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Mitigating and Managing Protest Action on Your Sites

Mitigating and Managing Protest Action on Your Sites
18 November 2021
 

Jason Pope from Expeditious Services looks at how property and facilities managers can maintain order during protest action.

Jason Pope has worked for Expeditious Services since 2015, as Group Operations Director, and has been Service Excellence Director since 2018. His background encompasses a six-year employment in the British Army, leading to beginning work in the security industry in 2008. Throughout his career, Jason has held roles such as security contracts manager and national account manager.  At Expeditious Services, Jason is responsible for the success of UK operational delivery and building solid relationships with clients for high achieving results.

 

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Picture: a photograph of Jason Pope

 

Action at COP26 

 

The UN climate change ‘Conference of Parties’ COP26 ended in Glasgow on 12 November. As many people remain unhappy with the lack of assertive action taken by world leaders, more civil unrest in the form of environmental protests is anticipated to put pressure on global decision-makers.

COP26 saw protests of around 100,000 people strong and (fortunately) very few serious incidents were reported by Police. Many business owners and security managers across the country are now looking to how they can effectively protect their property and assets in case further activism takes place across the country, at a time of heightened emotions and climate change fear.

At Expeditious Services, our team have great experience in both mitigating and managing the impacts of various kinds of protests, attacks, and activism. Recently, we’ve provided round-the-clock Close Protection cover to a high-value, high-profile transport site that was attracting protesters.

We’ve also supported an FM client in London when food markets were at threat of a targeted attack and door supervisors were needed to physically control access and egress, securing the sites being threatened. A utilities client has needed support monitoring a public figure with Close Protection whilst they attended a controversial political surgery, where environmental protesters were expected. And at the height of COVID, our officers helped to secure storage units where vaccines were being held and needed protecting from anti-vaccine activists.

Responding to a protest varies depending on several risk factors, such as if it is (un)planned, the size, the targets, the demands, the type of protest and if the protesters are “equipped” with intent and purpose to cause damage and destruction (e.g. with smoke bombs, paint bombs or weapons). However, there are several steps you can take to protect your business, property, people, and assets from the impacts of a protest in your area:

 

1. Liaise With the Police

 

The Police should be first in line to deal with any kind of protesting action, as they are specifically trained for handling such incidents, specifically the management of large numbers of people. It may be appropriate for your business to meet with the local police force to discuss their protocols for protests and how they could best work with you to protect your business. Remember, committing acts of trespassing, vandalism, damaging public property, or breach of peace are criminal acts for police to deal with, not your security team.

It is worth noting, at the time of writing, The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill is currently before Parliament and so the law surrounding protesting may change.

 

2. Conduct Your Own R&D

 

Security protection during a protest would come into play secondarily. A security provision would operate more in the background – acting as a visible deterrent, protecting assets, people, and property from the impacts of the activism – instead of dealing with the actual protest first-hand. It’s critical therefore, to understand the implications a protest would directly have on your business. Conducting a threat analysis and risk assessment will help to better understand these impacts and guide you in the best form of action to take for your specific needs. If you need support in this, you could work with a Security Consultant.

 

3. Make Informed Decisions

 

At times of protest or other significant business disruptions, it might be tempting to just up-man with extra security officers. From your R&D, you should be able to determine what your critical risk areas are and where support is most needed. Considerations to make include:

 

What type of security officer do you need and for which duties?

 

For many, Door Supervisors (DS) would be the most appropriate choice. An officer with a DS license would have the necessary training and authority to physically handle and detain people, if needed. Depending on the type of protest and nature of the people and assets within the premises, Close Protection (CP) could be most effective for a dynamic threat.

 

Would you need to deploy mobile patrols?

 

Regular internal or external mobile patrols could help spot the first signs of potential threat, as well as acting as a strong visible deterrent. If external, you may wish to consider how officers would keep safe if the protest became dangerous (e.g. patrol vehicle), and how they might be able to access your premises for safety if needed, without compromising the integrity of the building.

 

Would you need to increase CCTV or technical security?

 

Taking advantage of technology during incidents such as protests is an impactful way to conduct surveillance and intelligence, without the cost or risk of security officers on the ground.

 

Would you need to engage any other resources?

 

Other security resources, such as canine security could act as an impactful visible deterrent in controlling protesters, whereas plan clothed officers could help to assess risk and provide live communications from ground level.

When it comes to mitigating and managing incidents, such as protests and activism, prevention is better than cure, and it always pays to properly prepare. More manpower might not always be the best option; conducting thorough assessments and creating a tactical strategy will give you the best results. Don’t leave anything to chance.

Picture: a photograph of a crowd holding signs and placards, in monochrome

Article written by Jason Pope | Published 18 November 2021

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