Masonry is biggest risk to those in front line
The worst injuries sustained by riot police in recent years have been caused by masonry, one of the PSNI's top public order officers said.
During recent riots, officers have been attacked with golf balls, iron bars, knives, spears, fireworks, petrol bombs, blast bombs and bullets, however masonry has caused the greatest harm.
"Masonry has caused the worst injuries and we are changing how we deal with concussive injuries," said Chief Superintendent Barbara Gray, who has responsibility for the PSNI's Tactical Support Groups.
The public order commander said that months of planning went into the policing of major events.
"How we deploy can impact a crowd dynamic. We always aim to deploy in the least intrusive way.
"Our starting point is officers out in normal uniform. If it does turn violent then our aim will always be to get things back to normality," Ms Gray said.
She added: "We are always seeking to minimise the likelihood we will use force. When tensions start to rise and it appears there is likelihood of disorder, then it is (used): how do you graduate up, how do you best protect the public, see the event through and, very importantly, protect police officers as well?"
In recent years the PSNI has faced criticism for not making immediate arrests during public disorder.
However, Ms Gray said that immediate arrests can cause officers more injury by weakening police lines.
"If an arrest is feasible then we will arrest there and then, but we have to be cognisant of the impact on officers and the public."