PSNI can remain passive in approach, they can smother the rioters in numbers and machines, rather than be caught stretched and forced into direct confrontation as under pressure to maintain the lines.

    The CCTV does the rest and the extra officers from Britain affords the PSNI officers time to look over the CCTV recordings and make arrests – without these extra officers, core PSNI resources and time would likely be spent holding the line with investigatory stuff de-prioritised. this way both can happen quickly – prevention and investigation.

    Also it’s useful way to gather intel on the community – drawing the rioters out and putting them on CCTV, the PSNI might wager that if they riot – they may well be into other ASB and criminal stuff and useful to find out and identify such people.

  • cynic2

    Interesting point. Will the Policing Board stop PSNI publishing the photos of young people wanted for involvement in these riots too?

  • hugodecat

    The G8 has meant lots of Training for GB officers in PSNI tactics, for me the call on mutual aid has happened this year as its the first time there has been officers worth calling on. added to that it will play well in the London based press.
    Mutual Aid has been working well the other way for a number of years, sending land-rovers/water-cannon/personnel to GB to help with various incidents.
    I suspect a bit of overthinking the situation from some sluggerites.

  • cynic2

    Yes…isnt it odd.

    Hundreds of British Solders here helping PSNI = bad

    Hundreds of British Police here helping PSNI = good

  • michael-mcivor

    Thousands of british soldiers helping loyalists=bad-

    Hundreds of british police standing up to loyalists=good-

  • Mick Fealty


    If this or ever was true…

    “Historically and up to now, unionist protestors could largely rely on the facilitation of the RUC or PSNI to substantiate their actions.”

    …then what the hell are SF doing on the Policing Board?

  • iluvni

    I’m wondering if it had all kicked off at the G8, would the PSNI have stood back passively in Fermanagh as they do in the annual Belfast riots?

  • Son of Strongbow

    The suggestion is of course utter tosh.

    The shadowy ‘Authorities’ are in this case ACPO. For many years local police were not included in the Mutual Aid system for three main reasons.

    Firstly, Mutual Aid is a quid pro quo undertaking and local police could not return the favour and travel to support GB officers. Secondly there were significant differences in equipment and systems that required a financial ‘fix’ that ACPO couldn’t/wouldn’t stretch to. G8 sorted that one.

    Thirdly, and most importantly senior GB officers were not willing to expose their unarmed officers in a high terrorist threat environment. Although a threat still exists it is now felt to be more manageable – despite GB Police Federations still voicing their continuing concerns.

    However why let the facts get in the way of good old nationalist paranoia?

    Although perhaps it is worth pointing out that it was (the allegedly all too ready to cave in) PSNI officers in the front line at Woodvale.

  • DC

    Ehm if reports in east belfast are true perhaps mutual aid was a good idea…

  • Ulster Press Centre

    DC: Ehm if reports in east belfast are true perhaps mutual aid was a good idea…

    Mark Mallett from UTV just confirmed on Twitter it was an unprovoked petrol bomb attack on protestant families and children playing in Pitt Park – organised from Strand Walk.

    When you reward Ardoyne catholic fundamentalists for sectarian violence, we can hardly be surprised when their fellow travelers in Short Strand use the same ‘tactic’.

    The Parades Commission seem to have created a monster.

  • DC
  • Sweetcheeks

    ‘Mark Mallett from UTV just confirmed on Twitter it was an unprovoked petrol bomb attack on protestant families and children playing in Pitt Park – organised from Strand Walk.’

    He did no such thing. You’re an absolute liar.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The Parades Commission seem to have created a monster.

    You’re a sad and desperate man, UPC.

  • John Ó Néill

    Mick – Drumcree? Flags? Police closed roads even when they outnumbered ‘protestors’.

    And I presume SF would say they are trying to engage through the Police Boards rather than walk away.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    Comrade Stalin: You’re a sad and desperate man, UPC.

    Lazy man-playing.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Marc Mallet now adds :

    Just come from Short Strand. Evidence of attacks from Lwr N’ards Rd. Also admissions that missiles thrown from the area in retaliation…1/2

    2/2…so who threw “first stone?” Not clear. What is clear – 2 communities living side by side, attacking each other & afraid of each other

    Just for those who regard him as a reliable source.

  • Comrade Stalin


    Several roads are closed at the moment. Sandy Row was blocked with police diverting traffic at 7PM. Shore Road is also reportedly blocked. Twaddell was blocked but has now been reopened.

  • Mick Fealty

    If what you suggest MIGHT be happening IS happening then they have zero excuse for not walking… That’s collusion, not engagement…

    On the other hand…

  • cynic2

    …then what the hell are SF doing on the Policing Board?

    Give them a chance. They have only been there 8 years duing which time they have …….er ……

    I seem to recall Gerry saying they would ‘put manners on the Police’. To mix my metaphors I think we can see which poodle has now been trained.

