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NPCC: don't add to community tensions on social media


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Police chiefs have urged officers to avoid being pulled into social media campaigns by extremists seeking to exploit anti-racism issues. The NPCC also warned good community relations would be needed in the months ahead to avoid serious unrest.


Officers guard the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square 

Date - 11th June 2020
By - Chris Smith


The National Police Chiefs’ Council cautioned officers to judge carefully before commenting on social media following disturbances in London during the anti-racism march that resulted in officers being injured.

The NPCC said around 200,000 people had defied the COVID-19 restrictions to protest but the majority of gatherings across the country had been peaceful.

It follows rows on social media over footage of officers which were being used to goad people supporting the protests. Extremists have been using historic photos of police in public order situations to falsely claim anti-racism protests were excessively violent.

NPCC Chairman Martin Hewitt said the reaction to the events in Minnesota from police officers across the country was that they were “appalled and horrified and felt it important to say so”.

But he also warned officers not to get drawn into messaging by far right groups seeking to amplify arguments about law and order or using false claims about injured police to ramp up anger.

He said: “This is a real moment in time, isn’t it? The kind of questions are being raised, the voices that are being heard across the world. Whenever something like this happens, extremists will seek to try and exploit that.”

Mr Hewitt added: “We operate without fear or favour, we operate impartially. When we’re talking about racism, I’m clearly not impartial. There are a lot of police leaders and officers on social media.

“We shouldn’t control everything. Our role here is to inform and not do anything to stoke a particular situation - but I think it’s important police voices are heard.”

The NPCC revealed forces have been assessing and drawing up plans for further protests as communities across the country focus on statues that are linked to Britain’s colonial past.

Confrontations have already taken place on sites in Hertfordshire and Oxford while some local authorities have already removed statues as a precaution including Baden-Powell who founded the Scouts.

Mr Hewitt said: “Two weeks ago we would not have been having these discussions. These are extraordinary times.”

He also warned that government and the public sector would have to plan how they will respond to the summer months which traditionally see a rise in public order issues but will have heightened tensions because of unemployment caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Mr Hewitt echoed cautions by a former Home Office adviser that a summer of civil unrest could follow the lockdown.

“It is fairly apparent to everybody that the economic situation is going to be incredibly challenging as we come out of this. We are going into the summer period which is always a challenging period. And, of course, now we have the added factor of this extraordinary moment.

He added: “If you put all of that together, that has the potential if things come together to cause concern.”

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