Report finds Europe-wide Lack of Transparency of Policing of Protests

Madrid, 24 April 2015 – There is a serious lack of transparency about the use of various types of equipment during policing of protests according to a report published today by Access Info Europe, following research conducted in 42 countries and territories across Europe by means of access to information requests.

The research by the Madrid-based pro-transparency organisation aimed to get a comprehensive picture of the legal framework for, and the actual use of different types of, equipment – including batons, shields, tear gas, and rubber bullets.

This goal was frustrated by the fact that not one of the 42 countries provided full information in response to five questions about the law governing use of equipment during protests, the training on its use, the quantities and nature of equipment held, and post-protest evaluations.

It is of particular concern that only one third of police forces responded to requests about the legal framework governing the use of equipment during protests,” said Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info.

Half of the countries in the survey, 22 of 42 countries, failed to respond at all to the requests in spite of various follow up attempts, a rate of administrative silence which Access Info qualifies as “unacceptable”.

The Access Info research found abysmally low levels of responsiveness on issues of considerable public interest: just five countries (12%) provided information about training given to police forces on the use of equipment during protests and only ten (24%) counties released post-protest evaluation reports.

Three countries, the Czech Republic, France and the Netherlands went so far as to deny access to information on which equipment police are permitted to use during protests. A full nine countries refused to provide information on the quantities of equipment held by the police, with only Hungary providing the data.

We asked for information that really should be made available proactively on-line,” commented Andreas Pavlou, Coordinator at Access Info Europe and one of the editors of the report. “In all democratic countries the public should know how much training and equipment the police have in order to evaluate their preparedness to handle protest situations and to permit public debate on how public funds are being spent.”

Summary of Recommendations

The troubling findings of this pan-European survey, which has revealed a huge lack of transparency from European police forces, point to a series of recommendations for the respective government bodies and police forces.

The overarching recommendation from Access Info Europe is that all police forces should provide detailed and comprehensive information about police action during protests. It is only in this way that there can be true accountability of police forces and their preparation for and actions during protests.

Specific recommendations, which are set out in more detail in Section IV, are:
» That senior police management reviews and improves the training of relevant officials on their obligations under national access to information legislation to respond to requests; Administrative silence is never an option.
» That all the police forces in the study ensure that prior to any refusal to grant access to information, officials evaluate the necessity of the denial and apply the harm and public interest tests.
» That all the police forces in this study review the way in which they collect, manage, and make available information about their activities. Information should be made available on line in places which make it easy to locate and in formats which permit easy download and reuse of the data.
» There should be proactive disclosure of key information, including the rules and regulations governing police action, about the equipment permitted during protests, and evaluation reports, particularly after any problems which arise or violence which ensues during the policing of protests.

Download the report here alt

Download the data here in a zip file.

Data per country to follow.

For more information, please contact:

Andreas Pavlou, Access Info Europe | +34 91 365 6558

Helen Darbishire, Access Info Europe | +34 91 365 6558