Policing democratic freedoms Page 107 dispersal of the assembly. Proportionate and lawful force may, if necessary, be used against those responsible for the violence. 316 Planning police operations Planning for public order events should be based upon objective information. Past history of similar events can be taken into account in determining the police response, resource levels, potential tactics, etc. Police officers commanding public order operations should consider whether they ought to seek specialist advice, e.g. from legal advisors, technical specialists, etc. The resources available to the police should, as far as possible, be appropriate to the seriousness of the operation concerned. Co-ordination mechanisms should be established with other services (ambulances, hospitals and the fire brigade) that may be required. Video recording of an assembly by the police or other public authority is acceptable, as it can increase public safety and assist in the investigation of any offences. Visible recording can also deter certain people from engaging in criminal acts. However, if not done in a sensitive manner, it can lead to intimidation of participants. A publicly-available policy on how video recordings are made and retained should be in place. Footage should only be used for the purposes of criminal investigations, and should not be retained for longer than necessary. If footage is retained for longer than required, and is stored in such a way that individuals can be identified from it, it may result in a violation of the right to respect for private life (as guaranteed by Article 8 of the Convention). 317 Amicable relations should be maintained with the media, and full access should be given to them to areas where police operations are on-going, subject to safety concerns. Designated points of contact should be nominated, to provide information and interviews. Officers should be told when, and under what circumstances, they may be allowed to speak to the media. Briefings should be provided in advance of events, in order to inform the public and allow people to avoid the area. The psychology of crowds In order for the police to be able to deal effectively with assemblies, it is necessary for them to have some degree of understanding of crowd psychology. It 316 Oellinger v Austria, judgment of 29 June 2006. 317 See pp. 68 and 95 above.
The European Convention on Human Rights and Policing Page 108 is crucially important that the police operation does not assume that crowds will be violent, or that disorder will occur. As much information as possible should be collected and analysed in order to assess the potential for disorder. This will facilitate the making of police decisions on the basis of information and professional judgment, rather than preconception or prejudice. Policing operations that are based on the assumption that disorder will occur may actually cause disorder. This is because the type of equipment deployed, coupled with the attitude of police officers, may portray an aggressive impression, which can lead to persons in the crowd responding in an aggressive manner. Police tactics should, as far as possible, seek to promote positive behaviour by the crowd. Briefings to officers deployed during the assembly are also crucial. If officers are told that trouble is expected, they are likely to respond more quickly and forcefully to any incidents, however minor, that take place. However, if appropriate briefings are given, officers are likely to respond to events in a more proportionate manner. Negotiation and dialogue is often successful in defusing tense situations. If members of a crowd witness excessive use of force by police, they may lose any belief in the legitimacy of the police response, and therefore not feel constrained by the normal rules of behaviour. This can lead to increased use of aggression or violence against police or others. In any crowd, there are likely to be a number of elements. The majority of people will generally respect the police, and be supportive of them. A smaller element may be intent on confrontation and violence. Other elements may respond to events as they occur. There is always scope for inappropriate police action to render the police action illegitimate in the eyes of members of the crowd. This can lead to the crowd feeling that it is acceptable to use violence against the police or others. It is important that the police differentiate between different elements of the crowd. Any police action should be directed against those who are the source of any disorder, etc., rather than against the crowd as a whole. A key method of ensuring that the crowd does not lose confidence in the police is maintaining dialogue. By providing information to the crowd, the police can dispel rumours and demonstrate why particular actions are being taken. This can undermine those in the crowd who would wish to exploit the situation. Mediation is also a useful tool to ensure effective communication between police and participants. In the event that restrictions are necessarily imposed on the assembly or its participants, seeking prior approval of such restrictions with representatives of the assembly should always be sought. In certain situations,