My all time favourite headline from Bristol’s old and long-departed radical news paper, The Bristolian, ran “Bristol’s Top Cop in Baboon’s Arse Horror”.
It was a slightly convoluted tale involving hapless former Avon and Somerset Chief Constable Steve “Sergeant Pilko” Pilkington melting down live on Radio Bristol and delivering a rambling demand that every
newspaper in the area immediately publish a large photo of himself on their front page alongside an apology to him for perceived slights.
The Bristolian, in an effort to oblige the boss cop, immediately set about finding a picture to place on their front page only to have to conclude that they were “unable to find a suitable picture of a BABOON’S ARSE to do him justice”.
The baboon’s arse episode was the culmination of a disastrous period for Pilko, which found the Police Authority urgently reaching for their early retirement guidelines. Pilko’s Rolls Royce public order policing set-piece was forever remembered in the popular imagination as “Operation Gasbadger”.
Pilko, in his wisdom, had decided on the basis of “intelligence” that plans by South Gloucestershire farmers to gas badgers on their land represented a high-level public order threat from animal rights activists. Consequently all leave was cancelled in the Avon & Somerset force and hundreds of coppers shipped out to South Gloucestershire for the weekend where Pilko’s men proceeded to have all-expenses-paid, double-time lounge around in the sun for three days with not an animal rights activist in sight as a mini crime wave hit Bristol.
For many of us “Gasbadger” represented a peak of local policing incompetence and it seemed – even in a force where the average qualification for operational command seems to be two low-grade GCSEs in woodwork and PE – that it was physically and mentally untenable for our local police force to be any more incompetent.
How wrong we were. Start the hunt again for a decent picture of a baboon’s arse and please step forward Superintendent Ian Wylie, the architect of Thursday night’s “Operation Squatsmasher” or the “Battle of Bristol” as all the whole of the attendant national media now like to call his operation.
Wylie, in his wisdom, decided that the best way to set about arresting four harmless locals living in a squat on Cheltenham Road was to send 160 fully tooled-up riot cops, many from Wales and Wiltshire, into the most politically sensitive location in Bristol on the hottest evening of the year just before pub closing time.
To add to the sense of deranged charade, as Wylie’s overarmed, poorly briefed and highly aggressive troops hit the streets of the Stokes Croft area, he blithely told the Evening Post he “had decided to go down [to Stokes Croft] to resolve the issue”.
And his resolution? Er, one trashed Tesco and eight of his men injured! And yes, that’s the very Tesco store that a huge amount of police resources have gone into protecting over the last week or so and yes, they’re injured men that Wylie has a duty of care for. The term ‘disaster’ doesn’t even begin to do justice to Wylie’s gung-ho and self-defeating conduct. This is ignorance and stupidity on the grand scale.
Who seriously believes you can send a tooled-up force of 160 – clearly with orders to use force indiscriminately when told – into a community and not get a reaction out of that community? Either Wylie is a retard who is unable to think coherently and in logical steps or the Avon & Somerset had quite deliberately decided to go to war with the population of this city. If it’s war they wanted, well, they certainly got one on Thursday evening in Stokes Croft.
Oddly, since gobbing off to the Post on Thursday evening, Wylie’s gone to ground and has not been heard of since. Has he been placed in some sort of a secure unit with a copy of “Public Order Policing for Dummies” to read?
Instead, Chief Constable Colin Port has generously taken time out to take on the PR duties himself.
And so far all we’ve got from Port is phenomenally weak bluster about his force’s “proportionate response” on Thursday night. Although all he succeeds in doing is render the term ‘proportionate’ meaningless. How can it be proportionate to mobilise 160 men in full riot gear – some of whom were armed – to arrest four squatters? Come on. You could have done the operation with a dozen men and had everyone home by 10pm. It’s obvious that Wylie had in fact arranged a crackdown for Port, which has massively backfired because we won didn’t we?
Now, where’s that picture of the baboon’s arse and those early retirement guidelines?