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When public protest should not be suppressed

When public protest should not be suppressed

‘Every crime matters’ is the challenge I’ve set for the Gloucestershire Constabulary after years of austerity when the investigation of some crimes fell off their radar.

The reason for this challenge is simple, It’s because ‘every victim matters’.

Although, clearly, some crimes attract greater attention than others.

Sexual violence

Domestic abuse, sexual violence and racism are the crimes and behaviours akin to a malignant cancer that can destroy every aspect of a victim’s life.

These crimes extend beyond policing and require society to take a long hard look at itself.

Sarah Everard

Another woman murdered – Sarah Everard; last year another black man, George Floyd; one case involving and one allegedly involving those we look to for protection.

So, the horror and shame is magnified many times.

Occurring during lockdowns, both are potentially seismic events bringing calls for lasting change and with it a wide range of emotions.

Protest in lockdown

As I see it, whether in lockdown or not, the need for people to express their horror, frustration, solidarity, grief or anger at these events is something that cannot be supressed and cannot be merely legislated for.

Ways have to be found to purge the public’s rage, even in a pandemic.

Role of the Police & Crime Commissioner

So what should you expect from your police and crime commissioner?

The Police are ‘operationally independent’.

PCC’s are there to hold them to account.

But that doesn’t mean it’s always retrospective.

Neither is another of a PCC’s main purposes, to give the public a voice in policing.

George Floyd

During the first lockdown, when vigils were being planned to mark the killing of George Floyd, I met with the police while they were discussing what action they might take and I politely suggested they needed to ‘find a way to help the those who felt strongly have their voices heard’.

Policing with consent is an essential but sometimes difficult path to tread and to my mind the police in Gloucestershire did a brilliant job – and continued throughout the pandemic.

A measured response

This proportionate approach had the public’s support then and will serve them well in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder.

The issues arising from these terrible events must be resolved because black communities suffer in ways that white ones do not and because women still suffer abuse and violence in ways that men do not.

We all have a choice, the police included.

We can be part of the problem or part of the solution. The fence is not an option.

Martin Surl
martinsurl@policecommissioner.net