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August riots: UK update on Police

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You may recall the student protests of November 2010 there was also much damage caused to London, before the riots of August 2011. Both of the latter prolific events that have hit England have seen clashes with the Police.

Here are some key images from the student protest that turned violent:

The police have had to face this same problem of violence against them and the August riots have become another similar scene:

Hugh Orde, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers has spoken of historical riots and of people who clash with the police:

“with many of these events, it is a case of people who feel disenfranchised in the far broader sense exhibiting their displeasure with the current government through attacking the cops—not far different from what you saw [at the student protests].”

The question that should be looked at now – is whether this is a real solution to anything – many would argue that we live in a democracy where one can make their voices heard in a ‘realistic’ way such as mass peaceful protest, which in the student protests many abided to.

The same cannot be said about the August riots – what started off as a peaceful protest on Friday 5th August, (Thursday 4th August was the shooting of Mark Duggan which occured at 6:15pm) turned into a full blown riot on Saturday night (6th August), copy cat riots happened all across the UK. Although in the student riots the majority were peaceful; The August riots it is reported – (by many including BBC’s Panorama) – that a group of between 200 and 300 turned violent outside a police station in Tottenham (there is also speculation that this was due to a female being hit by a police officer). The police have labelled these riots in the aftermath as having to deal with a “unique” situation/case (where the majority were no longer abidng to a peaceful protest) – protests are mainly and usually peaceful in the UK which is mostly the case and these actions of protest are welcomed and applauded by the Government, the rioting and looting are not, and the government and courts are ensuring that those involved become conscious of this, through regular speeches and sentencing.

Hugh Orde – said of the student riots in November 2010 : “My sense of it was that the vast majority of people were exercising their democratic right to protest. But embedded in that crowd were people absolutely determined to cause as much disorder and mayhem as they could.” he also says they don’t know what their doing and that “they get caught up in the event.”

President Orde also said in the interview which was in February this year – of the student protests – “My sense is that the majority of people don’t want to cause extreme violence, and I still believe that it is not good enough to throw our hands up in the air and say  oh, we can’t negotiate because there is no one to negotiate with.”

Mr Orde goes on to say “There are lots of people we can talk to, but they need to stand up and lead their people too. If they don’t, we must be clear that the people who wish to demonstrate won’t engage, communicate or share what they intend to do with us, and so our policing tactics will have to be different. And the public [will] have a much better understanding of why police tactics have to be slightly more extreme, if the public understands that the only reason these tactics are necessary is that protestors will not engage with us pre-event. If the protestors will not talk to us, well, we can’t just not police the event.”

Many from the Government – as things stand – may question why the police did not take a more pro-arrest approach and use robust methods if necessary; if this action would further protect people and their property and community. The police overall managed to stop the rioting a week after the shooting of Mr Duggan. And there have been a few hero stories from the police – side – where a small group of officers took on hundreds of rioters by charging them and securing their perimeters together. The riots have caused worldwide condemnation and shock – they have also left much damage and altered communities dramatically in their appearance.

 As for the police they have been described as using what has been described as “soft” tactics; and David Cameron said: “The tactics the police were using weren’t working”. The police will be receiving further training and a review of the police is to take place. Also the government are looking to go ahead with police-cuts.

Mr Cameron also announced :

“The security fightback will start with a stronger police presence – walking the beat, deterring crime and ready to crack down at the first sign of trouble. Paperwork will be reduced to get more police officers out on the streets, while accountability to the public will be improved through elected police and crime commissioners. Police powers will also be increased. The police already have the power to issue dispersal orders, while over the coming months:

  • gang injunctions will be extended to under-18s
  • police will be allowed to remove face coverings from rioters
  • the power to confiscate offenders’ property will be looked at”

The government and the police have since the rioting looked at police powers:  The police have already been authorised to use baton rounds. While water cannons aren’t currently needed, plans have been put in place for them to be available at 24 hours’ notice. The police will also be given the discretion to remove face coverings under any circumstances where there is reasonable suspicion that they are related to criminal activity.

In other news: Sir Hugh Orde has applied to be the next Commisioner of the Metropolitan Police – after Sir Paul Stephenson resigned over the News of the World hacking scandal. More than 3,300 people have now been arrested across the country.

Courts in London, Manchester and the West Midlands are working hard to clear the backlog of cases.

The IPCC are still working on their report of the shooting of Mark Duggan.

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