GMB: Former police commissioner defends using floor restraint
Good Morning Britain was discussing the events which unfolded on Saturday night in Clapham Common, South London at Sarah Everard’s vigil. Susanna Reid and Ben Shephard were joined by Helen King, Former Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner to discuss the footage which shows Metropolitan police officers handcuffing several woman and removing them from the crows. It comes after Patsy Stevenson – who was arrested and her photo was shared thousands on times on social media and on the front of national newspapers – spoke exclusively to the show about her experience. Susanna argued the police’s actions were “aggressive” but Helen explained in great detail the training and format the officers have to follow when removing someone from a situation safely.
Susanna began: “I don’t think people understand how the police could’ve allowed people to have gathered earlier, but what then changed in terms of the threat, in that moment, that meant she had to be arrested in such an aggressive way?”
“You keep using the word aggressive, and I’d like to talk through that piece,” Helen said and Susanna replied: “Because it’s so physical, because there’s the grabbing because she’s [Patsy] is on the floor!”
“Okay, let me talk through that,” Helen remarked. “Patsy herself says – and we can see in the film – the police officer was talking to her and I think she said to you the police officer was asking her to leave on her own accord.
“Once a decision is made for someone to be detained – and in every instance, the police officers involved need to justify that detention, that use of force as necessary.
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“The safest way you can detain someone – when they’re not complying, not cooperating and you ask for them to be cooperative in the first instance – you then make sure their detention doesn’t cause them or anyone else injury,” she continued.
“And actually the safest way by doing that is by having a number of officers there and the optimum number of officers there, the way they’ve been trained, if you can have six police officers, that’s the safest way.
“And taking them safely on the floor in a controlled way prevents them and other people getting hurt – while you’re standing up, it’s very easy for someone to fall over, someone to trip, potentially someone to bang their head.
“I know it looks shocking and looked aggressive but it’s the safest way,” Helen added.
GMB: Helen King (bottom right) spoke about the police’s detention training
The vigil was called off earlier on Saturday after organisers Reclaim These Streets said police had failed to “constructively engage” on how it could be held in a Covid-secure way.
Despite this, thousands of people turned up to Clapham Common to pay their respects, lay flowers and light candles near to where Sarah was last seen alive on March 3.
The vigil apparently went on for six or so hours before the police stepped in to disperse those who had gathered.
As for Patsy, the footage shows her being spoken to by a police officer while she was holding onto the bandstand alongside other women.
GMB: Patsy was on the show
Before the interview with Helen, Patsy was asked by Susanna on GMB: “That photograph of you, being pinned to the ground by police officers has become a symbol of what happened on Saturday night.
“But for you, it’s not just a photograph, it’s actually what happened. Why were police pushing you onto the ground, putting your hands behind your back and arresting you for what happened?”
She explained: “To be honest, I still don’t know why I was pushed to the ground so forcefully. From start to finish it was a whirlwind, it happened very quickly, I was only there to lay a candle down. ”
Ben Shephard then asked: “Were they talking to you though, Patsy? Were they saying, ‘Look we are going to need you to disperse, we need you to get off the bandstand, we are going to have to forcibly remove you if you don’t leave?’”
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‘What changed in terms of the threat that meant she had to be arrested in such an aggressive way?’ – @susannareid100
Former Met Police Asst Commissioner Helen King explains the process behind the police’s decision.
She says that ‘while it looks shocking, it’s the safest way’ pic.twitter.com/pjbWH0gFpI
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) March 15, 2021
Patsy answered: “They did but before that they were saying quite a few things that were making people angry…At that moment there is a police officer by the side of me trying to pull my arm and at one point I pull it away. He was saying, ‘What is your name? Tell me your name, tell me your address.’
“I just stood there and was like, okay I am not going to say anything. I just tried to look to one side. I didn’t want to retaliate, I didn’t want to react to any of it.”
The turning point in Scotland Yard’s tactics appears to have been when speeches from the bandstand started, around six pm and people pressed forwards to hear – this social distancing was not in place.
Assistant Commissioner for Metropolitan Police Helen Ball said: “At this point, officers on the ground were faced with a very difficult decision.
The bandstand at Clapham Common
Hundreds of people were packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting Covid-19.”
And so, they tried to break up that part of the gathering and remove people whom they believed were contributing to the crowding.
Those watching GMB this morning; Patsy Stevenson’s interview, Helen King’s comments and Kit Malthouse MP giving his thoughts on the events, took to Twitter to comment.
One said: “I cannot believe what I am seeing and hearing. This woman and everyone at Clapham Common were BREAKING THE Law! She travelled all the way from Southend!! What happened to Covid restrictions?”
“Is lockdown over? They were told NOT to attend. A group turned up chanting and swearing Anti Police songs and looking for trouble. There were plenty of men in that group mostly hiding their faces. They were not there for a vigil,” a tweet read.
Someone else mentioned: “It was an illegal gathering and against lockdown rules. Yes the police may have been heavy handed, but if these people had stuck to the rules this could have been avoided.”
Meanwhile, one wrote: “@GMB and @susannareid100 I wonder how Sarah’s family are feeling at the moment? She will no longer just be remembered for the way her life was tragically taken but for the actions of the people attending her vigil Shame on those who have politicised her death & those using it for their anti Police agenda.”
“It would of been more respectful to honour Sarah’s memory by standing on your doorsteps and lighting your candle. Not to ruin the hard work of so many sacrifices people have made by staying indoors over the last year,” a viewer wrote online.
Another chimed: “Can we just stop……a girl has been murdered and it’s all just ‘not the right time’ atm. A quiet respectful vigil should have taken place in our homes. There will be the right time to protest.”
Good Morning Britain airs weekdays at 6am on ITV.