The Immediate Aftermath

In any analysis of the Hillsborough Disaster it is important to consider the immediate aftermath as it is at this point that crucial mistakes were made in terms of saving lives and also in dealing with people in the early stages of an unfolding Disaster. At Hillsborough the mistakes which led to the Disaster were further compounded by the response of many of the official agencies. What follows is a brief analysis of the responses of those most involved on that fateful day.

1. The Police Response

Police preventing fans climbing over the fence

It can be argued that to refer to a police response is something of a misnomer and it would be more appropriate to refer to 'the lack of a police response'. Both eye witness and visual evidence clearly shows the poor reaction of the police to an emerging disaster. It shows that their training had centred around crowd control as opposed to crowd safety. There can be no other explanation as to why senior officers failed to respond to the obvious distress of so many and subsequently why police formed a cordon across the halfway line when fans were ripping down hoardings to use as make shift stretchers to ferry the dead and injured. At one point when a perimeter gate opened under the force of the crush several fans managed to get out yet officers on duty at that point literally pushed them back in. Later at the resumed inquests those officers would give evidence affirming this fact. Even with hindsight they displayed no remorse for their actions. Of course the real issue here is the training of these officers as clearly they either ignored or failed to recognise the obvious distress of those just feet away from them.

The officer in charge on the day was in a control room that looked onto the Leppings Lane terracing. It also had the benefit of TV cameras with zoom facilities. To this day the ability of this officer has been questioned. Not only would he have been able to see the scene at the Leppings Lane end with the naked eye but he also had the added advantage of zoom facilities so powerful that it was possible to see the colour of a persons' eyes. There are those that have argued that the only rational reason for his lack of action was that he was not in the control room at all…. He was later to give evidence saying that he 'froze'. This begs the question why was such an inexperienced (although senior) officer put in charge of such a major event? Even when he realised that something was wrong his response was to send for reinforcements (including dog handlers) as if he had a crowd control situation!

The entire police response to the Hillsborough Disaster was appalling. Even though there were individual officers who assisted in attempting to save lives, nevertheless at an organisational level the police failed not just miserably but disastrously and (in the eyes of many) criminally. How else can the response be justified? Why did police push fans back into the pens? Why were dog handlers sent for? Why was a cordon of police formed across the halfway line? Why did police stand around doing nothing while fans rushed to save live? To summarise, why was there such a waste of valuable human resources at such a vital time?

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