    By the way hasn’t Gerry Kelly been very quiet since his stint as a bonnet mascot and Carols shoulder seems to have healed up nicely

  • michael-mcivor

    Seems that the police have been taught some manners-they are now protecting the people instead of helping orange order flag protesters-

  • John Ó Néill

    So stay and be criticised, walk and be criticised. No winners there.

    Cornerstones of unionist tactics are (a) calling people onto the streets, (b) disowning the ensuing violence, and (c) a belief that the police will be passive. Pretty much every unionist protest from the workers strike to Drumcree to Flags follows that pattern. Now, like some 19th magistrate reined in by Dublin Castle, Orange parades in Belfast are being policed from outside. Maybe it is Mutual Aid training, but Baggott is offering an explanation that doesn’t add up here. Maybe SF have managed to leverage this to try and get the Orders to engage and find a solution rather than be led into blind alleys by the likes of the DUP.

  • Comrade Stalin


    I think you are being a bit paranoid.

    There are a couple of angles. A lot of overtime will have been worked up by officers over the flag protests and then into the G8. I think Baggott is calling on outside resource to fill the gaps that would normally be filled by regular police overtime for the summer period.

    Secondly, having put the mechanisms involving out of hours courts and mutual assistance in place for the G8, Baggott wants to be seen to be proactive. Better to overestimate the policing requirements than underestimate them. I think he will come out of it quite well; the situation at the Woodvale has been contained and is likely to peter out.

    Fundamentally I detect no changes in the policing strategy which has been the same for the past several years; hang back, make the rioters a little bit wet, and wait for the riot to burn itself out, then use CCTV and social media evidence to swoop on the perpetrators. While there are many people who would like to see the police move in and aggressively take on the rioters, this softer approach has the benefit of enjoying broad cross community support and makes it easy to discredit spurious brutality claims (such as those being proffered by “community worker” Jim Wilson on Nolan this morning).

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s precisely why Baggott was booked for the gig… I know Chris was keen on the idea that Baggotts strategy over flegs was different to tactics used at Ardoyne, but this the first time I’ve heard it suggested it was because the cops themselves were reluctant to do the arresting…

    And I have to say if no one on the whole of the Policing Board noticed, you can colour sceptical on that score…

  • John Ó Néill

    I am not so sure. Watch this space. I think Baggott will vacate the post later in the year (once there is a quiet snap).

  • Mc Slaggart

    Mick: on the 15 july

    “By the way hasn’t Gerry Kelly been very quiet since his stint as a bonnet mascot and Carols shoulder seems to have healed up nicely”

    15 July:
    “Sinn Féin minister in the power sharing executive

    Gerry Kelly said the attack was “completely unacceptable” and “not supported by the vast majority of the community in Ardoyne”.”

  • Mick Fealty

    Which Mick?

  • Mick Fealty

    He may well do John, but he has also been the whipping boy of the two most powerful parties in NI both of whom like to pretend they had no say over engaging him nor have the power to fire him…

  • cynic2

    “he has also been the whipping boy of the two most powerful parties in NI ”

    Yes …and a victim of the way policing culture here has developed. Under the demands opf HRA and Community Policing everything must be done to minimize injury and negotiate problems away.

    For most of PSNIs life the problems have (largely) been with policing Nationalism where a strategy of hands off has been the norm. .I know thats a simplification but the broad argument is fair enough.

    This approach is strongly supported by nationalist politicians and the Unionists just sat and watched. Now its unionism turn there is huge pressure from well organised Nationalists for PSNI to be used to take on flegs protesters and beat the OO. In face of this Unionist politicians are supine and lazy. This leaves the Unionists in a lurch increasing their disillusionment.

    Now do not misread this. I think PSNI at the weekend were absolutely right and very restrained in the way they stopped that parade. The OO need to be reminded that they were defeated at Drumcree and will be again if they push it.

    I am just commenting that the Unionist / Loyalist hoi polloi feel treated differently and disadvantaged. In the absence of any real political leadership that is dangerous – and the police will have to hold the line while they sort themselves out

  • Red Lion

    It’s hard to believe the cynical opportunism of the asking such a skewed question at the top of this thread, with such tenuous reasoning.

    Please let the DUP SF ping pong carve up go away

  • Reader

    John Ó Néill: …it gives the impression that someone in a position of authority has an official lack of confidence in the ability to police political protests either in the PSNI or Matt Baggott.
    But what does it mean in practical terms? Are you suggesting that it was a junior commander among these Auxies who made a unilateral decision to block roads with borrowed landrovers; or that a more senior commander from outside gave orders for the PSNI to do it?
    Can you put some meat on those hints?

  • Mc Slaggart

    Sorry Mick that should have been addressed @ cynic2

  • John Ó Néill

    @Reader – I was just curious at first that no-one was passing comment on the introduction of extra police (particularly in light of the criticisms of PSNI’s asymmetric policing of political protests in previous summers and the ineptness with which they handled the flags protests). But when Baggott offered an explanation that simply doesn’t add up (as above), I figured there may be something more going on. I wondered if he’d been pressured into additional police being sent over, or, if he had requested them as he was fed up with an operational culture that is refusing to change with the times.