Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bersih: Did We Forget Riot Control 101?

Someone pointed out about the dos and don't for the police in riot and crowd control. This control is international in nature because it is typically handled by the police. Having read through the whole thing, you can notice that our very own police force is incapable of reaching to the level and bar set by what is mentioned in there.

Anyhow, just for easier reading, I will try to dissect the content paragraph by paragraph and insert my comments in red just for you all to spot the difference. At the end, you'll see who's at fault. Was it the people or was it the government and cops who brashly turned down the request like "no layan go see Samy Vellu style"?

As agreed the FRU is an example of crowd management units, the other synonym of riot police. The first approach, which was adopted was to calm people down and try to get people to go home once done. Beating and using those tools like water cannon and tear gas is always the last resort. No doubt that the police everywhere would do that. Undoubtedly.

The first step in crowd management is making sure a riot doesn't happen in the first place. Although sometimes riots erupt unexpectedly, they are frequently tied to planned protests and organized strikes. When the police think there is the potential that such a situation could get out of control, they contact the organizers and leaders of the protest or strike ahead of time. They set up ground rules that the protestors are to follow, and they designate a specific area for the event to happen in. The police assign specially trained officers to monitor the event. The point is that the police will simply provide a presence and work to ensure that everyone stays safe. Only if the ground rules are broken will any police action be needed at all. 

--Here are some points that our very own police have forgotten :

1. Our police assume that the protest would be violent. That's first perception. They do not exhibit the sense of confidence and trust on the organizers would have repeatedly assure them of the event being a non-violent in nature despite a clear background of who the organizers are and the purpose of the gathering.

2. Immediately x layan. Police Chief should have issued the permit, give them ground rules. Note: (takut kena court martial ke ni?) And it seems that Najib is lying again. One moment he said of letting Bersih pick their own stadium, one moment said he didn't say that, and another thing was he said he offered them Shah Alam stadium. People are confused and they say he is flip-flop which is what's happening now. 

Even if the officers themselves disagree with the opinions of the protestors, they are trained to maintain an unbiased attitude. "That's part of America," said Sgt. Bauer of the Cheektowaga Police Department. "You're allowed to have a voice." The officers try not to look at the protestors as enemies. Instead, they recognize that they are part of the community that the police are entrusted to protect and serve. "You can't go in like stormtroopers," said Sgt. Bauer.  

3. This simply sums it up. They come in like stormtroopers and on that day, protestors were treated as enemies. Some couldn't maintain an unbiased attitude. I overheard on that day that when one protester got arrested, the cop said to him, "Awak in Islam kan? No..Islam bukan macam ni!" This part of the crowd control 101 was totally disregarded on that day.

While officers are trained to stay polite with the people in the crowd, they are careful to not give off an air of subservience. The police have to be seen as being in charge and in control at all times, even while they stay passive and allow the crowd to operate within the ground rules set out ahead of time.
Sometimes, though, these preventative measures don't work, and a riot breaks out despite police efforts to keep everyone calm. 

4.  The real problem was on the top brass, not the guys operating on the ground. All was asked was 2-3 hours on that day itself. In fact, if the listener, e.g Government and EC takes notice of all and implement those things, in fact they don't even need to have one protest. Ambiga underscored the other day that this was done as last resort.

A lot of the methods used by police and soldiers to control riots in the past actually made riots worse. In fact, only in the last few decades have effective riot-control strategies been developed.

Earlier riot-control squads had a "police versus the rioters" mentality. They approached a riot like a battle in which they had to beat or shoot the rioters into submission. A riot squad would form a skirmish line and charge into the rioters with nightsticks swinging. Often, they would try to pin the rioters into a corner to leave them no escape. This only intensified the rioters' fear and anger and escalated the violence.

5. Yes, no doubt as what our British PM Cameron said that the police got their tactics wrong. But what was witnessed on that day was the days where strategies by cops made protests from bad to worse. As what is written in the second paragraph, many would agree based on the witnessing of the day's event. Tung Shin was the climax. People were pinned into a corner where police squads from Bukit Bintang and from Jalan Tun Perak have surrounded with virtually no space to move out. 

There are many instances in which police assigned to assist people and stop rioting instead chose to take sides in the riot. This could amount to simply standing by and watching while the riot went on or actually joining one side to fight against the other if the riot consisted of two opposing groups. In the worst situations, otherwise peaceful crowds were attacked by police. In these cases, it was the police themselves who were the rioters.

If you look at the last line.."In the worst situations, peaceful crowds were attacked by police." - does what happened mirrors this? I leave it to those who have witnessed it to judge it for yourself. And of course this goes back to the point. Whose fault is it? The government and its butter boys have been pointing fingers at Bersih and the people of coming out to the rally. But they have forgotten to finger themselves. Why didn't they entertain the request? Does it really violated the 1Malaysia tenet that Najib has created? Have they forgotten their own history how Malayan Union was ultimately scrapped?

There's the problem of "lazy to read" for knowledge. I guess this was missing out.

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