Balcombe anti-fracking protest - Sussex Police review

Antifracking protest at Balcombe 19-01-14. Pic Carolyn Robertson. JPMT ENGSUS00120140120111301
Antifracking protest at Balcombe 19-01-14. Pic Carolyn Robertson. JPMT ENGSUS00120140120111301

Sussex Police has published an independent review of its policing response to the exploratory drilling and anti-fracking protests at Balcombe.

The review, undertaken by Hertfordshire Constabulary, highlights good practice as well as recommendations for the future.

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry said: “We instigated an independent review of our policing approach and welcome the recommendations and points it has made.

“Our future policing approach to these types of incidents will incorporate much of the learning. We had been slow to turn intelligence into a plan with the necessary resources and this review will help us in any future protest policing activity.

“It is always a challenge to balance the need to protect lawful activity and facilitiate lawful protest while minimising disruption to the community.

“The scale and complexity of the operation was unprecedented with 64 days of constant protest and more than 1,000 protesters when it was at its height. Some 126 arrests were made.

“The initial policing response appeared slow as the intelligence and information at that time indicated that any protests could be managed locally by the division. It was in the last days of July that we became aware of the size and complexity of the situation and it was at that point that it became a force level operation. In Sussex it is normal practice for us to appoint an ACPO officer for a force level operation. They provided an oversight for this dynamic operation and acted as a conduit between the force and the PCC. The Commissioner played a valuable role in scrutinising the policing operation on behalf of the public. We continue to work on the different aspects of our roles and how they compliment each other.

“This was an extremely busy time for the force with a number of pre-planned policing commitments, such as Pride, football at the Amex, 999 open days and Goodwood racing. These commitments were in addition to our need to maintain the local service expected by the public. To achieve this mutual aid was sought.

“We made the best use of our resources, including Special Constables and volunteers, to support divisions. Rest days were cancelled and re-rostered to meet the demand over the summer period, and pre-arranged leave was managed. The logistical support and planning was a challenge above and beyond our recent experience and the impact on all of our staff was recognised early on. We worked with the Police Federation and Unison to mitigate those risks. In relation to workloads supervisors on a daily basis monitored and assessed staff commitments and where necessary reallocated tasks.

“The recommendations and good practice mentioned in the review have been acknowledged and the future policing approach to these types of incidents has incorporated much of the learning.”