Today’s Guardian suggests that Kent Police attempted to put pressure on Medway Council to facilitate increased surveillance of climate camp protesters, despite Medway Council’s concern that this would “alienate the community”.
An FOI request has shown that Sergeant Keith Waymont wrote to us at the Council to complain that council officers were not being sufficiently co-operative with police plans for surveillance. The Guardian reports that he wrote:
“When I put this [Medway Council’s alleged non co-operation with surveilance] to my bosses, they were less than impressed, given the importance of this operation as the new power station build is likely to create a considerable number of jobs for Medway.”
In my role as a Member of Kent Police Authority I have today written to our Chief Executive to ask that Sergeant Waymont identify the ‘bosses’ with whom he says that he raised the issue, so that the matter can be investigated.
On the face of it, the letter is utterly unacceptable. By pressurising Medway Council to set aside our concerns about planned police surveillance because “the new power station build is likely to create a considerable number of jobs for Medway”, it implies that the climate camp policing was intended to face down the protestors and help E.On build a new power station.
To the best of my knowledge, this is not true. In some aspects of the operation the police went out of their way to try to demonstrate neutrality, e.g. by not using E.On faciliities to command the operation. However, the unveiling of this letter – thanks to FOI – can only add to concerns regarding the policing of the protest.
I consider that our duty as the Kent Police Authority is not solely to support Kent Police, but to hold them to account on behalf of the public. If we are to do this properly, it implies that on occasion we may have to make measured criticism of the Force.
We have, with the Force, arranged two independent reports into the climate camp policing. I and the Chair and Chief Executive of the Police Authority met with the Climate Camp legal team to seek to understand and take account of their concerns. Rather than just allow the police to deal with climate camp complaints individually, we as an Authority are seeking to determine the overall lessons to be learned from these complaints.
This work has been painstaking and has taken longer than we initially hoped. Our conclusions will feed into HM Inspectorate of Constabulary’s national review of the policing of protest. I hope that we will also before too long be able to publish them for the benefit of the Kent public and those who sought to protest peacefully in our county.
In the meantime I would like to put on record my condemnation of the letter as quoted in the Guardian today and congratulate the paper on its investigative reporting.