These words were all over the UK media a few years ago describing questionable police techniques during demonstrations in London and were new to me.
Last Sunday’s Observer, describing Wall Street protests, says
NYPD officers strung orange netting across the streets to trap groups of protesters, a tactic described by some of them as “kettling” – a term more commonly used by critics of a similar tactic deployed by police in London to contain potentially violent demonstrations there.
It seems to have crossed the pond if it wasn’t already there.
Wordnik has a dodgy citation (see Wikipedia quote below)
“The phrase kettling is a translation from the german word used to describe the police tactic in the 60’s known as the Hamburger Kessel.”
and a poster adds
* Apr 15, 2009
Waddington helped to develop “kettling,” where police enclose protesters in a confined space, a tactic that replaced the use of horses or crowd charges by lines of baton-wielding officers to disperse demonstrations.
The New York Times, Technology Advances Put Police Behavior In Focus, April 15, 2009
Who is Waddington?
Wikipedia under Hamburg Police has
On 8 June 1986, the Hamburg Police closed in on 861 protesters and contained them in the open area of the Heiligengeistfeld for 13 hours. The demonstrators were held without food, water and toilets. Demonstrations against the use of nuclear power developed in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster. On the day before, groups of protestors, on their way to the Brokdorf Nuclear Power Plant, were stopped by the police. On Sunday, 8 June, several people of the anti-nuclear movement wanted to protest against the police actions. The Hamburger Kessel (lit. Hamburg pocket, the word Kessel can also be translated as kettle.) were sentenced legal wrong, by the Hamburg regional court, and all involved were adjudged a solatium of DM200. The 4 police leaders of the Hamburg pocket were declared guilty of deprivation of personal freedom, but only admonishment and had to pay a fine.
Pocket makes more sense than kettle but how did it suddenly pop up in British English (as a probable eggcorn) after lying dormant for over 20 years and has it gone beyond the NYPD in the States? However, I cannot find a definition of German Kessel meaning pocket anywhere online. The guy who wrote the Wikipedia excerpt clearly doesn’t have a problem with English except for minor errors after ‘legal wrong’. Maybe it is German slang.
(Kessel also means boiler in German as in this