In a recent presumably peaceful demonstration in Barcelona by the “Indignados”, the protesters were surrounded by these riot police that looked like something out of the movie Brazil. They look like some kind of Robocop in full riot gear with tinted visors. Although I understand the need for the police to protect themselves, and I also understand that demonstrations can sometimes flare up, my impression was that the whole thing was a little bit overdone. As far as I could tell the protest was calm and peaceful, and having the police dressed up in maximum riot gear just seems to send a horrible public relations message. Not only do the police look like they’re ready for war, but the tinted visors mask their face, which makes them both more intimidating, but also dehumanizes them, so they end up looking more like robots than people. It seems to me that this exaggeration on the part of the police simply gives the protesters, who are already angry, an excuse to look upon the police as nothing less than a dehumanized oppressive force simply there to enforce, through brute force if necessary, the desires of a corrupt and unaccountable political class.
When dealing with normal citizens, the police have to think about public relations, and how they present themselves to the public, because, in a democracy, the police are ultimately accountable to the electorate. And, if the lease give the image that they are unreasonable, or against the public, the police are actually undermining themselves by risking the possibility of losing support among the public. If the politician since that the public are against the police, then there will be pressure on them to restrict the police, which makes it harder for them to do their job. So, it is in the interests of the police to appear reasonable to the public, and be working in their interests. I feel that this presumably excessive display of force in Barcelona, is not good for the protesters, it is not good for fomenting civil society, it is not good for democracy, and finally it’s not good for the police or the politicians.