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Politicians Question Police Misconduct Charges at G-20 London Summit


The head of Britain's Independent Police Complaints Commission was questioned Tuesday by a host of politicians in parliament regarding the much criticized security tactics employed during London's G-20 summit earlier this month.

One man died in those protests under suspicious circumstances and dozens of complaints have been filed against the police for the alleged strong-arm methods employed. Three weeks after the events, more than 50 people have come forward with assault allegations.

Those allegations are being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Forty members of the IPCC are examining police conduct during the summit.

Commission Chairman Nick Hardwick faced questions from a parliamentary panel about his investigation into possible criminal misconduct. "Clearly the pictures are disturbing," Hardwick said, "but what I would also say to people is that as I think members of the committee have correctly pointed out, pictures are a snapshot, all right, and what we will not do and what I will not do is make assumptions prior to the completion of our investigation. We will make our decisions on the basis of the total evidence we collect, not on the basis of today's headlines."

Hardwick said the police regularly train using a variety of so-called crowd control distraction techniques - namely hitting, striking and kicking.

"Well it seems to me if we train officers to do a particular thing and put them into situations where that training is required and then we see pictures of them doing what they have been trained to do, we cannot simply wash our hands of it at that point and say how awful it is, right?"

"We have to share some of that responsibility. So I think the police service has the responsibility to involve us in that discussion and we as the public, as parliamentarians, have a responsibility to respond intelligently to that and be realistic about the hard choices that are made," Hardwick added.

Many in Britain point to events like the policing of the G-20 as further evidence the country's police are slowly drifting away from their long-standing traditional role as servants of the public.

Although he is focusing on specific cases of possible police misconduct, Nick Hardwick said there is a great need for a much larger debate to be held in the country regarding the correct balance between security and liberty.

In particular, Hardwick said, police must get involved in that very important discussion. "We have a tradition in this country of policing by consent. I think it is one of the things that we can be proud of, but my view is that has to be informed consent and I think one of the problems with the way the police service has operated up to now is that the discussion about tactics and strategy has been an internal discussion in the profession and I think the police service needs to be better at having that discussion with the public to whom they are accountable."

Experts say accountability is key in determining the future use of certain practices such as confining thousands of protesters into small areas for hours on end and of some officers removing badge numbers from their uniforms in crowd control situations.

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