A Dictionary of Terms for the Shafted: political policing

This is the second installment of the dictionary. I felt we needed new terms to help us describe the increasing intimidation of protesters in the UK.

Kettle of First Resort: The use of ‘containment’ – holding people against their will and without intention to charge them – as a standard tactic rather than (as claimed) as a last resort.

Open Kettle: A variant of the above, but with porous police lines. The intention is to take control of the space from the protest while allowing individuals to move through the lines. An Open Kettle can become a standard kettle at any moment.

Pressure Cooker: An Open Kettle in which the police progressively move inwards, diminishing the space in which the protesters can move. Those who maintain this is not meant to be intimidating are welcome to stand inside one.

Threatening Letters: Sent to ‘known protesters’ before a protest, to threaten them with the law if they don’t obey the law. Also useful if you’ve lost your diary and can’t remember when the next protest is.

Bouncer Bill: searching people on the way to protests. The victims are chosen according to a set of unstated prejudices and like the bigotted bouncer at the door of the nightclub, the excuse is ‘the safety of everyone’, even though these searches never uncover anything.

March Under Siege: A protest march that is only allowed to move under control of the police to the front, rear and sides of the march. Announcing your route helps the police lay the siege.

Polluted Protest: A protest in which there are so many undercover police that no one will be able to tell afterwards which side did what to who.

Shock And Awe Teams: also known as ‘snatch squads’ – the use of overwhelming violence to take out minor perceived threats. The police launch themselves into a crowd with batons at the ready and emerge with a candidate for the next definition.

Restrained Violence: Police violence against one already restrained, whether on the ground or in cuffs.

Public Exposure: Targetting the media with stories about your enormous weaponry in the days before a protest so as to intimidate those going.

Time-restricted Liberty: The setting of a definite time limit on your right to assembly and expression. The police attempt to send people home after this, like teachers telling children playtime is over.

A Successful Protest: In police language, this means one sufficiently dampened by police threats and violence that it can be ignored by the establishment.

Political Vetting: The bit in the post-protest press conference where the police spokesman outlines who was or was not a ‘legitimate’ protester.

Total Policing: Er, presumably the kind of policing you expect in a totalitarian state. This is the latest Metropolitan Police slogan.

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7 Responses to A Dictionary of Terms for the Shafted: political policing

  1. Pingback: Critical Legal Thinking › A Dictionary of Policing Protest

  2. Tim says:

    I guess this was inspired by the student march? I actually managed to locate the front of it as it got near leicester square just by observing the movements of the 3 helicopters! Despite having no prior knowledge of its intended route.

    I think that there was very similar tactics applied to “gang members” after the summer insurgency. Threatening letters, raids on houses, stop-and-search. Its pretty hard to find out the scale of this.

    I believe that “Total Policing” is associated with Bernard Hogan-Howe the latest head of the Met. I think it is a tactic he developed when he was head of Liverpool police. Need to read more on that.

    ‘No legal tactic will be deemed “out of bounds” for police in London in future’

    There was a /shit load/ of police around that march, and seemed to be uniformed spotters hanging around in all the side streets in soho, which I don’t think I have really seen before. And that 3 lines of cops and a line of horses at the front….! Haven’t seen anything like that since Edinburgh G8.

    Schnews has a bit on the march http://www.schnews.org.uk/archive/news796.php

    “One of the less successful actions of the day was the attempted occupation of Trafalgar Sq, which consisted of 30 pop-up tents pitching up, followed shortly after by the arrest of their occupants and the removal of the tents. ”

    I think they do find stuff when they do the stop and searches, I think their main point is so they can look at IDs and get intelligence (and intimidation of course), but they pick up people of drug possession quite a bit I think… wonder if they will start arresting people carrying tents?

  3. Tim says:

    So, here from the horses mouth total policing:


    “I think in the past the police service has got trapped into some partnership working which is not always about fighting crime.

    “I am trying to get the police to concentrate on our strengths. We are good problem solvers. We go in, sort a problem out quickly and move on.”


    A repeat of the policies he pursued successfully in Merseyside of high-profile policing, in which criminals are harried, pursued and repeatedly targeted.

