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The Miners’ Strike - 1984 to 1985
Maybe the first serious break-down of Law and Order in hundreds of years for two reasons. One was media exposure publicising the scale of protest that informed both public and protestors the efficacy of their actions proving that televised coverage could inflame a situation into a truly national fight; and secondly the substantial numbers of protestors spread around mining communities in random locations throughout the country putting the police under massive pressure both logistically and manpower.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Home Office created the National Reporting Centre TO21 in New Scotland Yard to coordinate police response and this was the true beginning of a planned strategy to command and control.
The beginnings of a GOLD, SILVER and BRONZE structure arose from lessons learnt during the Miner’s Strike. Radio communications were force-limited and as a direct outcome from the 1981 National Riots the concept of Mutal Aid was now well rehearsed enabling County police forces to commit personnel out-of-force areas as mobile Police Support Units (PSU’s).
Apart from the extensive issue of Metropolitan pattern ‘National Shields’ and some round shields for snatch squads the police formations wore their standard issue uniforms resulting in extensive injuries mainly minor to quite serious. Normal truncheons were replaced with longer staves in some County forces.
The British public began to accept the sight of massed police ranks equipped with riot shields and helmets. The Home Office Police Scientific Development Branch (PSDB) created the design of a proper riot helmet and that soon became standard issue. Earlier designs failed to provide nape protection or a liquid seal around the visor top lip but this was a huge step forwards in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) quickly followed by a national review of what officers required post-Miner’s Strike after analysing injuries and personal debriefs.
Due to the popularity of throwing stones and lumps of concrete shoulder, arm and leg injuries prevailed and it was soon recognised that exposing police officers to any form of threat during riots needed dedicated PPE fit for purpose.
Tactics were also reviewed as formations were based on a three-shield front rank with up to five other un-protected officers crouching behind the front-rank taking sustained attack mostly immobile until it was felt safe enough to either deploy mounted officers to break up the protest or enable round shield equipped snatch-squads to break free and make arrests. Those snatch squads were unprotected apart from helmets and only sparsely deployed under ‘ideal’ conditions. CDS DRAGON searchlights were used in all police night formations.
Mounted forces were found to be exceptionally effective.