In Brief

Police struggle with two decade-long rise in ‘confrontational protests’

Reform needed to combat rise of disruptive demonstrations, report says

Policing in England and Wales must undergo “radical reform” to deal with the rise of protests involving confrontational tactics over the past two decades, an independent policing review has said.

Led by Michael Barber, a former adviser to Tony Blair, the first phase of the review found that protests involving tactics such as blockades or occupations have increased 20-fold in 20 years, from seven in 2000 to 126 in 2019.

The sharp increase signals “heightened social tensions” and comes alongside a 144% rise in hate crime over six years, The Guardian says.

Barber, who is also the chair of higher education regulator the Office for Students, said that while “we welcome the promised 20,000 extra police officers and the early recruitment of them… we also know that policing will need to be provided differently to tackle the new landscape of crime and harm that we have identified in this report.

“For some time now policing has been wrestling with a tension between the rise of more complex crimes and social challenges and an operating model that was built for a different time.”

The report, which follows widespread Black Lives Matter protests after the death of George Floyd, found that police are now being “presented with a variety of problems, many of which require a social rather than a criminal justice solution,” Barber added.

Extinction Rebellion protests last year “shut down London” during what the BBC described as “ten days of protests, blockades and disruption” across the capital, embodying the new challenges faced by police officers.

As well as a sharp rise in dealing with protests, the report also found that “although traditional crime such as burglary and car theft had fallen since the turn of the millennium… there had been a huge rise in online crime and in sexual offences”, The Guardian says.

Since 1995, crime, excluding fraud and cybercrime, had fallen by 70%. However, cybercrime and fraud had rapidly risen, making up 44% of all crime in 2019.

Cyber Resilience Centres, regional hubs supported by police forces which first started in Scotland, are set to expand across the country amid the growing cyber threat to vulnerable businesses. 

“The risk to smaller firms is even greater during the coronavirus outbreak,” Metro reports, “as bad actors turn their attention to lucrative multibillion-pound online crime”. 

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