Do women make better riot police?
In London, women commanders are tasked with keeping the peace amid five days of protest by environmental activists. In April, G-20 protests turned deadly.
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Pendry, who once agreed to an out-of-court settlement with the force over alleged sexual discrimination against her, has also reportedly chosen another woman, Inspector Jane Connors, as her deputy, saying that she was "reasonable, sensible and able to communicate."Skip to next paragraph
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A cynic might conclude, says Professor Brown, that by placing women in such positions now, others could claim "it was the women who screwed up" if events took an unwelcome turn.
Alternatively, could this be the future?
In terms of differing styles of leadership, Brown points out that men, by and large, approach their roles in "task focused" ways, adopting a "telling" type of leadership to get the job completed. Women, generally, adopt a "selling" style, involving facilitating and building relationships that might be useful in the long run.
She says that the police service in Britain has been giving a lot of thought to leadership styles and the difference between "transactional leadership – a leader saying, 'This is what I think we should do,' " – and the much more negotiative, "transformational" leadership.
A woman has also provided the public face and voice of the police operation in the media.
"It's always important to learn from the experiences that have gone before, and we have been very careful in listening to the reviews, listening to recommendations that have been made, and working to make sure that where possible we can be as light touch, if you like, in our policing, as possible. I think it's also important to work with the [camp's] organizers."
Critics of the police and many activists remain suspicious of a failure by the police to rule out the use of the controversial tactic of "kettling," in which large numbers of demonstrators are corralled for hours on end, as well as the intensive use of photographic and surveillance tactics that Britain pioneered.
Frances Wright, a former lawyer and member of the Climate Camp legal team was one of those who met Pendry.
"She appears able to listen, at least," she says. "But the police have got themselves in a position where they have to police this camp well."
Stakes are high for police
As he waited on Wednesday under the gaze of a handful of police outside the headquarters of the Bank of England with other activists to learn of their camp's whereabouts, student Henry Burch said the "Met" couldn't afford another public relations fiasco.
"I was at the G-20 when people were just peacefully protesting by sitting on the floor, and the police came in and started pulling people away by their hair," he said. "Then we had to walk through a kind of tunnel of police who were shouting abuse at us as we were coming out."
On Tuesday, a survey published by the YouGov market-research firm served as the latest reminder of just how high the stakes may be for Scotland Yard. The poll found that 50 percent of adults believe the police are too heavy-handed when dealing with protests.