A letter to Chief Inspector Keith Ogle
Today I stood by the roadside at Preston New Road. I had several interesting conversations with members of your staff about the right to protest, how it could or should be manifested, and the problems perceived by those at the roadside with the way that your staff are clearly facilitating Cuadrilla’s actions.
Whilst we were talking I counted 14 protestors. 10 on the opposite side to Cuadrilla, and 4 on the Cuadrilla side of the road including one (Nick) in a wheelchair. I don’t, of course, mean to detract from Nick’s capability as a protester as he is formidable. He was also one of the youngest and quite possibly the strongest of us. We did a quick straw poll and estimated that the average age of the protesters there was about 60.
Imagine our surprise to count no less than 5 TAU vans, each containing 9 policemen disgorging their contents to facilitate the withdrawal of 3 vans from the Cuadrilla site. Yes, that was 54 policemen plus the 4 police liaison officers – nearly 60 policemen deployed to deal with 14, mostly elderly, protestors.
You cannot fail to be aware that there are some very serious questions about the role that the police have adopted in actively facilitating Cuadrilla’s actions, but this is just totally separate level of stupid. Which operational commander could reasonably make the decision to deploy trained police officers in numbers that outnumber pensioners by four to one? What on earth did that commander think was going to happen here?
The police’s management of this entire situation, from a promising start has since been crass and insensitive throughout. You have steadfastly refused to become involved in issues breaches of planning permissions , but you have made every effort to ensure that Cuadrilla’s operations are not affected by protest. You have blue-lighted their lorries through red lights (a councillor tells me she has evidence of this) and you have threatened protestors with arrest if they attempt to test the legitimacy of slow walks. The result is that your force has created such an imbalance that your staff are manifestly struggling to manage the tensions that are now simmering at the road side, and everyone is agreed on both sides of the argument that the cost of this ineffective policing is frankly ridiculous.
For everyone’s good take a step back, reappraise the situation and come to the table with something more workable. This is going to go on for years. You cannot want this ridiculous and very public example of disproportionate policing to continue any more than we all do.
Sent on 19 April 2017 at 15:37