Anybody watching the events of last weekend could be forgiven for thinking that the police were indeed heavy handed in their approach to policing the so called vigils. However, as is usual with the media, there was no context provided. Therefore, in one regularly reported incident, we see a red headed woman pinned to the ground but we did not see what preceded this in order to prompt the police reacting in this way.
This of course comes as no surprise to the majority of us because a logical explanation of an event does not make a good story let’s be honest. However, to me anyway, the greatest disappointment was the response of politicians both locally and nationally and cross party. Not one of them came out and supported the police despite the fact that it was they who created the totally unworkable COVID related legislation and insisted that they enforce it. The police have, over the past months, been damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
There is a need to put things into perspective. As sad and terrible as the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard was, it was a very unusual event. The fact that a serving police officer has been charged with these matters makes it even more unique. People and in this case mainly women, have a right to express their concerns and ensure that the issues are brought to the attention of government. They also have a right to hold an event, a vigil, in order to show support and solidarity for the dead woman, her family and her friends. However, there were a large number of individuals who joined these various events across the country hell bent on causing trouble and deliberately contravening the law. In doing so it is right and proper that the police intervene and if they receive resistance, they are entitled, under the law, to use reasonable force in order to carry out their duties. This, as far as I can see, was exactly what they did. There is also an awful lot of video evidence being displayed across social media which clearly shows that large numbers of those attending these gatherings had no interest in being involved in a peaceful vigil. Why else would they be carrying banners depicting the letters “ACAB”, meaning “All Coppers Are Bast…s”?.
It has got to a point now where the police have become fair game for anyone to criticise and nobody appears to be prepared to stand up for them, although it was refreshing to see many, many positive comments about the police response across social media.
Let us not forget that the officers policing these events could well be the same officers called upon to investigate crimes committed against women in the future. They are just trying to do their job!
Retired Detective Chief Superintendent, Sussex Police