Financial Times - August 20 1999
LONDON: Police reorganise riot control in City
Warning of more anti-capitalism demonstrations, write Jimmy Burns and Sathnam Sanghera
A reorganisation of riot control policing in London is under way in anticipation of further anti-capitalism protests in the next few months.
The command structure for dealing with potentially violent demonstrations is being simplified.
There will also be greater flexibility to cut demarcation lines separating the Metropolitan Police and the City of London force.
The reorganisation, expected to be completed before the end of next month and backed by the chiefs of both forces, could involve senior Metropolitan Police officers taking command on certain occasions.
It has already been agreed that Scotland Yard's control centre should be used in future to deal with potentially violent crowds operating in the City.
There is also greater co-ordination being planned for the training of middle ranking and senior officers of both forces in dealing with serious disorder.
Police intelligence suggests that demonstrations could take place in October, although more likely dates coincide with the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in Seattle, Washington from November 30th to December 3rd 1999, or on or around January 4th.
Yesterday, a member of J18, the organisers of the June demonstration, told the Financial Times that activists were discussing several alternative dates and that any protests would be at an "international" level.
"There will be more protests, but people are chopping and changing plans all the time to keep the police on their toes. When it eventually takes place it will just sort of happen," said the activist.
The police reorganisation is being carried out by a joint police steering committee headed by Anthony Speed, the former Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner who is a specialist in public order issues.
Mr Speed was the author of a report pointing to errors in the police handling of the anti-capitalism demon-stration in the City on June 18.
The protest degenerated into rioting with financial institutions attacked. Damage to buildings was assessed at more than £1m.
"The lesson we have learnt is that we need to make changes to improve command and control, and a better strategy for dealing with serious disorder," said Mr Speed yesterday. His review reflected criticism of the handling of the demonstration disclosed by the FT after the riot.
The criticisms included an over-complicated command structure, communication problems, and operational misjudgements made by officers who lacked experience of major disorder.
Mr Speed said that any proposals for a merger between the Metropolitan and City police required much more detailed debate and planning.