Best-ever result for police as officers record just two arrests at Rams derby
Despite the snow, Derby County against Nottingham Forest was on this weekend and so was the huge police operation to protect the fans. Chris Mallett reports.
"THIS is a big event for Derby and Derbyshire. It's a big event for both football clubs.
"I want to make sure you're all remembered for doing a good job and people who come to Derby come away thinking 'It was perfectly safe, I had a good time, I went home'."
Those were the words of Superintendent Gary Parkin as he gave a rousing speech to hundreds of officers ahead of Saturday's derby match.
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Packed into a hall at St Mary's Wharf, Derby, the watching men and women were clearly paying attention because the East Midlands derby, between the Rams and Nottingham Forest, was played out with little trouble.
And people among the game's 33,010 spectators praised officers and stewards for their work.
And the good behaviour, which may have been partly down to the cold, even extended on to the pitch.
The match itself, which finished as a one-all draw, was the first in five meetings between the two teams to have no red cards.
Off the pitch, there were only two arrests, which Supt Parkin said may be the fewest-ever for the fixture.
One man in his 50s was arrested for racially aggravated public disorder and another in his 20s for being drunk and disorderly.
Both men were from Nottingham. In the past two clashes, there were 12 arrests in total.
It was clear from Supt Parkin's speech that a lot of police work went into making it a peaceful fixture.
After a secret 9.30am intelligence briefing, the officers, mostly with specific "public order training" for large events, remained for more instructions.
Kitted out for the cold and wearing fluorescent jackets, they were told that the game was rated as "C-increased risk" – the category for the most dangerous games.
It is the only Rams match expected to be put in the category – which highlights an element of "risk, threat and harm" to the public – this season.
The game with fellow East Midlanders Leicester City is rated "C", the next category down, while the fans of Millwall, a club with a reputation, are well behaved enough to allow that fixture to be in the lowest-risk category when they visit Pride Park.
Supt Parkin had better news for the briefing as he revealed there was no intelligence suggesting organised fights.
He said this meant offending was likely to be spontaneous and perhaps carried out by people with no criminal records.
Standing in front of his slide presentation, Supt Parkin reminded officers of their rights when it came to stopping anti-social behaviour, especially "Section 27 direction to leave notices".
This, he explained, allows officers to move people out of an area, in this case Derby city centre, if they pose a risk of alcohol-related disorder.
He added that officers should tell people to move out of the way if they were crowding a police dog as the animals "need space".
And he said officers should be mindful of people who were in the city for reasons other than the match.
He said: "I want you to talk to the public.
"There's a lot of people who won't care about football and maybe won't know there's a game on.
"They might come up and ask why there are so many officers in town? Please tell them."
After his briefing, Supt Parkin explained that some officers would be carrying pictures of supporters known for causing trouble and those with banning orders.
There are currently 30 people banned from Pride Park and a further 50 "risk supporters" for police to keep an eye on.
Nottinghamshire police "football spotters" were keeping an eye out for their own troublemakers.
After the briefing, PC Rob Pilkington said it was similar to that before most games but there were many more officers at this one.
On Saturday, officers were stationed at and around Pride Park, as well as between the city centre and the ground, at the railway station, on routes from the station and at pubs, including regular Rams watering holes The Neptune and Walkabout and away fans' haunts The Merry Widows and The Crown.
PC Pilkington, an officer for nine years, was to be one of those stationed on a roundabout outside the ground.
He said: "The idea is to try to keep the fans apart as much as possible to stop spontaneous offending."
He said "Section 27s" were important tools for officers.
"It means we can step in if we believe there is potential for someone who has been drinking to cause disorder.
"Sometimes we give people a map to show which parts of the city they can't come back to but most of the time it's clear."
He said he would be "lucky if he wasn't hit by a snowball" but fans said they hadn't even seen this happen.
Nigel Ball, 61, of Ferrers Way, Allestree, said: "There was no trouble. It was policed and marshalled very well.
"It might have been a bit of overkill having that many officers these days but, there again, there would have been more 30 years ago."
Tom Heath, 27, of Packhorse Road, Melbourne, said it was a shame that the game did not go as well as the policing.
He said: "I didn't even see a snowball get thrown. Perhaps it was too cold. There was a bit of banter between the fans but you expect that."
Supt Parkin said: "I'm happy that the day went off with few problems and I'd like to thank all the Nottingham Forest and Derby fans who braved the cold and behaved themselves."
He said the majority of Nottingham Forest fans headed straight home and there was no football-related trouble in Derby city centre on Saturday night.