Black police slam water cannon bid

(M.E.N.)   BLACK cops have branded moves by Greater Manchester Police to introduce water cannon as ‘grotesque’ and accused the force of an ‘erosion of civil liberties’.

On Tuesday the M.E.N. reported how the force was considering introducing water cannon to quell riots.

It has considered buying the £600,000 machines or loaning them from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Officers have already been on a fact-finding mission to the PSNI.

Documents seen by the M.E.N. show force bosses have been thinking about introducing water cannon since November, 2007, but kept it secret because they didn’t want the media to `give the impression GMP is being heavy-handed’.

Manchester Central MP Tony Lloyd has already expressed concerns and asked when and how police would use water cannon.

Water cannon have become a symbol of oppression after they were turned on black people during the American civil rights movement in the 1960s.

The Black and Asian Police Association (BAPA) today blamed the force for an `erosion of civil liberties’ with the increasing use of Taser stun guns, which fire electricity to stop suspects, as well as plans to introduce water cannon.

BAPA chairman Charles Crichlow said: “Even if GMP is just in discussions about this, I find it disturbing.

“Added together with issues around extending the use of Taser and the fact we are trying to regain public confidence and also the general historic significance around the use of water cannon, I just find it absolutely incredible we would even be discussing it at a time when that public confidence is at a particular low.

“Water cannon have historically been used on black and minority ethnic communities.

“I don’t see where they can possibly get any value [from water cannon] in the context of policing people or events.

“I shall be making my views known the Chief Constable, Peter Fahy. There are some things that are so grotesque that you should rule them out completely. This is one of them.

“I think it is such a grotesque idea. This is a slippery slope we are on. It signifies a general erosion of concerns for human rights and civil liberties.”

GMP began considering how to improve the way it polices big events after Rangers’ fans went on the rampage in the city in May last year.

The force struggled to cope as an estimated 150,000 supporters of the Glasgow club travelled to Manchester for the Uefa cup final with Zenit St Petersburg, of Russia.

Force bosses said it was their duty to consider new tactics but insisted the introduction of water cannon was `a long way off’.

Chief Supt Phil Hollowood, commander of GMP’s Specialist Operations Branch, has said: “When disorder occurs it is our job to protect the public, property and police officers – in that order – and we have a responsibility to look at the different tactics and equipment at our disposal to best achieve that.

“We have been sensibly and carefully considering the different options available and have had very early dialogue with colleagues in the PSNI as they have in the past used water cannon.

“We have tentatively looked at the feasibility of using mutual aid to borrow that resource if we felt that there was a pre-planned event where there was a serious risk of major disorder.

“However, those discussions are at a very early stage and we will not be in a position where we would be close to deciding on the use of water cannons for some time to come and their use, if ever, on Manchester’s streets is a long way off.”

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