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UK officers hear about Capitol Hill riot during Washington visit

International exchange programme designed to share knowledge on tactics and legitimacy

Fourteen senior officers from Police Scotland visited Washington DC in March as part of an international policing exchange programme and heard from the US Capitol Police about the attack on 6 January, 2021 when a mob of Donald Trump supporters attacked and overwhelmed Federal Government buildings on Capitol Hill.

The visit was part of the International Collaboration on Policing (ICoP) organised by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) – an independent research group.

The UK officers also heard from the chiefs of Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department and Baltimore Police.

Fifteen American delegates from major police departments, including New York, Los Angeles and Tucson, made a reciprocal visit to Scotland last week (17-22 May).

They toured the Scottish Parliament, learning about Parliamentary and Royal Protection operations, and from Chief Superintendent Sean Scott on policing the capital.

The US officers also visited the Police Scotland training centre at Jackton where they witnessed UK-style training and tactics .

The trip concluded with the group observing the policing operation in and around Hampden Stadium for the Scottish Cup Final on Saturday, 21 May.

PERF published a report in February this year that highlighted the lack of specific training in the use of less lethal weapons by US police departments during the country-wide demonstrations that followed the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

UK officers also faced a number of Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the wake of the killing.   

US police chiefs told the researchers that as the protests escalated, by day, the crowds were huge but largely peaceful, and at night, there was a significant escalation in violence.

Officers responded with baton rounds, bean bag rounds and tear gas  - equipment which many departments hadn’t used in public order situations for a number of years.  

The PERF report said that many departments were reliant on the manufacturers’ recommendations for use rather than specific police training.

A photographer covering a protest in Minneapolis was seriously injured after being hit by a baton round and a TV reporter in Louisville, Kentucky was hit by a pepper ball round live on air.

The aim of the PERF policing exchange programme is to share experience and improvement ideas on legitimacy "while enabling the development of strategic leaders."

During their visit to Washington the Police Scotland officers heard about the Washington DC police policy of training all officers in African-American history and culture.

The visit concluded with the group completing a Law Enforcement and Society (LEAS) training programme exploring the role of police in a democracy, which has so far trained more than 140,000 officers across the US.

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