11th Jul, 2020

West Midlands Police supports 'fundamental right to protest' as more anti-racism demonstrations planned for Coventry

John Carlon 3rd Jun, 2020

PEACEFUL protests over the killing of George Floyd will continue to be allowed to go ahead in the West Midlands, a regional police chief has said.

Assistant Chief Constable Matt Ward spoke after a large protest in Coventry city centre last night (June 2).

Another protest is planned to meet in Boradgate at 1.30pm on Sunday (June 7).

ACC Ward said: “At West Midlands police, we recognise there will be lots of emotions by many people who feel moved by what they saw in the video and want to express how they feel about other police forces in other countries.

“The right to protest is one of the most fundamental human rights we have int his country and from the West Midlands Police point of view, we want to make sure people can protest about the things the feel passionate and care about.

“We will work as hard as we can with protestors and organisers so that people feel safe and they are peaceful.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has effected the whole country and everybody in the West Midlands, and we must not lose sight of the fact that the coronavirus is still present and a danger and a threat to us all.

“We will make sure we continue to work with protest groups to make sure they adhere to the social distancing norms. Our arrangement is to facilitate peaceful protest, so therefore we are not going to tell people not to if there are coming out onto the streets to share legitimate concerns.

“The death of George Floyd will make people very passionate about what has happened, but it is important people maintain their own personal responsibility to keep themselves safe.

“We can still protest while maintaining social distancing, so please do not put yourself, your family your friends or others at risk.”

A spokeswoman for West Midlands Police said: “We understand that people feel strongly about what has happened and want their voices to be heard.

“Even though this happened in the US, it also affects how policing is seen on our streets and views on recent publicity into investigations of alleged excessive use of force by some of our officers.

“We simply ask that protests are carried out peacefully and safely, with regard to social distancing at this current time, and in this way the message will be heard louder and clearer.”

As the unrest following the killing of George Floyd has returned questions of police racism in the UK back to the fore, the West Midlands PCC David Jamieson said he would put the public’s questions over use of force to senior officers.

Mr Jamieson is planning a meeting of the Strategic Policing and Crime Board on June 16, where a new paper on the topic will be discussed.

He said: “Police use of force is scrutinised regularly by the PCC and in light of some recent incidents, including the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, there have been more calls for tough oversight of the way police officers use their powers.

“Use of force by the police, including use of Taser, is an area of legitimate public concern. Policing inevitably requires officers, on occasion, to secure compliance from individuals who are actively resisting, or protect themselves from assault.”

“Scrutinising West Midlands Police’s use of force is a key part of my role of holding them to account on behalf of the public.

“Use of force can be controversial and it is important that the way in which police exert their powers is properly overseen.

“We regularly receive reports and updates on the way in which the force uses its powers but I am particularly keen that the public have the opportunity to quiz the Chief Constable with their own questions about how officers use force.

“I am always keen for the public to be involved in the oversight of West Midlands Police which is why we have public questions at my board meetings. Having a strong, public way of holding the police to account leads to better policing by consent.”

To ensure public transparency, the PCC has established scrutiny panels within each Neighbourhood Policing Unit whereby body worn video from occurrences related to both Stop and Search and Use of Force is reviewed by members of the public. These panels are chaired by independent community members.

To submit a question for the meeting, emails should be sent to: wmpcc@west-midlands.pnn.police.uk or via the PCC’s contact form.

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