18th June 2014
This afternoon Sussex Police said the independent review of its operation at the Balcombe anti-fracking protests, published by InvestigatingBalcombeAndCuadrillla.com two days ago, would help in its future approach to policing protests.
The review, carried out by Hertfordshire and Essex Police, was released under a Freedom of Information request we submitted last month. An earlier request for the document to the press offices of Sussex and Hertfordshire Police had been turned down.
Late this afternoon Sussex Police put the report on its website and issued a press release welcoming its recommendations.
The report had said Sussex Police was taken by surprise by the protests outside Cuadrilla’s oil exploration site in Balcombe – even though it had been warned several weeks before that they could happen. It found:
- Police missed early intelligence about how the protests might develop
- Some sections of the force weren’t aware of the operation or didn’t recognise the significance of the protests
- There were confusing lines of command
- Officers on the ground didn’t get accurate information during daily briefings
- Commanders and planners became exhausted
- There was no clear prosecution policy
- Some police decisions came under outside pressure
- Police didn’t fully consider the role of the Police and Crime Commissioner
The report called for better intelligence, more effective communication of information, a single chain of command and a review of the prosecution strategy. In future, police should agree early on with the drilling company responsibilities for security and rules of engagement.
Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry said this afternoon: “Our future policing approach to these types of incidents will incorporate much of the learning. We had been slow to turn intelligence into a plan with the necessary resources and this review will help us in any future protest policing activity.
“It is always a challenge to balance the need to protect lawful activity and facilitate lawful protest while minimising disruption to the community. The scale and complexity of the operation was unprecedented with 64 days of constant protest and more than 1000 protesters when it was at its height. Some 126 arrests were made.
“The initial policing response appeared slow as the intelligence and information at that time indicated that any protests could be managed locally by the division. It was in the last days of July that we became aware of the size and complexity of the situation and it was at that point that it became a force level operation.
“In Sussex it is normal practice for us to appoint an ACPO officer for a force level operation. They provided an oversight for this dynamic operation and acted as a conduit between the force and the PCC. The Commissioner played a valuable role in scrutinising the policing operation on behalf of the public. We continue to work on the different aspects of our roles and how they complement each other.
“This was an extremely busy time for the force with a number of pre-planned policing commitments, such as Pride, football at the Amex, 999 open days and Goodwood racing. These commitments were in addition to our need to maintain the local service expected by the public. To achieve this mutual aid was sought.
“We made the best use of our resources, including Special Constables and volunteers, to support divisions. Rest days were cancelled and re-rostered to meet the demand over the summer period, and pre-arranged leave was managed. The logistical support and planning was a challenge above and beyond our recent experience and the impact on all of our staff was recognised early on. We worked with the Police Federation and Unison to mitigate those risks. In relation to workloads supervisors on a daily basis monitored and assessed staff commitments and where necessary reallocated tasks.
“The recommendations and good practice mentioned in the review have been acknowledged and the future policing approach to these types of incidents has incorporated much of the learning.”