The paper, published today, by the Henry Jackson Society and co-authored by Chris Loder MP finds that 45% of the public agree with the statement, with only 37% disagreeing. Belief in political interference is highest in London, where the Metropolitan Police has been hit by several scandals over its handling of protests organised by both women’s and campaigning groups.
The paper finds that there have been “significant apparent disparities” in the ways that the police have handled protests, including those by Extinction Rebellion and the vigil for Sarah Everard.
The paper commissioned polling that asked a series of questions about the policing of recent high-profile protests. It found that:
- 46% of the public believe that “the police can be trusted to handle protests fairly regardless of their own political beliefs” with 35% disagreeing.
- 46% of the public believe that “the police handle protests differently depending on the political motivation of the protesters” with 40% disagreeing.
- 45% of the public believe “the police maintain a consistent response at protests regardless of how the media portrays them” with 40% disagreeing.
- 46% of the public believe “the police can be trusted to handle women’s rights protests” with 36% disagreeing.
The paper recommends that the government might consider a series of changes beyond those enacted in the recent Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Act (2022), with the authors writing that “the status quo is not a sustainable outcome”.
In particular, the paper recommends teaching individual police officers about the “culture wars” and the effect it might have on the pressures they encounter at protests. The paper also criticises politicians for repeatedly publicly pressurising police forces to adopt different approaches to different forms of protest.
The paper warns that at stake is the fundamental “public consent for the British policing model that underpins the healthy functioning of our democracy.”