For this month’s Draw the Line event, Index on Censorship held a workshop to discuss what role the police should play in encouraging or protecting freedom of expression. The debate kicked off asking if the police should have a role in protecting free speech at all. The group’s opinion varied with some thinking it was not in their remit while others thought that the police ultimately restricted free speech.
Morgan Meaker, a member of our Youth Advisory Board, then interviewed the schools officer for the London borough of Southwark on what his views were on the police’s role in protecting free speech. He suggested that it was not the responsibility of the police, but the people who make the laws which protect our human rights. When questioned about the police’s involvement in the recent arrests of several trolls on Twitter he said that if someone is breaking the law and threatening someone then the police have every right to arrest that person, but with online abuse the issues become more complicated.
This gave the group more to think about as they took on some real-world case examples and had to decide how they would respond if they were a police officer. One of the case studies covered online abuse and the other the role of police during protests. The groups carefully considered how they might handle these situations and concluded that while there were no clear cut answers that the police did have a role, but it was difficult as they couldn’t create the laws and could only enforce them.