There is no doubt whatsoever that on the evening and night of Monday 8th of August the police lost control of the streets of London. Partially this was down to police numbers but mainly it was down to tactics. I watched the riots live on the television, the helicopter shots giving an excellent view of what was going on. And the main police tactic was containment, as if they were corralling a football crowd. But it was no football crowd, it was just a few hundred rioters who were outnumbered by the police. Large numbers of criminal acts were being committed right in front of the police and they did very little about it, no baton charges, no attempts to apprehend the perpetrators. £200 million of looting, criminal damage and arson happening whilst the police watched. They were just spectators.
On subsequent nights they got control of the streets back. Partly by putting large numbers of officers out there, but more importantly by arresting the known gang members and criminals using CCTV evidence. Once the rioters were locked up they couldn’t riot. The magistrates have played their part by remanding most of the rioters in custody, instead of letting them out on bail to re-offend.
For what happened on the 8th the police, quite rightly, have come under much criticism, from me, from their own members, from the prime minister and from the press. And what is the reaction of senior police officers to this criticism? They say that it is wrong, that they (the police) are right and that everyone else is mistaken. This is the typical police attitude over everything and it is pretty arrogant. It is also bad news for we taxpayers, who the police are supposed to serve, because this attitude means that the police won’t learn. If they are already perfect there is no room for improvement. One senior policeman says that the prime minister, David Cameron, is being disrespectful in his criticism. That policeman should be sacked.
It is pretty obvious that we need far more tactical expertise, that the police failed and that they lost control of the streets. Also that the root cause of the riots is the police failure to get control of the youth gangs that abound throughout London, the riots took place in the areas where the gangs are strongest. Fortunately the expertise we need is available in the form of Bill Bratton, who David Cameron has very wisely taken on board as an advisor. Bill Bratton has had an immensely successful career as chief of police of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), New York City Police Commissioner, and Boston Police Commissioner. In each job he has massively reduced crime and has broken up the gang culture behind much of it. This is a man whose knowledge, expertise and experience we desperately need. He has succeeded where British police have failed.
And, predictably, the British police have reacted very badly indeed to Bill Bratton’s presence, they say there is no need for him because they are already perfect. They can learn nothing and we know that because of their success at keeping the gangs under control. Ha ha.
The fact is that the British Police are badly in need of massive reform. The service is bloated and inept. Hopefully Bill Bratton will bring a bit of the needed reform, but we need a lot more if we are going to have a proper police force that serve the public properly.
Meanwhile Ed Milliband is blaming the bankers for the riots when everybody knows that the blame lies with the rioters (and the police who lost control over gangs and who lost control of the streets). David Cameron is the person making most sense, not just in recruiting Bill Bratton, but also in his apportionment of blame and his measured criticism of the police. He certainly is acting like he is prime minister.