At Longmoor army base near Petersfield in Hampshire, UK, metropolitan police officers are trained in the use of the Ziegier Wasserwerfer 9000 water cannon, costing £1.3 million each. It is estimated that up to 4000 officers are being trained at the facility.
The water canon has been secretly moved from Northern Ireland to the mainland to train police ahead of the G8 talks next month, apparently so they can support colleagues at the resort in Long Erne, Enniskillen, Northern Ireland where the talks will take place.
Water cannons have not been part of the police arsenal of weapons on UK mainland, but a deal to purchase three of the £1.3 million machines is close to being finalised by officials.
The training of 4000 police officers may seem excessive if it were just for the G8 summit, but it seems reasonable to assume that the longer term aim is to have ‘water cannon’ trained officers ready to go into action on UK mainland streets as soon as the three new machines are delivered.
After the riots of 2011 which took place in several cities across the UK, the police were severely criticised for their lack of organisation and slow response in providing adequate resources to minimise the impact of damage to businesses and property caused by the rioters.
As with most criticisms of public services, the real reason there were inadequate responses to looters and those who decided to engage in violence is that police forces no longer have the financial resources to employ police officers, and the officers they do have spend far too much time completing government paperwork and returning statistics – a direct result of government cuts and ridiculous smokescreen policies.
Spending £3.9 million on three water cannons may have more sinister implications. It could be the case that the government are expecting more civil disturbances to take place in the near future, and are making preparations for more aggressive policing strategies.
In December 2010, Home Secretary, Theresa May stated that the government had ruled out the use of water cannons to assist in the control of civil disturbance because there is ‘..no legal authority for their use on the streets of England and Wales’. It seems that (yet again) the government’s position has dramatically changed.
Criticism of the decision to introduce water cannons has come from politicians, human rights campaigners, and from within the police service.
Joanne McCartney of the London Assembly Labour group said “The evidence for the effectiveness of water cannons is very unclear. Against the widespread rioting we saw in London water cannons would have been of very limited, if any, use. We clearly need more police officers and we need them to be riot-trained. Water cannons are no replacement for a properly resourced and functioning police service.”
Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, reacted cautiously to the prospect of acquiring water cannon to deal with future disturbances, stating that they had their “limitations” and were not necessarily the answer.
Isabella Sankey, director of policy for Liberty questioned the approach. “It’s easy to talk tough in an attempt to send signals about future riots but in practice would water cannon really help?
“It’s an indiscriminate tool capable of hurting innocent bystanders and just disperses troublemakers from one area to another.”
A question we would ask is how the government can justify spending £3.9 million on three water cannons, plus the associated costs of training officers, when the incidence of civil disturbance and violent protest is so infrequent on mainland UK?
Spending of this nature is even more obscene at a time when there are poor and vulnerable people in the UK who are experiencing very real hardship as a result of government funding cuts to health and welfare.
£3.9 million could go a long way in providing better care for citizens instead of spending their tax money on instruments to supress protests against the corrupt and unjust policies of government.
Yes – we have to have an adequate police force, yes – the citizens need to be protected from criminals. But three water cannons that may or may not be used at some future point, and which will spend most of their service sitting in some garage somewhere gathering dust ‘just in case’ is a total waste of £3.9 million.
The police are not the military, although they seem to be rapidly turning into a tool of government oppression rather than a public service.
The government is sending a very clear signal that they are not interested in protecting the people they are supposed to represent – they are only interested in oppression and making sure the people of the UK comply.
This again proves beyond doubt that the government have very sick and twisted priorities, which is hardly a surprise when we look at the obscene amount of money the government wastes on false war and conflict – which is so much more than just the defence budget.