    He plans “big wing” days, when the whole force are pulled away from what they are doing to bear down on selected crimes, such as drugs or bail absconders, to tagging binge drinkers and lining up hundreds of uninsured cars belonging to criminals on a public highway before inviting their owners to claim them.


    he and his deputy, Jon Murphy, set up Operation Matrix, in which disruption teams targeted and harassed anyone with the slightest connection to firearms in the city. It worked and the policy grabbed national headlines. But in 2007 the killing of Rhys Jones highlighted that gun crime and inner-city gangs still had a grip on Merseyside, and Matrix was reinvigorated and told to go in even harder.

    “He left a mark here certainly and Matrix did work,” said one well-placed observer. “He is a strong figure and he spoke bluntly. He has a temper on him, particularly when things go wrong or not the way he wanted them to. There were certainly some assistant chief constables who didn’t look forward to going into the weekly meeting with him.


    But the MPA will soon no longer present any problem for Hogan-Howe, as it will be consigned to history. On Thursday the Police Reform Social Responsibility Act became law, which means in a few months’ time directly elected crime commissioners will be in place, and the Met commissioner will essentially answer to Johnson and Malthouse.

  4. Tim says:

    Hmm says he is a football fan… so maybe “total policing” is derived from “total football” although, I don’t really see what the connection is apart from him maybe thinking it is funny…. ugh…

  5. Tim says:

    I found a link to the PDF the cops gave out at the march


    “the Metropolitan Police Service hopes that you have a safe day. The police are here to help you have a peaceful demonstration. This leaflet explains how the demonstration will be policed and what to do if there are any problems.”
    “Police officers will be visible along the route of this demonstration. They will also be
    positioned at road junctions. This is to ensure that individuals walking on the road are kept away from moving traffic.”
    “You may notice officers and barriers outside some premises. This is because during recent protests some buildings have been targeted and damaged. The officers are there to protect those buildings and to help those inside to go about their daily business, and deal with any incidents of crime and disorder.”
    In the main you can expect to see officers in yellow jackets and traditional police hats. If violence or disorder takes place the officers may change their headwear to a helmet with a visor. The officers will revert to normal headwear as soon as it is safe to do so. Please be aware that when an officer is wearing a helmet it is more difficult for them to communicate and if you are not facing them they may not hear you and they may shout.”
    If you are near an outbreak of violence or disorder move away and create a distance between you and those taking part. Do not stand and watch as it may not be safe for you to do so. The officers at the scene will intervene. Please give them room to work.
    If you become involved in acts of criminal behaviour, police will investigate these acts, which may result in your arrest and subsequent prosecution. A criminal record could seriously affect your future employment or educational opportunities. Many professional and vocational bodies require that their
    members be of ‘good character’ and may reject applicants convicted of certain crimes. Your actions could have serious consequences for your future. Please think carefully before getting involved in any acts of disorder (and criminality).
    A criminal conviction or even a discharge where you are found guilty of an offence but not convicted could also severely restrict your ability to travel abroad and in some cases you could be refused entry to another country. Work or residential permits could be difficult to obtain where information about previous convictions and proof of good character is required.
    Attempts by demonstrators to deviate from the agreed route may result in officers stopping or slowing the progress of the demonstration.
    Containment is used as a last resort, when there is serious disorder or to prevent an imminent breach of the peace. If a containment is implemented it will be in place for no longer than is necessary to deal with the issue. The officers will be mindful of your welfare and they will attempt to let you know what is happening and help you get out as soon as is practical.
    Police horses are a valuable part of policing London and form an effective addition to policing protest. You will see police horses working on this event.
    stuff “explaining” their stop and search and mask removal powers (threats basically)

  6. contact says:

    Thanks. Good research here. That leaflet they gave out is very frank isn’t it? ‘We’re going to control this protest every step of the way and if you’re even close to something we don’t like you’re in trouble’. This Hogan-Howe chap sounds like a dictator-in-waiting.

  7. Pingback: A Dictionary of Policing Protest | Critical Legal Thinking

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