The death of Ian Tomlinson at last week’s G20 protests was a tragedy that has shocked many people. It raises worrying questions about police accountability.
Liberal Democrat MPs were in attendance to observe both sides of the protest. David Howarth MP has called the incident ‘sickening’, and is demanding a full-scale criminal investigation into Mr Tomlinson’s death. In tense situations, we expect the police to set the best example, not descend into the worst behaviour.
It’s important that communities have good relationships with the police who serve us. Here in Islington, the Safer Neighbourhood Teams in each ward meet regularly with the public to set their ward priorities, and they produce regular news letters reporting back to the community.
The SNT meetings that I’ve attended have produced some real results, from extra security measures on estates to deploying youth workers in a particular area. In St Mary’s ward, after reports from concerned residents, a drug dealer was arrested and has now been charged with possession with intent to supply a class A drug.
But too often I still find residents telling me of times they contacted the police – to tackle anti-social behaviour, or worse – only to find that the resources are just not there to respond.
Just this week one woman told me of a recent case where her car was attacked by drunken youths on a Friday night. She was too frightened to intervene. She called the SNT: not on duty til Monday. She called 999: they never came (like my own experience).
The next day she had an apologetic phone call and a crime number to give her insurers. Not quite what she wanted. And should she have to go to public meetings to get the police to do their job?
We need more accountable community policing, responding to local people’s needs and priorities; not a faceless force deployed by central government on a big brother agenda.