Public Engagement on Police Use of Water Cannon
At present the police have a range of tools to respond to public disorder. The only police force in the United Kingdom that is licensed to use water cannon to tackle serious public disorder is the Police Service of Northern Ireland. In England and Wales this means that there is nothing available to the police between frequently used tactics like batons, shields and police dogs and mounted units, and the more serious use of force of baton rounds (more formally called attenuated energy projectiles). Water cannon could fill this gap and have the potential to be less injurious than batons and baton rounds.
Over the last few years, the streets of London have seen some serious public order events – some of which the police believe could have been handled better if water cannon had been available to either reduce the use of force or lessen the amount of disorder and consequently the damage caused to people and property.
Following the riots in August 2011, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) reviewed their response to serious public order events and concluded that there was a ‘small, limited role’ for water cannon in dealing with the most serious disorder. This was discussed at MOPAC Challenge session held in December 2012 hosted by the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime. You can read a transcript of that session here.
A national working group was established by the Association of Chief Police Officer’s (ACPO) in 2013 and Chief Constable David Shaw of West Mercia Police has been leading the national work in this area.
The Commissioner of the MPS, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, has asked the Mayor of London for authority to purchase three existing water cannon from the German Federal Police at a reduced cost of around £30,000 each so that they are available to his officers in advance of a longer-term, national solution being available. He has committed that these water cannon would be ‘rarely used and rarely seen’.
Before water cannon can be purchased for the police in London the Home Secretary has to authorise their use in England and Wales. The Mayor has accepted the broad principle for the Metropolitan Police to have access to water cannon, but has been clear that he wants to hear the views of Londoners before the Home Secretary makes the final decision.
The Metropolitan Police Service presentation setting out the case and criteria for water cannon use can be found below.
- The Commissioner identified the potential value of water cannon as a public order tool.
- The Mayor has accepted the principle but is committed to engaging with Londoners about the use of water cannon in the capital.
- Following this engagement the Mayor will consider the responses and decide whether to fund the purchase of water cannon.
- Should the Home Secretary decide to licence water cannon then procurement will be concluded.
- The Mayor will ask his new Ethics Panel to advise him and the police on the use of water cannon before they are operational in London.
Below you can find official correspondence and briefing on the subject of water cannon that explains more, comprising:
- The letter sent by MPS Assistant Commissioner to the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Stephen Greenhalgh, in September 2013 updating him on the plans.
- The Mayor’s letter sent to the Home Secretary in January 2014 following further meetings between the Mayor and the Commissioner, setting out his support in principle for the police to have water cannon available, but subject to engagement with Londoners. The Home Secretary's reply to this letter is also below.
- The letter sent by the Deputy Mayor to Joanne McCartney AM, the Chair of the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee.
- A letter from Chief Constable David Shaw on behalf of ACPO and sent to all Police & Crime Commissioners and their respective Chief Constables from January 2014.
- A briefing from ACPO and the College of Policing on the use of water cannon.
- A copy of the MPS review into the riots in August 2011 which concluded that water cannons would be “valuable in a few rare situations” can be found here.
- The College of Policing Professional Practice for the use of water cannon can be found here.
Give us your views
We want to hear Londoner’s views.
- Do you think water cannon would be a useful addition to the tools available to the Metropolitan Police in managing rare cases of serious public disorder?
- What rules do you think should be in place to oversee the use of water cannon in London?
- Are there any other comments you would like to make about the use of water cannon in London?
Please submit your response to firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be helpful if you would include your postcode.
The Deputy Mayor will be questioned by Assembly Members on water cannon at the Police and Crime Committee on 30 January 2014, 1000-1200 at City Hall.
A special public meeting hosted by the MPS and the Deputy Mayor took place at City Hall at 19:00 on 17 February 2014. A webcast of the meeting can be found here. A transcript can be found in the documents below.
Additional briefing sessions will take place for Members of Parliament in London and elected Borough representatives.
The engagement period runs for six weeks and closes on 28 February 2014.
|ACPO Water Cannon Briefing Document, Jan 2014.pdf||652.62 KB|
|Letter from DMPC to PCC, 7 Jan 2014.pdf||98.22 KB|
|Letter from CC Shaw to Chief Constables and PCCs, 8 Jan 2014.pdf||176.46 KB|
|Letter from Mayor Johnson to Home Secretary, 6 Jan 2014.pdf||144.36 KB|
|Letter from AC Mark Rowley to DMPC, 17 Sept 2013.pdf||131.49 KB|
|DMPC to PCC engagement plan 16 Jan 2014||62.19 KB|
|Reply from Home Secretary to Mayor Johnson, 23 Jan 2013||250.03 KB|
|Metropolitan Police Service Presentation||597.65 KB|
|Transcript of Public Meeting||178.07 KB|